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Biden to Speak at Rainbow Push; Harris Confronts Biden; Trump Jokes with Putin. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: Are safe (ph). Those Trump districts. A lot to watch in the weeks ahead.

Thank you so much for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here Sunday morning.

Brianna Keilar starts "RIGHT NOW."

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

Underway right now, former Vice President Joe Biden trying to shore up his support among African-American voters after coming under attack on issues of race. Just moments from now -- and you're looking at live pictures now -- Biden will be speaking at this conference of Reverend Jessie Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition. And we're going to bring it his remarks live as soon as this gets underway.

During last night's Democratic debate, Senator Kamala Harris delivered a scathing rebuke of Biden. She confronted him on his recent comments about finding common ground with segregationist senators and on his past record against school busing.

Arlette Saenz is at the Rainbow Push convention in Chicago.

And, Arlette, he's in a weaker position today coming out of this debate.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, that's certainly right. And last night you saw this rocky debate performance from Joe Biden. And one Democratic ally who works closely with Biden's team tells our colleague Jeff Zeleny that the former vice president knows that he needs to do better. And so one thing people are going to be watching for here in Chicago is, does he further address those comments that he made last night on school busing, as well as that exchange at large that he had with Senator Kamala Harris? Our colleague -- one of our colleagues pressed deputy campaign manager Kate Bettingfield (ph) a short while ago, asking her if he is going to address this. She simply said, stay tuned.

But he's going to be here addressing the Rainbow Push coalition, which is a group that was founded by the Reverend Jessie Jackson. He, earlier today, Jackson, said that Biden does need to provide some answers. And he said that Kamala Harris' critique of the former vice president was on point.

But Biden will be here trying to court these black activists, black voters, which make up a good chunk of Biden's support as he's heading into this 2020 race.

And earlier today we have also learned that Atlanta's mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, is endorsing Joe Biden. It's unclear when exactly she agreed to this endorsement, whether it was perhaps timed, the release of it, to that rocky debate performance last night, but that's certainly a boost that the Biden campaign is looking for after his performance last night, which some people have said is shaky. So we're going to see and hear directly from the former vice president in the next hour and see if he's able to quell any of the concerns that emerged after that debate last night.

KEILAR: All right, Arlette, thank you for that report. We'll be back to where Arlette is as soon as Joe Biden starts speaking live there.

And the former vice president, again, having to explain his past positions for more than 30 years in the Senate. This includes this stance that he had as a junior senator against compulsory busing of black students into white schools and white students into black schools to desegregate schools in practice rather than just in theory as the Supreme Court had done effectively two decades before.

Jeff Zeleny has this report.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe you are a racist. And I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With those words, Senator Kamala Harris confronting former Vice President Joe Biden and his long record on race in the most dramatic exchange in the first Democratic debate Thursday night in Miami.

HARRIS: There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools. And she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact is that in terms of busing, the busing -- I never -- you would have been able to go to school the same exact way because it was a local decision made by your city council. That's fine. That's one of the things I argued for, that we should not be -- we should be breaking down these lines.

HARRIS: Vice President Biden, do you agree today -- do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then?

BIDEN: No --

HARRIS: Do you agree?

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

ZELENY: That moment shining new light on a long ago chapter of Biden's life, from his earliest years in the Senate, when he strongly opposed mandatory school busing that was designed to achieve integration and a more equitable education.

It was the mid-1970s. Biden favored desegregation, but not through busing. What's less known is how he followed the lead of some of the Senate's most fervent segregationists. In a series of never before published letters reviewed by CNN, the strength of Biden's opposition to busing comes into sharper focus.

On March 25, 1977, Biden wrote, my bill strikes at the heart of the injustice of court-ordered busing. It prohibits the federal courts from disrupting our educational system.

[13:05:06] Biden sought and received support from Mississippi Senator James Eastland, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a leading symbol of southern resistance to desegregation. He frequently spoke of blacks as, quote, an inferior race.

Biden reflected on that era earlier this year.

BIDEN: They're a bunch of racists. In other words, you know, James O. Eastland of Mississippi, Strom Thurmond and so on. There were nine guys and -- who were in the caucus that were, you know, I ran against in the civil rights movement.

ZELENY: But he did not say that Eastland and others were partners on several of Biden's anti-busing bills.

On June 30, 1977, Biden wrote, Dear Mr. Chairman, I want you to know that I very much appreciate your help during this week's committee meeting in attempting to bring my anti-busing legislation to a vote.

Then in 1978 Biden again asked Eastland to put his anti-busing bill before the full Senate, writing, your participation in floor debate will be welcomed.

Four decades later, after building a strong civil rights record, Biden stands by his opposition to busing, arguing it did not address institutional racism. Most busing programs in America were later abandoned after bringing more hardship than equal opportunity to all students.

BIDEN: But -- so the bottom line here is, look, everything I have done in my career, I ran because of civil rights. I continue to think we have to make fundamental changes in civil rights.

ZELENY: Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Miami.


KEILAR: All right, let's get some perspective on how Biden's past positions are playing into the current presidential race. And to do that we have an excellent panel of guests here. We have Tiffany Scott, she is the co-founder and the manager editor of "The Beat DC." We have Joshua Dubois, who was White House advisor to President Obama on faith and race. And he's also the co-founder of Values Partnerships. And A.B. Stoddard is with us. She's the associate editor and columnist for RealClearPolitics.

Sorry, Tiffany Cross. I totally --


KEILAR: I totally messed that up. I'm so sorry.


KEILAR: OK, so first off, just how bad is this, would you say. I want Tiffany -- I'm going to go this way. Tiffany, how bad is this?

CROSS: Yes. I think this was pretty devastating for Joe Biden. And, listen, this is such a challenge, I think, for a lot of people, but particularly for Kamala Harris. I think she did a brilliant job of challenging Joe Biden on some of his past positions, but still paying homage to the Obama administration and referring to Obama as her president.

But when you look at the actual policy that Joe Biden backed, I mean he wasn't very -- he was a little disingenuous, his explanation for busing. He actually was, as the package just showed, anti-busing. And when you look at the new voters who are coming into this electorate, they don't have this nostalgia for the Obama section (ph). Some of these people were teenagers at this time. And so they are a little more woke than they are nostalgic. And I think he's going to have a challenging time reaching some of those folks.

KEILAR: Josh, you -- Joshua, you don't think this is as devastating.


KEILAR: But you also do not think Joe Biden's in a good place.

DUBOIS: Well, listen, he did not have the night that he wanted to have by any means. But is it as much of a cataclysmic disaster as some of the other campaigns are saying right now? No. I think it's important that this happened early. This is much better that it happened in June rather than November or December heading into the Iowa caucus. He's got to get better on this question of race, and particularly on busing. It's just not a winner. It was a devastating issue after the core of the civil rights movement and he got it wrong. It's OK to say that he was wrong.

But he took his lumps. He hung in there. It wasn't a great night. It wasn't a devastating night. And now he can move forward because, quite frankly, there's still a lot of black folks in South Carolina, Iowa, a couple black folks in New Hampshire and so forth that still really like Joe Biden. There's a difference between the cultural conversation on Twitter, which is absolutely important, and the conversation in some parts of these early states. And I think there's still some folks -- a lot of people that are hanging in with him there. So I think it's somewhere in the middle.

KEILAR: What do you think?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": I think that he had a terrible night and I think he has a lot of vulnerabilities that are going to be -- he will be reminded of as we get closer to a six person debate. He protected the credit card companies. He supported segregation. He is a physical space invader. He laughs about it. That he is not upgraded and updated for these times. These are vulnerabilities.

The way to push back on that is to capitalize on what his trump card is, which is, this is no time for on the job training, and this is how Nancy Pelosi won her second speakership. He did not talk about that last night. He does not talk about his strength in the race, which is that people are terrified and they want to get rid of President Trump, and they believe that Joe Biden is the only person who will be ready to clean up the mess that President Trump has made.

He didn't talk about that last night. He doesn't say, this is no time to take a chance. I'm the only one on the stage who can a, b, c and d. He just sat there looking terrified of his own 2019 Democratic Party. And if he does that again in the next debate, he's going to lose.

CROSS: But who are the people who believe that he's the person who can -- who can -- he's the only person on that stage. I mean I think that brings us back to the electability argument.

[13:10:03] KEILAR: He's high in the polls.

CROSS: But the polls -- I think you have to consider who's -- who are they polling? I've been voting for 20 years. I've never been polled. Who's answering their phones in the middle of the day, a landline, from an unknown number? I think the polls -- this was a chance for the candidates to introduce themselves to the American people, not through the lens of the pundits and the chatter class, but to talk directly to voters. And I think there are a lot of people out there who never thought that Joe Biden was the only bath to victory on that stage.

DUBOIS: And this is where Senator Harris acquitted herself. I think Joe Biden was one of the only ones that people could see hanging in there with Donald Trump on a range of fronts and winning. She was able to project herself as a leader, someone who's also a fighter and, you know, could probably do pretty well against Donald Trump in a debate. So it's not that -- I think he still has that poll position as the one that most folks think is most likely to beat Donald Trump, but she also improved in that way.

KEILAR: If he --

STODDARD: Just quickly. Hillary Clinton won three debates and lost the election. I mean, hands down, everybody agreed, no one thought Donald Trump won one debate.

KEILAR: That's a good point.

CROSS: But there was also help from a foreign adversary during those elections as well, and she won the popular vote by 3 million people. So I think we have to acknowledge that.

KEILAR: But he does have to win votes. And even -- debate aside, if he's going to get to the point you said, A.B., which is, hey, I'm the one who can win, no on the job training, doesn't he have to dispense with this by explaining himself, because he's not explaining himself.


DUBOIS: Period. Busing, it -- it was -- his position on busing is a nonstarter. And that's OK. Meaning it's -- it's --

KEILAR: And explain why. Explain -- OK, if you were the -- you were the faith and race advisor to President Obama, if you were his advisor on faith and race, why -- explain what you would say there.

DUBOIS: I would say that unfortunately, and this is a devastating thing, it's not to minimize it, a lot of folks were wrong on busing at the time and he should say that he was one of them. And that, quite frankly, I think his record on civil rights is much more than he gave -- than he messaged last night. I had the opportunity to work closely with him in the Obama administration. He was strong a key range of issues.

KEILAR: But he gave up on it. He gave up on that (INAUDIBLE).


KEILAR: He literally said, I'm out of time, and other people push through that.

DUBOIS: That's right. And that's why it's important that this happened early. So now he needs to go back and un -- really deeply, not just get some talking points, understand where we are on race in this country and articulate that. I think he has an opportunity to do that.

CROSS: But, Josh, if you think about the way the primaries are setup, like you've got a -- the Super Tuesday is going to be a little different. California moved up their primary. Texas is coming early. Those are states with very, you know, high diverse populations. We can't base this on Iowa and New Hampshire with overwhelmingly 93 and 94 percent white populations respectively.

DUBOIS: Listen --

CROSS: So not thinking about the general, but thinking about the primary, I just don't know if he's the only person on that stage (INAUDIBLE).

DUBOIS: Certainly not the only. And I would agree with you there.


DUBOIS: But black folks in Waterloo, Iowa, matter.


DUBOIS: Black folks in Columbia, South Carolina, in Charleston matter.

CROSS: That's right.

DUBOIS: And a lot of them still like Joe Biden. More of them than before probably like Kamala Harris now.


DUBOIS: And so it's going to be an interesting race.

KEILAR: Final word to you.

STODDARD: I still think he has the best non-white support in a field of 23 people. So that can change after last night, but that's what he has over everybody else in the field right now is the highest non- white support in the party.

KEILAR: That's a good point. We'll keep watching. We'll see if this matters if this shifts anything -- anything if debates matter, right?

All right, you guys, hang in there with us as we are awaiting for former vice president's remarks. Kamala Harris raising her hand when asked if she'd abolish private insurance. But hear how she's explaining that now.

Plus, the president of the United States joking next to Vladimir Putin about Russia attacking U.S. elections.

And also the president of the United States joking about getting rid of journalists next to Vladimir Putin, whose government has.


[13:18:19] KEILAR: For the first time since the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin came face-to-face at the G-20 Summit in Japan. And despite Mueller's conclusions, stated right on page one, which it says this, quote, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion, this was the president's response when asked about it sitting right next to Putin at this summit.


QUESTION: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: All right, I want to bring in former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He also served as CIA director under President Obama, as well as White House chief of staff under President Clinton.

What's your reaction to that, sir?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think that was a disgraceful moment for the president of the United States to be making that kind of snide comment in the presence of our primary adversary, which is Russia, and in light of all of the evidence that Russia deliberately tried to undermine our elections in this country.

The president doesn't realize that when he does that, it sends a terrible message to the world that the United States is weak and that the president is weak in the presence of Vladimir Putin. And that is not a good message to send, particularly in these dangerous times.

[13:20:02] KEILAR: They had this other moment where it was about, I guess, sort of a mutual dislike of journalists, specifically Putin's. The president actually joked that they should get rid of them. He went onto say this. Let's listen.



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

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


KEILAR: I mean what's your reaction to that?

PANETTA: Well, you know, again, when the president makes those kind of snide comments that way, he really comes off as a pawn to Russia and that he's just basically playing Putin's game, as opposed to standing strong, indicating that the purpose of the meeting is to discuss some very important issues and differences that we have with Russia. Rather than do that, he looks very, very weak in making those kinds of comments.

And, again, you know, I think, frankly, he ought to think twice about having these kinds of summits if he's going to behave that way. Helsinki was a disaster. And those comments in Japan are a disaster as well because they really make the president of the United States look weak. And, as a result, makes our country look weak in the face of Russia. That's just not the kind of message you want to send.

KEILAR: And I wonder what the real impact of sending a message, in particular with this one with journalists is, because, you know, as you know, a number of journalists, it is dangerous to be a journalist in Russia. A number of them have been killed with the belief being that this is at the behest of the government because journalists have been tough on the Russian government there. Reporters Without Borders says more journalists are now in prison that at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union.

For leaders like Putin and other leaders who don't just say things about not liking the media but it appears take action, does this give them permission to kill journalists?

PANETTA: Well, you know, we know Russia's record. We know Putin's record. He's an authoritarian who has gone after the press in his own country, put them in jail, killed them and taken steps to really almost eliminate a free press in Russia. It's -- it is the antithesis of what our country is all about because we believe deeply in a free press. It's built into our Constitution. And it's incredibly important to our system of democracy.

So even for the president to somehow imply that, you know, that the United States ought to do what Russia is doing is really, I think, a disgrace because, again, this is the president of the United States and we know what Russia is about. Russia is our adversary. Russia's trying to undermine the United States of America. Russia is not a friend. And the way the president behaves, he sends a message that somehow we are beholden to the Russians. And that's just the wrong message.

KEILAR: What should he be focusing on instead? What should he be trying to get headlines on instead?

PANETTA: What the president should have said is that we have some serious issues to discuss with Mr. Putin and Russia. What happens in the Ukraine, what happens with the Crimea and their aggression in the Crimea? What happens with Russia and their presence in Syria? What happens with Russia in terms of their interference with our election process? What is it we can do to try to re-establish some kind of nuclear disarmament with Russia? Those treaties are -- you know, we're walking away from them, Russia's walking away from them. It's creating a more dangerous world. These are the issues that the president should have said we're -- we are going to discuss, and we're going to discuss them seriously with Russia. Instead, he came off making these jokes that simply, as I said, are an embarrassment, not only to him, but to our country.

KEILAR: I want to get your perspective on something that former President Jimmy Carter said about President Trump. Let's listen to this.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There's no doubt that the Russians did interfere in the election. And I think the interference, although not yet quantified, I think fully investigated would show that Trump didn't actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.

[13:25:12] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So do you believe President Trump is an illegitimate president? CARTER: Based on what I just said, which I can't retract.


KEILAR: All right, you can't -- we cannot quantify the effect of what happened, so what does that mean when you have a former president publicly questioning the legitimacy of the current president? What does that mean for the standing of our country?

PANETTA: Well, it's President Trump's greatest fear, and that's why he continues to say there's no collusion. That's why he continues to say that the Mueller investigation was a witch hunt. That's why he continues to try to, in some way, say that his election was not interfered with by the Russians and that he won fairly and squarely. I think his worst fear is what Jimmy Carter just said, which is that somehow the legitimacy of that election is not there because of what the Russians did.

Now, we don't know that for a fact. We haven't been able to prove that in fact what the Russians did could have changed that election. But the mere fact that this president doesn't take a strong stand against Russia to make very clear that they attacked the United States of America and our election system and we are not going to allow them to do that again. The mere fact that he doesn't stand up and say that strongly I think conveys his own inner weakness that somehow what Russia did, in fact, did sway the election.

KEILAR: Do you wonder or worry that Jimmy Carter is correct?

PANETTA: Well, you know, I think a lot of Americans, you know, think about whether or not what the Russians did, because it was such a bold effort to try to influence that election, did not have some impact. But, very frankly, we don't know that for a fact. We have not been able to quantify whether or not, you know, it actually did impact on the results of that election and did impact on the number of votes that were cast. And until that happens, I think, you know, it just raises the concern that what the Russians did -- did in some way cast a shadow on the election of 2016.

KEILAR: Secretary Panetta, thank you so much.

PANETTA: You bet.

KEILAR: We're still waiting right now for the former vice president, Joe Biden, to speak. You can see him there. We have some live pictures coming from this event in Chicago where he is going to take the stage shortly after a testy debate. He's now on the defense after a confrontation about race with Senator Kamala Harris.

Harris, though, is also on the defensive after she indicated that she supports the elimination of private health care insurance, but hear now why she's trying to walk back that remark.