Return to Transcripts main page


Chaos in Hong Kong; Trump Willing to Accept North Korea as Nuclear Power?; Big Fund-Raising Numbers for Pete Buttigieg. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired July 1, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We continue on. You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

We all know that Joe Biden has been seated firmly atop the Democratic 2020 polls for weeks and weeks now. But are the voters putting their money where their early support is?

For the former vice president's campaign, that answer is still unknown. But for Pete Buttigieg, it is a resounding yes, the Indiana mayor raising a staggering $25 million in the second quarter.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has the numbers.

And, Phil, the numbers are impressive, to say the least. But what does it mean for his campaign now and also in the long run?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, no question they're impressive.

To put it into context, Pete Buttigieg in the first quarter raised about $7 million. He now than triples that in his second quarter. But I think, to your point, what does this actually mean? Money isn't everything. Money doesn't determine who wins the nomination, but it does play a key role.

Two parts to keep an eye on here. Pete Buttigieg started six months ago, where barely anybody knew who he was nationally. And he had a very lean organization. What he has, not just raising $24.8 million, but also having more than $22 million cash on hand, is, he now has the resources to build out his full team, something the campaign's been doing in spades over the course of the last couple months.

Now, in all those early states, they have the money to have the ground operation you need to actually be successful in those states. Also, a key thing to look at is the individual donors, over 290,000 individual donors in the second quarter, overall, more than 400,000. What does that mean?

That matters for two reasons. One, it shows that he's not just high- dollar fund-raising, which he's doing a lot of. He also has grassroots support as well. But from an actual metrics perspective, that means he is almost are already certainly in the fall debates that the DNC is going to be running. He's hitting those metrics, hitting those qualifications.

So, for the long game here, and this is going to be a very, very long Democratic campaign, Pete Buttigieg, because of this quarter, very impressive on the top line, now sets himself up to ensure that he's there as long as he wants or needs to be. Whether the numbers in the polling, whether the numbers in the votes actually back that up is an open question.

But at least on the financial side, he's in a pretty good place right now, Brooke.

BALDWIN: But the Biden campaign is being a little coy, right, teasing that they -- quote -- "blew our fund-raising goal out of the water."

So why don't we have an exact amount?

MATTINGLY: Yes, So, the interesting thing, and I think this underscores the strategy that the Buttigieg campaign had, they don't have to -- campaigns don't have to actually release their numbers until they file with the FEC in 15 days, on July 15. The deadline was yesterday.

The fact that Buttigieg campaign released their numbers about five hours after the deadline meant that they knew it was a big number, and they wanted to dominate the news cycle as long as they possibly could. And certainly they have with that number today.

The Biden campaign doesn't have to release anything until July 15. And we're still kind of waiting to see what they're thinking there. But you make a key point. Sending out that e-mail to supporters -- and, granted, it's an e-mail to supporters -- it's not an official press release of any kind -- but saying they blew their internal fund- raising goals out of the water means that they're at least teasing a big number.

How big will it be? It's an open question. One of the big questions about Joe Biden is, given his past, given his time in the vice president's office, does he have the grassroots support that somebody like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg has, where he can actually raise small dollar money online to go on long with the high-dollar fund-raising -- raisers he's been able to find?

That's going to be one of the big questions when you actually get this filing. Look, Joe Biden's the front-runner, has been the front-runner for a while. He's going to raise a lot of money. There's no question about it, but how you dig into those numbers and what they actually tell in terms of what's going to happen going next, that's what we're waiting on from the Biden campaign right now.

BALDWIN: Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

And speaking of waiting, as we wait for fund-raising tallies for the Kamala Harris campaign, the California senator's allies and even her rivals are fighting back against a viral tweet that questions her racial identity, a tweet that was shared and then deleted by Donald Trump Jr.

CNN's Kyung Lah is with me.

And, Kyung, I know a spokesman for Trump Jr. says his words were misconstrued. That's what they're saying. Team Harris says his retweet was part of a larger racist online attack and that these attacks will not work.

Tell me more of what they're saying.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, team Harris isn't buying that excuse at all.

And what you're hearing from that campaign is they are saying that they are going to call it out, they are going to hit back and they are going to hit back hard. So we have seen her surrogates, we have seen her spokespeople hitting the cable airwaves, hitting social media, saying that they will not take it.

We're also hearing from the other 2020 hopefuls. Uniformly across social media and even in interviews with the press, they are calling this out. Take a listen.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The tweet of Donald Trump Jr. was the act of a coward. You see what they do, put something out there, and then he deletes it, so that he can say it was just a mistake.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a president who is a racist. And, apparently, based on a statement yesterday, his son is following in his footsteps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, look, these are the same racist attacks his daddy tried on Barack Obama, and they didn't work then, and they're not going to work now, period. They're not.

IAN SAMS, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, KAMALA HARRIS CAMPAIGN: And we really appreciate all these other candidates who are speaking up about this, because it's going to take all of us speaking up and speaking out to confront the misinformation, to confront the smears and the racist attacks that this president's allies are going to promote on her.



LAH: And as you hear that Harris spokesperson speak there, Brooke, you see that there is a decisive step.

They are saying, if we see this, we're going to call it out. It's not amplifying it. We are essentially going to say, this is a lie. And they are going to talk about it and they're going to keep hammering it. BALDWIN: That's precisely what they're doing.

Kyung Lah covering her campaign -- Kyung, thank you.

Let's have a discussion.

Tara Setmayer is a CNN political commentator and the host of "Honestly Speaking With Tara" podcasts. Bakari Sellers is a CNN commentator, and he has endorsed Kamala Harris for president.

So, because of that, Bakari, I'm starting with you this.

This certainly is not the first time that Senator Harris has faced questions about her race. I just want to play this clip. This is back from a couple months ago, when she was asked about her identity during that interview at "The Breakfast Club."


QUESTION: I'm glad you mentioned Barack, because a lot of black people questioned if Barack was black enough. I see them doing the same thing to you.

So, what do you say to the people questioning the legitimacy of your blackness?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think they don't understand who black people are. I'm not going to spend my time trying to educate people about who black people are. I was born black, I will die black. And I'm proud of being black. And I'm not going to make any excuses for anybody, because they don't understand.


BALDWIN: So you have a number of 2020 hopefuls also condemning this tweet immediately, comparing it to birtherism, which was racist.

How concerned are you, though, that this narrative about her race, her identity could actually have long-term and negative impact on her?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's really hard for me to go after the words that she spoke, because she was forceful, she was honest, and she was speaking the truth with my good friend Charlamagne.

But the fact is, I don't think it's going to hurt her in the long term. We're having conversations about race in this country that are healthy. And let's just remember that Donald Trump and Melania both -- I know we like to act as if Melania wasn't a part of it or look at her with rose-colored glasses -- but they perpetuated this birther myth and birther lie and this racist attack.

And now Donald Trump Jr. is perpetuating this racist attack as well. And I'm not calling them racist. I'm just saying they do racist things. And so what you have to do now is understand that you have to fight

back against these attacks, but then, even more so, you just have to make sure that you put forth platforms and plans to show what you're going to do for the black community.

I mean, that's the pivot point. I think that all 20 candidates coming to say that this was wrong and calling it out is simply the baseline. That's why I'm not someone who is clapping and cheering for that. I think that doing more than that and actually showing what you're going to do for actual black people in this country is more important.

She's going to beat back that racism, put forth plans and move forward and call them racist and call out these racist acts as they come.

BALDWIN: This tweet, Tara, the man behind it, the tweet that Don Jr. retweeted, he identifies as African-American. He is reportedly this right-wing commentator.

But the attacks have also come from the right and the left. So my question to you is, what's the endgame? Is this about suppressing the black vote if there any doubts about who Kamala Harris is as it relates to race? Can critics suppress black turnout?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, here's how I see it with that.

First of all, it's a disgusting, asinine campaign now online to try to question Kamala Harris' blackness. We saw this kind of racial division fomenting online during the 2016 campaign pushed by the Russians.

This part of that, interjecting the racial division and questioning this, is something that the Russians saw and capitalized on it in this country. And it's outlined very -- in a lot of detail in the report, as well as in the indictment of the Russians in absentia for the Internet troll farm in St. Petersburg that was taking on identities to try to push these kinds of racial divisive narratives during the elections.

They know the American people respond to these things, and it could go viral. That is a concern to me, that there are still people that are out here using this as a way to definitely suppress the black vote.

And it concerns me, not only with this issue with Kamala Harris, but also with her cheap shot against Biden, trying to put trying to portray Joe Biden as some kind of racist that's not woke enough from something that happened in the '70s, could lead to, what if he is the nominee, or what if she's the nominee, and you have a group of people out here who are looking at this, saying, well, maybe she's not black enough, we're not voting for her?

Or Joe Biden, because of busing in the 1970s, we're not -- he's not for civil rights, even though his record shows that he is, so we're not going to vote for him. In places like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, these are the Rust Belt states that the Democrats need to win. And when you only lose by 78,000 votes in three states, like Hillary Clinton did, that can make a difference when you have voter suppression. So these games that are being played, especially by those on the right, they should know better, but look at the atmosphere we're in. They're playing right into our enemy's hands with this, especially online.


BALDWIN: Bakari, you want to respond to any of that?

SELLERS: I mean, that was a lot to respond to. And it's interesting the way that she couched the moment between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

I mean, talking about someone's record, someone who was on the wrong side of history, when you're talking about diametrically opposed to Jesse Jackson, diametrically opposed to Ed Brooke and Thurgood Marshall on this issue of busing, I think it's relevant.

But you got to pivot and move forward. And one of the things that I was talking about is, while we're having this agenda and while we're having this conversation about black voters, and while we're having this conversation about what is superficial, I hope all 23, '4, '5, 35 candidates, however many are still there, actually put forth an agenda to uplift the American people, uplift African-Americans in particular, and focus on having this black agenda, amongst other issues.

I think Senator Harris is well-positioned to do that. And I think after all of this is being said, they would not be doing this -- and this comes from Don Jr. and others -- if they were not afraid of Kamala Harris.

That just shows you that she's electable, and some people on the right side are shaking in their boots.


BALDWIN: Let me just jump in. She did well after that last debate. We all talked about it last Friday. And I think, because of that, she has a much bigger target on her back.

I think a lot of it had been out in the Twittersphere, and now it's even out more in the mainstream.

We have got to leave it. I appreciate both of you, Tara and Bakari. Thank you. Thank you. We will continue. We got lots of time. It's very early, very early. Guys, thank you very much.


SELLERS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, Customs and Border Protection is now investigating reports of offensive Facebook posts by Border Patrol agents, things like jokes about migrant deaths and lewd memes about sitting lawmakers. That's ahead.

And President Trump makes history with an unexpected visit to North Korea. And now a new report details a major concession the U.S. may be willing to give to Kim Jong-un.

And ahead, protesters in Hong Kong bash in the city's glass in the city's government building, vandalize the inside. Just a short time ago, riot police used tear gas to disperse the massive crowd. We will take you live to Hong Kong.

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



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

After becoming the first sitting president -- first sitting American president to step foot into North Korea, a new report says that President Trump is considering a move that is a step back from full denuclearization.

Trump over the weekend took 20 paces into the hermit kingdom during a last-minute visit to the DMZ. He was in Asia for the G20 summit. And as President Trump shook the hand of the North Korean dictator, "The New York Times" reports the president is now weighing what could be considered a big concession to Kim Jong-un.

This is their report. Let me quote part of it for you: "The concept would amount to a nuclear freeze, one that essentially enshrines the status quo and tacitly accepts the North as a nuclear power, all of which goes against what the president has said he wants from Kim."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the big thing is, it will be a total denuclearization, which is already starting.

I wanted them to de-nuke. And they wouldn't do the full. They wanted to do some. And I guess a lot of people would have said, that's a great start, but I just didn't feel it was right.

I would just like to see ultimately denuclearization of North Korea.


BALDWIN: The president's national security adviser, John Bolton, denied in a tweet that the White House is thinking about a nuclear freeze.

Jean Lee is the director of the Center for Korean History and Public Policy at the Wilson Center. Lindsey Ford is director of global security affairs at the Asia Society Policy Institute. And she served as senior adviser in Obama's Defense Department. So, ladies, thank you so much for coming on.

And, first, just out of the gate, I want reaction from the two of you, Jean, starting with you first, just seeing President Trump stepping over that -- that line and walking those 24 paces in the North Korea. Photo-op or something more significant?

JEAN LEE, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, a little bit of both, mostly a photo-op.

He is handing a huge propaganda gift to Kim Jong-un, to be honest. You can see how it was covered from the North Korean side and how it was splashed all over North Korean state media. But it will -- it will be sort of a kick-start to the negotiations. It did get these two countries back in touch. And so that's promising.

BALDWIN: We will come back to those smiles on state-run media over in North Korea in just a second. I have got those pictures.

But, Lindsey, what did you make of it?

LINDSEY FORD, ASIA SOCIETY POLICY INSTITUTE: Yes, I have to be honest. I'm a little cynical about where we go from here.

To me, this was the policy equivalent of clickbait. The president offered almost nothing that was substantive in terms of a deliverable coming out of this, other than to restart negotiations that, let's be honest, are in a no-man's land, because he never had his administration do the homework up front to get real deliverables in the first place, which he could have done before you ever went to Singapore.

BALDWIN: Policy equivalent of clickbait.


Staying with you, Lindsey, I know that "The Times" is reporting that the U.S. may settle for what's being described as a nuclear freeze. I was reading something that you had written in "The Times" before, how you had previously backed hat the idea of the U.S. accepting a plan that is not full denuclearization, similar to this nuclear freeze.

And you had written -- quote -- "Whether such a deal is possible depends on Mr. Trump's ability to embrace the art of the imperfect deal."

Do you stand by this? Might that be progress?

FORD: Yes, I do stand by this.

I think that the president's finding out that it's always easier to break deals than it is to put them together. And there's a reason that administrations accept imperfect deals, like the one that he's criticized that the Obama administration had with Iran. It's because you make the best use of the leverage that you can, the leverage that you have at the time. And I think that this administration overestimated how much leverage

they had with North Korea. And the problem is, right now, they have even less than they would have had back at the beginning of 2018 had they really engaged in this kind of negotiation, a realistic sort of freeze cap, maybe eventually roll back North Korea's program back then.

It's going to be much, much harder today.


BALDWIN: Perfect segue to who has the leverage.

I just wanted to show. And then I want you to chime in, Jean, because we have the pictures...


BALDWIN: ... from the various -- the state-run media, to what you were alluding to earlier.

So you tell me what you think Kim Jong-un is thinking, but also please chime in.

LEE: No, I was just going to say, just building on what Lindsey is saying, I think we would have -- the U.S. would have had a lot more leverage in 2017.

The fire and fury, the rhetoric, the threats from President Trump in 2017 gave Kim Jong-un the justification that he needed to keep building those weapons. And so he has essentially backed the United States into a corner, where all they have as an option now is containment.

And so I would say, let's go a year earlier -- let's go even back farther and say, 2017, we would have had a far better position -- we would have been in a far better position to negotiate with North Korea, would have had more leverage.

BALDWIN: Would have, could have, didn't happen.

So now this potential, as you know, "The New York Times" put it, this glorified status quo, may be what the U.S. could grab ahold of.

We will keep watching and covering it.

Lindsey and Jean, thank you both very much.

FORD: Thanks.

BALDWIN: I do want to talk about Hong Kong, breaking news there, where police used tear gas and batons to disperse this massive crowd of protesters who'd already stormed the government headquarters and vandalized it.

We will take you there and explain what this is all about. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can see -- if we pan to the right there, Justin, you can see all the people in the street. This would be an eight-lane highway usually. And now all the protesters are out on the street.




BALDWIN: It is the middle of the night now in Hong Kong, but we have been covering chaos. Hundreds and hundreds of protesters stormed into this government building, the legislative council complex.

They stayed until the riot police chased them out, firing tear gas, charging at them. The protesters, many of them carrying umbrellas to protect themselves against the tear gas, moved to the main road in central Hong Kong.

They are furious over this controversial bill that would allow the Chinese government to extradite people from Hong Kong to China.

And CNN's Nic Robertson has been in the middle of it for hours and hours. He is live for us now in Hong Kong.

Nic, what is happening?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the legislative council building, the government headquarters that you can see here now, everything's cleared away. The protesters are gone.

This is now a crime scene inside there. The police did let us in for a short time. There's graffiti everywhere. Pictures of previous chief executives have been torn down from the wall, computer monitors smashed. Somebody had put a notice outside the library there that said, "Don't damage the books."

Everything else inside the building has been trashed, including that main legislative chamber. And you can see the glass here. This is what the protesters were breaking through during the day, thick glass, reinforced, heavy plastic in the middle. And then they forced their way through the metal barricades.

But now the police are just -- are declaring this a crime scene. They're taking their notes outside. They swept through the area, putting clouds of tear gas ahead of them about midnight here. That was three-and-a-half hours ago.

And in what was a coordinated, careful effort to get the protesters out of the building, there were no confrontations. The police swept in, in such a way that the protesters ran off. We saw them leaving with their hands held high in the air. But there was no direct confrontation with the police, no casualties

that we saw. And within 15 or 20 minutes, the police had secured not only this building, but were beginning to secure the streets around.

And what we now know is that the chief executive here, Carrie Lam, the head of the legislature here, will be giving a press conference in about 30 minutes. She's expected to talk a lot about the damage the protesters have done.

BALDWIN: We will listen in to that. We will talk on the other side.

Nic Robertson, excellent, excellent reporting. Thank you to you and your crew in the middle of it all in Hong Kong. Thank you.

Coming up next: the new White House press secretary bruised in a scuffle with North Korean guards. We will tell you what was happening behind the scenes.