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Former Vice President Joe Biden Prepares For First Debate As Front-Runner; DNC Chairman Tom Perez On The First Democratic Debate; Jury Deliberates In Princeton Grad Murder Trial. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 27, 2019 - 07:30   ET



[07:34:10] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Former vice president Joe Biden returns to the debate stage tonight for the first time in seven years. Now, while he's certainly used -- he's used to being in debates, this time around he's in an unfamiliar position. He is the front-runner.

CNN's Arlette Saenz live in Miami. Arlette, you've actually covered Joe Biden before in these different types of situations. What's different this time for him in his preparation?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORT: Well, John, the spotlight is certainly a lot higher and deeper on Joe Biden tonight. He's been preparing for these debates, hunkered down with his advisers up in Delaware for several days, running through a few mock debates ahead of tonight.

But one thing that's different from Joe -- for Joe Biden compared to those other candidates is that he has participated in more high-stakes presidential debates than any of those candidates on stage with him tonight.

[07:35:05] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ (voice-over): Joe Biden is no stranger to the presidential debate stage, but tonight marks the first time he's center stage as the front-runner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Starting on my immediate right, Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. of Delaware.

SAENZ (voice-over): His first presidential debate came in the 1988 campaign.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (1987): As we debate these issues, let's put them in concrete terms and understand that when we talk about these statistics, we're talking about people.

SAENZ (voice-over): During the 2008 campaign, Biden debated candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And he unleashed this zinger about an opponent not even on the stage.

BIDEN (2007): Rudy Giuliani, there's three -- there's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun and verb, and 9/11. I mean, there's nothing else. There's nothing else.

SAENZ (voice-over): But tonight's Democratic primary debate in Miami marks Biden's first debate in seven years after he tangled with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan in 2012.

BIDEN (2012): With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey.

SAENZ (voice-over): Before that, he faced off against the 2008 GOP vice president nominee Sarah Palin --


SAENZ (voice-over): -- and showed his emotional side.

BIDEN (2008): The notion that somehow because I'm a man I don't know what it's like to raise two kids alone, I know what it's like to have a child you're not sure is going to -- is going to make it. I understand.

SAENZ (voice-over): Tonight, Biden finds himself bracing for possible attacks from his Democratic rivals. The former vice president one of 10 candidates on the debate stage.

Bernie Sanders, standing to his left, could paint Biden as a middle- ground candidate --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to make it clear that when the future of the planet is at stake there is no middle ground.

SAENZ (voice-over): -- while Pete Buttigieg, on his right, could make a generational argument.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Democrats can no more turn the clock back to the 1990s than Republicans can return us to the 1950s, and we should not try.

SAENZ (voice-over): Biden readying for the possible friendly fire.

BIDEN: My guess is it's going to be an inclination. Instead of talking about the future, it's going to be talking about the past. And I'm about the future, not the past.

SAENZ (voice-over): And for the sometimes verbose and gaffe-prone Biden, brevity might be key.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC MODERATOR (2007): Can you reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage, Senator?

BIDEN (2007): Yes.



So, how is Joe Biden preparing for tonight?

Joining us now is Simone Sanders. She's the senior adviser to the Biden presidential campaign. Simone, great to see you.

SIMONE SANDERS, SENIOR ADVISER, BIDEN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Good to see you, Alisyn. Well, I can't see you, you can see me -- but I'm happy to be here.

CAMEROTA: You're looking good.

OK, so before we get to the strategy for tonight, what did Vice President Biden think about last night's debate? Did he watch the whole thing?

SANDERS: I do believe Vice President Biden watched the debate. And look, I think there were a lot of good Democrats on the stage last night and what we saw was a debate of ideas. It made me proud to be a Democrat.

And tonight, Vice President Biden -- he's going to go out there with a strategy to communicate his vision to the American people. What he would do as president. Why he is in this race.

You know, Alisyn, I think people hear a lot about Joe Biden but not necessarily a lot about his plans from reading the news, and so this will be an opportunity for him to speak directly to the American people about what those plans are.

CAMEROTA: Does he feel like he will have a target on his back tonight?

SANDERS: Well, I think there's no question that a number of folks will be looking for a breakout moment tonight, Alisyn, and Vice President Biden doesn't necessarily need a breakout moment. He doesn't need a viral moment.

You know, the folks know him. Voters know who Joe Biden is. He served honorably and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama as his vice president.

I think tonight his strategy and goal will really be to let the American people know exactly where he stands on the economy, on health care.


SANDERS: I know we're going to get into immigration. Why he's in this race. The soul of the nation.

He's going to reiterate that point to remind people just why he decided that it was imperative for him to jump into this race in 2020.

CAMEROTA: But just take us inside the debate prep a little bit. Have you been preparing him to take incoming from all sides?

SANDERS: Well, we don't want to give away the entire debate prep strategy, Alisyn. We've got 11 more of these things to go. This is a long primary.

But I will say that Vice President Biden has been focused on his record. He's been focused on really getting down because, you know, there's only a minute. Each candidate will only get a minute. And so, really focused on communicating, being very specific with the time that he will have on the stage.

And so, I know there were some reports that he was studying maybe other candidates' debate style, and absolutely not. We have really been focused on Vice President Biden and making sure that he is -- feels comfortable to communicate his message to the American people. And I can confidently say, Alisyn, I do believe he's ready.

[07:40:01] CAMEROTA: Well, speaking of other candidates' debate style, you, Simone, are so interesting to talk to because you work for Vice President Biden and you worked for Sen. Bernie Sanders. And so, what would you say is their big difference?

SANDERS: Look, I am -- I don't know how Sen. Sanders is prepping for today's debate.

I can just -- I can tell you, though, that Vice President Biden has gone through some mocks. He's all about reading the briefing books and then really getting down to the nitty-gritty of what he wants to say to the American people.

We've released a lot of policy over the last couple of weeks, Alisyn.

We've released a climate change policy -- a very bold, revolutionary climate change policy, if I will. We've also released an education policy that is really injecting 30 -- a significant -- a significant investment in Title 1 funds. Vice President Biden has talked about his health care plan.

Again, things that you don't necessarily you get to hear about when you turn on the television. So tonight will be his opportunity to get all of those things out and really be clear with the American people about where he stands on a number of things and what he will do as president.

CAMEROTA: I mean --

SANDERS: So, I don't know what Sen. Sanders has been up to but that's what Vice President Biden has been up to.

CAMEROTA: But I just imagine, Simone, that you would be a very valuable secret weapon because you do know how Sen. Sanders prepares for debates and you can bring that to the conversation of preparing Joe Biden.

SANDERS: Well, right. But, I mean, Alisyn, the idea that we are focused on Sen. Sanders in our debate prep or anyone else on that debate stage tonight is just absolutely not true.

I think a lot of people might want to talk about Vice President Biden tonight. Well, Vice President Biden is concerned with speaking directly to the American people. He doesn't need to take shots and frankly, that's not the kind of campaign we're running.

So, a lot of people might take shots at him tonight. Senator Sanders might be one of them. But what he will be focused on is being laser- focused on speaking directly to the American people. Looking into the camera and letting folks know where he stands and where he will take America as president.

CAMEROTA: Simone, I haven't had a chance to talk to you since the whole tiff between Sen. Cory Booker and former V.P. Joe Biden about the -- you know, when Joe Biden brought up the segregationists and how he had worked with Sen. James Eastland. And I know that those two have buried the hatchet and I know that they say that they have resolved it.

But I'm just wondering before tonight if you have had a conversation with V.P. Biden about how he can tell his old stories, which he likes to do, and frame them for a 2019 audience.

SANDERS: Well, I'm not going to get into the specifics of the private conversations I have with Vice President Biden.

But what I can say is look, I think a lot of people forget -- pardon me -- the bugs are getting to me, Alisyn. I think a lot of people forget that both Senators Eastland and Sen. Thurmond were, at one point in time, chairmen of the Judiciary Committee.

At one point in time, one was the counterpart to Vice President Biden, then-Sen. Biden, when he was the chairman of the committee. And so, you've got to work with folks when you're on a committee. That's the only way folks get something done.

And I think the vice president's message about bipartisanship is really a transformative message for this time, OK? I know it seems radical in 2019 in this day and age to have a conversation about bipartisanship.

But I want to remind folks, Alisyn, that in 2018, folks across America sent Democrats to be in charge of the House of Representatives. Why? Because they wanted to put a check on this president and they wanted to get something done.

And we went in some really red places. And, Vice President Biden was someone who was in great demand all across the country from very blue districts to even some purple and even some red places to campaign for Democrats.

And so, folks want people who can work across the aisle. According to NPR, 63 percent of Americans --

CAMEROTA: Yes. SANDERS: -- want a president who can get something done -- who can work across the aisle. And so, you can hear -- you can bet you'll hear Vice President Biden hit on a little bit of that tonight.

CAMEROTA: OK. Well, we look forward to hearing it.

Simone, you are wonderful for standing outside in the Miami humidity with mosquitoes for us. Thank you very much for being on NEW DAY. Talk to you soon -- John.

SANDERS: Thank you so much -- bye.

BERMAN: A great conversation there.

So, he is in charge of setting up these debates. We're going to ask DNC chair Tom Perez what went well and not so well last night.


[07:48:12] BERMAN: All right. Ten Democratic hopefuls agreeing on the issues but diverging on some of the solutions. Ten more candidates take the debate stage tonight in Miami, including four of the leading contenders.

Joining us now is Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for being with us.

I want to know what you think went well and not so well last night and let's start with the glass half full part. What went well last night?

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Oh, I think the glass is far more than half full, John. Every candidate got a chance to articulate their vision.

We -- I said before the evening started we were going to have a spirited discussion of issues. We'd have some disagreement on some issues, but it would always be about the issues, and that's what happened. I said that people would see that we have a deep bench and I think we saw that.

So, that has been our goal throughout. We wanted to make sure we created a platform and a process that enabled everybody to talk about how they're going to make sure America works for everyone and not just a few at the top.

So, I felt pretty good about what happened. And we've got one more night tonight and we'll do it again.

BERMAN: They all got a chance to talk -- some not quite as much as others. Jay Inslee had four minutes and 52 seconds --


BERMAN: -- of speaking time. Cory Booker, 10 minutes and 55 seconds.

Is that fair? PEREZ: Yes. Well, we always strive to make sure that everybody gets roughly equal amounts and that's certainly something we talk about with all the networks. And I didn't look at any of the -- I just got the data late last night. And so, we're going to process that and have a conversation.

One the biggest challenges, I think, with moderating the debate with 10 people is you've got a lot of people raising their hand. And I do want to make sure that whether it's Gov. Inslee or anybody and everybody on the debate stage, we're always striving to make sure that they have the opportunity to weigh in on the critical issues.

[07:50:05] BERMAN: I understand it's not easy. No one is suggesting for a second that it is --

PEREZ: Right.

BERMAN: -- with 10 candidates up there on the stage.

Some of the headlines you're seeing this morning, including in "The New York Times", talk about the leftward prism now in this debate. There was a leftward tilt in some of the policy discussions last night if you're talking about Medicare for All -- doing away with private insurance. If you're talking about --

We just spoke with Julian Castro, who is suggesting decriminalizing illegal entry into the United States -- or improper entry into the United States.

Are you concerned that some of the discussions in this primary might make the eventual Democratic nominee less electable?

PEREZ: Well, I think -- let's just take the health care issue, John. What we saw are two things.

Number one, every candidate running for president on the Democratic side believes that every person here in this country ought to have access to quality, affordable health care. We're 90 percent of the way there thanks to people like Barack Obama and LBJ and other Democrats.

The discussion we had last night was how to get from 90 percent to 100 percent coverage. The other side wants to go the other way.

And in this discussion about how to get from 90 percent to 100 percent coverage -- yes, there were some candidates who were talking about Medicare for All and that is a proposal that merits serious debate and discussion, as it got last night. And there were other candidates who supported a different pathway to 100 percent.

And what I say to voters is you should take a look at all the candidates on this critical issue -- and we know that health care is the number one issue in this country -- and evaluate their proposal and see which proposal is in your wheelhouse. Which proposal do you think would work for you, your family, and your broader community? And so, I actually think health care is a great example of the fact that we really do believe, as Democrats, that if you have a preexisting condition you ought to keep your health care.

And what the other side believes is exactly the opposite. They're trying to undo the Affordable Health -- the Affordable Care Act. And that's a huge difference. I mean, it's night and day.

BERMAN: Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, sort of the halftime show in between the two debates. Thanks very much for being with us this morning. I appreciate it.

PEREZ: Always a pleasure.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, now to this story.

Prosecutors say a Princeton graduate killed his father over money. The defense says it's not that simple. The evidence now in the hands of the jury. That's next.


[07:56:37] CAMEROTA: It's the case of a Princeton graduate accused of murdering his millionaire father over his allowance. That is now in the hands of a jury.

And, CNN's Jean Casarez joins us with more. What's this about, Jean?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, from country clubs to lavish parties, this New York City family -- they seemed to have it all. But it changed with a 911 call with mother and wife, Shelley Gilbert.


911 DISPATCHER: Hello, ma'am. You said your husband was shot?


911 DISPATCHER: How long ago?

GILBERT: Probably 10-15 minutes ago. Ten minutes ago, maybe.

CASAREZ (voice-over): January fourth, 2015. The founder of biotech hedge fund Wainscott Capital, Thomas Gilbert, Sr. was found shot to death in his New York City apartment. Police say his left hand was touching a semiautomatic pistol on his chest but quickly ruled out suicide.

911 DISPATCHER: Ten minutes ago he was shot?

GILBERT: Maybe 15.

911 DISPATCHER: By whom?

GILBERT: My son, who is nuts -- but I didn't know he was this nuts.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Thomas Gilbert, Jr., a Princeton graduate, was living a life of surfing and socializing in high-society circles, financed by his parents.

Gilbert, Jr.'s parents were giving their son an allowance of $1,000 a week but had recently lowered it to $300, which prosecutors say was a motive for murder.

Authorities found numerous rounds of ammunition in the son's apartment, which gave police evidence they needed for an arrest.

ROBERT BOYCE, FORMER CHIEF OF DETECTIVES, NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have a shell casing envelope with the serial number of the gun that was recovered at the crime scene.

CASAREZ (voice-over): One month after his father's death, Thomas Gilbert, Jr. was indicted for second-degree murder.

The defense admitted during the trial that Gilbert killed his father but said he was insane, didn't know right from wrong at the time he fired that shot, didn't understand the consequences of his actions. His attorney, with whom he has disagreed with openly in court, has pointed to a history of mental illness and that 911 call from his mother, Shelley.

An expert for the prosecution testified that prior to the alleged murder, Gilbert's Internet searches included four visits to

Shelley Gilbert took the stand for the prosecution but also testified she and her husband knew something was wrong with their son.

"We also thought we'd had an extremely mentally ill child on our hands, rather than just a mentally ill child on our hands."

Between the prosecution and the defense, there is someone left in the middle. With her husband gone and her son possibly spending the rest of his life in prison, Shelley had one thing to say to reporters after she testified.

GILBERT: No family should ever have to go through this.


CASAREZ: And her son is facing life in prison if convicted of murder. But if found not guilty by reason of insanity, he will be sent to a mental hospital. But the fact is, Alisyn, at some point, he could get out.

CAMEROTA: Fascinating story, Jean. Thank you very much for reporting on that.

All right. Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is going to join us live, so let's get right to it.

And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, June 27th, 8:00 now in the East.

It was a big night for the crowded Democratic field at the first debate in Miami.

Senator Elizabeth Warren started the night as the only candidate on the stage polling above five percent. And then, Warren got the first question and she got the last word as the final candidate to deliver a closing argument.