Return to Transcripts main page


Biden and Harris Clash over Busing; Amash Leaves Republican Party; Iran's Higher Uranium Levels. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 4, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Election cycle is coming up in 1952. They used to say is (INAUDIBLE) Truman, he had a 27 percent approval rating.


BRINKLEY: And he thought by speaking on The Mall might bring him up a little bit. It didn't and Truman couldn't run for re-election.

BASH: Thank you, Doug, I appreciate that. Sorry to cut you off.

Brianna Keilar is picking up now. We'll be right back.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Welcome to our special Fourth of July coverage.

It is Independence Day here in America and celebrations are underway across the country. Here in Washington, the July 4th parade is going on right now. Later, President Trump will hold his controversial Salute to America.

And cities and towns, big and small across the country, are decked out today. This is Darien, Connecticut, where people are coming out for their 15th annual push and pull parade.

And Iowa is getting the 2020 treatment this Independence Day. Democratic hopefuls like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg are fixtures at parades and barbecues there in the Hawkeye state.

Iowa caucus-goers are paying attention and they are making their voices heard loud and clear during this time. Dueling chants at a Fourth of July parade just a short time ago made for an awkward moment for Joe Biden. Watch.


CROWD: It's time, it's time, it's time for a woman in the White House. It's time, it's time, it's time for a woman in the White House. Whoo!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I say Joe, you say Biden.

Joe. CROWD: Biden.


CROWD: Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I say Joe, you say Biden.


CROWD: Biden.


CROWD: Biden.


KEILAR: So this is all happening in the midst of a battle over race issues between former Vice President Biden and Senator Kamala Harris following their tense exchange on the issue of busing at the debate last week. Now both candidates are having to answer for their positions on busing.

I want to go live now to Iowa for the latest. CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz is following Joe Biden. CNN's senior national correspondent Kyung Lah is following Kamala Harris.

And, Kyung, Harris criticized Biden for opposing federally mandated busing in the '70s. Now she has taken a position on this issue that is raising eyebrows. Tell us about this.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's raising eyebrows not among her camp per se, because her campaign is saying they feel that this is all a distraction and it's being directed at them from the Biden campaign.

Here's where it all began, Brianna. There was a question yesterday in a reporter back-and-forth with Kamala Harris at an event. And the question that was asked is whether or not she supports mandatory busing. She said yes. And then she followed up with this response.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Busing is a tool among many that should be considered when we address the issue, which is a very current issue, as well as a past issue, of desegregation in America's schools. So I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America's schools.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAH: Well, that launched a Twitter back-and-forth between the campaigns. From the Biden camp, I want to read you this tweet. Quote, it's disappointing that Senator Harris chose to distort Vice President Biden's position on busing, particularly now that she is tying herself in knots trying not to answer the very question she posted to him.

And then a snapback from the Harris campaign. Quote, Vice President 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, quote, an asinine concept. Come on, y'all are better than this.

The y'all being directed right back at the Biden camp.

This back and forth, Brianna, is because of that Harris answer. And so when we go back to the Harris campaign and say, what exactly did she mean by the words "toolbox"? What exactly does she mean by saying she supports "federally mandated busing"? They're reflecting us to look at history.

In the 1970s it was a very different situation. She absolutely would support federally mandated busing. You cannot pick up that solution and drop it in on today's issues, Brianna. The campaign is saying that certainly she feels it is one of a number of tools to be used to try to correct the issues of schooling today, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Kyung, thank you so much, in Des Moines.

Let's head on over to Independence, Iowa, and Arlette.

So Biden, he -- his campaign has been reacting to this. He actually just took questions today from reporters. Tell us about that.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Brianna, just after he finished a Fourth of July parade here in Independence, Iowa, Biden spoke to reporter as this war of words has been erupting between his campaign and Kamala Harris's. And I asked the former vice president specifically what he thought about Kamala Harris' current explanation on her position on busing. And take a listen to what he had to tell me earlier today just a short while ago.

[13:05:17] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: She said that busing should be considered as -- as part of a toolbox that school districts could consider when it comes to the issue of segregation.

BIDEN: She's absolutely right.

SAENZ: And do you think that there is like any difference between what she was saying to you in the debate last week versus today?

BIDEN: Look, she's a -- she's a good person. She is smart as can be. And she feels strongly. And I -- it came out of nowhere. It didn't seem to be something at all consistent with anything I had been accused of before. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Now, Biden also was trying to make the case that Democratic candidates need to start focusing on issues of the future, not necessarily looking at the past. He said he's not going back to other people's records for 10 or 20 years ago, bringing up issues from there. Of course Biden has a much longer political record than the other candidates. But Biden said that they need to start focusing on issues such as health care as they're talking to voters.

And I also, Brianna, got the chance to ask Biden about his dropping poll numbers and what he thinks about those. He contends that he's still way ahead, but we know that those polls are showing a tightening since his debate performance and including that exchange last week.


KEILAR: All right, Arlette, thank you so much.

Kyung Lah, thank you as well.

Happy Fourth to both of you there in Iowa.

And joining me now is Margaret Talev, CNN political analyst and senior White House correspondent for "Bloomberg News." As well have former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. He's now a CNN political commentator.

I wonder what both of you think about what we're seeing between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden as it's developing now. Yes, it's 40 years later. Her campaign, Margaret, is making the case, you can't just drop this issue and 40 years later and then compare what she's saying now to what Joe Biden's position was in the '70s. What do you think about all of this?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean Kamala Harris was looking for a moment in the debates and she found it. But a moment in the debates is different than an ongoing conversation without a time limit on it. And I think that's the reality that she's facing now.

Joe Biden talks about how he wants to talk about the issues of the present, not the issues of the past. But, of course, even if busing is not going to be itself the driving issue of the campaign, disparity in public schools and the ability for your child to get a good education is a very important issue to a lot of voters. And it is one of those sort of galvanizing issues for a lot of voters of color. And so it's something that he needs to be aware of.

I think whenever you hear a candidate say it's important to have a conversation about that, it means, I don't have a completely baked plan right now, so please wait until my ten-point plan comes out.

So I think, you know, it's a real issue and it demonstrated an opportunity for her and some weaknesses for Joe Biden. But I think, you know, over the course of the next few weeks, we're going to see her try to (INAUDIBLE) take maximum leverage from that window that the debates got her, Biden try to get back on track and both try to scramble for fundraising because when you look at President Trump's fundraising numbers, like a fight over busing compared to, how do you get to $105 million is --

KEILAR: That's right.

TALEV: Those are two really different issues.

KEILAR: And, congressman, I wonder -- I wonder what you think watching all of this, because both of these candidates have their issues with their records. Yes, Biden supported civil rights broadly and he talked the talk. He definitely had a lot of support in the black community. Still does. He also balanced, as a senator, the desires of white suburban voters in Delaware and his record definitely reflects that.

But then Kamala Harris was a tough prosecutor and critics say that her actions were not enlightened on the issue of criminal justice.

Do you think this is a good debate for either one of them to be having?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely not, Brianna. This is a terrible issue.

There are a lot of very fine people who supported the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but opposed forced busing. Think about it for a second. On the one hand these Democrats are talking about, in this case Kamala Harris, talking about forced busing being OK with that, but on the other hand saying, we oppose school choice. Heaven forbid if we let a parent voluntarily send their child to a school outside of their particular zone, or to another school district, or to a private or parochial school, all opposed to that, but they'll compel you to send your child to a school outside of their neighborhood school zone.

In 1971, I was bussed too. We all went to school in Allentown, Pennsylvania, at the same sixth grade center. They brought everybody together. That was their idea of busing. It was a local decision. You know, not that big a deal as far as I was concerned. Not the greatest idea in the world, but they did it.

But this is just -- the Democrats talk about Republicans being trapped in the past. Well, here they are debating an issue that frankly no one's really talked about for decades.

KEILAR: Can I ask you personally, having been bused into a different school, do you see that that changed sort of your perspective or your exposure, other -- if you had perhaps stayed in the school that you were maybe initially mandated to be in?

[13:10:07] DENT: Not at all. In fact, many of those -- those students -- this was elementary school. At that time, sixth grade was still elementary school, not middle school. And so essentially many of those same kids who I was meeting in sixth grade ended up being in my junior high school a year later. So it really had no real impact on me. And, by the way, that school is the same school I believe that the

great Lee Iacocca went to, who just passed away this weekend, one of Pennsylvania's greatest sons, Allentown's greatest sons.

KEILAR: Yes, it's interesting to hear your perspective on that. Kamala Harris has a very different one. A lot of people who have written about this issue have a different one. I just want to make that clear because I want to move on to the next topic, which is Justin Amash declaring his independence from the GOP.

What are the wider ramifications of this, Margaret?

TALEV: Well, I mean, there are two questions, but the most important one for the country or for political watchers is probably, is he now laying the groundwork for a presidential run on libertarian ticket and would that be an opportunity for him to kind of try to turn the -- a negative focus on President Trump? Is that what's going to happen?

There is a secondary question, which is, can he run for re-election on a third party ticket and what will happen. But you saw the president already out of the gate. I mean he's up this morning celebrating the Fourth in his own way, golf, but took a moment out to -- well, you probably have the tweet available.

KEILAR: I like playing golf, but -- yes.

TALEV: But -- but he -- but he took a moment out to call Justin Amash a loser and, you know, say that he was never going to win and all this sort of stuff. So the president is going to enjoy beating up on him over this. The question is, does Amash have a long-term plan and does he have kind of a next act.

KEILAR: Tweeting is how the president celebrates every holiday, every day.

TALEV: Yes, it's true. It's a celebration for (INAUDIBLE).

KEILAR: And, congressman, I -- what do you think watching this with Amash jumping out of your party?

DENT: Well, since I'm sitting here in the shadows of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, we should talk about Justin's Independence Day here. First thing, Justin -- look, I don't think he had any intention of running for re-election as a Republican after he came out for impeachment of the president. I think he -- the dye was cast then.

Justin, who, as we all know, was always more of a libertarian. I, too, was a Trump critic when I was in Congress, but I was also a part of the governing wing of the party. I wouldn't say Justin was there. He was a member of the Freedom Caucus.

The bottom line is, Republicans are going to need to have a debate, though, at some point. Amash is raising fair issues. What is the Republican Party going to look like after Donald Trump. Hey, Donald Trump is going to be here for a limited amount of time, four years or eight years. He's going to be gone. The question is, does Trumpism survive? And these are the discussions I think Republicans need to have. We shouldn't be about -- about, you know, banishing heretics, we should try to find conference, get people into the party. And the problem with this party right now is that we've -- we're basically making it too exclusionary. We have to be about inclusion, not exclusion, addition, not subtraction.

And, OK, throw Justin Amash out of the party. Well, that doesn't help you, you know, build your coalition.

KEILAR: He's throwing himself out of the party now, congressman.

DENT: Yes, I guess he -- he quit.

KEILAR: Congressman Dent, thank you.

He did. Thank you so much.

Margaret Talev, thank you as well.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will personally address the back-and- forth with Senator Harris when he and his wife, Jill Biden, speak with CNN's Chris Cuomo. You can see that interview tomorrow morning at 6:00 and 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

The Trump administration reversing course. It will now try to work around the recent Supreme Court ruling to get a question about citizenship printed on the census for 2020.

Also, a look now at the Statue of Liberty on this Independence Day. Just hours from now fireworks will light up the New York skyline. The city is getting ready for that.

And right now in Washington, residents and visitors are gathering on The Mall to celebrate the Fourth. And in just a couple of hours here, President Trump will speak live from the Lincoln Memorial.


[13:18:48] KEILAR: In a stunning reversal, President Trump says his administration is working hard through the holiday in his renewed fight to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census. And all it took were a couple of tweets. Under Trump's direction, the Department of Justice now faces a Friday deadline to find a legally available path forward, just a day after officials announced they were backing off.

With me now is CNN legal analyst Shan Wu.

And, Shan, so the Supreme Court ruled that this was going to go back to a lower court. Even the Department of Justice came out and seemed to think that this was a done deal because with the census being printed and everything going out in the fall, it seemed like the window had closed. Now it's sort of back open. What is the government going to try to do here?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they can only try to do what the Supreme Court allowed them to do, which is Chief Justice Roberts gave them a window. He said, you could come back with an alternative explanation. And, of course, he called the one they'd offered contrived. So now they're in the awkward position of saying, well, if you didn't believe that story, why don't you try this one?

So they can come back and give some alternative reasons for it. The one they gave that were really just trying to help enforce the Voting Act was basically soundly dismissed, not only by the chief justice, but three other federal courts thought that Ross was not being truthful about it.

[13:20:04] KEILAR: How is any other explanation believable when they came forward first with a contrived explanation?

WU: It's not. What they have -- I think the only way you can kind of walk through that minefield is to say, OK, that explanation, just forget about that. There are legitimate purposes for why we could put this on and just put it forth and swallow your embarrassment.

KEILAR: Does this, for those who are against -- who are arguing against this question being on the census, would going back to the Supreme Court now reopen the process so that they could actually get in some evidence they wanted to present about the motive behind this question?

WU: Well, that's exactly right. I mean it's a real double-edged sword for them, as you're pointing out. In fact that Maryland judge, one of the reasons he's pushing for a decision from the Justice Department is he says, well, if that's your position, then I'm going to commence discovery on the issue. So all that would open up.

KEILAR: Do you see a situation where the question does change on the census?

WU: I think it's really hard for that to happen right now because supposedly they had already begun running the printing presses. We don't know if they put in the stop order on that. But just timing wise, it's really, really hard to get that on there right now.

KEILAR: All right, Shan Wu, thank you so much.

WU: Good to see you.

KEILAR: Here in Washington, the city is all ready for a Fourth of July event hosted by President Trump, but as CNN has learned, staffers are still scrambling to try to give away free tickets to this big show.


[13:26:11] KEILAR: Soul singer Joss Stone had a goal.


JOSS STONE, SOUL SINGER (singing): Everybody walk hand in hand, get hold of your leg, push together.


KEILAR: She wanted to perform in every country on earth, visit every country on earth as part of her total world tour. And five years and 199 countries later, Stone finally landed in her last destination this week, but the airport was as far as she got. This is what Stone posted on Instagram.


JOSS STONE, SOUL SINGER: Well, I got to Iran. We got detained. And then we got deported. And I haven't quite gotten on a plane yet, but I've got my phone back, which is good.


KEILAR: Well, it's unclear exactly what Stone planned to do in Iran since women are not allowed to perform solo concerts. She had explained her mission to the immigration officials, which was, quote, to bring good feeling with what I have to give and show those who want to look the positives of our globe.

Well, from deportation to provocation. In a matter of days Iran says it will start enriching uranium at levels above the agreed amount under the 2015 nuclear deal. President Trump responded on Twitter. He said, Iran has just issued a new warning. Rouhani says that they will enrich uranium to any amount we want if there is no new nuclear deal. Be careful with the threats, Iran, they can come back to bite you like nobody has been bitten before.

We have Samantha Vinograd, she's a CNN national security analyst, and she's a former senior advisor to the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

What do you think about this? Is this -- it's not particularly unexpected after the U.S. pulled out of the nuclear deal.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It is not unexpected. This is a predictable move by Iran, Brianna, because we have to remember that Iran's nuclear program is their trump card. It's what got the United States to the negotiating table when I was in the Obama administration and what got several countries, including the United States, what we call the P5 Plus One to agree to lift sanctions. The United States re-imposed sanctions and now Iran is trying to throw its weight around so that we are forced into a position where we relieve economic pressure.

The difference today, however, is that what Iran is doing is illegal under international law. The United Nations issued a resolution, U.N. Resolution 2231, that lifted U.N. sanctions on Iran because they were upholding their commitments under the Iran nuclear deal. If Iran keeps blowing through these commitments and starts enriching uranium below 3.67 percent, we could see the United Nations move to re-impose sanctions that mirror what the United States has already done. That could put even more pressure on Iran at this point.

KEILAR: Since the president called off that strike against Iran following the shoot down of an American unmanned aircraft, "The Washington Post" has reported that administration officials are laying down broad legal grounds for a strike.

Sam, could the president bypass Congress with some sort of action like that?

VINOGRAD: I don't think that we should rule out anything when it comes to President Trump and domestic law. He tries to circumvent it at every juncture. That's why we've had so many legal challenges to things that he's done domestically.

The administration has been saying that if they took action in Iran, they could do so under kind of two different buckets. One is something called the AUMF, the authorization to use military force that was created after 9/11 to fight al Qaeda and remnants of al Qaeda. That is a very weak legal case and would come under a lot of scrutiny.

[13:29:54] Or the United States could make some kind of constitutional argument -- excuse me, the administration could make some constitutional argument that the president is acting within his constitutional authorities by launching strikes within Iran. That would also be a stretch. And President Trump launched strikes in Syria --