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Trump Shares Laugh With Putin Over Election Meddling; Charlottesville Neo-Nazi Receives Life Sentence; Biden Under Fire After Debate. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2019 - 15:00   ET



CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Got to find ways to interject more often.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Yes. And how effective were those three minutes? Ooh, I know...

CILLIZZA: Not very.


BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Well, we will see them all again or however many of them again in Detroit in a couple weeks.


BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let's continue on. You are watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Former Vice President Joe Biden vigorously defending his record today after a clash at the Democratic debate with rival California Senator Kamala Harris sparking new concerns about his positions on race.

Last night, Senator Harris pressed Biden on his work with segregationist senators, as well as his documented opposition to busing in the 1970s.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then?


HARRIS: Do you agree?


BIDEN: I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That's what I opposed. I did not oppose...

HARRIS: Well, there was a failure of -- of states to -- to integrate...

BIDEN: No, but...

HARRIS: public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California, public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.

BIDEN: Because your city council made that decision. It was a local decision.

HARRIS: So, that's where the federal government must step in.

BIDEN: The -- the federal government must...

HARRIS: That's why we have the Voting Rights Act...


HARRIS: ... and the Civil Rights Act.


BALDWIN: That was last night.

This is how the vice president just responded within the last hour. He was standing there in Chicago, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition conference hosted by Reverend Jesse Jackson.


BIDEN: I heard and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris.

But we all know that 30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can't do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights. I want to be absolutely clear about my record and position on racial justice, including bussing.

I never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary buses. And it's a program that Senator Harris participated in, and it made a difference in her life.

Well, Reverend Jackson, we have spent a lot of time working together over the years on a lot of issues that matter. And I know -- I know and you know I fought my heart out to ensure that civil rights and voting rights, equal rights are enforced everywhere.

These rights are not -- are not up to the states to decide. They are federal government's duty to decide. It's a constitutional question to protect the civil rights of every single American.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to CNN's Arlette Saenz. She is traveling with the Biden campaign.

You were there in the room where he made those comments, Arlette.

The former vice president, he's doubling down on this claim that he never opposed busing as a whole. What was the distinction you think he was trying to make?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think, Brooke, you certainly saw him try to maybe describe this a bit more eloquently than he did last night.

But, today, here in Chicago, he was trying to stress that point that he did not oppose voluntary busings. Instead, it was that, in the past, he had supported federally mandated busing. That's an argument you tried to hear him make last night.

And then also in that other sound that you played, Biden was also trying to clean up a little bit his potential comments last night about states' rights, and again today saying that he believes that civil rights are a federal government issue, that they should not be left to the states, and that he has worked and defended his civil rights record over the years.

But Biden was out here today forcefully speaking about his civil rights record, really trying to offer some assurances after that shaky debate performance that he had last night.

And I was speaking with voters here just before and after the former vice president's speech. And one woman here said, yes, she agreed with him that federally mandated busing should not have been in place.

I spoke to another voter who said that, before the debate, she was kind of leaning towards Joe Biden, and that after last night that, though his remarks are not disqualifying, it doesn't change the possibility that she might vote for him, it does open up the possibility for her that she might listen to other candidates, maybe take some other people and their thoughts a little bit more -- listen to them a little bit more.

She pointed to Kamala Harris, as well as Elizabeth Warren. So, right now, I think going forward for the vice president, the former vice president, you're going to see him tried to reassure voters that he is a candidate that meets the moment.

You heard him here in Chicago trying to make the argument that the focus should not be what happens in the past, but focus should be on what is going to be done for the future. And that's something you're likely to hear the former vice president speak about going forward.

But he's certainly going to continue to face issue -- questions on these issues of civil rights going forward -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: He will. Arlette, thank you very much.

Wes Lowery. Wes Lowery is a CNN contributor. He's a national reporter for "The Washington Post." It is nice to see you, sir.

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Brooke, great to be here.

BALDWIN: Listen, I have read your tweets. I know how stunned you were by Biden's debate comments last night and what you described as going states' rights on busing.


What is your reaction to what he said in the last hour?


You know, I think one of the difficulties for Joe Biden, right, because the reality is, Joe Biden was a moderate on issues of civil rights. He was never a crusading progressive. He was always kind of a white moderate.

And, as we know, on any number of issues, civil rights, race relations in America, things have changed very rapidly during the time Joe Biden has been in office.

BALDWIN: Of course.

LOWERY: And so, because of that, he has to make a decision. Does he double and triple down on positions he's held or try to represent them differently, or does he come out and try to explain an evolution, right?

In this case, right, he is -- even the comments he made earlier today are a little difficult to parse, right? He's saying that he never opposed voluntary busing. And yet there are quotes from Joe Biden saying, I oppose busing. It's an asinine concept. The problem with busing is, it's going to wake make white people racist by making them go to school with black people, right?


LOWERY: That doesn't sound like someone drawing a nuanced argument about whether or not the federal government should do it, or the local government should do it.

That sounds like someone who says, this whole concept doesn't work. The more he doubles and triples down on these nuances, and many might argue, an objective reading, that he continues to mistake what his previous positions are, it raises additional questions, right?


LOWERY: That's how Kamala Harris got into this.

BALDWIN: Doesn't that only make it more problematic for him? I mean, I was talking to a surrogate of his, a state senator, African-American gentleman, last hour, stands by Biden, but even he too allowed to say like the man just needs to admit either whether it's a mistake, or however he wants to characterize it, or how he was on the wrong side of history, and decades have passed, and here's where I am today.

But he hasn't, Wes. And that's an issue.

LOWERY: Exactly. No, of course, it doesn't even really matter what position he ends up taking. It just has to be honest. Right? It doesn't -- look, busing and the legacy of busing is something that is still up for debate. There are plenty of people who are civil rights crusaders who didn't think it was the right step.

And there's an argument that could be made that busing turned off more people than it put on and they created additional problems in our schools. You could make that argument. That's not the argument he's making.

I think you ought to look at the way he even fell into this hole in the first place. He was kind of waxing poetic about segregationists and talking about the work he was able to do despite them.

And when everyone jumped on that and looked at it, what they realized was, the work he did with them was opposed busing in schools, right? And so each time he tries to respond to these criticisms in ways that are not intellectually and historically honest, he digs a hole deeper and opens a door for people like Kamala Harris and other critics to jump on him.

And so even people who, again, might not disagree with Joe Biden's previous stances on busing or his current stances on busing, they might eventually get tired of him constantly explaining himself in circles around these issues.

And that might signal to the folks that maybe he's not the right candidate for this moment, when things have changed so much.

BALDWIN: Let's talk Kamala Harris, before I let you go.

Kamala Harris, massive, successful launch. Remember, even President Trump took notice on Twitter and called her Camilla or whatever it was, but he noticed her.

And then Senator Harris, she was languishing just a little bit, and then she saw this moment last night, what we're talking about. She took it. It paid off for her.

But now comes the tough part, right, maintaining that momentum. How, Wes, do you think she does it? Because you know now she's going to have a big old target on her back.

LOWERY: Of course, I think you're making a great point about that. Right?

No one was gunning for Kamala Harris yesterday, right? She actually avoided much attack at all. If people were attacking anyone, it was Joe Biden or it was Bernie Sanders. Now, when she comes into the next debates or on the rest of the campaign trail, people are going to go at her. So she was able to largely avoid conversations about some of the things that some voters don't like about her issues. The entire exchange with Biden, I think some of the brilliance of it was that it all buoyed off of a conversation about a police shooting in South Bend with Pete Buttigieg, which is not necessarily something Kamala Harris, the prosecutor, wants to talk about, right?

There are questions about her criminal justice background, about her time as a prosecutor. There are frustrations. Biden tried to allude to it, but didn't quite pull it off.

BALDWIN: I was a public defender, looking at her.

LOWERY: You were a prosecutor. Exactly.

There are some real questions about whether or not Kamala Harris was as a prosecutor what she's presenting herself as now. But she was able to take a whole conversation about criminal justice and policing reform and pivot it to school busing and attack Joe Biden.

That was pretty brilliant. What's going to be really interesting is going to see, when it comes for her, when the attention turns on her, when she has to answer for her past, the way Biden had to last night, does she get defensive and flustered the way he did? Or does she come up with a different or better way to address those issues?

BALDWIN: We will all be watching.

Wes Lowery, you are excellent. Thank you very much.

LOWERY: Thank you. Any time.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Rucker Johnson is the chancellor's professor of public policy at U.C. Berkeley's Goldman School of Public policy and the author of "Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works."

Professor, a pleasure. Welcome.

RUCKER JOHNSON, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Great to be with you. Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: So I really wanted to dive in on this today. I know that Berkeley has been described as a pioneer in school busing.


The school district not only bused black students to predominantly white schools, but also bused white students to predominantly black schools.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of those efforts, which started back in 1968. Can you just tell me -- take us back to that time. What was the environment like, not only there, but nationwide? JOHNSON: So, I think what's important is that the long time period between Brown and the actual implementation of significant integration efforts would undergo a significant delay.

In the Southern resistance and in other areas of the country, the resistance to integration efforts was huge. And the issue is that if a city council, a school board -- a school board, a superintendent, a district decides that they want to resist the integration efforts, that they want to continue to segregate, the question is that, in the language of local control and states' rights, those are coded language for really separate, but equal and the resistance to integration efforts.

And so I think that there's a lot that's changed over the last 50 years, but one thing that has reasserted and resurrected over the last 20 years is the resegregation of schools. And so this isn't really a question about an older era. This is a question about, what lessons are we going to draw from the earlier efforts of integration, so that we ensure equal education opportunity for all children?


BALDWIN: I'm going to ask you about that. I'm going to ask you about that.

But, if I may, so, Senator Harris, right, her whole line last night, "I was that little girl," she says she was in the second grade -- or she was in the second class, rather, to integrate the Berkeley Public Schools, noting that it happened nearly 20 years after -- you talk about Brown -- happened 20 years after Brown vs. Board.

Is it fair to say that even liberal Berkeley, California, that there was still resistance to busing? And was it just busing? Or was it school integration as a whole?

JOHNSON: I think the mechanism and methods through which school integration is achieved requires issues around school resource equity, school funding. It requires things about teacher diversity. There's a lot of components to it.

But, in that period of time, busing was the most effective way in which schools were integrated. And so the resistance to that method was really a way to ensure that integration efforts really weren't achieved.

And this wasn't just a question in the South, but throughout the country. And what Senator Harris represents is a living, breathing symbol of what integration outcomes can deliver when the equitable opportunities are ensured for all children, irrespective of race, ethnicity, or low income or whether you're affluent, and what neighborhood is continually dictating the access to opportunity.

And that's a question for today, not just in 1968 in Berkeley. And that's not a question just in Berkeley, but across the country.

BALDWIN: Nationwide. Professor Johnson, you describe yourself as pro-Biden, but you said you were disappointed in his comments last night. Tell me why.

JOHNSON: Well, I do think that I know that he's been a champion of civil rights issues, but on integration, the record,, particularly in this period, was one in which there was significant resistance that he led. So his lifting up of compromise with segregationists, it wasn't actually, in fact, compromise. It was actually collaborating with segregationists to resist the efforts to integrate our schools.

And if there was a more viable way to ensure equal educational opportunity that he wanted to pursue, well, I would like to see the record of him doing that, because, fundamentally, education is a civil right.

BALDWIN: Rucker Johnson, thank you very much in Berkeley, California, with me. Appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Can you still hear me?

BALDWIN: I got you, sir. We got you loud and clear. Thank you very much.

Still ahead here, we will talk to a man who helped President George W. Bush and Mitt Romney prep for their debates, his big takeaways.

But, first, President Trump having a laugh with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit over getting rid of journalists. You will see his half- hearted warning to the Russian president about election interference as well.

And breaking news in the disappearance of that Utah college student. Police say this young woman was murdered, and they have made an arrest in the case.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, the neo-Nazi driver who ran over counterprotesters in a deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been sentenced to life in prison.

James Fields Jr. pleaded guilty to 29 federal hate crimes as part of a plea agreement that kept him off death row. He will not receive parole and must pay a fine. Two years ago, Fields raced through a crowd of people in the aftermath of that white nationalist rally.

He killed civil rights activists Heather Heyer and injured dozens of others.


Heyer's mother was in the courtroom. And she read a statement asking Fields to receive life.

Fields did speak. He apologized to his mother, but he did not face the victims in that courtroom.

Fields was in Charlottesville with other white supremacists to protest the city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

And today was the first time President Trump has had a face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the release of the Mueller report. But when pressed about whether he had discussed election interference with his Russian counterpart, President Trump seemed to play it off as a joke.


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


Don't -- don't meddle in the election, please.


BALDWIN: It has been less than a month since special counsel Robert Mueller gave his stark warning after the conclusion of his nearly two- year and better investigation.


ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE SPECIAL COUNSEL: That there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American.


BALDWIN: And let's not forget what President Trump said himself just a couple of weeks ago.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don't -- there's nothing wrong with listening.

If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent, oh, I think I would want to hear it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It's not an interference. They have information. I think I would take it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Heather Conley is the senior vice president with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

So, Heather, thank you for being here.

Is this another instance of we hearken back to Trump saying, Russia, if you're listening? I mean, did the president just basically invite Putin to in interfere in 2020?

HEATHER CONLEY, DIRECTOR, EUROPE PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, again, the commander in chief's job number one is to protect the country and to protect our democracy.

And what the president again demonstrated, that he does not believe that foreign election interference is a grave threat to our democracy. Whether you laugh at it, smile at it, encourage it, you are not defending the United States.

And, again, this just -- this backlash, you sort of feel like we're going back through the Helsinki summit of last year, where this growing backlash domestically -- this is so serious.

The national intelligence agencies every day are fighting against Russian disinformation and malign influence. Yet the president is seemingly so eager to wink and nod and accept it.

BALDWIN: And the story doesn't end there. President Trump went on to mockingly lament his issues with the media, and Putin joined right in. Watch.


TRUMP: Fake news.

You don't have the problem in Russia. We have it. You don't have it.


Yes, we have it.

TRUMP: You still have it?

PUTIN: Yes, the same.



BALDWIN: "The same," Putin said, except Russia handles its reporter problems a little differently.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports 25 confirmed cases of journalists being murdered in Russia between 2000 and 2019, years that Vladimir Putin has been either president or prime minister, 25.

We don't know how many currently maybe jailed. But, Heather, the president's joking of getting rid of journalists to Putin? Like, what kind of message does that send?

CONLEY: Again, freedom of the media is a cornerstone of transparent democracy.

It is what journalists in Russia have died fighting for and exposing corruption within the Putin regime. Again, let's go back to fundamentals.

A commander in chief protects our country and he protects our democracy. And when you joke about this, particularly giving the moral equivalency of our free press and a Russian press that is completely manipulated and controlled by that regime, just puts us on an equal footing, and we are not equal.

And I think, in some ways, this redoubles our efforts to help those brave Russian journalists, many of them having to work outside of Russia's borders to help give that transparency and the factual reporting that is so urgently needed by the Russian people.

In fact, it was just Vladimir Putin a week ago who had to take a step back from his own corrupt regime trying to throw an investigative journalist into prison on false charges. He also, I think, needs to appreciate that the Russian people are actually demanding a little bit more transparency, and it's making President Putin feel very, very uncomfortable.

BALDWIN: And they're laughing about it together on a world stage.

Heather Conley, thank you.


Just in to CNN, we have learned more than 18 million people watched round two of the debates last night, making it the most watched Democratic debate in history.

Up next, we will talk to a man who has helped several Republicans prepare for debates -- what he noticed in terms of style.


BALDWIN: Moments ago, we learned last night's Democratic debate was the most watched Democratic debate ever. More than 18 million people tuned in.

Today, the Democratic presidential hopefuls back out and about on the campaign trail. There, you see Senator Kamala Harris, one of several candidates