Return to Transcripts main page


Kamala Harris Confronts Biden on Race, Busing Record at Debate; Buttigieg Accepts Responsibility for Handling of South Bend Police Shooting; Harris Again Forced to Clarify Health Care Position; Trump Jokes with Putin about Election Interference and Getting Rid of Journalists; Soon Trump Will Meet with China's Xi as Trade War Rages; Sanders Says His Health Plan Will Raise Taxes on Middle Class. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 28, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:20] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

They came, they saw, they debated. And now the fallout, the cleanup, and what's next. Democratic candidates for president are all back on the campaign trail this morning after what was, for many, the most high-profile night of their entire campaign.

Last night's showdown included the Democratic field's top-tier contenders and some amazing moments. Top of which is Kamala Harris confronting former Vice President Joe Biden on racial inequality and civil rights and, as you're about to see, it may well have upended the 2020 race.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): I do not believe you are a racist. And I agree with you, when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground, but I also believe -- and it's personal, and actually it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States Senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I do not praise racists. That's not true.


BOLDUAN: Biden's campaign this morning is calling that attack a, quote, "low" blow. Harris, on that point, is pushing back.


HARRIS: The point that I was making is, had those Senators, those segregations, had their way, I would not be a member of the United States Senate today. I would certainly not be a top contender to be president of the United States.

And I think he and I have a difference of opinion and also, a difference of opinion on states' rights. I was actually a bit surprised to hear how he described, in defense of his position, his perspective on the role of the federal government and, in particular, he mentioned the Department of Education.


BOLDUAN: Right now, today, there's no rest for the weary. They're all back out at it.

But is the Biden campaign looking for a reset? That's a big question. We may find out soon because Biden will be speaking at the annual convention of the Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. That's a little later this afternoon.

But before then, this hour, we'll talk to the Biden campaign. We're going to talk to the Harris campaign. We're going to talk to Bernie Sanders campaign as well. You will not want to miss a minute.

Joining me first to set the scene of what all happened last night and what it means for today and beyond, Ayesha Rascoe, White House reporter for NPR, and Frank Bruni is here, "New York Times" opinion columnist and CNN contributor.

It's great to see you guys.

Ayesha, I want to get your take. Not only did Joe Biden face tough questions about this issue from Kamala Harris on the sound bite we ran about this issue last night. There are more prominent Democrats coming out this morning saying he did not get it right.

But the question is, what does this mean -- in the end, what is the view from African-American voters? He has long had a deep well of support there. What do you think?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: I don't know that this one moment will dramatically hurt or change Biden's support with African- Americans. It remains to be seen.

But I think when you see this rise of Kamala Harris and her putting herself out there, if there's a candidate who looks like they could beat Trump, and especially someone like Harris, you may see African- Americans moving their support to her. That's what has to remain to be seen.

I think what you saw from Harris last night is her just taking command. It's never a good look when you have someone like Harris questioning Biden and putting him on the spot. The moderators are supposed to be in control. But then in that moment, Harris really took control and really kind of set Biden back a bit.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And then that strange moment when he cut himself off, even though the entire discussion at that point had gone well beyond time constraints. He said, I'm past my time, my time is up, I'm sorry. And then that moment, which I'll talk about later.

But, Frank, I also don't -- looking at kind of last night, the reaction, and I don't really know what to do or what Biden is going to do now. Because if he does today, let's say, come out and say he has evolved on this issue, what happened last night? And if he doesn't say he hasn't evolved, doubles and triples down on his positions, then we have Jesse Jackson saying he's on the wrong side of history.


BOLDUAN: It seems no win, it seems tough, it seems that he's got a big moment for him.

BRUNI: It's a huge moment. He's in a very bad spot, because you kind of outlined the options, I say, I evolved, whatever.

[11:05:04] But beyond that, he looked lost last night. He looked sort of helpless. He had no energy.

I mean, Kamala Harris was mesmerizing and she prosecuted that case, to use a verb she loves, extremely well. And Joe Biden seemed to be completely unprepared for a moment that he should have been thoroughly prepared for.

And so the questions aren't just what his positions are through history and whether he's now in sync with the moment, with the party, the morally correct position. The question is also, Joe Biden, does he have what it takes right now to go through the length of a presidential campaign.

The man that I saw on that stage last night fills me with great concern. The Democratic Party has to put forward the single strongest candidate, the best bet against Donald Trump.

Because if you believe, as I do, this is a disastrous presidency, an insult to the country, nothing is more important than choosing the right opponent for him. Joe Biden last night --


BRUNI: -- did not look like the right opponent.

BOLDUAN: Electability, who can beat Donald Trump, is the number-one quality that people --


BRUNI: In my view, it's number one by a mile.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

Ayesha, as if a study in contrast, we also saw a very different reaction from Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He last night, in talking about an officer involved shooting of a black man in his hometown, it's something he's faced a lot of questions and criticism for on the campaign trail. He did not double down and say, I got it all right. He said, I

couldn't get it done. Let me play this for you.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), SOUTH BEND MAYOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because I couldn't get it done. My community is in anguish right now because of an officer involved shooting. A black man, Eric Logan, killed by a white officer.

It's a mess and we're hurting.


BOLDUAN: That was another big moment last night. What does it mean in this race?

RASCOE: He was taking responsibility, really, because I don't think there really is a good answer for that, right, like the black police officers are dramatically underrepresented on that police force and you've had this fatal shooting. And I think basically he was just kind of taking that on last night saying there's nothing I could do to bring this person back, more needs to be done.

I think what you didn't hear from him though is specifics about what he would do. He kind of had that remark about, he wants black people, if they're pulled over by the cops, to not be fearful and feel the same way white people do. But he didn't give any kind of specifics on how to get there, how do we get to that point.

That is where he didn't kind of -- that's where he didn't offer any solutions.


A big moment was last night. What it means in the scope of this long election, long nominating process, yet to be seen but it's important we mark it.

And it's great to have you guys to talk about big moments and the takeaways. I really appreciate it.

Ayesha, Frank, thanks, guys.

Let me bring in to join me now is Lily Adams. She's the communications director for Kamala Harris' campaign.

Lily, thank you for coming.


BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

A big night, no sleep for you guys for sure.

I played the moment for our viewers. It has been playing since last night.

You guys were clearly ready for the moment when Senator Harris was going to take Vice President Biden on directly on the issue of bussing. She could not have been more clear in her position and the argument she was going to make on that stage. The campaign was ready as well to back her up. Hashtags and T-shirts to name a couple.

How do you keep it going? What do you do with it today?

ADAMS: Well, we've certainly got some fast-moving digital folks on our campaign, so kudos to them.

But I will say you're right that she did deliver that message with a certain moral clarity, and clarity about position and purpose, frankly, that I think spoke to millions of Americans.

That's why we're seeing today is our best fundraising day of the campaign since that 22,000-person rally in Oakland. It's also why we see endorsements in all four early states today and also in California.

So I really do think that, what folks are questioning coming into that debate, as Frank was mentioning, is, who do I trust to go up against Donald Trump and I think she answered that question for a lot of folks last night and they feel ready to sign on.

BOLDUAN: I'm curious, then, this morning. I mean, the vice president has a long record of fighting for civil rights during his career. This bussing issue is real from his past. He defended it last night.

Today, after what was said last night, is Senator Harris confident that Joe Biden can be trusted on issues of racial equality?

ADAMS: I think, frankly, that will be something for the voters to decide.

But what she was saying was that she respects Joe Biden and, frankly, has worked with him, and he's had a long career of fighting for folks.

But I think she was very clear on this. They just disagree. And frankly, you saw today that Jesse Jackson also acknowledged, on this issue, the vice president was on the wrong side of history.

So it will be up to them and their campaign to decide if he wants to stick with this position like he did last night or add some more context to the conversation.

But just to go back to the earlier point, this is personal for her.


ADAMS: I think the one thing folks forget --

(CROSSTALK) [11:10:14] BOLDUAN: Just real quick, on this issue, is there more that Joe Biden can say to clarify and explain that's going to make Senator Harris and your campaign feel differently about his position?

ADAMS: Well, I mean, I think he could say he regrets his position of being against bussing back in the 1970s and working with these two segregationist Senators on that topic.

And I think the one thing that's gotten lost a little bit is that Kamala Harris was not the only child that was on that bus getting bussed to integrate schools in this country. And that was not the only bus in America.

So this is not just an issue -- you know, we've heard from people in South Carolina who said, I was bussed to school. This made a difference in my life. We've heard from Congressman Meeks, earlier today on television, saying I was bussed to school.

So I do think that it was an eye-opening moment for her to talk to the experience of millions of people that, frankly, had not been discussed in this campaign.

This is not an academic exercise for her. This is not a debate over political ideology. This is about real impact on real people.

And so I think it will be up to the vice president to decide if he wants to say whether this is a mistake or not. I'll leave that to his campaign.

BOLDUAN: If he does, does Senator Harris accept that and move on?

ADAMS: Yes, I'm sure if he says that he was wrong back then, and that's what she asked for last night, then I think she would be thrilled with that.


ADAMS: And I hope this was kind of an eye-opening moment.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you also, Harris raised her hand last night to the question of -- when asked by NBC, would you abolish private insurance in favor of a government-run plan. She now says that the question that she was answering was about her own insurance.

But we know that same question was a big moment the night before, and it was clear then that the question was about abolishing all private insurance. Did she really not understand?

ADAMS: I think when Lester said that it was their private insurance, she did take that to mean her plan. And frankly, she would not put people --


BOLDUAN: Lester also asked the question last night. ADAMS: -- herself. Yes, I mean, I will just tell you, I don't think

she was parsing the words last night in the debate but I'm telling you what the transcript says. And frankly, I'd be happy to look at it again.

But I think she was clear. She's been on a bill for a long time now, Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-All bill, that obviously preserves the option of supplemental private insurance for those who need it.

But I've just got to you, like, the conversation that she's hearing with voters is, am I going to be able to see my doctor, I like seeing my doctor. And frankly, 91 percent of doctors are in Medicare.

So I think this is a place where maybe the conversation going on in the Washington bubble is a little outside of the step of what we're hearing in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

BOLDUAN: I hear that. But a couple of things on that. Just because 90-plus percent of doctors accept Medicare right now does not mean that they will forever, especially if the entire health care system is overhauled. I hear that from doctors all the time.

But additionally, I think on the most basic level, and it's not like a disconnect with voters, though, Lily, but this is something like the third go around of her having to clarify and facing questions about kind of where, what is your position on Medicare-for-All, where is the line, and where do you stand?

The fact that she's explaining it once again, is that not a problem?

ADAMS: No, I don't think so. She's been very clear. There's a whole bill signed on that is her plan. And frankly, folks can go and read it, reporters can go and read it.

But I think what the political reporters sometimes try to do is make it into a box-checking exercise. She's talking to voters how they're experiencing this.

Last night, she talked about a mother who sits in front of an E.R. who has insurance and won't go in because the deductible is too high. That is speaking to real people about the experiences that they are experiencing.


BOLDUAN: One-hundred percent.

HARRIS: They want to keep their doctors. They want --


BOLDUAN: One-hundred present. But she -- one-hundred percent. But she did have to clarify the position, because the question she was asked -- I don't want to get into it, but I'm just saying, it's just clarifying once again. I assume, going forward, it's not going to need any more clarification. ADAMS: I don't think anyone is unclear. I think she's been very

clear today as she's been asked about it. She's been very clear when she's on the trail.

And frankly, I do think that Americans know that the way this system works, for insurance companies to have so much power and pharmaceutical companies have so much power, is a problem.

And she's, frankly, the only person on that stage that who has prosecuted pharmaceutical companies to bring money, hundreds of millions of dollars, back to the state of California.

So she has a proven track record on this, on taking on these special interests and delivering for the American people. I expect her to do that as president.

BOLDUAN: Much more time to discuss all the aspects of it because it's a major thing to be discussing.

Thanks for coming on after a very big night and a very short evening for you in terms of sleep.

I appreciate it, Lily. Thank you.

ADAMS: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, we just heard from the Harris campaign. Next, speak to the Biden campaign. What do they think about last night? Is Biden going to be clarifying his position today? And are they adjusting their plans of attack for the next big debate, which is CNN debate in Detroit next month.

[11:15:10] Plus, President Trump meets with President Putin and makes jokes about election meddling and getting rid of journalists. Yes, that is correct. Standing right next to Vladimir Putin, who meddled in the U.S. election and has been accused many times over of ordering the assassination of journalists. Details ahead.


[11:20:15] BOLDUAN: A jaw dropping moment at the G-20 summit. President Trump joking with Russian President Vladimir Putin about none other than election interference.

That's correct. After everything that has happened -- again, I will say, see Volume I of the Mueller report, after all the evidence that points the finger directly to Russia and Putin for meddling in the 2016 election -- the president of the United States is publicly joking with Putin about it. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you tell Russia not to meddle in the 2020 election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, of course I will. Don't meddle in the election, please. Don't -- don't meddle in the election.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, traveling with the president in Osaka, Japan.

Kaitlan, and the president did not stop there. He had quite a bit more to say.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did. It seemed to me they were trying to lighten the mood not only joking about Russia interfering in the election -- which this is the first time, we should note, that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have been in the same room since Robert Mueller published his report, which he concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in systemic fashion, something we already knew because the Intelligence Community had already concluded as much.

But, Kate, they were also joking about the reporters in the room, at one point, trying to make it a moment of levity. But of course, it has a much darker tone when you consider the source.


TRUMP: Fake. Fake news.

You don't have the problem in Russia we have?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: Yes. Yes. Yes. We have the problem. The same.



COLLINS: Now, Kate, when the president says, "fake news," he's always says that's when he's trying to talk about coverage he finds inaccurate or unfair. But of course, Vladimir Putin, we know that several journalists have been murdered since he's been in power. Not only that, but also treated very poorly in his country.

So to see the president sitting there joking with him is exactly the reason you see some of the president's own allies advising him not to use that term.

Of course, this comes -- that was just the first day of the G-20 summit. The president has a slew of meetings to go, including with the Saudi crown prince, the Turkish President Erdogan, and the one that everyone is going to be watching, which is his sit-down with the Chinese President Xi Jinping as this trade war has been looming over the two of them for months.

Now, the president sounded upbeat about their meeting and the prospects of it. But we should note that the president denied reports that he agreed to any preconditions, like delaying tariffs, before sitting down with President Xi.

But also, one of his top economic advisers, Larry Kudlow, who is not here on this trip, said back at home that essentially what they're hoping for during this sit-down is just to get back on progress, to talking about getting to a trade deal where they were two months ago where the talks first broke down -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: It shows just how much talks have broken down.

But honestly, all of these moments, when the president can sit down with a world leader, any world leader, especially Vladimir Putin, and that is what transpires between them? It's shocking and a huge deal, and another message to the world of what the president's view on things are.

Kaitlan, thanks so much.

[11:23:25] Coming up for us, Senator Bernie Sanders admits that his health care plan will raise taxes on the middle class. Is that the winning message to beat Donald Trump? The Sanders campaign responds. That's next.


[11:28:31] BOLDUAN: The Joe Biden/Kamala Harris clash from last night's debate captured most headlines today. But a centerpiece of the debate last night is actually something that Senator Bernie Sanders has been advocating for years. Of course, that would be Medicare-for-All. And in that discussion, the Senator himself acknowledged that his plan will raise taxes on the middle class. Listen.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC ANCHOR & DEBATE MODERATOR: Will you raise taxes for the middle class in a Sanders administration?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): People who have health care on the Medicare-for-All will have no premiums, no deductibles, no co- payments, no out-of-pocket expenses. Yes, they will pay more in taxes, but less in health care for what they get.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, Bernie Sanders' campaign manager, Faiz Shakir.

Faiz, thanks so much for being here.


BOLDUAN: So middle-class Americans are going to pay more in taxes. That is a campaign ad for Donald Trump. He could write it right now. Why isn't that a problem for you guys when you hear Bernie Sanders saying that from the debate stage? [11:29:37] SHAKIR: Well, Kate, you have to start with the fact that

the middle class and the working class are getting screwed right now. You have a system that's governed by corporate greed. People know that. People know what they're paying in premiums. They know what they're paying in co-pays and deductibles. And they know that their health insurance is very fragile. That is they switch jobs, it will be lost on them.

So the question before the American public is, are you willing to pay a little bit more in taxes to have security and stability in your health care system. We believe that the people are going to say, yes, absolutely, at least you're leveling with us, Bernie Sanders. That's a choice we would like to make.

BOLDUAN: But the devil is in the details.