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Round Two of Democratic Debates; Warren on Private Health Insurance; Castro and O'Rourke Battle Over Immigration; Tillerson Transcripts Released; Supreme Court Rules on Gerrymandering and Census Question. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 27, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] ANNIE LINSKEY, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And was just -- was very forceful, I thought.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: We'll see. Curtain raiser last night. Opens the door. More people paying attention.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Come back tomorrow for debate number two.

Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, round one of the Democratic debates. And let's just say there were a lot of left hooks. The tilt of the Democratic Party on full display. And tonight, round two. The frontrunners squaring off, including Joe Biden, who will likely be the number one target for his rivals.

Plus breaking now, the secret transcript of Rex Tillerson's interview with lawmakers released. What the fired secretary of state said about the president.

And a consequential opinion from the Supreme Court that will have a direct impact on elections and how your vote is counted for decades to come.

We begin with the first Democratic presidential debates. Tonight the main stage event for the five top polling candidates are taking part. You have former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Kamala Harris.

And as the frontrunner, Biden must be ready to fend off these challenges to his record as the Democratic Party shifts left.

Meanwhile, some of the lesser known candidates that we'll see tonight are looking for their breakout moments.

And Athena Jones is following all of this from the debate site in Miami.

Tell us what we should be watching for, Athena.


As you said it, Biden will be at center stage. He's the undisputed frontrunner. And he is going to be a top target. And to prepare for that, he's been setting his own long record knowing that it's going to be a focus of the other candidates. We know that Bernie Sanders has also been studying the policy positions of the candidates and he's made clear that he plans to draw contrasts with Vice President Biden.

Biden says -- his advisers say he's going to have a forward-looking message talking about why he's best to go up against President Trump next year. And he doesn't plan to or feel he needs to draw contrasts with Sanders, believing that those contrasts are already pretty obvious. So it will be interesting to watch their exchanges.

The other big question is whether any of these other lesser-known candidates, the ones polling in the single digits, will have a Julian Castro-like breakout moment. We've been talking about what he was able to do with his time on the stage last night. I think it's going to be a lot harder tonight given that there are several high-polling candidates, prominent voice that are going to get a lot of the attention.


KEILAR: Yes, definitely.

Athena Jones in Florida, thank you so much.

And let's see who's standing out after debate round one. First, Senator Elizabeth Warren. And here's one of the key moments on health care.


LESTER HOLT, MODERATOR: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan? Just a show of hands to start off with.

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

I understand 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. Well, health care is a basic human right. And I will fight for a basic human right.


KEILAR: Karoun Demirjian is the congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," here with us now.

Well, you know, that was pretty interesting. She went all in for getting rid of private insurance. Is this going to be an issue for her in the future, do you think?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that this is all of these hot-button issues that affect the country are going to be a definite issue once we get to the general election for any candidate that's left standing is going to have to answer for what they say.

But, yes, you see that there's a real diversity of opinion on exactly what to do with private insurance companies in the Democratic field. You're seeing the field right now of those candidates split, so you don't have every candidate going after each other, which makes it difficult for them to answer for what everybody else's position is. But the fact that you saw a difference there means that once we get past the introductory stage of these debates and candidates have to explain exactly how these systems will work and as we know that there's concerns about if you have too many options in the health care market, can any of those options really stand that well on the own and do you undermine the public -- this is just a general debate that's been going on for years, will there be that sort of challenging of whoever survives this round to go forward?

KEILAR: So what is -- because there are -- you know, there are Democrats who are moderate who are going to be watching this.


KEILAR: What is -- what would happen to their -- their own private insurance? What does their insurance then look like?

DEMIRJIAN: Right. I mean that's the big, open question. Everybody talks about health care for all as an almost philosophical sort of, you know, thing that people would like to have, , you know, that's fine, you can have that argument from a moral standpoint, from an economic standpoint. But then when it comes to actually the drilling down of a, what do you potentially give up in order to make that happen, it becomes a whole other issue. And so, politically speaking, it is -- it's probably riskier to -- for the candidates who are saying, no, we would do away with the private insurance, to be taking that step at this juncture because it isn't clear that you can just promise something as a presidential candidate that will happen.

[13:05:02] We watched for years as this gets stuck in Congress. You have to make deals. You have to make bipartisan arrangements that can get through. And so the vision that a president puts out there, a presidential candidate puts out there, is important. But it's -- if you're watching and you have concerns about your own health care coverage and your own medical conditions, et cetera, it's a bit of a leap of faith to determine, you know, whether somebody -- what somebody's telling you is actionable, whether it's likely, and -- or whether you just believe in that idea enough that you'll follow that person, hoping that you can get part of the way there.

KEILAR: All right, let's bring in Xochitl Hinojosa. She's the communications director for the Democratic National Committee, joining us from Miami.

So, Xochitl, you have now two out of the top three candidates, they want this. How are moderate Democrats going to feel about this?

XOCHITL HINOJOSA, DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think last night you showed that everybody wants to expand access to health care. That's exactly what they want to do. And we're having an important conversation in our party. How we get there, that's what primary voters are going to decide. But I think that contrast is clear between what Donald Trump and Republicans are doing, trying to take away people's health care, versus what Democrats are trying to do. And that's why right now Donald Trump is down in the top five battleground states when it comes to the top candidates in the country.

So I think health care is going to be a big issue. You saw it last night. You're going to see it, my guess is, again tonight. And everybody wants to expand health care. We just need to talk about how we're going to get there.

KEILAR: OK. I want to ask you about -- it was one of the candidate we saw who took a lot of the incoming last night. That was Beto O'Rourke. A lot of hopefuls jumping on him. Let's -- let's listen to that moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, MODERATOR: Would you replace private insurance?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I think the choice is fundamental to our ability to get everybody cared for.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, wait, wait, Congressman O'Rourke -- Congressman O'Rourke, private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans when you talk about the co- pays, the deductibles, the premiums, the out-of-pocket expenses. It's not working. How can you defend a system that's not working?

O'ROURKE: That's right. So -- so for those for whom it's not working, they can choose Medicare. For the (INAUDIBLE) workers in Nevada, who I listen to, negotiated for those plans, they're able to keep them.

DE BLASIO: Congressman, you've got to start by acknowledging the system is not working for people.


KEILAR: All right, this could be a preview for Joe Biden tonight.

Do you worry, Xochitl, about the circular firing squad or do you think that this is going to make the field stronger?

HINOJOSA: I think that if we're debating on the issues, this only makes the field stronger. You didn't hear about -- anyone talking about hand size. You didn't hear name calling. You heard people doing contrasts on their record. And that's what we want to hear. We want to hear people's proactive position, their policies, how they're going to help the American people, and if they're going to do contrast, they're at least doing it on the issues and on the record. And that's fair game. And so we are very happy with the way last night went, and we're really excited about tonight and to hear the solutions that people have for the American people.

KEILAR: All right, Xochitl Hinojosa, thank you so much.

Karoun Demirjian, thank you for bringing your congressional reporting chops. We do appreciate it.

And with the current crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration was a hot topic at the Democratic debate. Today, Beto O'Rourke visited a detention center in Homestead, Florida. This was very close to the debate site. And this is where unaccompanied migrant children are being housed. During that debate last night, O'Rourke and Julian Castro got into a testy exchange over immigration law.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Title 18 of the U.S. code, Title 21 and Title 22 already cover human trafficking --

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we apprehend a known smuggler or drug trafficker, we're going to make sure that they are deported or criminally prosecuted.

CASTRO: I think that you should do your homework on this issue. If you did your homework on this issue, you would know that we should repeal this section.


KEILAR: Let's bring in Juan Carlos Lopez. He's a correspondent for CNN En Espanol. He's been following the immigration crisis extremely closely.

And explain to us, when they had this moment, why this distinction is so important.

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Well, because something that people didn't know, and it changed under this government, was that crossing the border and staying illegally wasn't a crime, it was a civil offense. So if you don't commit a crime, you commit a civil offense, the consequences are different.

The White House made it a crime with an executive order. So that is what they were promising to change.

And Castro was saying that he wanted to go further from where Beto O'Rourke was -- wanted to go. That's the big discussion in the issue of the incentive of people to come.

KEILAR: And that is an accurate representation because later Beto O'Rourke said that he felt he was misrepresented. But that -- you felt like it was an accurate representation?

LOPEZ: Well, it's such a deep issue that it's hard to explain in 30 seconds, like they had last night, but it is. It's that big difference where when you tell people that it used to be a civil offense, now it's a crime, why is it a civil offense, it's because there are people benefiting from that cheap labor.

KEILAR: It's -- when you look -- I want to sort of think back to 2016 and what it means for 2020 -- Hillary Clinton, she overwhelmingly won Hispanic voters but not by the margin that we saw Obama win them by or even that her husband, Bill Clinton, won them by. In fact, you could say President Trump did pretty well. He did better than Mitt Romney. So it can explain why you heard a lot of this last night.

[13:10:06] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): My name is Julian Castro and I'm running for president of the United States.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): We need to include each person in the success of this economy. But if we want to do that, we need to include each person in our democracy.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): The situation right now is unacceptable. The president has attacked, has demonized immigrants. It's unacceptable and I will change this one.


KEILAR: All right, so I've heard different opinions on this. Some people rolled their eyes. Some people thought, hey, that's inclusive. Is it effective? And does it matter if a candidate can't really conjugate their verbs well?


So it's an interesting issue because if you follow the debate and the reaction, President Trump tweeted about it being boring, about the technical difficulties. He didn't say anything about this, which I found interesting.

Now, people at home, remember, this wasn't only being broadcast on NBC and MSNBC. It was also being broadcast on Telemundo. So you had a Spanish-speaking audience who probably saw this and liked it. It's not going to convince them to vote.

But you highlight an important point. Latinos, as an electorate, don't belong to any party. And many feel taken for granted. So if they see that Beto O'Rourke, who of the three speaks the best Spanish, makes the effort to do it, that's just a sign that might feel -- make some people feel comfortable.

Now, they're in Miami, where this is normal, but I think it helps more than hurts. It just shows we've gone a long way to where in a debate as important as this one, Spanish is spoken with English.

KEILAR: So who speaks the best Spanish?

LOPEZ: I would say Beto O'Rourke. I've interviewed him in the past and he is very fluent. He went further and he was a lot more detailed in what he was proposing. And he was answering a question about interest -- about tax rates, he was talking about getting Hispanics included in the economy.

Now, Senator Booker has been studying and he's been working on it, but he's still -- he's still not there. And Julian Castro's also working on it. And he had it prepared. It was more like defined not as extended as Beto O'Rourke did.

KEILAR: All right, thank you for explaining that.

Juan Carlos Lopez, thank you. I really appreciate it.

And we also have a programming note. CNN is going to bring you two nights of Democratic presidential debates live from Detroit July 30th and the 31st.

And just in, Democrats releasing the transcript of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's interview, and it shows why he thought Jared Kushner was a problem.

Plus, consequential opinions from the Supreme Court, which includes one that will impact how elections are decided for decades to come.

And Angela Merkel's office is responding after the German chancellor is seen shaking for the second time in several days.


[13:17:24] KEILAR: Moments ago, lawmakers released an eye-popping transcript of a small, secret, bipartisan meeting they had with Rex Tillerson, President Trump's former secretary of state whom he fired in March of last year. Last month, Tillerson quietly talked to these handful of bipartisan members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee about a range of issues, from the struggles with the president's son- in-law, Jared Kushner, and his shadow involvement in Middle East policy, to Mr. Trump's 2017 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, as well as election interference by Russia, and Tillerson's frustrations as well with the president's difficulty focusing on complex issues.

Let's bring in CNN national security reporter Kylie Atwood, who has reviewed these transcripts, and we have Tom Countryman, who is a former senior State Department official whose career in diplomat has spanned more than 30 years.

So, so, Kylie, these lawmakers, they met with Tillerson last month, and what he said about Jared Kushner is pretty astonishing. Tell us about this.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, so we always knew that there was tension between Jared Kushner and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But what these transcripts do is give us a little bit more evidence of how that played out. Some examples in how Secretary Tillerson didn't really know what Kushner was doing all the time. He was sort of freelancing as secretary of state. And we get an example of it when Tillerson talks about going to dinner

one time here in Washington, D.C. He walks into the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant says, hey, guess what, the foreign minister of Mexico is also here, would you like to say hello? Tillerson says, yes, of course, I didn't know he was here. Walks into the back room and he explains to the members of the committee that all of the color came out of the foreign minister's face when he walked in because he was sitting there having dinner with Jared Kushner. And Tillerson went up to him and said, you know, good to see you, let me know next time you're in town.

KEILAR: It's amazing. There's all -- I mean there's example after example. So Kushner had this plan for U.S.-Saudi relations and didn't bring in the secretary of state until late. Kushner and Steve Bannon had a private dinner with Saudi and -- leaders and leaders from the United Arab Emirates, didn't tell Tillerson.

So, Tom, when you see this, that Mexico, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, what's the effect of a secretary of state being cut out? Is it -- is it -- it's clearly rude. Is it dangerous?

THOMAS COUNTRYMAN, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL, WAS ASKED TO RESIGN UNDER TRUMP: Well, as I've said many times, the effect of a foreign policy being conducted without professionals is you get an amateur foreign policy. The trends that are described in the transcript and that Mr. Tillerson described continue to this day. A deliberate effort to keep professional advice out of the formulation of foreign policy. A lack of preparation for key meetings, such as those between President Trump and President Putin. Another one will occur tomorrow. And you can expect it to be similarly unprepared and unproductive.

[13:20:34] And, finally, a commingling of the Trump family's private financial interests with national security questions. These were problems then. They are problems today, even under Secretary Pompeo, and they continue to lead to the lowest level of respect and trust for the United States among our allies around the world.

KEILAR: Tom brings up an interesting example, which is this meeting in Hamburg that President Trump had with Vladimir Putin. Tell us about that.

ATWOOD: Yes, so what Secretary Tillerson -- former Secretary Tillerson says is that they didn't expect it to be a very long meeting. They thought it was going to be very short. So they were OK with not bringing in a translator. And he admits that the U.S. side, President Trump, was less prepared than President Putin was. That is not an ideal case scenario for the president of the United States to be walking into. He -- Tillerson says he turned to him a few times, Trump asking Tillerson a few questions throughout that meeting. But we would hope that President Trump would be more prepared when he goes into any meeting with Putin because Putin could try and extend even a short meet and greet.

KEILAR: What does Vladimir Putin, what's -- what does he think when he encounters that? COUNTRYMAN: It's very difficult to know what Mr. Putin thinks on any

particular topic. I -- I think that there's been a big gap in the U.S. being able to express directly to President Putin the fact that we don't appreciate the direct interference in our political system that the Russians have perpetrated, continue to perpetrate, described in detail in the Mueller report, and yet the president of the United States will not stand up and defend American democracy.

So if I were Vladimir Putin, I would laugh all the way to the bank saying, I got away with it and President Trump has shown no interest and no willingness to counter it, so I'm going to continue doing it.

KEILAR: Thomas, thank you so much. Thomas Countryman with us.

Kylie Atwood, thank you for your reporting on this.

And coming up, the Supreme Court issuing two major rulings on gerrymandering, and also the citizenship question that Trump wanted on the census. What they decided and the key role played by the chief justice.

Plus, Joe Biden set to take the stage with more debate experience than his opponents. We'll have a look at how his past performances may prepare him for tonight.


[13:27:47] KEILAR: The Supreme Court has just handed down two major decisions that will have far-reaching political implications for years to come.

First, the justices have ruled against President Trump and his administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Critics argue that this question was aimed at weakening Democrats' strongholds by intimidating immigrants from being counted. And the second ruling, the justices say that federal courts must stay out of disputes over whether politicians go too far in drawing district lines for partisan gain, also known as gerrymandering.

We have former deputy assistant attorney general under President Obama, Elliot Williams, with us in studio, and CNN's Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue is live from the Supreme Court.

So, Ariane, let's talk about this first ruling on the census question. What's the breakdown? What's the opinion?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, a politically charged case, whether or not the Trump administration could add the citizenship question to the 2020 census. John Roberts played a key role here in the vote that counted. He sided with the liberals, sending this case back down to the lower courts. That means that for now the question is blocked. And it raises the question of whether or not the administration is going to have the time to put it on, on the questionnaire.

Here's what's key. What bothered him was the justification put forward by the administration for the question. He said, we cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given. Keep in mind, Brianna, the government has always said that it was necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act, but challengers had always said that that is pretext, the real reason was to intimidate minority families from coming forward and hurting their political representation.

So, bottom line, Brianna, in that case, that question is going to be blocked for now.

KEILAR: So, for now. But then the question, Elliott, is the long term, could this end up still, this citizenship question on the census, because this goes to a lower court?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT GENERAL UNDER OBAMA: Yes, it could. I mean it would be pretty remarkable because it's now July in effect and you'd have to get everything drafted by October is the date that we've seen, that if there's an emergency, they can still print the forms after October.

[13:30:01] It seems unlikely. Again, three federal judges have ruled against the commerce secretary saying that they believe that he was untruthful.