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2020 Race: Kamala Harris Confronts Biden on Race, Busing Record; Democratic Rivals Repeatedly Attack Former VP Joe Biden. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 28, 2019 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a test for this president. He sits next to the Russian president and makes a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump comes across as a supplicant for Putin. Trump is not showing any kind of strength.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to a special early edition of NEW DAY. It is Friday, June 28th, 5:00 in the East.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Special and it's early.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's both.

BERMAN: It's not just special because it's early.

CAMEROTA: No, it's a double whammy for you.

There were 10 Democratic candidates on the debate stage last night, but it was Senator Kamala Harris who stole the spotlight when she confronted former V.P. Joe Biden on having worked with segregationist senators and his opposition to school busing in the 1970s. The former vice president took heat from many of his rivals.

BERMAN: Now, some people were looking at that moment with Kamala Harris not just as the big moment of the debate but perhaps the biggest moment of the campaign so far because it has implications at all kinds of levels.

Race was also a big factor for another leading candidate, South Bend Indiana Mayor P Buttigieg. We will show that, all part of this must- watch post-debate morning.

CNN's Jessica Dean live in Washington with really the highlight reel -- Jessica.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, two hours, John. And there's a lot of ground to cover. We had four of the top five polling candidates on that stage last night. Of course, as we would imagine, they went after President Trump and his administration's record, but they also started to draw contrast among themselves going after each other.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN (voice-over): Many of the leading Democratic candidates took shots at President Trump in the second debate.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first thing I would do is make sure that we defeat Donald Trump. Period.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You asked before what is the greatest national security threat to the United States? It's Donald Trump.

DEAN: And also each other, showing just how much the crowded field differs on issues and solutions.

Senator Kamala Harris came out swinging, confronting former Vice President Joe Biden on his record.

MODERATOR: We're going to get to you. We're going to get --

HARRIS: I would like to speak on the issue of race.

DEAN: Harris blasting Biden for his recent comments on race by using her childhood as an example.

HARRIS: 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 I actually was 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. And it was not only that but you also worked with them to oppose busing and, you know, 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.

BIDEN: Mischaracterization of my position across the board. I did not praise racists, that is not true. Number one.

Number two, if we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights and whether I did that or not, I'm happy to do that. I was a public defender. I didn't become a prosecutor.

Everything I've done in my career, I ran because of civil rights. I continue to think we have to make fundamental changes in civil rights.

DEAN: Senator Bernie Sanders asked directly of his programs like universal health care would bring higher middle class taxes.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, they will pay more in taxes but less in health care for what they get. DEAN: Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said Sanders

progressive agenda will make it hard for Democrats to win the White House.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that the bottom line is if we don't clearly define we are not socialists, the Republicans will come at us every way they can and call us socialists.

SANDERS: Well, I think the responses of the poll is 10 points ahead of Donald Trump because the American people understand that Trump is a phony, that Trump is a pathological liar and a racist. That's how we beat Trump. We expose him for the fraud that he is.

DEAN: The candidates attacking the Trump administration's handling at the border crisis.

HARRIS: A mother who pays a coyote to transport her child through their country of origin, through the entire country of Mexico facing unknown peril to come here. Why will that mother do that? I will tell you. Because she has decided for that child to remain where they are is worse.

But what does Donald Trump do? He says, go back to where you came from.

That is not reflective of our America and our values and it's got to end.

DEAN: Mayor Pete Buttigieg addressing rising tensions in South Bend after a deadly police shooting in his hometown.

[05:05:01] PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a mess and we're hurting. When I look into his mother's eyes I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back. This is an issue that is facing our community and so many communities around the country.

DEAN: The generational divide on full display with the oldest and youngest candidates in the field on the stage.

Thirty-eight-year-old Congressman Eric Swalwell taking aim at Biden's age.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic convention and said, it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans. That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden. Joe Biden was right when he said it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago. He's still right today.

MODERATOR: Vice President, would you like to sing a torch song?

BIDEN: I would. I'm still holding on to that torch.

BUTTIGIEG: As the youngest guy on the stage, I feel like I ought to contribute -- SANDERS: As part of Joe's generation, as part of Joe's generation,

let me respond --

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: Harris shutting down that generational tussle asking to get back to the issues.

HARRIS: America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we're going to put food on their table.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: That was a moment, of course, that got a lot of attention last night as well. So, from here, the opponents hope to spring board. If they're a lesser known candidate or they haven't had as much success in the polls or in fundraising, they're hoping to use this draw that one example. An aide for Kamala Harris telling CNN that her campaign had its biggest fundraising day yesterday, right after that debate as opposed to the only other days that she raised as much money were her launch day and the day after.

So, John and Alisyn, this can be big springboards for some of these candidates looking to move up in the polls and looking to move up in fundraising.

BERMAN: All right. Indeed, they can. Jessica Dean, thank you so much. There is a lot to discuss from what we just saw.

I want to bring in Elaina Plott, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The Atlantic" magazine, Sarah Isgur, CNN political analyst, Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary, and, Bakari Sellers, CNN commentator and former Democratic member of the South Carolina House, who has endorsed Senator Kamala Harris.

So, Bakari, let me start with you because it really does seem to be the talk of the political world this morning, that moment with Senator Harris and Joe Biden. Inside Harris world, what's the feeling this morning?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's a feeling that we have to get to work now. I think it's a feeling that you have to continue to build out your organization because you had that breakout moment last night. And I know people are going to focus on the moment between Biden and Harris, because what you saw was a generational change. What you saw was someone talking about the issues of the past. You saw the vice president refusing to at least acknowledge that he was in those actions of busing and then you saw someone pivot to the future.

And so, what Senator Harris did is not only get in the tit-for-tat with Joe Biden and be extremely sharp with her prosecutorial background, but I was really pleased to see that she had policy proposals to see she was going to do things on day one on issues like guns, on issues like immigration. And yet, she was very clear on the issue of race. I actually got a chuckle because she reminded me of a lot of black

people I know when they were having a discussion about race and she had to raise her hand and say, as the lone black person on stage, can I interject here? I thought it was phenomenal and fascinating and I thought that Joe Biden has a lot to do to reconcile with his record. Being unapologetic is not where you start, though.

CAMEROTA: Sarah, you have been in a position where you have prepped Carly Fiorina for six presidential debates. And so, those moments that Kamala Harris had last night, those don't happen organically. You plan for those, right?

So, in the prep she must have planned to at some point somewhere, there was going to be an opening and she was going to turn to Joe Biden and go after his record.

SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You saw two of those, the food fight line that she clearly prepared. You do prepare several of those little zingers. They had watched the night before that it was obviously a huge help to them. You know there's going to be crosstalk. You've got that prepared.

The Joe Biden moment, she had surgical precision on. They had rehearsed that. That was not at last night, last minute thing they came up with. That takes time, and you know it because they had the graphics ready, they had the t-shirt ready, that girl was me.

So she hit her point. She hit her mark. Now there was some luck involved. You have to interject at the right time and you got to get the moderators to call on her.

But as Bakari pointed out, maybe that wasn't as harsh. She knew who else was going to be on stage. They kind of had to let her talk about that issue.

So, good job to her. But I do have a silver lining for the Biden folks today. I think that we've seen moments like this. I do think the Harris campaign is uniquely prepared. They've been sort of keeping under the radar, building an organization that can take advantage of this moment.

[05:10:04] But we've also seen -- there's data that said in 2016, that the debates made a 1.4 percent difference in polling. If Joe Biden does not lose his 20-point lead after this moment, he will be the nominee. You can't sustain more damage than that in a single night I don't think moving forward.

And so, if he makes it through this, he'll make it through anything. If he doesn't, he was never going to.

BERMAN: You know, that's a really good point right there and that's what we need to watch for the next few days because if he doesn't dip, would anything drive him off that perch.

She also -- Sarah said something interesting also, Joe, in that Kamala Harris and that campaign was clearly ready for that moment. You know who else could have been ready for that moment? Vice President Joe Biden.

So, I want you, Joe, to talk about what he said and whether or not it was perhaps the most complete answer he could have given.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think he could have come back better. He's got to do a better job of explaining the context, particularly of the busing issue.

I think the stuff about the segregationists and the two Democratic senators, that's more of a gaffe and I think he's done OK on dealing with that. But it's very different to go back and talk about what the situation was in the '70s. It's easier for Kamala Harris to talk about her personal experience rather than that as a politician, and that's not excusing Joe Biden.

But to pick up on what Sarah said, you know, I think Biden wakes up this morning still as the front-runner, but what we got last night was an idea of where this race is shaking out. We have a definite top tier now. And Kamala Harris clearly won this debate.

And we know that, you know, Joe Biden is not inevitable. He has to do better. He will have a chance. I don't think this is a devastating night for him.

But remember, it's June. Iowa is a long way off. But he does have to do better. I mean, he'll -- he and his team will go back and work on that. And if he does better, he's still the favorite in this race.

But, you know, there's a lot of smart money behind Kamala Harris this morning.

CAMEROTA: Elaina, that's what struck you, is that he wasn't prepared, you didn't think, for that moment?

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, we're talking about what was so incredible about the precision at that moment from Kamala Harris, how it is -- it was so clearly choreograph, but not in a way ultimately that felt canned. She delivered it and with the luck she needed, but ultimately with the skill that she has gleaned as a prosecutor.

In contrast to that, Joe Biden almost acted as though he had no idea this would be something brought up on that stage. I mean, I don't know, Sarah, tell me if I'm wrong, I think if I'm preparing a candidate, I realize going in that that's my most vulnerable position most likely and I'm preparing the most perfect context-laden answer as Joe was just speaking of, to deliver a the moment that question arise.

But not just that, address it and then try to move on from it. Joe Biden complained to reporters afterward that he wasn't getting any questions about what he would do in the future. Well, ultimately as a candidate, you make those opportunities. He had every opportunity to take Senator Harris's line of inquiry and push from there into something forward looking.

ISGUR: I have a theory that the Biden camp thought that Senator Harris was running for vice president for him. I think that had sort of come out a couple of times to the race, and I think that the Harris camp thought tonight was the time to say, nope, not running for VP, sorry.

And, boy, if nothing else, that message was delivered really well and not in a snarky, you know, small way -- in a big way.

PLOTT: I'm here to run for president in the same way that you are.

ISGUR: Yes. Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Just because they want her for vice president doesn't mean she's running for vice president. She has said repeatedly like, no, thank you. I can understand why they would want her for vice president.

ISGUR: And there's a great line from "Legally Blonde", right? She's like, we took the same LSAT, didn't we? I mean, I feel like I'm a senator, too.

BERMANN: Go here?

Bakari, I think I heard a chortle or a chuckle here. I want you to tell us what you were laughing at and then I have a question for you.

SELLERS: Yes, I was laughing at the fact that one thing Kamala Harris showed the world last night is that she's running for president of the United States. And let me also this, there were two things that I saw, and not only would she would be prepared day one, because there's a lot of questions that Mitch McConnell is still going to be -- hopefully not going to be -- but the reality is Mitch McConnell is still the president of the Senate. So, you have to have ideas and plans that still -- that you can still move the country forward while he's there, and she was able to show that.

And she showed that on immigration where she actually had daylight between her and the Obama administration. I did not expect to see that. And so, she was prepared last night for that moment. And I think she showed and I was chuckling because she ain't running for vice president. She's running to be president of the United States.

BERMAN: All right. I do want to ask this, what if, take a big step back, we all saw the debate in what looked like a slam dunk moment for Senator Harris there.

[05:15:04] What if, though, on busing, Bakari, specifically this issue, Joe Biden isn't so far away from where maybe a plurality of Democratic voters are? Because if you look at this, you say, wait a second, you know, he wasn't, maybe voters don't think he was wrong about that, does it change the prism with which you analyze this?

SELLERS: No, not really, because first what she did is she took on Joe Biden and she took on the notion -- and this is what people are missing. She took on the notion of electability last night. Throughout this debate, however you follow on busing, I would admonish you if you follow on the side of this because this is a progressive civil rights issue, but I digress.

She took on the issue of electability last night, and there was this theory that Joe Biden is going to have a coronation to be the Democratic nominee, because simply the women on the stage, the minorities on the stage were not electable. That Pete Buttigieg, that Kamala Harris, that Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, were not electable.

Well, you know, I think that Kamala Harris put that to bed neatly. And she showed that she's running for president of the United States and that she can go toe to toe with Donald Trump. Democrats are looking for someone who can go toe to toe with Donald Trump and she showed that last night.

But let me push back on you and Joe. This is not going to be something where Kamala Harris, all of a sudden, is going to be the leader in the polls in two weeks. That's not what this is about. This is a very, very long race, so people do not need to get disenchanted if Joe Biden, or disjointed if Joe Biden doesn't fall precipitously, or doesn't fall 20 or 30 points. That's not going to happen. But that was a body blow to this image that she's not electable, because she is.

BERMAN: I appreciate you pushing back on me, though I don't recall ever having said that I think you all of a sudden --

CAMEROTA: But for the next four hours, you're going to take the blame.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: For whoever it is that --

BERMAN: Absolutely, I appreciate it.

SELLERS: I'm blaming you for anything, Berman. It's 5:00 a.m. in the morning.

BERMAN: Listen, we have a lot more to discuss. Pete Buttigieg, there were several important moments involving him. We'll show you that.

And also, how the campaigns are reacting to all of this this morning. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:21:48] CAMEROTA: OK. There is so much to dissect from last night's Democratic debate, so many moments. Anyone who predicted it's going to be boring, everyone is going to only get one minute. Oh, no, it was quite feisty.

BERMAN: Unless you're Andrew Yang and you only got two minutes.

CAMEROTA: But he still made his point.

BERMAN: Yes, yes. CAMEROTA: He still made his point.

All right. Back with us, Elaina Plott, Sarah Isgur, Joe Lockhart and Bakari Sellers.

Joe, there is a moment optically that's getting a lot of attention, certainly in conservative circles, and that is when the moderators asked every single candidate, raise their hand for if they would provide health care to undocumented immigrants. And what conservatives say is -- and that's how they lose.

In fact, "The New York Post" has seized on that moment and says, raise your hand if you want to lose. Who wants to lose the election and make sure everybody is raising their hand? Because, you know, the whole argument that conservatives make is you can't set up incentives for people to come. You don't have to necessarily separate them from their children when they get here but you can't set up incentives.

So what did you think of that moment?

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think that it is a contrast and I think the Democrats are pretty comfortable with the position they're in. I mean, these issues have evolved and Donald Trump has a lot to do with them evolving.

I think there's now this debate, it's divided on moral rather than political lines. You know, what is the right thing to do? I think several of the candidates made the point that it's less expensive to provide insurance than to have people just showing up at emergency rooms rather than going to doctors.

So, I think the more interesting debate on health care though, this is where I think the one area that Kamala Harris is going to come under some fire is this idea, of there's only a few candidates who have said they want to abolish private insurance industry and option. That is something that I think the moderates will hone in on and it's not something that I think the vast majority of the Democratic Party has, A, either focused on and when they focus on I don't think they will be supportive of it. There's a lot of people who like their private insurance and -- but do agree that universal health care is a right and people should have a rate to get Medicare, you know, even before they're 65.

So I think that's an issue that, you know, in the home run last night, that's the place where I think some people will go that, you know, she is in the minority there with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as the only people who've said that.

BERMAN: Elaina, you were nodding your head there. Does this get to a larger issue of which election are you running in right now, the primary or the general?

PLOTT: It definitely does. But I think what it gets at more is that I think going into last night, we assumed that with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, this debate might be more about ideological contrasts, which is to say, what is this primary going to be about at the level of ideas?

But ultimately what you saw and what I think actually was visual from that "New York Post" cover that reveals pretty well -- there wasn't a lot of differences up there. So, yes, Harris and Bernie did raise their hands for that, but then later, Senator Harris walked that back a bit.

[20:25:06] She said, I didn't understand the question. I thought the moderator was asking if I would get rid of my own insurance in favor of a government plan, not abolish private insurance altogether. She walked that back. Of course, though it didn't make a lot of splash because what you say on the debate stage is what resonates with people.

You get in the general election, that is fodder for I don't know how many Republican attack ads to come.

CAMEROTA: There was another interesting moment, so many of them, and that was when Pete Buttigieg talked about Christianity. I think it was so interesting, Bakari, because he talked about how reluctant often Democrats are to talk about their religion and/or wear it on their sleeves as opposed to what Republicans sometimes feel comfortable with. He gave a reason for that.

So, let's listen to that moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUTTIGIEG: We should call out hypocrisy when we see it. For a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that it is OK to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Basically, Bakari, what he said is the Democrats are often reticent about it because they believe in separation of church and state. I just thought he has a fluency with speaking about religion in a way that not all candidates do -- Bakari.

SELLERS: Yes, there are a few things. And, first, there are a lot of people jumping down and screaming their amens at Kamala Harris as she was taking it to it on the stage. There were a lot of people when Pete Buttigieg who said that screaming and jumping and saying their amens.

I would argue that the Democratic Party is a little more conservative on religion than people give it credit for, especially the base of the party, particularly African-Americans. There are a lot of people who are sick and tired of the Republican Party, and this kind of goes to the argument we were having last night about which race are you in? In general election arguments.

There are a lot of people sick and tired of the Republicans that think GOP stands for God's only party. That's simply not the case. And Pete Buttigieg is handling that. When you have individuals out there like the Jerry Falwells of the world and the Franklin Grahams of the world, and Mr. Two Corinthians himself, the president of the United States, and then you have someone who's very sobering in Pete Buttigieg.

You see that there's a clear difference. I thought Pete Buttigieg actually get the second best of anyone last night and I thought the way that he was so nimble with his words, if Pete Buttigieg does not lose this race in South Bend, which I think he's doing an admirable job there, I think he's going to be around for a very, very long period of time and he's going to be one of the people who at the end of this race with Senator Harris and others.

BERMAN: Sarah, what Pete Buttigieg also did last night was say something I have never heard on the debate stage when press about what was going on in South Bend and the failure to hire more black police officers. His answer was, I couldn't get the job done. I never heard a candidate say anything like that.

What's the upside/downside?

ISGUR: I will bet that they worked on several answers and I will bet that he picked that one. It was not only a good tone overall, but so perfect for him. It felt sincere.

I saw one focus group where out of the whole debate -- you know, we like contrast, we like the fight. We're political nerds who go in for that sort of thing. Voters said the biggest moment of the debate for them was that moment, and I think they said that it was because it was so sincere. It was so unusual for a politician to say, yes, I didn't do it.

I completely agree with Bakari that he's got a big future ahead, but I don't know that we're not underestimating what he did last night in favor of the clash. Yes, it wasn't a clash, but it was a moment.

CAMEROTA: Panel, fantastic. Thank you so much for all of your --

BERMAN: Really interesting.

CAMEROTA: You rendered speechless. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: It's great to watch the debate through their eyes. Such different views and such expert views also. I learn a lot this morning.

All right. Coming up on NEW DAY, we're going to speak to two of the presidential candidates, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Cory Booker. And we will speak also to the campaign of Senator Kamala Harris to hear what they're trying to do today with that performance last night.

CAMEROTA: Exactly.

Also, there was breaking news overnight. President Trump meeting with Vladimir Putin and they discussed election meddling, sort of. We'll explain why everyone is smiling. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END