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Friends of Trump Accuser Back Up Allegations; House to Pass Border Aid Bill; Supreme Court Allows Political Gerrymandering; Candidates Prepare For Democratic Presidential Debate. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 27, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A little over two months ago, Joe Biden stepped on to the 2020 stage and declared the next presidential election is about the soul of America.

But, tonight, the former vice president has to prove that he's in touch with the soul of the Democratic Party. He will get the chance in Miami this evening, when he goes head to head with Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and others in the second Democratic debate.

And Arlette Saenz is with the Biden campaign.

And, Arlette Saenz, listen, no doubt about it, this -- Biden is the front-runner, but, because of that, he's got a big old target on his back. How is his campaign preparing for certainly the attacks that are going to be coming his way?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brooke, his campaign certainly knows that the spotlight is going to shine a lot brighter on Joe Biden than it has before, compared to his previous debates.

And they are aware that there may be attacks coming from his rivals during this two-hour debate. And one thing that a campaign official noted is that it's up to the other candidates whether or not they want to spend their time going after Joe Biden over his record or career, but that they're welcome -- they're welcoming that time -- they're welcoming that time for Biden to be able to talk and defend himself.

They say that he is prepared to defend his record, but that he's going to try to change and turn the conversation towards the future. Now, one thing that Biden's campaign officials were recently asked was whether Biden is prepared for that question about a generational argument.

He's going to be standing on stage next to Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is several decades younger than the former vice president, and has already talked a little bit about how this needs to be an election -- an election about the future, not the past. A Biden campaign official says that he does have an answer ready if a

generational argument is made in this debate. But Biden has been hunkered down for days now doing these mock debates, going through this debate prep, kind of getting ready for those arrows that might be coming his way.

And, tonight, we will see just how effective all of that preparation was, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Arlette, thank you. We will be watching this evening.

Let's talk a little bit more about all of this.

Gloria Borger is CNN's chief political analyst. And CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish is host of the CNN's "SMERCONISH."

So, great to see both of you.

And, Michael, I wanted to ask you first. From last night's debate, do you think anyone had a breakout moment? And is that even possible when you're sharing the stage with nine other people?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think it's possible when you're sharing the stage with nine other people and when your comments are limited to 60 seconds.

There were individuals who had a better night than others. But there's nobody that I'm prepared to say vaulted themselves so far forward that they're now in the front-runner category.

I thought that Julian Castro, like many others, had a good evening last night; 15 minutes in, I tweeted exactly that. And I said that I think he's distinguished himself. I think Beto O'Rourke did not have a stellar evening last night. And the net-net is that Elizabeth Warren ended where she began.

She's the one who was perceives as the front-runner on that stage. And I think that's how the evening ended.

BALDWIN: So, on Elizabeth Warren, I wanted to ask you about her because not only is she -- she was clearly the star.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

BALDWIN: She spoke the most. She got most of the questions. And not only that, the other candidates were asked about her policies.

BORGER: Exactly.

BALDWIN: That said, was there a wow factor about her?

BORGER: Well, we have seen a lot of Elizabeth Warren. So there wasn't anything unexpected. I think what you see from Elizabeth Warren is the passion on policy.

What was interesting to me about the debate was, when you were on her terrain, when you were talking about financial issues, when you were talking about corporations, greed, the enemies that she has, she was dominating.

But when the debate shifted, later in the debate, when the debate shifted to immigration and other issues, Elizabeth Warren kind of disappeared in that part of the debate.

So you know where her campaign is, and you know what her issues are, but the others sort of took up the slack in the second half of the debate.

BALDWIN: Michael, do you think, overall -- we have been posing this to a couple different people, because we all went through, right, 2016 together -- do you think Trump has just entirely changed the way Americans see debates?

Because, like, obviously, you're going to have some degree of confrontation, right? We saw a teeny bit of that last night. But do you think Americans expect it, dare I say, want it?

SMERCONISH: Well, I think they expect it. I don't know if they want it when he's on the stage.

I think, if it were Donald Trump, or when it gets to the point where it's President Trump debating any of these individuals, then we full- on anticipate that that's the way that it will go.

I think tonight's going to be very interesting. If I can just offer this comment...

BALDWIN: Yes.

SMERCONISH: ... the pace last night was so rapid-fire.

I said on radio today it reminded me of an Aaron Sorkin screenplay. And I think Joe Biden was -- you know, benefits from being able to have watched that last night, because I think that he's a good debater, but he's got to maintain that pace this evening, or, juxtaposed against Mayor Pete, it may play into some of the consideration of his age.

[15:05:15]

BORGER: Can I just say something about the name-calling we got used to with Donald Trump?

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

BORGER: I think there's a general public exhaustion with all of that. And I'm not even sure they want to hear it from Donald Trump himself on the debate stage. That was the last war. There's a new one.

And so it's going to be interesting to watch how these candidates decide how to behave themselves on a debate stage with a lot of people. You didn't hear name-calling last night. You heard Castro say, do your homework to Beto O'Rourke, but they didn't fight. (CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And then you will see tonight they're going to -- they're going to probably pile on Biden, but in a different way.

They're not going to call him sleepy Joe. That's not going to happen in the Democratic Party. And I think people watching debates may be able to breathe and say, oh, OK, we don't have that.

What happens in the next iteration, when a nominee is up against Donald Trump, remains to be seen. And I don't think the strategy there is really clear.

BALDWIN: Before we get there, though, do you think watching last night and again tonight, I know there are exceptions, but for the most part, is it -- is the party tilting much more left? And do you think -- how does that bode for them when it comes to a general election?

BORGER: I think last night's debate was definitely tilting left.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: There were candidates on the stage like Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Ryan and Delaney who are not to the left, who didn't deliver complete punches, because they were introducing themselves to the American public.

It's hard to go negative when you are first saying, hi, here I am, please meet me.

I think, tonight, you may see something different from Joe Biden, from Buttigieg, for example. So I think people watching last night might be able to say, oh, the party has moved too far to the left. Tonight, that ship may turn in a different direction.

BALDWIN: But, Michael, back to your point on even shifting into America 2019-2020 -- and I was talking to Congressman Eric Swalwell, who will also be on that stage.

It's clear that -- it's clear that there will be several candidates pointing out that -- inferring that Biden is the candidate of the past, and I am the candidate that can lead this party to the future.

How does Biden -- Arlette says he's going to have a response to that. What should it be?

SMERCONISH: You know, interesting, when you look at the internals of a lot of this polling, the reason that he's high and above, at least this stage, his opponents is because Democrats want to win.

And there's a recognition or at least a belief at this stage that he stands the greatest chance of actually defeating Donald Trump, probably because of his standing among high school-educated white men in those swing Rust Belt states that normally go Democratic and didn't. The tension is, Biden runs well because he's not so far too left with

that group. And yet the progressives who dominate the nomination process, they want someone like Elizabeth Warren, who raised her hand on the Medicare for all question yesterday and was alone. I guess it's with the exception of Bill de Blasio.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: So, the tension lies between pragmatism and real sharp progressivism.

BORGER: But you know who we didn't hear last night about? Barack Obama wasn't mentioned during the debate.

BALDWIN: Tonight? Tonight?

BORGER: I guarantee you Joe Biden just might mention him. And where that little -- didn't they have the friendship bracelets? Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Don't know if he will wear it, but...

BALDWIN: Do you think, though, back on health care -- and to Michael's point, it was Warren and de Blasio who want to eliminate that private insurance or having a choice.

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: And, again, Congressman Swalwell saying to me last hour that that view cannot win the election, that that is not what the American people want. Do you agree?

BORGER: Yes, I think he's probably right.

I do think that you don't want to say to people, if you like your insurance, you can't keep it. We have been through that once before. And so I think what they would like to see is a combination. Ironically, of course, Obamacare is more popular now than it's ever been in retrospect.

And I think the Republicans have a political issue with things like coexisting conditions, for example. The president has said health care is going to be a major issue in this campaign. And I think the Democrats would say, bring it on. But I don't think that the Medicare for all issue is going to be the solution that the American public is going to say, oh, sure.

Everyone likes Medicare. Great. But...

BALDWIN: They want a choice.

BORGER: Well, they do want a choice when they're young. Yes.

BALDWIN: They want a choice.

BALDWIN: Michael Smerconish, last question to you, sir. What's your big bold prediction for the debate stage this evening?

SMERCONISH: I think that Joe Biden is going to try and just maintain exactly where he is, that there won't be anything so far out of the box there. There won't be anything that is astounding.

[15:10:00]

I mean, he likes the position that he's in is what I'm trying to say. And he wants to end the evening right where he is. So he doesn't need to reach for the stars.

BALDWIN: OK.

We watch you Saturday mornings 9:00 a.m. Michael, thank you.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, don't move an inch.

BORGER: OK.

BALDWIN: We got more to talk about.

Coming up next here, President Trump suggests he may delay the census, after the Supreme Court said today it would block a citizen question for now.

And in another monumental decision, the justices are effectively allowing the practice of political gerrymandering. So we will explain how that could actually impact your votes.

And, later, two friends of the woman who accused President Trump of sexual assault, they're speaking out, backing up her story, what they say E. Jean Carroll told them at the time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BALDWIN: The U.S. Supreme Court dropped two critical rulings today that affect partisan politics. First, they decided to citizenship question on the upcoming census goes too far for now.

And President Trump is responding with a tweet that he's asked lawyers if they can delay the census, no matter how long, until the Supreme Court can make a -- his words -- decisive decision this very critical mass.

Just a quick note for everyone watching, it is in the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 2, that the census must take place every 10 years.

Secondly, the court declined to let federal courts get involved in gerrymandering disputes. They're both huge rulings with massive implications. So I just want to begin here with gerrymandering. That is the

practice of drawing political districts to suit one party over another.

Sometimes, the results are unusual, to say the least. This is Illinois's 4th Congressional District shaped like a pair of earmuffs. Here's another one. This is Pennsylvania's 7th, which has been referred to -- and I'm not making this up -- Goofy kicking Donald duck. See that?

But this is why this ruling matters. Districts are usually redrawn after a census, and the party in power gets to make the maps. Republicans currently have the power to draw far more congressional districts than Democrats. But will that continue after the 2020 elections?

And if so, it could entrench Republican domination.

CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is back with me. And I'm also joined now by CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers, who's a former federal prosecutor.

So, Jen Rodgers, first to you.

What was the reasoning from the more conservative justices to allow gerrymandering to continue?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they said, actually, that it's not a political question, which means it's something that the federal courts shouldn't get into.

But that's really not supportable, because they have gotten into this very question of gerrymandering multiple times before. You can't gerrymander on the basis of race, for example. You can't gerrymander to put many more people in one district than another district. They have to be about the same in terms of population.

So there are all sorts of ways in which they have tackled the gerrymandering question before. It's really not a political question, and that's where their analysis kind of falls apart.

BALDWIN: So this is what Justice Elena Kagan in the dissenting opinion -- we were talking about her in commercial.

This is what she wrote: "If left unchecked, gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government. Of all times to abandon the course of duty to declare the law, this was not the one. The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the court's role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections," which is incredibly powerful coming from her.

How will this just affect elections potentially moving forward?

BORGER: Well, in a profound way. Even Lindsey Graham, staunch conservative today, said that he doesn't like gerrymandering, because what it means is that people -- people are afraid to vote the way they want to vote, because, if you're Republican, and you're in a staunchly Republican district, you're going to be primaried on the right by somebody.

And if you're on the left, the same thing occurs. And so what you end up having is a Congress with two wings, but there's nothing in it for anybody to be in the center, because the districts have been gerrymandered so much.

BALDWIN: So, the red districts get redder. The blue districts get bluer. Yes.

BORGER: Exactly. And where are the other voters?

BALDWIN: Right.

BORGER: And so Congress can't get anything done. So for people who complain about why Congress can't get anything done, why they can't work together, this is the reason. This is it. And that's why Democrats are working on changing state legislatures, which I might also add were hollowed out for the Democrats during the Obama years.

They lost 1,000 state legislative seats. So they're not in control of these legislatures. And so we have these districts that look like Donald Duck, right, and Goofy.

BALDWIN: Donald Duck and Goofy, apparently.

But I know you have been reporting a ton this. We will look for your reporting on -- with Wolf later on.

I want to talk now about the citizenship question on the census. And this is a line from Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion: "The sole stated reason seems to have been contrived."

Jen, is he essentially saying, this isn't the truth?

RODGERS: Exactly.

BALDWIN: Yes.

RODGERS: So, what happened here is Wilbur Ross in the Commerce Department came out with this notion that it was DOJ that asked them to do it because they wanted to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, and so they needed the citizenship question to do it.

[15:20:05]

Then, as discovery went on in the lower court case, it became clear that that's not at all what happened, that, in fact, the Commerce Department started this whole ball rolling, they kind of got DOJ to make this request to them after the fact.

And so all this discovery showed that what they were saying about the reason wasn't really true. So what the Supreme Court said is, it's important, under the Administrative Procedures Act, for agencies to be forthright about their decision-making so that people can see that in action and contest that.

So that's where the Commerce Department fell down in this case. But they also said that, on the merits of the case, the evidence gathered on which he made the decision, there was enough evidence to make the decision the way that he did.

So my concern is that, even though the question is off for now, if they do find enough time before the printing needs to begin -- and they have said it needs to begin next week, but if they claim now that they're going to be able to push that back, they will be able to go back, give now another slightly different reason for the question, and if it gets back to the Supreme Court, I think they will endorse the question.

BORGER: How stunning is it, though, that the chief justice writes an opinion which says to Wilbur Ross, forget it, you made this rationale up, because this is what you wanted to do, and you guys made this up, and you did it late in the process, and I don't believe you?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: So unless you can find a better rationale, forget it.

Now, you're right. It could in the end work for the administration. He didn't rule out the fact that you couldn't ask the citizenship question, but he effectively told the administration, what you gave to us is bunk.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Yes.

BALDWIN: Yes.

Ladies, thank you very much on all things Supreme Court today.

We do have breaking news now on a massive funding package for the humanitarian crisis at the border. The House and Senate have both passed their own versions, but we are learning that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just agreed to bring the Senate bill to the floor. This is huge.

Manu Raju is our senior congressional correspondent.

And I know that there had been a lot of Democratic infighting over what to include in the bill. So what does this mean, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this means that, just in a matter of hours, probably in just within a couple of hours, the House will pass the Senate version of a border spending package, $4.6 billion, to deal with the humanitarian crisis at the border. That Senate bill passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, but it

was opposed by a number of House Democrats, who believed it didn't go far enough to have improved conditions for kids in particular at the detention facilities at the border.

So they tried to get changes to the Senate bill. But the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, faced with internal divisions, could not get through a separate version, an alternative version to provide some additional restrictions to the funding, as well as to cut funding for things, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, which some of the liberals in her caucus have pushed, because moderate Democrats rebelled and said that they would not support this latest version, instead called on Pelosi to accept the Senate bill.

So, behind closed doors, Nancy Pelosi met with her leadership team. They met for about an hour or so. And she briefed them on a phone call she had with the vice president, Mike Pence, earlier in the day, and ultimately concluded the only path forward was to pass the Senate bill.

Now, Brooke, she just sent a letter to her colleagues now essentially blaming the Senate for not engaging in any negotiations with the House to try to find any sort of middle ground. But she said that -- quote -- "The children come first."

She says, "In order to get the resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill." And she goes on to say, "As we pass the Senate bill, we will do so with a battle cry as to how to go forward to protect children in a way that truly honors their dignity and worth."

And one of the points, Brooke, that when we were told that the conversation between Pence and Pelosi was actually somewhat productive, one member, Henry Cuellar from Texas, just said moments ago that Pence actually agreed to do some things administratively along the border.

So we don't know exactly what that means. We will wait for the Trump administration to read that out. But at least the Democrats believe that there was something that will be done administratively that won't be included in this legislation.

So now the House, Democrats conceding, will take up the Senate -- bipartisan Senate bill, and now, for the moment, $4.6 billion to deal with this humanitarian crisis at the border -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Nancy Pelosi said it. The children come first.

Manu, thank you very much for the update there. We will look for that in the coming hours.

Coming up next, we are hearing for the first time from two friends of E. Jean Carroll, the author, the woman who has accused President Trump of a sexual assault back in the 1990s. Hear what her friends say she told them at the time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:29:17]

BALDWIN: New today, two women are speaking out about magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll's sexual assault allegation against the president of the United States, both women telling "The New York Times" that Carroll confided in them about this alleged attack.

Carroll alleges that Trump sexually assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room back in the mid-'90s. The president denies it.

Here is one of Carroll's friends speaking out about what she was told.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LISA BIRNBACH, FRIEND OF E. JEAN CARROLL: I remember her saying repeatedly, "He pulled down my tights, he pulled down my tights," which got me to think that was as far as it went.

Honestly, you did say, "He put his penis in me."

[15:30:00]