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Interview With Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA); Democrats File Lawsuit to Get Trump's Tax Returns; Biden Dropping, Harris Surging. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 2, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:01]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Bittersweet. Exciting to beat Venus, but, of course, bittersweet, as she was, is an idol of hers.

Christine Brennan, thank you very much.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Brooke, thank you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We roll on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

Brand-new polls on the 2020 campaign show that Joe Biden's tight grip on the top spot may be loosening. Check this out, Senator Kamala Harris surging into second place in the latest Quinnipiac survey, just now two points, two, behind the former vice president days after their clash on that debate stage.

Just to put it in perspective, Harris was at 7 percent in this same poll just a few weeks ago.

Harry Enten is CNN senior political writer and analyst.

And so, Harry Enten, we know that Quinnipiac says that this is Biden's lowest number yet in the primary, but it tracks with what we have been seeing in our CNN poll.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICAL SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Brooke, one of the key things that I always worry about is when a new poll comes out, is it just an outlier or is that the beginning of a trend?

And when we came out with that number yesterday that had Joe Biden at 22 percent, I wondered that same question, but Quinnipiac confirms it for us, Joe Biden 22 percent, and look what Kamala Harris, 17 percent in our poll, up to 20 percent here. The rest of the candidates look pretty much the same.

But the thing I will point out here is Bernie Sanders. He was the second place guy last time around. And look at this. He's in fourth place now in both of these polls.

BALDWIN: Huge piece of this, I think, for voters too, if you lean left, is, who can take on Trump?

ENTEN: That's exactly right. I mean, that's exactly right.

And a thing that's so important here is that a majority of voters still -- or a plurality of voters still believe that Joe Biden is the right guy to take on Trump. But I should point out that it's now at about 45 percent, or a little bit less. It used to be up about 55 percent.

So, to me, what we have seen is that debate in which Joe Biden got those tough questions from Kamala Harris, he couldn't take those on. And that, I think, is one of the big reasons why Harris is jumping up, is because more voters now see her as the electable choice, the one who could beat in fact Donald Trump come the fall of 2020.

BALDWIN: OK, so that's who could take on Donald Trump. What about -- we also have a snapshot of potential black voters and their choice for a nominee.

And -- no.

ENTEN: Here we go.

BALDWIN: There you go.

ENTEN: There we go. They control it sometimes -- and sometimes don't work out. But here we go.

So this, I think, is rather key, is take a look here. Back in April and May, Joe Biden, 49 percent among African-Americans, and I think there was a real question, given that we have two African-American United States senators running, could, in fact, Joe Biden hold on to that support from African-Americans.

And what do we see?

BALDWIN: It's sunk.

ENTEN: We see now it's Seung Min Kim. And look at Harris, all the way, a jump from 6 percent to 24 percent, in other words, by four, by a multiple of four. She jumped up.

The other candidates pretty much the same. But one of the things I will just point out is that this, to me, Harris is starting to look a lot like Obama. Remember back in 2008, where Clinton was leading among African-American voters, but Obama kind of came up on Clinton, and then overtook her?

This -- to me, this polling reminds me a lot of that. Joe Biden really better watch out.

BALDWIN: Harry Enten, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Leah Wright Rigueur is an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School. And Jeff Zeleny is a senior White House correspondent.

Welcome to both of you.

Harry just ran through those numbers.

Jeff, first to you. Just your reaction the new poll numbers and how strong a showing Senator Harris has.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, one thing is clear. Senator Harris clearly captured the imagination and the interest of a lot of voters who were watching the debate last week, and she now is going to be locked in the top tier of candidates.

But as her campaign is well aware, this is a fluid race. So things can go down as fast as they go up. But it is clear that there is a level of interest in her candidacy that certainly she sparked last week in Miami.

So I think one thing also is clear. The Biden campaign knew this was going to be a contest, not a coronation, but they weren't necessarily expecting that to start July 1. They were trying to draw this out as long as possible.

But now, Brooke, this is a race. And all of these candidates will be in Iowa later this week and campaign over the Fourth of July, but I'm most -- I'm certainly interested in the Iowa numbers up in that separate poll there, because that shows right there that Biden is vulnerable in the state of Iowa.

And that's, of course, where this all begins. And it just is beginning to have some echoes to previous years. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, because we don't know. But front-runners are often fleeting, and this one could be.

BALDWIN: Leah, I want to read just a quote from -- this is from a piece in "The Atlantic" written by the Brennan Center's Theodore Johnson -- quote -- "The long history of discrimination against African-Americans at the polls and elsewhere has shaped voting behavior in more distinctive ways. Black voters have been highly pragmatic. They have typically favorite candidates who are known quantities over fresh faces with shorter records, and in primary campaigns have deliberated long and hard over who's most likely to win in the general election."

So, Leah, pragmatism is basically synonymous with the Biden campaign, but history is tied with both Harris and Warren. And in this era of Donald Trump, which do you think resonates more/

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LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: So, I have to agree with my friend and sometimes colleague and sometimes co-author Theodore Johnson, because I do think pragmatism is an important, important part of the primary race and part of thinking through the general election. But how does that play out? Well, it can play out in a number of

different ways. So, as the earlier correspondent mentioned, we saw some switches with pragmatic black voters, who thought long and carefully about where they were going to cast their vote. And we saw that, over time, they switch their votes from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, but it certainly didn't happen in the year building up to the actual primary election.

So it took time, it took perseverance, and it really took hard and pretty relentless campaigning from the candidates. And that is what black voters want to see moving into the 2020 election. They want to see candidates who reach out, who campaign hard, who are willing to go the lengths that are necessary in order to beat somebody like Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: Well, Leah, also just staying with you, thinking back to Kamala Harris' strong showing in that debate last week.

She made a conscious decision really to show more of her personal side, right? I was that little girl, something that she has, for the most part, avoided in the past. Yes, obviously, it's paying off. The questions still linger about her policies.

CNN polls show that she is near the bottom on substantive issues like health care and the economy and climate change. Do you think that is her next big test?

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: So there are a couple of things moving into this.

One, part of what voters are trying to decide is, is this going to be a policy election or is this going to be, who can beat Donald Trump? And the truth is, I mean, it is possible that it can be both. It remains to be seen right now.

But with contenders like Elizabeth Warren, with Bernie Sanders, with Cory Booker, with Julian Castro, who do have policy agendas and who have been putting their -- basically putting their future to the ground, showing off those policy agendas, and then doing outreach, particularly to black voters, to Latino voters, to working-class voters around those policy agendas, Kamala Harris' team is really going to have to take that step and show off that they do have substantive policy issues, or else the questions -- sincere and significant questions -- will remain.

BALDWIN: What about -- and, Jeff, feel free to weigh in on Leah's points there -- but fund-raising numbers too is a piece of this whole story. I know President Trump announced that staggering $54 million in the second quarter. That is more than Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders combined.

But the president's only challenger is Bill Weld. The Democratic field is nearly two-dozen strong. Long term, do you think it'll even out?

ZELENY: Sure. Of course, Donald Trump's going to raise more money than all of the Democrats. I mean, he has been running since the very first day he came to Washington and the inauguration. And that is something that is not a surprise at all.

And he has his work cut out for him, as he knows.

But I think that it's at this point that not very intentional, or I don't think it serves a big purpose to compare him to individual Democrats. When you add up all of the Democrats and the DNC money, it's going to be equal.

Both sides will have plenty of money here. But I do think that one thing is going to be interesting to watch on the Democratic side. There is not going to be enough money to go around for all of these Democratic candidates.

Pete Buttigieg's numbers, $24 million, is incredibly significant. But what does he do with that? Is he going to start building an on-the- ground campaign to reach out to some of those voters who don't know him? It is going to take the hard work of going to events and communities in South Carolina, in other places to introduce himself to voters who don't know him, who don't look like him.

That is what so many other candidates have done over the years. And the best way to win South Carolina for some people is to win in Iowa and show that you're a winner. So that is true for Kamala Harris. That is true for Elizabeth Warren. That is true for anyone here.

Democrats know they want to beat Donald Trump. They don't know exactly what that candidate looks like yet, but that's what the next seven months are all about.

BALDWIN: And final question, Jeff, just back to you. A source close to the John Hickenlooper campaign says that his senior aides encouraged him to drop out after the next debates or maybe think about a run for Senate.

And a Democrat close to the former Colorado governor tells CNN that Hickenlooper is staying in, but will reassess after our debate coming up in Detroit. What's your take?

ZELENY: Look, Brooke, it's a crowded field. We saw how crowded it was on the debate stage up there.

I am told that there were advisers who are urging the former Colorado governor to step aside and really look at running for Senate there. They think that's a seat that they can win. I'm told he was not interested.

So, the campaign manager, the finance director, a communications staffer, they are leaving the campaign. I am told he's going to stay in until at least the Democratic debate at the end of July here on CNN, and then he will reassess things.

[15:10:00] But, look, this is too crowded of a field for all these candidates to stay around for a long time. So I think we will begin to see a thinning of the herd, if you will, over the next month or two.

BALDWIN: Jeff Zeleny, Leah Wright Rigueur, thank you both so much for your insight. Good to have both of you on.

ZELENY: Sure.

BALDWIN: We are also following breaking news on Capitol Hill, where House Democrats have filed a lawsuit to obtain President Trump's tax returns -- details on who might have the legal upper hand there.

And Senator Cory Booker unveils his immigration plan today in the midst of just these shocking reports from the border about the conditions at various migrant facilities.

A congresswoman who just visited one of those centers will join me live.

And the White House planning a lot of pomp and circumstance for this Fourth of July. We will break down why this year celebration is so unprecedented.

Stay with me. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BALDWIN: Democrats upping the ante, escalating their fight to get the president's tax returns.

The House Ways and Means Committee just filed a lawsuit, a federal lawsuit against the IRS, the Treasury Department, and their leaders to get their hands on those documents.

Before today, House Democrats had been in a months-long back and forth with the Trump administration. Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal asked for the returns back on April 3. Deadlines were missed. Letters were exchanged. And then, on May 6, the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, formally rejected their request.

The House then issued subpoenas to get those returns, which Secretary Mnuchin also rejected. And that brings us up to today and the Democrats' 49-page lawsuit.

CNN's Lauren Fox has been tracking the developments of this whole tax Biden.

And so tell me more about this suit.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Brooke, this has been months in the making.

Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, predicted to me back in November this is eventually where House Democrats would have to go to get the president's tax returns. But, of course, in that complaint, there are a few key items they say they need to get the president's tax returns for.

One of them, they need to understand the presidential audit program. That's essentially a program that's not enshrined in law. But, eventually, every IRS looks into an incoming president's tax returns. They want to know how that program is conducted, whether or not they need to change any laws in order to make sure that there's sort of a cohesive element to how they do that.

Then they also want to look at whether or not the president personally benefited from the GOP's tax law. And they argue that President Trump has complained multiple times before he was in office that he couldn't release his tax returns because he was constantly under audit. They say they want to look into that. They want to see how the IRS looks into people's tax returns, not just for the president, but for American taxpayers overall.

So that's what they're looking at. And they say they need the president's tax returns to understand how the IRS is conducting business.

They do say they don't need a legitimate legislative purpose in order to use 6103, which is an IRS statute that they're using to get their hands on the president's tax returns, but, obviously, a very interesting and compelling case going forward today, an escalation from House Democrats, as they fight the Trump administration for more information about Trump's finances -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Lauren, thank you from Capitol Hill.

Let's get some analysis.

With me now, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig. He's a former federal prosecutor.

When you look at what both sides are saying, your assessment is that Congress will win this fight, but it's a matter of when.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely.

Congress should win this. You don't really even need a law degree. You just need plain English. The law says, the Treasury shall furnish tax returns upon request from the House Ways and Means Committee.

That's it, shall furnish. And Lauren was talking about this. Now, the response from the administration is, well, Congress needs a legitimate legislative purpose. First of all, as Lauren just laid out, they gave legitimate legislative purposes. And guess what? It's up to Congress to say what the legislative purpose is

But, yes, there's a timing issue as well. Are they going to get these returns, can they get this through the courts before the election and before a new Congress comes in, in January 2021?

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Congress has a legal right to them. But the public does not.

HONIG: Yes.

BALDWIN: So, when would -- I mean, everyone's sitting there wondering, well, when am I going to see these things?

HONIG: Right.

I'm not sure the public ever will. What the statute says is, if Congress gets these tax returns, but they're identifiable to a specific person -- clearly here, the whole world would know they are Donald Trump's -- Congress has a duty to maintain those privately.

So are we ever going to see those tax returns through Congress? Not unless there's a leak of some sort. But could we see action taken by Congress relating to those tax returns? Absolutely. We could see new legislation passed. We could see hearings. There's other ways that people may be able to learn what's in those.

BALDWIN: We have talked a lot too just about the stonewalling from the White House, fighting the subpoenas. Do you think these other cases involving other committees will factor into this?

HONIG: I do.

There are two prior cases were federal courts in New York and D.C. said Congress has very broad discretion to say what its purpose is, and it's really not up to DOJ or the executive branch to say, we don't like that purpose, or we don't believe that that's really the purpose.

So the two prior rulings have already sort of built this notion that Congress has a lot of leeway. And I think we're going to get a similar ruling here. And I think we're going to end up -- someday, I think, we will look back, legal historians will look back at this era as a time when the courts reaffirmed that Congress has very broad authority to conduct oversight.

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BALDWIN: You're the best.

(LAUGHTER)

HONIG: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much, Elie Honig here.

Coming up on CNN, we have this, new images from inside some of the detention centers where migrants are being held. This comes as lawmakers report appalling conditions at some of those migrant facilities.

A congresswoman who just visited one of those centers will join me live next.

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BALDWIN: Just in, newly released images from a Border Patrol facility in the Rio Grande Valley. This comes from an inspector general report warning of overcrowding and dangerous conditions.

The report notes that roughly 30 percent of minors at the inspected facilities were being held longer than the 72 hours allowed by law. And that includes some children under 7 years of age, who had been held for more than two weeks waiting to be transferred.

These details are just coming to us a day after a number of Democrats visited these holding facilities for migrants in the El Paso region. There, lawmakers described overcrowding and poor living conditions as -- quote, unquote -- "unconscionable."

Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragan was one of the lawmakers who saw what was happening firsthand.

So, Congresswoman Barragan, thank you so much for being with me.

And let's just start with, you tell me what you saw.

REP. NANETTE DIAZ BARRAGAN (D-CA): Well, it's heartbreaking.

You're seeing cells full of women, women who are crying and begging for your help. Some have been there for 50 days, 70 days. Brooke, these are temporary holding cells that are meant for people to be in very short time.

And they're being held there. A lot of them don't know what's happening, when they're going to be released. And they were crying. They were sobbing. They were asking for help.

And so we were listening to them. We saw really not as many people as I'm used to seeing. I was quite surprised. I said, where is everybody at? They said, you came at the wrong time.

So it was interesting to see the numbers have certainly fallen. And we saw children, children who -- we had a little 4-year-old boy who was locked in a room. And they locked the kids, so that we wouldn't speak to them.

And there was a 4-year-old boy, saw us, ran up to the Plexiglas on the door to try to touch us, putting his hands up to the Plexiglas, so that he could try to touch us. And you could see he was calling for his father. It was pretty heartbreaking to see that, very devastating.

BALDWIN: It's awful to hear. It's awful to look at.

When you say that they locked the doors, so they -- the kids couldn't talk to you, did they tell you they did that? How do you know? Did you try speaking with them?

DIAZ BARRAGAN: Yes.

They told us from the outset there was a lot of new conditions. I have been to the southern border. I have been to El Paso several times. In the past, they have let me take my telephone. This time, they took it away. An officer even snatched it out of my hands.

This time, they said, you're not allowed to talk to anybody. When we went in before we saw the kids, they said no conversations at all with the children.

And so we have seen new restrictions. And they told us they would lock -- they were going to lock the kids in the room. And so we were trying to communicate through the Plexiglas.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you too about just these agents, right, because, no doubt, when you look at the number of people and the children, these agents are overwhelmed and they're stressed.

I know that Robert Perez, deputy commissioner U.S. Customs and Border Protection, talked about the conditions inside the facilities. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT PEREZ, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: The entirety of the system, well beyond CBP, is absolutely oversaturated.

And so what's really the root cause, in my opinion, again, after 26 years of doing this, is an outdated legal framework that has now been exploited by alien smuggling organizations and preyed on these incredibly vulnerable populations, and have literally saturated the entirety of the immigration continuum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And, Congresswoman, just on top of that, a new report shows an 1800 percent increase in border apprehensions of family units from last period to this current one, more than 7,400 -- excuse me -- more than 74,000 families -- excuse me -- and more than 10,000, unaccompanied minors.

How can you, how can members of Congress help alleviate the pressure on these agents?

DIAZ BARRAGAN: Well, I think the first thing we need to do, Brooke, is, we need to invest in these countries.

These folks are fleeing violence. They're fleeing their home countries, not because they want to come here, but because they have to. They feel they have no choice. In some instances, some family members have been killed.

So, one, we certainly have to make sure we're investing in these countries and not cutting off aid, which is something the president has threatened to do.

The other thing we need to do is, we need to make sure that there are alternatives to detention. This administration has been cutting back on alternatives to detention, trying to cut that funding entirely.

He prefers to jail people and put people in these prison conditions to deter people. That's not the way to go. These folks have family members here in the States. They will sponsor them. They will bring them in.

I think those are things we need to also look at to help alleviate this problem.

BALDWIN: What about Senator Cory Booker's plan? He just put his immigration plan out today.

He said that he would use executive action -- if he were to be elected, he would use executive action to overhaul the nation's immigration system, including shutting down detention centers

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