Return to Transcripts main page


Candidates Hit Trail on July 4th; Biden and Harris Clash over Busing; DOJ to Clarify 2020 Census Plan. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 4, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] CHIEF HARRY WEDIN, NYPD CHIEF OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS: In some of the areas. So it's -- it's a great, safe event that people should come out and enjoy themselves.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, of course, NYPD has the most incredible technology at their hands. And listen to this, Kate, this year, for the first time, they're going to be using drones. Drones are going to be up in the sky. They're going to be able to detect what's going on in the crowd. Officers are actually able to talk to people if -- from those drones if they need be. It's going to be an incredible show. And, of course, they want to say no credible threats at all. It's going to be safe and it's going to be a lot of fun, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's wonderful. And then it looks like a beautiful day outside. I can't wait to get outside.

Brynn, thank you so much and thanks to NYPD for keeping everyone safe.


BOLDUAN: Happy Fourth of July, everybody. Thanks so much for joining me.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with Dana Bash starts now.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to a special Fourth of July edition to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off today.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are both in Iowa celebrating Independence Day as their campaigns. And in the last hour, Joe Biden himself argue over the California senator's policy on busing.

And Congressman Justin Amash announces he's leaving the Republican Party and that, quote, modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral. President Trump calls him a loser on the way out.

Plus, new American citizens are being sworn in all across the country today, including right here in Washington. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao shared her personal story at a ceremony she attended with the vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ELAINE CHAO, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Every day I would sit in the classroom, not understanding a word of English, and I would copy everything on the blackboard onto my little notebook. And every night, after a long day of work, my father would come home, sit with me at midnight and translate that day's lesson. And that's how I learned English.

I am here to affirm to you that your sacrifices are worth it. So congratulations on becoming an American citizen.


BASH: We begin this hour on the campaign trail. The 2020 Democratic hopefuls out and ready to show off their patriotic best. Many of the candidates are walking in parades, running 5Ks, hosting breakfasts and swinging by cookouts focusing their Fourth of July energy on early primary and caucus states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

For politically focused voters, like many in Iowa, of course, it's not a hot dogs and apple pie. Joe Biden was caught in a chant war. Listen to this moment from the campaign trail this morning.


CHANTING: 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.

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.


BASH: All that as Biden has struggled all week to talk about last week's Democratic debates. That is where Senator Kamala Harris went directly after him, and his record, ripping him for past opposition to federally mandated school busing to overcome segregation in schools. Now Harris is being asked repeatedly to clarify her own position on busing. Here's her latest answer.


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.


BASH: CNN's Arlette Saenz joins me now from Independence, Iowa, appropriately so.

Now, Arlette, you were just with the vice president. There were a number of reporters. He spoke about a number of issues, including this one. What happened?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Dana, he did. And you've seen this war of words between the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris campaign over the past 24 hours on that issue of busing. And I had the chance to ask the former vice president what he thinks about Senator Harris' explanation on her current position on busing. Take a listen to what he had to tell me just a short while ago after his parade here in Independence.


SAENZ: What have you thought about her explanation about her current positions on busing?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't seen her explanation.

SAENZ: Well, 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. I -- it came out of nowhere. It didn't seem to be something at all consistent with anything I had been accused of before. But I think the end of the day is -- and I'd like to get -- we need to talk about the future. I mean busing is something that 99 percent of the American people don't even know what we're talking about here. But I've always supported voluntary busing, which she was part of. As a matter of fact, when we were president and vice president, we provided money for voluntary busing.


[12:05:24] SAENZ: Now, Biden also said that candidates need to start talking about the future, not issues of the past. He said that he's not bringing up people's previous political positions from 10 or 20 years ago. Of course Joe Biden has a much longer political record than all of the other candidates combined, but he said that the candidates do need to start talking about issues like health care going forward.

And, Dana, I also had the chance to ask Joe Biden about those slipping poll numbers that he's seen from the debates. And he simply told me, I'm still ahead. Dana.

BASH: I watched that live. Thank you so much, Arlette, for asking all the right questions, as always. Appreciate it.

Here with me at the table to share their reporting and their insights, Catherine Lucey with "The Wall Street Journal," Molly Ball with "Time," Shawna Thomas with "Vice News," and CNN's own Phil Mattingly.

Hi, everybody. Happy Fourth.


MOLLY BALL, "TIME": Happy Fourth.

BASH: So before I came on, I called the Harris campaign just to try to get a sense of clarity on this. And the answer that I got was what Harris was doing in the debate was trying to focus on Biden's position during the '60s and '70s when -- when she was a little girl she talked about during the debate. And that the question now -- and she said federally mandated was the way to go, not voluntary, which Biden opposed. The question now is, what is the position currently? And -- which she has answered, as Arlette said to the vice president, it should be one of the tools in the toolbox. I thought it was noteworthy that while Biden said, OK, well, let's not focus on the past, let's focus on the now and the future, he also made a little bit of a dig saying, it is still an issue and it is something we need -- still need to focus on, meaning, she needs to be more clear on her position currently.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So you have clarity on where this all is right now?


MATTINGLY: Because, no, I've been a little bit --

BASH: It's the then versus the now is what --

MATTINGLY: Yes, I think that's the key point, right?

BASH: Is what the campaign is saying.


BASH: And the question is whether that's coming through.

MATTINGLY: Right. And I think the confusion right now, particularly given Senator Harris' answer yesterday and where Joe Biden has been on this based on from -- his campaign and as he's put it is that they seem very much in line about the now. And I think what the Harris campaign has been saying, I think probably what they told you, is that what they were talking about was the then.

BASH: Exactly. MATTINGLY: And you can't run away -- even if you want to talk about

that this is about the future, even if you want to talk about that it's time for people to think about things moving forward, when you have a 40 or 50-year congressional record, people are going to look back on those votes, particularly given the fact that not just where the party, where the country is now is in such a different place from where it was then. And even if you have evolved, even if you have changed, you took those positions and what does that mean about you as a candidate. That seems to me to be where things are. But, again, I've been lost multiple times over the course of this debate.

SHAWNA THOMAS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "VICE NEWS": And also -- also the former vice president's answer, like, it does make sense. He wants to move on. He wants to try to move on.

BASH: Yes.

THOMAS: But, sorry, you're not going to totally be able to move on if you're the guy who's running on the fact that I have lots of experience. And some of that experience from the past means that I have to answer for a couple of things, but some of that experience are things I can run on, like the Violence Against Women Act. He's not going to be able to divorce that and she's not going to stop this -- this attack to try to define each other.

The thing is we have 24 or 25 candidates, some of which are viable, some of which are not. This is where we are in this debate. This is where we are in the campaign. They have to figure out how to differentiate themselves.

And the one thing the debate did that I have to admit I didn't really actually (INAUDIBLE) ago, I don't know, all time runs together, is there were differentiations. There were like the health care questions --

LUCEY: Oh, yes.

THOMAS: Where I was like, oh, there -- there is something to talk about. Talking about race and how you handle it, which is really what this busing thing is a proxy for, is something that is going to differentiate people.

LUCEY: And this also --

BALL: Well, and --

LUCEY: I was going to say, this comes in -- as they're both talking in Iowa, they're both out there campaigning. I think one thing to note, the backdrop for this is Harris has been rising in the polls since those debates and the latest Iowa poll that I saw out this week showed that when you took people's first and second choices in Iowa, Biden and Harris were like virtually tied or very, very close. So she's getting a lot of momentum here and -- which is part of the reason the Biden campaign would -- would like to turn the corner on this.

BASH: Go ahead. BALL: But with momentum comes attention. And that answer that she gave, it may be technically, logically consistent, but it's very tortured, right? And just as I think Shawna's exactly right, Biden can't run away from his record if he's going to run on his record. She also can't run away from this issue when she's the one who brought it up.

BASH: Tortured -- tortured meaning she -- she said that I'm for back then but it's -- she's not clear on how (INAUDIBLE) --

BALL: She's -- and now she (INAUDIBLE) attacked him for his position in the past, but she's saying she takes basically the same position as he does now, even though many studies show that segregation in American schools is worse now than it was then, and a big part of the reason is the end of mandatory busing. So if she wants to bring up this issue as an issue of racial justice and talk about what's needed to desegregate America's schools, she needs to have a position that is clear and consistent, especially if she wants to attack other candidates on it.

[12:10:20] THOMAS: Or she has to know -- or she has to know how to pivot real fast to what you're talking about. Like, what are we talking about now? How do we desegregate schools? What does that mean for people?

BASH: So -- so there was somebody else you talked about things changing a little bit in the -- in the way that the field is. Elizabeth Warren is also out on the campaign trail this week and our MJ Lee asked her about this issue that's swirling between her two opponents.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is important that on an issue of this magnitude that everyone makes their positions clear.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But do you think this is the way for the two camps to --

WARREN: You know, they started engaging in a very public forum last week and, obviously, haven't reached a resolution on it. This is one way that folks talk to each other. Me, I'm here to talk about why I'm running for president.


LUCEY: For the course --

BASH: You know, she's often so direct but sometimes when she's not, it says more than -- you know, you don't have to read too far between the lines there.

THOMAS: No, you definitely don't that she's like, perhaps this is not an issue I will take on unless someone directly asks me about it. And I think that's one of these -- in -- I like MJ Lee a lot, but I think the question of, what do you think about what the other candidates are doing is so easy for a candidate to just be like, oh, that's their problem. Let me talk about this.

BASH: But I think she did answer it. I think she did answer it. I think she basically said Kamala Harris has to tell us what her -- what her position is.

THOMAS: I mean --

LUCEY: It's also interesting though -- I mean we saw in the debates that the -- with the groupings, Warren was able, in her -- her half of the -- of the field to really sort of stick to her policy positions --

BASH: Yes.

LUCEY: Stay above the fray. Stay (INAUDIBLE) what she's doing here.

THOMAS: But no one came after her really in that way.

LUCEY: But, I was going to say, but we have more debates coming up.

BASH: That's true.

THOMAS: Right.

LUCEY: And the new groupings.

BASH: Because, you know who they all did go after? We know, Joe Biden. And he -- when you talk to reporters just within the last hour, he was asked about that and a few other things. I want you to listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The last thing, as Barack said, we need to have him be -- have a circular firing squad.

I'm not following anyone else's rules. I'm following my rules.

I'm the guy everybody's talking about. You know, I mean like if somehow -- anyway --

QUESTION: What do you make of the polls where you've been dropping since that debate performance? And what do you say to the people --

BIDEN: I'm still way ahead.

QUESTION: But what do you say to the people who --

BIDEN: It's all right (ph).


BASH: They're following my rules. That's a really telling statement.

MATTINGLY: Well, I also don't think that people are following his rules. I think people are campaigning in a very different manner than he is and that's why there's been some concern that perhaps even though he's been so up in front, as polls have started to drop and more candidates have started to catch fire, that maybe his rules aren't necessarily effective given where things stand right now.

But, he's right, he's the one that everybody's talking about. I also appreciate --

BASH: That's, I think, what he meant, yes.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I also appreciate that he and J. Mart coordinated their polo shirts.

BASH: Yes.

MATTINGLY: I mean that frame of the show, Jonathan Martin.

BASH: Because you know J. Mart is all about wardrobe. So I'm sure he did that on purpose.

MATTINGLY: He's (INAUDIBLE) fashion and (INAUDIBLE). But he's in that role. He's going to be the one that's going to be attacked.

BASH: Yes.

MATTINGLY: And you can say we shouldn't have a food fight. This -- as Shawna made the point earlier, this is the reality. People have to differentiate themselves. Whether it's a big field or a small field, and they're going to do that. And when he's the top guy, he's the one who's going to be taking the hits.

BALL: But the thing is, if you -- I totally agree, but if you want to stay in that frontrunner position and be above the fray, you have to look that way, even when you're surrounded by other candidates. And I think the problem for Biden in that Warren -- in that Harris/Biden exchange during the debate wasn't even so much his position as his inability to explain it in a clear way. Because what people, I think, his supporters worry about is, does this look like a candidate who is -- who is vigorous enough, who is energetic enough, who is quick on his feet enough that we still believe that he's the best person to take on Donald Trump, since that's such a huge part of his appeal to do many Democratic voters.

LUCEY: He has the (INAUDIBLE) in the polls.

BASH: Well, luckily we have an -- yes. And luckily we have an example of where we're going to be able to test that, and that is right here on CNN, because tomorrow we have a CNN exclusive, and that is Democratic frontrunner -- you see him right there, we've just been talking about it -- Joe Biden with his wife, Jill, are going to sit down with our colleague, Chris Cuomo. This interview airs tomorrow morning right here on CNN.

And up next, the Trump administration's reversal on the census question. How they're handling it now.

But, first, another Joe who's running for president gets a warm welcome on the campaign trail today.

[12:14:32] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe! Vote for Joe!



BASH: President Trump's first tweet for the July 4th holiday acknowledged government employees don't all get the day off. Largely in the case he's talking about, it's because he reversed his own administration's decision in the last 24 hours on the 2020 census. Here's what the president tweeted today. So important for our country that the very simple and basic, are you a citizen of the United States question be allowed to be asked in the 2020 census. Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice are working very hard on this, even on the Fourth of July.

Where are we now? The DOJ has until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow to give Maryland federal judge clarification on what is happening. Are they still printing census forms and moving on, like the administration said on Tuesday, or is the plan now to move forward with the citizenship question?

[12:20:03] CNN's Ariane de Vogue joins our conversation.

And because this is so confusing, because the questions and the answers are changing almost hourly, I just want to put up on the screen a little bit of the timeline of the zigzag.

OK, Tuesday, DOJ spokesman and the Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, said explicitly the census has started the process of printing without the question, meaning without the question of citizenship. Wednesday morning, yesterday morning, the president says, we are absolutely moving forward, meaning adding the citizenship question.

So, because of that, there was an emergency call yesterday with a federal judge in Maryland, and members of the Department of Justice, where you had a couple of mind-blowing quotes from the president's own Department of Justice, people working on this.

Joshua Gardner, the tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the president's position. I am doing my absolute best to figure out what's going on.

Then DOJ Assistant AG Joseph Hunt. If we continue to examine the Supreme Court decision and believe that we have a viable path forward to that work, our current plan will be to file a motion in the Supreme Court. As Mr. Gardner said, it's very fluid at present.

That's a Trump nominee. The first one is a career person.

I mean this is so extraordinary. I know we say the word "extraordinary" so many times in the Trump era, but this is remarkable that you have a Justice Department official, the day before a holiday, basically telling a federal judge, come on, dude, like help me out here, I'm doing my best. I was just told to reverse this decision again by the president of the United States by tweet.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. And it's a remarkable reversal, right, because, as you said, the DOJ goes in, says something, and then the president tweets, well that's fake news. He's saying that what his Department of Justice told a judge is fake news. And then the judge says, I'm on Twitter. How often do you see that? I'm on Twitter. I follow the president. And, excuse me, the thing that you are saying -- or the president is saying here is exactly contrary to what you've been telling me. What is going on?

BASH: All right, so, Ariane, I wanted to bring everybody up to speed. You have some new reporting.

DE VOGUE: Right. So I -- first of all, the president signed off on the first hearing. He signed off on what the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce said. And then he got --

BASH: Meaning -- meaning he signed off on going ahead with printing the census --

DE VOGUE: Right.

BASH: Without the citizenship question.

DE VOGUE: Yes, he would -- they wouldn't --

BASH: That's key. He signed off on it.

DE VOGUE: Barr wouldn't have sent anybody in there to say that without the president signing off.

BASH: OK. Go ahead.

DE VOGUE: The president did sign off on it and then decided on this reversal. And top DOJ officials knew about it slightly before the tweet, but some of the others didn't. And so this judge basically is saying, tell -- you go back to the drawing board, figure out what's going on and report back to me.

And I've also known today they're all working behind the scenes and there are some options on the table that they're dealing with to do this path forward. One is an executive order. That's pretty fraught. It would go right to the Supreme Court. It would be very legally complicated. I had one government official said at this point that's not realistic.

Another thing, OK, maybe do an addendum, some kind of supplement after the fact. That's a little troublesome. Or maybe go back to the Supreme Court with some kind of motion to reconsider. Basically I talked to somebody who said, you know, it's not unethical or crazy for them to look at this issue a little bit harder. But when you look at the hurdles before them, having to do with deadlines, possible injunctions and everything else, they might, at the end of the day, come to the conclusion that resources could be better spent.

BASH: Because it is in the Constitution that the census must go forward every ten years, and that deadline, as you're talking about, is approaching.


BASH: So let's just go back to the heart of this. This is a big fight over something that has never been in the census before, which is the citizenship question. I want to go back to Monday --

DE VOGUE: Hasn't been for several years, but it was --

BASH: Yes, thank you. Thank you.

To Monday, when the president was asked about this at the White House. And here was his explanation.


QUESTION: Why do you think it's so important that that question be asked on the census?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's very important to find out if somebody's a citizen as opposed to an illegal. I think that -- it's big difference to me between being a citizen of the United States and being an illegal.


BASH: So that's at the heart of it. A lot of his opponents say, I mean, come on, you're trying to, you know, kind of diminish the notion of the Latino vote, the Latino population.

But let's just get back to the reversal. It's probably not a coincidence that conservatives went bananas saying that the president caved and that's when he changed. We've seen that before.

MATTINGLY: Many times. Many times. And I think that's -- it's what differentiates this president perhaps from others is the ability for headlines or certain talking heads or certain people on television to have a very distinct effect on the decision-making that he has. It's also a very kind of clear path for this president to kind of tweet something and then the government has to come in behind him and actually figure out what it was. You can go through the lines, whether it's troop withdrawals, whether it's a new health care plan, whether it's a 10 percent tax cut that nobody knew about that he announced that apparently existed --

[12:25:23] BASH: Transgender ban.

MATTINGLY: Transgender ban, all of these things that he tweets and then the government has to figure out -- and lawmakers have to figure out how to make it a reality.

I think what's been so much -- so interesting about this case is you could see it in real-time. That transcript is amazing and, frankly, reflects what a lot of us go through when editors call us and they're like, what does he mean about this tweet? Like, I don't know.

LUCEY: (INAUDIBLE) like some days we call Joshua (ph).


I also need to call people and figure out what's going on. But I think this was kind of laid out in black and white what the reality has been at times in this administration. It's complicated, particularly for career folks. It's complicated for his politicals. And I think it's complicated when you're in a legal fight and judges matter a lot here and don't necessarily take too kindly to all of this.

LUCEY: This reminded me a little bit of, back in December, when there were indications that they were going to continue to fund the government and, in the last minute, he decided to go into the shutdown. And you remember, in that case, there was a lot of pushback from conservative commentators on TV. He heard from a lot of people. And so I'm sure part of this --

BASH: That's a great point.

LUCEY: Also is, you know, that there were a lot of headlines right after this. You know, the president -- you know, this is a reversal for the administration. I also think that for the president and his allies, the longer they -- the longer they keep this fight going, whatever the outcome, they see as a positive.

BASH: It's politically positive.

LUCEY: Yes, it keeps -- it keeps this going. It keeps it out there. And there's some thought that even if it's ultimately on the census, it -- this could have a chilling effect, the conversation alone.

BASH: OK, we have -- we have to take a quick break. Sorry. We'll get to you, Shawna, in the next segment.

I will say that so far you have the quote of the day, we are all Joshua Gardner.

OK, up next, one Republican congressman decides to jump the party ship and declare his independence on this July 4th holiday. Republicans might not be thrilled, but this guy sure is.


SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): My first reaction is, hooray, my caucus just grew by 30 percent in Congress.