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Biden and Harris Camps Clash Over Busing One Week After The Debate; Trump Says DOJ Is Working Very Hard To Add Census Citizenship Question; Controversy Clouds Trump's 4th of July Celebration; Court Blocks Trump's Use Of Military Money For Border Wall. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 4, 2019 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good morning to you and a very happy 4th of July. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow has the day off. Thanks so much for joining our special coverage on this holiday.

Right now, Joe Biden campaigning in a very fitting place for July 4th, Independence, Iowa, and just a week after Biden and Kamala Harris went toe to toe on a lot of issues, including the issue of federally- mandated busing, Biden's camp is now pushing back again, claiming that Harris will not answer the same questions on busing that she hammered Biden on with last week's debate. Here's last week's exchange.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Well, there was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate, Berkley, California Public Schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Because your city council made that decision. It was a local decision.

HARRIS: So that's where the federal government must step in.

BIDEN: No, the the federal government must --

HARRIS: That's why we have the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.


SCIUTTO: Harris there undeniably saying the federal government does have a role to play in busing. Now, here is what she said in Iowa yesterday.


REPORTER: Just to clarify, you don't support federally mandated busing (INAUDIBLE) de facto?

HARRIS: I believe that any tool that is in the tool box should be considered by a school district.


SCIUTTO: Joining me now CNN's Arlette Saenz. She's been with the Biden campaign. So, Arlette, the Biden campaign is somewhat interestingly considering this issue did not work well for him in the debate and the polls have seen him dropping since then, but the Biden camp hitting back hard today.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Jim. They decided to go ahead and engage with this just last night releasing some statements on Twitter. You know, the deputy campaign manager hitting the Harris campaign, Kate Bedingfield, she Tweeted, it's disappearing that Senator Harris chose to distort Vice President Biden's position on busing, particularly now that she is trying not -- trying not to answer the very question she posed to him.

But Harris campaign pushed back on that Tweet last night, one of their spokespeople, Ian Sams, citing a Biden quote from decades ago. Sams Tweeted, V.P. Biden said, who the hell do we think we are that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child. He called busing an asinine concept. Come on, you all are better than this.

So it's very clear that there are still some differences of opinion between the Harris and Biden campaigns when it comes to busing. One question is will the candidates themselves directly engage on this issue today. We will see Joe Biden in a short while here in Independence, Iowa.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I love seeing the parade behind you there. We see the Boy Scouts, we see the school. I mean, this is so much of what today is about.

I should mention that CNN's Kyung Lah, she just got this response from, and you mentioned him, Ian Sams, the National Press Secretary for Kamala Harris, he says that Harris' position on busing has always been clear. This is the exact quote as she said in response to reporter questions, she has always supported busing. Federally- mandated busing was essential in the '60s and '70s to force the integration of schools. This is what Sams tells CNN.

He goes on to say, today, decades later, we need a comprehensive approach which is why she supports Murphy/Fudge, the Strength in Diversity Act, which is federal resources to diversify schools, including busing, rezoning and magnet schools.

So, Arlette, that's a more detailed statement, I suppose, you might say from the Harris camp. What more are you hearing from the Biden camp and tell us also what they're up to today? I mean, they're in Independence, Iowa. What better place can you be on independence day?

SAENZ: Yes, Jim. You know, right now we haven't heard directly from the Biden campaign about whether they're going to further respond to the Harris statement that was put out this morning by a spokesperson. But we may get the chance to ask Joe Biden today as he is going to be walking in this parade here in Independence, Iowa.

He's just one of the many candidates who has descended on the Hawkeye State for the 4th of July holiday. Beto O'Rourke is actually also going to be here. Kamala Harris is starting her day about 150 miles away from here in Indianola later this afternoon. And Biden is going to be wrapping up his 4th of July holiday here in Iowa attending a Minor League baseball game, the Iowa Cubs. Beto O'Rourke will also be on hand for that, as will I, later tonight, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Arlette Saenz, thank you. And we're seeing live pictures there, the former Vice President, Joe Biden, is mixing with the crowd during the July 4th celebrations there. That's a place that he feels very comfortable, the former Vice President, Independence, Iowa, on this July 4th.


And tomorrow morning, it is a CNN exclusive interview, former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, they're going to sit down with my colleague, Chris Cuomo. As the competition surges, how does the 2020 democratic frontrunner stay ahead of the pack even as his lead shrinks in some polls? Interview will be tomorrow morning 6:00 A.M., 8:00 A.M. Eastern only here on CNN. A great time for that interview, should be sure to watch.

Meanwhile, the President says that his administration is working through the holiday to get the citizenship question back in the 2020 census. This comes one day after he threw administration officials into confusion by Tweeting that he would continue the fight at fighting the matter despite a decision by his own Commerce Department, the Justice Department as well, to back off that question. They said so on the record.

Here with me now to discuss is former Federal and State Prosecutor Elie Honig and Washington Bureau for the Chicago Sun-Times, Lynn Sweet.

Elie, let me draw on your legal knowledge here. Is there a viable path now for this given the timing of the census and the Supreme Court decision?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There is technically a viable path, Jim. It is still possible, I think, unlikely, but still possible that this citizenship question makes its way on to the census.

So, last week, when the Supreme Court gave its decision, they essentially said to the administration, we do not believe the reasons you gave us including the citizenship question. The Supreme Court said that the reasons that were offered were pre-textual, meaning we think it's covering up something else. But the Supreme Court did say, if you can come back and give us the real reasons and their legitimate, then you might still be able to get the question on. Now, the big issue is what you said before, timing. The census must be done every ten years. That is in the constitution, must be done in the year 2020. We have done it for 230 years now since we put it in the constitution. And they're up against a time deadline here. During the litigation, the administration said, we have to know by July. It's July now. So they're up against the clock in a big way.

SCIUTTO: But beyond the timing, we know from the Supreme Court's discussion of this that John Roberts was frankly unhappy. It was his view that the administration was lying about its real intent. I mean, there's some record of that that the real intent was to prejudice or just give advantage, right, to republican candidates, undercounting -- increasing an undercount of certain minority communities here.

Would, Elie Honig, the Supreme Court be able to forget that and say, okay, come back with a new justification and we'll have amnesia on the prior justification you offered?

HONIG: Awful unlikely, Jim. As you said, really, last week's decision was a striking rebuke. It's a remarkable thing to see the Supreme Court come out say to the administration, we do not believe -- and, in fact, there has been proof against the idea that your reasons that you gave us are the real reasons.

So if the first set of reasons was false, why would the Supreme Court or any court, district court believe the second set of reasons? If there was a good reason, the administration presumably would have given it the first time.

So I think it's awfully hard. And this is a matter of law but it's also a matter of common sense. If someone lies to you the first time, you say, that reason is no good, and then you say, here's another reason, you're not likely to believe that.

SCIUTTO: Right. Although, Lynn Sweet, if we look back to the Muslim ban, right, that started as something based, frankly, on the President's own public comments and Tweets that's something driven by religion. Then, in effect, the administration came back with a different justification they added a couple countries, including North Korea, and said, hey, it can't be a Muslim ban, some of those countries aren't Muslim, and the court accepted that rationale. I mean, do you see a similar path here for this?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Not necessarily because I want to underscore what was just said about the deadline. This wasn't just a casual explanation, oh, we have a deadline. The end of June deadline was the reason that the Supreme Court took this case up on an expedited basis. So it goes to the credibility of anything -- of any fruit of the government following and flowing from there to get any coherent answer from the government has seemed impossible right now about this census.

Now, so, legally, can you go back and maybe come up with something that takes into account that you're not going to have amnesia on to the contrived reasons for putting in this. You would maybe argue, well, we forgot to tell you there is this other legitimate reason. Maybe a court will consider it even taking into account that it was contrived.

SCIUTTO: This another case --

SWEET: Timing though, I think, overrules it because if the Justices say there is something, they've had a few days now to come on an expedited basis and make the case. This is what Trump isn't factoring in on his Tweet as if he could just overrule the Supreme Court.

SCIUTTO: Well, we can't forget, I mean, the administration learns.


They had said themselves, you've got to get this decision by June, you know, tell us what you're going to do, then they don't like the decision, now pushing out the deadline. But, Lynn, just on the bigger issue here, it's another case of the tail wagging the dog, is it not, that the President Tweets something and the administration has to catch up to kind of back up the President's demand there even as he surprised his own Justice Department lawyers.

SWEET: Yes. And we know from transcripts of what the Justice Department lawyer told a judge that they were trying to figure out what to do and scramble to react to the President's Tweet, which said, no, we're really going to try to get that question on there.

So Trump has some power. He could postpone the printing, I suppose. But it goes to the heart of the chaos he is creating by just not doing things in an orderly way. They had a court ruling. They had another chance to go to court. So far, they haven't done that because they accepted the ruling. So, President Trump, just tell people what you want them to do in an orderly way and in a way that somebody can do it.

I mean, the -- what was it, the Solicitor General, correct me if I'm wrong, tell a judge or the Justice Department attorney, I'm sorry, tell a judge, I'm trying to figure out what to do next. Do you think that really impresses a judge that he's getting -- he or she is getting credible, straightforward, meaningful information to make a ruling? I don't think so.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That was a great line from the Justice Department lawyer there saying, I need a deeper understanding of this. I don't know what the administration's position is.

Lynn Sweet, Elie Honig, a happy July 4th to you and your families. I hope you get a break, get some hot dogs, a couple of beers.

SWEET: Going to a parade.

SCIUTTO: Still to come, President Trump is touting his 4th of July event and now hoping for a big crowd. But sources are telling CNN that his aides are scrambling to fill the space along the National Mall. They don't want another inauguration moment.

Plus, a court rules that the President cannot use military funds for the border wall. So what's the next move for the administration as it is blocked once again?

And there is a situation off the Jersey shore. Beachgoers need to be on the lookout for this great white. We're going to tell you why.

And as we head into break, live pictures 4th of July celebrations at Mount Vernon, the historic home, of course, of George Washington.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. It is, of course, July 4th. We hope you're celebrating somewhere. Right now, controversy in Washington though as President Trump prepares to host his July 4th event. He calls it salute to America. And while critics are worried about both the cost and the politicization of the celebration, we're learning the President is worried about filling the Mall with people.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is on the National Mall in D.C. So, Kylie, what are you hearing? Aides -- White House aides scrambling to make sure the seats are filled?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, that's right. My colleagues are hearing that the White House is pushing to get more supporters of President Trump here to the national mall today. Now, we know that he wants big, big crowds. That's something that was controversial during his inauguration back in 2017.

But here on the National Mall, folks are entering into this secure area. Now, generally, this area is open. Anyone can watch the fireworks from anywhere. But because President Trump is delivering an unprecedented speech at the Lincoln Memorial today, there is some more security.

There're also more members of the U.S. military who are here. There are tanks on display and U.S. weaponry.

And we are learning that Mother Jones has obtained a specific message that was sent out to local U.S. service members. It was sent by a local military authority, not by the Pentagon, but encouraged them to tell their story, to support the fact that they were in the military and that they are proud to do that job. We spoke with some of them this morning as they were cleaning off the military equipment and making it shiny for the big show later today.

But there is controversy surrounding the fact that this is going to be a costly event. And we don't know the exact number. But what we do know is that The Washington Post has reported that $2.5 million are going to be diverted from the National Park Service to putting on this event. So there is some controversy and we'll have to see kind of how that plays out by the end of today.

But folks who are here are excited about the event. I want to bring in Bruce. He's from Tampa, Florida. He is a U.S. veteran. He served in the military. And why are you here, Bruce? It's your first time.

BRUCE, U.S. VETERAN: I'm here to see the big celebration about America and the 4th of July.

ATWOOD: And what do you make of some of the controversy about the cost of this event? Does that matter to you that it's a higher price tag than in previous years?

BRUCE: No. It's a small amount to pay to celebrate the military and our nation. And we waste money on a lot of other things that are a lot less worthwhile to me.

ATWOOD: Understood. And that's what we're hearing from a lot of folks here. They are really excited about this event. And they are going to be watching the President deliver his speech tonight at around 6:30.

SCIUTTO: Kylie Atwood, thanks very much, on the Mall today.


Let's discuss this now. Joining me is CNN Military Analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel, happy 4th to you, thanks for joining us this morning.


SCIUTTO: You served a cool 26 years in the military. As you know, I reported yesterday that the service chiefs themselves concerned about politicizing the event, have deep reservations about putting tanks and APCs as part of this. Do you share their concerns?

LEIGHTON: Well, I certainly do, Jim. I think that we have to be very careful. It's always good to celebrate the military and to celebrate military accomplishments, but we have to be very careful that we don't become part of a campaign rally. And that's one of the hallmarks of this administration, every time you turn around, there's something political that they put into the mix. And that becomes a bit concerning when you're dealing with events like this, which are national holidays and which are meant to bring about national unity.

SCIUTTO: As you know, this president will often bring politics into military events, for instance, I was in South Korea this past weekend. And when the President visited troops there after going to the DMZ, he attacked democrats. I mean, it was an overtly political speech there. What position does that put uniformed members of the military and because there are regulations that prohibit uniform soldiers from participating in political events?

LEIGHTON: That's right. In fact, military officers are prohibited from specifically touting position that's in favor of one political candidate or another. Enlisted people also have similar regulations which are little bit less stringent, but nonetheless, the military people are basically told to say as non-partisan as possible, not only during an election season but really during all times.

So the position that military people are put in, especially the senior leadership. It can be very uncomfortable, especially if the discussion or the speech veers into political territory, and that's where the great danger lies. You don't want -- even if you personally support the President, you don't want to be seen as overtly partisan because you have to work with both democrats and republicans when it comes to things as complex as appropriations on the Hill. And that becomes a huge issue.

SCIUTTO: Of course, the cost has been an issue too, and the fact is the White House won't tell us what the exact cost is. We do get an indicator of one piece, $2.5 million diverted from funds normally for the National Park Service.

The President Tweeted yesterday, the costs will be really low because a lot of the planes being used are based nearby and we own the planes, right? But, I mean, you worked a number of years in the military. There are a lot of costs that go into moving jets around, the personnel, et cetera. Is that right?

LEIGHTON: Oh, absolutely. In fact, the DOD comptroller has a whole list of cost per flight hour, the cost that it would cost to fly a particular aircraft. So, you know, you take the F-22 Raptor, for example, the cost of flying that is over $17,000 an hour.

And if you look at the -- excuse me, it's actually it's a lot more than that. It's close to $30,000 an hour. The F-35 is around $17,000 an hour.

So there are different costs that are associated with each. So if you start adding things up, I did an informal calculation and it came up with somewhere around $8 million --


LEIGHTON: For the parade and for the associated aircraft, but that may not include all the aircraft, it may not include all the other accoutrements that are part of this and certainly not the security cost that would be associated with that.

SCIUTTO: Wow, $17,000 an hour just for one of those F-35s. That's not cheap.

Colonel Leighton, I hope you get a chance to celebrate today. Thanks very much for joining us.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Jim, any time.

SCIUTTO: Well, another setback for President Trump's effort to build a wall on the southern border. An appeals court says that he cannot use military funding, divert military funding to build that wall. How the administration is responding coming up.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

A federal appeals court is dealing a big blow to President Trump's push to build a wall on the southern border. On Wednesday, the court said the administration cannot move $2.5 billion from the military's budget to build the wall. Meanwhile, Trump is defending images showing extreme overcrowding at border patrol detention facilities, Tweeting, that many migrants seek claims are living in far better conditions now than where they came from.

CNN White House Reporter Jeremy Diamond joins me now. Jeremy, it's quite a position for the President to stake out there, and it certainly shows no softening of the President's position on this issue.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Jim. First of all, let's talk about that appeals court ruling because last night, that federal appeals court dealt the latest blow to the President's attempt to build a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The President was looking to shift $2.5 billion from a Pentagon fund meant to counter drug activities and the President was looking to use those funds for the border wall, but this three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a lower court ruling, blocking the President from doing just that.

Now, the administration was looking to use those funds to begin building portions of the border wall while the merits of the case were still being adjudicated, but that court said, no, believing that the administration would ultimately be defeated on appeal.

Now, we haven't heard anything from the President on this yet, Jim, but we know that the President has frequently targeted the Ninth Circuit --