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Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) And Biden Campaign National Co- Chair Discuss How Biden's Past And Current Positions Play In Race; Salt Lake City Police Arrest Man For Murder Of College Student; Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), A Surrogate For Kamala Harris, Discusses The Debate, Health Care, Insurance, Joe Biden, Busing, Civil Rights. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired June 28, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:32:59] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: These are live pictures coming to us from the Rainbow/PUSH coalition event in Chicago this hour. And the former Vice President Joe Biden is going to be speaking at this event shortly so we're keeping an eye on it. We're going to bring it to you live. He's there trying to shore up some support among African-American voters after attacks on his record on race in last night's debate.

I want to get some perspective how Biden's past and current positions are playing into the current presidential race.

We have Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana. He's a national co-chair of the Biden campaign and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congressman, just to recap for our viewers, Kamala Harris took on Joe Biden on his support -- or opposition in the '70s to busing. Why did he say he did not oppose busing when he did oppose busing?

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): Well, he did not oppose busing for voluntary busing. And he was for busing in the cases where states acted to segregate the schools.

So whether it was state action or voluntary, he supported busing. And, in fact, in 1974, he was the deciding vote on an amendment in the Senate that would have ended busing once and for all. And he was the deciding vote to stop that.

So I think that where the vice president got very nuanced was on whether the federal courts and the federal governments should go in where there was not a policy in place for segregation but that it was segregation because of the community or the school district was just one particular race.

So I think the vice president heard Senator Harris. And I think that when you saw his silence, I think that one thing about him that really attracted me to his leadership is that he listens and feels it.

And last night he listened to Senator Harris. And then when it was his turn to talk, I think part of it was the make sure that people understood his record --

KEILAR: But let me --

RICHMOND: -- that he did not oppose busing in that instance.

[13:35:06] KEILAR: But let me -- I have to ask you, he did oppose busing. He called busing, quote, "a bankrupt concept." You mentioned 1974, but later, in 1977, he thanks segregationist Senator Eastland of Mississippi. Quote, "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."

And on the states' rights issue, as he said last night, "What I opposed is busing ordered by the Board of Education. That's what I oppose. But left up to states, like, say, Mississippi or Delaware, busing wouldn't have happened."

And you have experts who say busing is the reason that structural barriers to eliminating racism were, in part, done away with. So how does he answer for that?

RICHMOND: No. I'm glad you brought that up because I think that that's the part that is most troubling because it's taken so far-out of context. He was never for --


KEILAR: Which part? Which part is taken out of context?

RICHMOND: The states' rights. He's never been for states' rights. When he re-authorized the Voting Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act gave the federal government the power to sue states and school districts.

If you look at '94 --


KEILAR: But he opposed federal --

RICHMOND: Hold on.


KEILAR: You said he wasn't for states' rights but he was opposed to federal imposition of busing by the Department of Education. And he said last night to Kamala Harris, "You would have been able to go to the school the same exact way because it was a local decision made by your city council."

How is that not local or states' rights?

RICHMOND: Well, if you just let me finish I'll go through it all.

Senator Harris would have been able to continue to go because it was voluntary busing. If the state had a policy of segregation, she still would have been able to go to that school because, in that instance, he also supported busing.

He didn't support busing at that time when it was ordered by the Department of Ed and there was no state or local policy in place for segregating the schools. Now --


KEILAR: Can I just -- I don't understand something, so I want to be clear. You're saying that if California was anti-busing but Berkeley or the area around there was for busing, she would have been OK?


KEILAR: I don't see how in reality that would happen.

RICHMOND: OK, well -- OK. If it was state sponsored or it was a federal government action that caused this segregation, then he supported busing as a remedy for that.

But if it was not state sponsored or government approved, he thought there was a better option, which was to make sure those communities were integrated, make sure you didn't have housing discrimination, make sure you didn't have red lining.

But let's get back to states' rights because I want to be clear about that. He's never supported states' rights. If you look from the Voting Rights Act all it way to Ferguson, when he wrote legislation in '94 that authorized the Department of Justice to sue police departments if they find a pattern and practice of discrimination that led to unconstitutional violations.

So he's always known there's a role for the federal government to prevent violations of peoples' civil rights in contrast to the United States Constitution. So I just want to be clear about the states' rights portion of that.

Now, the busing argument --


KEILAR: He did oppose a state's right -- or he did support one state's right to oppose busing, which was Delaware's. He had a lot of constituents that did not want it. Granted, he was reflecting their opinion at the time.

And I guess, on the issue of -- you said, basically, what he wanted to deal with was integration.

But so many people, including Ronnie Dunn, who my colleague, Jeff Zeleny, spoke to, who wrote the book, "Boycotts, Busing and Beyond," said this was important for integration. He said, "If it wasn't for busing during that time period, we wouldn't likely wouldn't have seen our first African-American president, that social interaction helped break down the structural barriers of racism."

He also says, Congressman, that Biden's old views shouldn't disqualify him but they warrant a broader explanation.

Are we going to get a broader explanation?

RICHMOND: Well, you'll hear on the date.

I think the last part of what you just said is the thing. Vice President Biden was vice president to Barack Obama.

If you look at their school desegregation policies that they put in place while in the White House, that Trump has reversed, I think it shows where his heart is.

So if we're going to stay in the past, as opposed to focus on this president that is a real existential threat to the United States, then I think we're doing all of ourselves a disservice.

And as far as what I like to do when I talk to people is, I always use the Janet Jackson test of, what have you done for me lately.

[13:40:03] So if we ask that question and we look at Vice President Biden's record, then we know he's an outstanding advocate for civil rights and that he will always stand up to bullies.

And so when we look at this White House, we see a bully. We see a guy that engages in racist rhetoric, picks on immigrants and all of those things to divide the country.

So if the question is about Vice President Biden's heart and where he is, I think his word said he wants to unify this country, restore the middle class, and move this country forward and restore our standing on the world stage.

So that's where I think we are. And I think that people who know him know that.

KEILAR: Could Biden have done better last night?

RICHMOND: Well, the truth of the matter is I think he did well. The other part is, I think he was in a no-win situation. If he does too well, then he's a bully. So if he does average, they'll say he did a very terrible job.

But I'll tell you this. I talked to a lot of people in the barbershops, churches, little league. Today, when I flew home, I talked to the people I normally talk to in the airport. All of them thought he did a great job. And they said that's why they like him.

He stayed above the fray. And he specifically said he would not beat up on other Democratic candidates because his sole purpose is to beat Donald Trump, not to bate up on other candidates.

And the last thing I'll say is, if you looked at it last night, one thing I did notice is that a lot of people were repeating what they're going to do, is what Vice President Biden already did. Oh, well, we're going to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Well, Vice President Biden did that. Then Eric Swalwell said, I'm going to ban assault weapons. Vice President Biden already did that.

The only place where they got unique in their thoughts was that they want to eliminate private insurance. And Vice President Biden does not want to eliminate private insurance because eliminating private insurance, one, takes away what people like, who have it and like it. And two, it raises taxes, not just on the wealthy but the middle class.

So I thought making all of those points last night, he did a very good job.

KEILAR: I want to preface my next question by saying that when you look at Joe Biden's records -- Joe Biden's record, there are many data points where he's been on the right side of history when it comes to civil rights.

But I know we disagree on this, but I'm citing fact. He misrepresented his record on busing. He has flipped on a long-held moral issue, the Hyde Amendment.

And I think -- I ask you this and you're a politician and know this. Politicians change their mind. Don't they need to explain why they do?

RICHMOND: Well, let me just push back on what you just said. And let's just take the Hyde Amendment, for example. Because I was on this network the night before explaining his position on abortion.

What he said was he fundamentally believes in a woman's right to choose. In fact, it should be codified in law.


KEILAR: undercut what you said, Congressman.


KEILAR: I mean, you said one thing at night and he changed his mind the next day.


KEILAR: He's had these -- it makes sense, right? You said don't focus on the past. Well then, inherent in saying that --


KEILAR: -- is that focusing on the future --

RICHMOND: I do -- I do --

KEILAR: -- he should have to explain the past.

RICHMOND: I do get to finish. And I was explaining his position on the Hyde Amendment. He says he's always been for a woman's right to choose, a meaningful right to choose. So when you see a state attack a woman's right to choose in the manner

in which they're doing all around the country right now -- the fact that poor women can't make that choice because now, instead of being able to drive 20 miles to have a procedure, you have to drive 2,000 miles or 200 miles.

And so where the Hyde Amendment began to substantially affect a woman's right to choose -- if you're poor, you can't make that choice.

And when he saw that the Hyde Amendment was a barrier to women having a meaningful right to choose, he said, I can't keep that position because I believe that every woman should have that choice. So I think it's consistent with his philosophy.

Look, we can always pretend that the world is the way we want it to be, but I think it's a leadership when you take the world the way it is and then you make a decision accordingly.

So in this climate, I think his reversal on the Hyde Amendment was in line with his beliefs because he wants to make sure that every woman has a right to make whatever choice and control her body. So I think it was consistent.

KEILAR: I do think some voters, especially moderate voters, will want to know, when he stopped seeing it through a moral prism and saw it through a health access prism, though. That is change that I think requires many questions, Congressman.

And we're going to have to leave it there.

Congressman Cedric Richmond, I really appreciate you being on.

RICHMOND: Thank you.

KEILAR: So Joe Biden is expected to speak at any moment. Is he going to talk? Is he going to address last night's confrontation on race that he had at the debate with Senator Kamala Harris? We're going to be keeping our eyes open, our ears open for that.

[13:45:07] Also, we're getting some new details from police in Utah on the mysterious disappearance of a college student. We'll have details ahead.


[13:49:49] KEILAR: We have some breaking news now. Salt Lake City police have now charged a man with the murder of missing University of Utah student, Mackenzie Lueck. The 23-year-old Lueck had not been seen or heard from for 11 days since she was picked up by a Lyft driver after midnight at Salt Lake City airport.

That Lyft driver says they dropped her off at a park in north Salt Lake City. She met someone else there who was in another car. Have said the driver is not a suspect. But they have arrested another man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE BROWN, CHIEF, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: After an exhaustive week of investigation, we are filing charges of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and desecration of a body in the homicide of Mackenzie Lueck.

The man charged with these horrific and tragic crimes is the person of interest, Ayoola Adisa Ajayi.


KEILAR: We have some more breaking news as well. One of the masterminds behind the shooting for former Red Sox star, David Ortiz, has been arrested in the Dominican Republican. This is according to local police. We have no more additional details. But Ortiz is recovering.

Joe Biden is expected to speak any moment. Live pictures here. We'll see how he responds to last night's confrontation at the debate from this event in Chicago.


KEILAR: There may be no more important issue for American voters than health care. This was a major issue for all of the candidates in the first Democratic debates.

Here's a highlight from last night.


LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR & DEBATE MODERATOR: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government run plan?


HOLT: All right.


KEILAR: Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris were the only ones to raise their hands, which that made some people open their eyes when they saw Harris doing that.

She is backtracking today, saying she misunderstood the question. Let's listen.


CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS & DEBATE MODERATOR: So once and for all, do you believe that private insurance should be eliminated in this country?


TODD: You don't?


TODD: But you raised your hand last night.

HARRIS: But the question was, would you give up your private insurance for that option. And I said yes.

TODD: OK, you heard it differently than others then.

HARRIS: Probably. Because that's what I heard.


[13:55:13] KEILAR: California Congresswoman Barbara Lee is here with me.

You're a supporter, you're a surrogate for Kamala Harris. Is this going to confuse voters as to her actual position? And how does she need to be more clear about where she stands on this? There's a lot of wiggle room.

REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): Yes. I thought she was clear, though. And when she -- and you just played the video of her responding in terms of her answer. And in fact, if she heard the question wrong and misheard it, she clarified it today.

And I think that's extremely important that you tell the truth. That's what she's doing. She's mounted her campaign based on telling the truth, speaking truth to power, and making sure that everyone understands who she is, and what her agenda is for the American people.

KEILAR: Just to be clear, she's saying she would go to the public option personally?

LEE: That's what she said.



LEE: She just said that, yes.

KEILAR: So Senator Harris had some tough words for Joe Biden. These were really, first, for his comments about segregationist Senators. And something that you have also criticized him for. She also went after him for his stance against federally forced busing in the '70s.

What did you make of Joe Biden's explanation on that debate stage?

LEE: I think it was important, first of all, that she raised this issue in a forthright and very truthful way.

When you look at what took place historically in terms of busing, and you look at his record really working with segregationists on an anti- busing agenda, that's very offensive.

And she spoke not only for herself, who has benefited from busing, but for millions of Americans who were segregated.

And the history of this country is very painful. So when these issues come up, we have to tell the truth. And she told the truth.

And I think what's extremely important, Brianna, is that she responded with regard to the role of the federal government in terms of being the protector of our civil and human rights, in terms of the Voting Rights Act.

When you look at the Voting Rights Act and the access to the ballot box -- we're now trying to renew the Voting Rights Act -- it's the federal government that's responsible. It's the federal government now pushing forth on marriage equality and the LBGTQ community and making sure the equality act is passed.

It's the federal government that we rely on if you've been shut out and it provides for the civil and human rights for every American. And she responded the appropriate way.

KEILAR: Cedric Richmond, your colleague, was just on defending the Biden position, which appears out of this debate to be that Biden was for dealing with the underlying issues of integration over busing. I'm trying to represent that.

However, I will say, the proponents or historians look back and say, busing helped with getting integration going in practice, not just in theory, as the Supreme Court had determined two decades before.

Is Cedric Richmond wrong?

LEE: No, the facts are there, and the history is well recorded. It did help in terms of the integration of our public schools.

KEILAR: What is he saying?

LEE: I think the viewership today and those who want to clarify the record need to really look at the record. It's there. It's public.

And so I think what's important, though, is that these candidates are asked the hard questions, and that their records speak for themselves.

And I think last night, Senator Harris showed that she was the toughest candidate that was on the stage last night, and that she's the one that can actually beat Donald Trump. And it was clear to me last night that she can prosecute this case against Donald Trump.

Everyone who's running for office has a record and the public needs to check their record.

KEILAR: Should Joe Biden just say he was wrong and he doesn't feel that way anymore?

LEE: Look, Vice President Biden responds to questions based on how he wants to respond.

I think what's important, for Senator Harris is that she moves forward -- as she moves forward, she puts forth her agenda. She talks about providing a raise for our teachers, of up to $13,000. She talks about her 3:00 a.m. agenda, in terms of what the American people are talking about, in terms of a tax break for working men and women, for low- income families and the middle class. She cares about everyone's health care and climate change, our DREAMers.

When you look at her agenda, I think that's what we have to focus on, so that she can continue to move forward, unify the country and make sure that our issues, all of our issues are at the table and that people know who she is as the next president of the United States.

[14:00:04] Because I really believe that she's going to be the one who can prosecute the case against Donald Trump and win.