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Biden Speaks in Chicago; Biden's Debate Performance; Harris Forced to Clarify; Trump Jokes with Putin. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2019 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:17] MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Manu Raju. John King is off.

President Trump is in Japan preparing for his meeting with the Chinese president, but causing controversy with a finger wagging exchange with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And the first Democratic presidential debates are done. Twenty candidates made their pitch to American voters and Senator Kamala Harris had a breakout moment taking on the early front runner, Joe Biden. Now will the former vice president pivot or revisit his moment with Biden, and Biden has a habit to tout the pass while addressing the future.


QUESTION: Is it frustrating to you in the year 2019 to be re- litigating these debates at this point?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, it should be about the future.

President Obama, I think, did a heck of a job.

The first Constitutional amendment to do that was introduced by me when I was a young senator.

I got Mitch McConnell to raise taxes during the Obama-Biden administration.


RAJU: We begin the hour with the big debate showdown between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden and the day after damage control by the polling frontrunner. At the bottom of the hour, Biden will be back on stage speaking to black activists in Chicago. That event already on Biden's schedule, but the timing is important because it comes after a raw debate confrontation with the California senator over race and civil rights. Until now, Biden's stumbles have been self-inflicted. Last night, Harris took the fight to the man at the center of the stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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. But I also believe, and it is personal, and I was actually very -- 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.


RAJU: Biden says Harris is ripping his words from context. But the context of the California senator's own personal experience delivered maybe the most dramatic moment of the still young 2020 campaign.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was me.


RAJU: Now the question for Harris, can she turn that moment into real momentum that gets her above single digits in the polls? The questions for Biden, even bigger, are the early campaign hiccups just bumps in the road or obstacles the candidate will never be able to outrun, or is history, his style, his team, his Trump focus, liabilities or are they strengths? How voters will answer is still a giant unknown, but Biden twice last night unintentionally voiced what his rivals now argue openly, the former vice president's time is up.


JOE BIDEN: (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've also argued very strongly that we, in fact, deal with the notion of denying people access to the ballot box. I agree that everyone wants to, in fact, they should -- anyway, my time's up, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, vice president.


RAJU: CNN's Arlette Saenz is in Chicago, where the vice -- former vice president will be speaking in the next hour.

Arlette, what are you hearing that the former vice president will do when he speaks to activists in just a matter of minutes?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Manu, I think part of what Joe Biden needs to do is particularly quell some of those concerns that emerged from the debate last night. He'll be here in Chicago speaking at the Rainbow Push Coalition Conference. A group of black activists and black voters. This group founded by Jesse Jackson.

And it all comes as he is really overshadowed by that exchange last night relating to school busing that came from Senator Kamala Harris. And our colleague Kate Baldwin tried to press Biden's deputy campaign manager a short while ago about whether he will address that here in his speech. She simply said to stay tuned, but also argued that school busing is a very complicated issue and that Biden is not going to be dictated how he talks about issues based on other candidates.

Now, earlier today, Jessie Jackson was actually on CNN and he said that he does want to hear more of an explanation from Joe Biden when it came to those comments that he made about state rights, saying that the federal government should not have stepped in when it came to school busing. Jessie Jackson said he wanted to hear more from the former vice president about that.

So right now in this next hour, we're going to be waiting to see if Biden is going to further address his rocky debate performance last night, as well as those comments. But one thing we are learning is that Atlanta's mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, is endorsing Joe Biden. She was one of his special guests last night at the debate. It's unclear when exactly the timing for that endorsement, that rollout was released, whether it was because of that rocky start, but it's certainly a boost that they are looking for today after the former vice president's debate performance last night.


[12:05:16] Arlette Saenz in Chicago. We'll be watching every word. We'll bring that to you when he does speak. Thank you for that.

Now here in the studio, Jeff Zeleny joins us with new reporting.

You were -- Jeff, you were at the debate last night. You flew back just -- just for us. Thank you for that.

So you're learning some new things about what's happening with the Biden campaign. What are you -- what are you learning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We are indeed. I mean the big conversation in Biden world this morning, as he prepares to address that Rainbow Push Conference in Chicago, as Arlette said, is just reassessing what happened last night and what the political fallout is. I talked to one top advisor who said these words, very sparse words, but said this, he knows he has to do better. It sounds like an obvious point, but it's a point that is framing his candidacy.

The big question for Joe Biden going into this is he a placeholder in this Democratic race or is he the true frontrunner in the race? And he did not answer that to his satisfaction or his advisor's satisfaction last evening.

I talked to one other Democrat who worked with Joe Biden for a long time, thinks of him in a very fond view, I guess, a fond way, and he said the performance, was, quote, not great. Also went on to say the question is whether it was an off night or if he's simply not sharp anymore.

So those are the things going around in Biden's world among his advisers. But we should also caution I think that you cannot measure an entire performance, an entire campaign by one event, but it does raise questions if he needs to get out there more. Aides also tell me he will be surrounded by supporters and people. He will be campaigning more in the month of July. He's been fundraising and things going up to this point since that period ends really next weekend, look for him to campaign more next week in Iowa. And they say he needs to be energized by his supporters. What he needs to do is prove that he is the frontrunner if he wants to stay the frontrunner.

RAJU: He'll still face those questions about his record. And you've written a lot about the record.

ZELENY: That's right.

RAJU: In fact he did back in April about his views about busing back in the '70s and how he opposed efforts to mandate busing. He wrote -- you -- this is according to something that you obtained. This is what Joe Biden wrote in 1977. He said, my bill strikes at the heart of the injustice of court ordered busing. It prohibits federal courts from disrupting our educational system in the name of the Constitution where there is no evidence of the governmental officials intended to discriminate.

So, going forward, last night he tried to defend that position. Going forward, does he need to completely repudiate it or do you expect him to continue to try to defend that kind of (INAUDIBLE)?

ZELENY: If he's going to defend it, he's going to face a lot of blowback from Democrats. So that was a letter that he wrote to James O. Eastland, this -- the late senator from Mississippi, one of the segregationists that he's been talking about this time. And that's what he was talking about last night. But he defended his view by saying that states had to right to make this decision. That was the entire point of this because some states, of course, did not want to integrate.

So I am keeping an eye very carefully on what he says in Chicago at the bottom of this hour. If he changes or nuances his view on state rights or not, that will setup a sign of what's to come here. If he does not, a lot of black leaders and others will wonder, you know, exactly what he's up to here. A states right argument is not what most Democratic presidential candidates, as you know, usually articulate.

RAJU: Yes. And it was a big moment for Kamala Harris, but she has had -- she had her own issues as well last night. Something she's trying to clean up. She's dealing with her own controversy this morning and trying to clarify what she calls a debate stage misunderstanding.

Harris, last night, seemingly changed her mind again about Medicare for all and whether her version of the plan would kill private health insurance. It's an answer she's repeatedly revised.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know if your insurance company is going to cover this. Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on. It was in the context of saying, let's get rid of all the bureaucracy.

Let's get all of the ways --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Oh, not the insurance companies?

HARRIS: No, that's not what I meant. I know it was interpreted that way.

LESTER HOLT, MODERATOR: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government run plan? All right.


RAJU: CNN's Kyung Lah joins us from Miami.

Kyung, why does Senator Harris say she raised her hand to that question?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She says she misheard. This is what we're hearing from aides. They've been out there talking to the press. A lot of us have had conversations with the campaign today. She is saying she misheard the question. What the Harris camp is saying is that she heard it as, would you personally be willing to give up your private insurance in favor for a government run plan, not at large. So Harris was on morning television this morning trying to explain that raising of a hand on the debate stage. Take a listen.

[12:10:04] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once and for all, do you believe that private insurance should be eliminated in this country?



HARRIS: NO, I do not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.


LAH: So, here's a little context, though. Harris watched the first night of the debate. Her campaign says she watched popcorn, she studied it, she paid attention to it. This is the type of candidate who is notorious for her preparation. She looks at everything very, very carefully.

This is the exact same question that was asked on debate night one. And so when we pushed back on this, when I pushed back on how was it possible that she misheard the exact same question, the exact same situation that was given to the candidates the night before, the camp is basically saying, look, she misheard. We cannot predict every single thing that happens on that stage. She misheard.


RAJU: Kyung Lah in Miami. We'll see what the voters thing. It's not an issue that is going away. Thank you for that. And more on the Biden- Harris dynamic later in the show.

But up next, President Trump cracks a few jokes with Vladimir Putin, with the democracy as the punch line.


[12:16:00] RAJU: President Trump's face-to-face with world leaders at the G-20 Summit today in Japan, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was their first sit down meeting since the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report which detailed Russia's extensive interference in the 2016 presidential election. So a lot of people at home and abroad were surprised to hear the president make this joke.


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.


RAJU: CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins me live from Osaka, Japan.

Kaitlan, what's been the reaction so far from these comments by President Trump?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Manu, if you're in the president's inner circle, they're not surprised by what the president said because they say privately he repeatedly downplays Russian interference in the election, seeing it as essentially this threat to his presidency and a part annoyance at the Russia investigation that followed his presidency for so many years.

But, of course, those are the words that not only the president's critics but some of his biggest Republican allies on Capitol Hill have wanted him to say for so long in front of the cameras to finally confront Vladimir Putin over election meddling, but to see the president take that tone there where he was joking, he seemed to be laughing with Vladimir Putin, wagging his finger at the Russian president is certainly not the tone that they expected the president to take it in.

But, of course, this is essentially how he views the outcome of the Mueller investigation because he saw it in a personal realm, what did the Mueller report say about him, not exactly the first part of the Mueller report where in details that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in a systematic and sweeping effort with Robert Mueller warning that that is the warning that people and Americans should take away from that report.

So, of course, as this moves forward and as we've seen the intelligence community warn about other interference in upcoming elections, that is why you can see what the president's reaction has been all along as essentially he seems to be making a big joke out of it.

RAJU: Yes, and see if it overshadows the rest of this very important summit, including big meetings later today.

Kaitlan Collins from Osaka, Japan, thank you for that.

And here with us to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace with "The Associated Press," John Bresnahan with "Politico," and Tamara Keith with NPR.

I just want to remind everyone about the president's history with Vladimir Putin and the last -- when he was in Helsinki with him, and he said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.

I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


RAJU: And then today he jokingly wags his finger.

Why is the president unable to -- or unwilling to talk to the -- President Putin?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": I think there are two things that go on here. I think one of it is simple stubbornness. You know, the president knows that everybody is waiting for him to finally say the right thing. A lot of people in his own party are in that category as well. And I think sometimes when he gets in those moments, he just doesn't want to play along. He just doesn't want to do what's expected of him.

But I do think, to Kaitlan's point, there is a real frustration with this president that there is this shadow over his victory in 2016. You saw -- and I think we might talk about this -- President Jimmy Carter, who basically said, hey, the Russians got this guy elected. But I think it's really important when we have this conversation to remember, this is not just about the president's rhetoric. There's almost certainly going to be a point in the 2020 election when his national security advisers are going to come to him and say, some foreign government is trying to meddle in this election, what do you want us to do, sir? And he's given very little sign that he is going to take this seriously, if he thinks that foreign power might be doing it to help him. RAJU: Yes, and his -- they've already warned him that this is

happening, is going to continue to happen. I mean remember last time at Helsinki, Republicans -- there was some pushback from Republicans after his comments in Helsinki. They -- namely John McCain, who was still alive at the time. Even Lindsey Graham pushed back.

[12:20:04] After what you heard from the president today, do you expect any reaction from Republicans on The Hill that you talk to?

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CAPITOL BUREAU CHIEF, "POLITICO": No, because they're leaving -- they're leaving town for the July 4th recess and they left as soon as they can.

But I think they're -- people on the Hill are stunned in both parties and -- when you talk to them in private. And, remember, Democrats are pushing election security legislation that's being bottled up in the Senate. They passed it in the House as being bottled up by Mitch McConnell in the Senate.

And two other points here. We're going to hear so much more about this issue. The Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2016 election is coming out next month. Or it's going to -- the first part coming out and then, of course, we have the Mueller hearing on July 17th. So this issue is not going away. And to hear Trump's tone today is just stunning.

RAJU: Yes, and in the private, too, he did not -- it doesn't appear that he brought this up at his private meeting as well. They talked about other issues. But Theresa May, the British prime minister, did bring it up with Vladimir Putin today.

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Well, and plenty of leaders have brought it up with Vladimir Putin, but President Trump has been very deferential to Putin on a number of occasions, not just Helsinki, but other times he has said, well, Putin tells me that he didn't do it, so like we should believe him is essentially what the president has been saying.

So the fact that he would joke about this now is utterly unsurprising. He's -- the president -- President Trump has moved on, and everyone keeps telling him, well, you should ask about this, and -- and the best way to get President Trump to not do something is to tell him to do it.

RAJU: With -- but another very alarming part from this morning was when cameras caught the president talking with Vladimir Putin about the news media.



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.


RAJU: I mean -- I mean this is why it's alarming. There were 58 journalists who were killed in Russia between 1982 and 2019. In the U.S. it's 12. That's according to the Community to Protect Journalists.

ZELENY: Right. And it's not the same. I mean and for the president to sort of, you know, suggest that it is on his part, I mean, there's a First Amendment here. This is a democracy. This is entirely different. This is the dangerous aspect of this. It's not just his rhetoric. The fact that he has never held Vladimir Putin to account or any of this.

What if the outcome was the other way? What if, in 2020, Vladimir Putin or someone else likes Bernie Sanders, like Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, whoever. So that is why people on both sides, you know, should be alarmed by this.

But it almost is quaint now. Back to the G-20. Two summers ago in Hamburg, Germany, when President Trump sat with Vladimir Putin for the first time, one-on-one. I was there. I was in Helsinki. Now this is not surprising at all. The silence, as John was saying earlier, that's the surprising part. And no Republicans have talked about it.

RAJU: Yes, I mean, but the question too is like, there were some big moments that were coming up. He's expected to meet with President Xi Jinping to talk about what -- about the trade war with China right now. And will this overshadow that and what is expected to be a very -- could be a consequential meeting.

PACE: It will be a consequential meeting and it will come after a breakfast that he's having with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. So three leaders of three countries that have severe human rights issues that jail and kill journalists. And the president, in all of these meetings, really abdicates what we have seen as the traditional role of the American president, which, even when you're talking about trade, even when you're talking about major policy issues, the American president is expected to go into those meetings and stand up for democracy and stand up for human rights. And Trump simply does not have that as part of his playbook.

RAJU: Yes, it has never been and other presidents, as you know, have. We'll be more -- talking about that in the days ahead.

Up next, though, just how inspiring was Marianne Williamson at last night's debate? Well, if Kate McKinnon has her way, she may make her "SNL" debut soon.


KATE MCKINNON, "SNL": Gosh, I wish there was an "SNL" show this --


MCKINNON: We think plans are going to beat Donald Trump, we've got another thing coming. My plan is to harness the energy of babies to finally put a man on the moon. And I said to the president of New Zealand, I said, girlfriend, you're so on. And --



[12:28:54] RAJU: Topping our political radar today, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter questioning the legitimacy of the 2016 election today. President Carter was asked about Russian interference while speaking on a panel in Virginia. Listen.


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 of Russians interfered on his behalf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So do you believe President Trump is an illegitimate president?

CARTER: Based on what I just said, which I can't retract.


RAJU: The Supreme Court today previewing its next term. The court has agreed to review President Trump's termination of the so-called dreamer protections. The Obama era program protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Last night's debate was the highest rated Democratic match-up in Nielsen history and one of last night's stars didn't speak for the first 27 minutes, but when Marianne Williamson finally got her moment, people noticed.