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Trump Administration Will Seek Ways To Add Citizenship Question On Census; Exclusive Interview With Former Vice President Joe Biden; Aired: 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 5, 2019 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM on this holiday week. You will hear our exclusive interview with Joe Biden in just a moment.

But I have to start with a breaking development that's first on CNN about an issue that could impact the way Congress allocates money for generations to come, that is whether the 2020 Census will ask people if they are a U.S. citizen.

The deadline is hitting right now for the Trump administration to submit its plans to the court on how it will proceed after a week of reversals and confusion. An administration official says lawyers will tell the judge the census for now will continue printing without asking that question on citizenship.

But it is a big one -- the but is the big one here that the Trump administration will continue to look into options to add it. And that echoes what the President said just a short while ago, which you will hear in just a moment.

But first, let me back up. This is how we got here. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court shot down the notion of adding that question, slamming the Commerce Department's reasoning saying that quote, "Judicial review must demand something better than the explanation offered." That's a quote.

So then on Tuesday, when you had the Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross capitulate announcing that the census would not include this question. However, the next day, the third of July, the President sent lawyers scrambling when he tweeted that he was not dropping the request to add this citizenship question. And that brings us to the President and today.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just spoke with the Attorney General, we have a number of different avenues. We could use all of them or one. We're doing very well on that issue. We're spending $15 billion to $20 billion on a census. We're doing everything. We're finding out everything about everybody.

Think of it $15 billion to $20 billion, and you're not allowed to ask them, "Are you a citizen?" And by the way, if you look at the history of our country, it's almost always been asked, so we're looking -- we are fighting hard against the system. That's a very difficult system. But we'll make a decision. The Attorney General is working on that right now.


BALDWIN: And our own Kaitlan Collins was there in that crowd of reporters shouting questions at the President. And so the President laid out, he said a few options here to all of this. What are those options?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he said he had several broke, but he didn't go into detail what those options could look like. But essentially, he did confirm that what we've been reporting behind the scenes, one thing they are looking at is potentially doing an executive order. And here's essentially what the President's thinking on that was.


COLLINS: Are you going to issue an executive order on the census?

TRUMP: We're thinking about doing that. It's one of the ways. We have four or five ways we can do it. It's one of the ways that we're thinking about doing it very seriously. We're doing well on the census. We could also add an addition one so we can start the printing now and maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision.


COLLINS: So you see there, Brooke, he is saying, yes, we are looking at this executive order. But there's not a lot of detail about how this would work. And it seems that that's still unclear, because we know behind the scenes, officials have been working on this scrapping their holiday plans because they had to work on this after the President suddenly reversed course from what the Justice Department lawyers had said earlier this week.

Another interesting dynamic here is we have reported behind the scenes that the President has been frustrated with the Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, because he doesn't like the way he has handled this, because of course, that is what Chief Justice John Roberts said was essentially, this argument -- the administration needed to make their argument better.

I asked the President if Wilbur Ross's job is safe? He said, yes, it is. He's a good man. But he said just noting that the Supreme Court did not like whatever Wilbur Ross's reasoning was for adding the citizenship question to the census. But it does sound like the President even though he is complaining about him behind the scenes says he does have confidence in him.

BALDWIN: Okay, Kaitlan, thank you very much. Let's have a bigger conversation on all of this. With me now, Sara Murray. She is our CNN political correspondent; Michael Zeldin is here, our CNN legal analyst and a former Federal prosecutor.

And so just on the law of all of this, Michael, you know, whether -- the notion of having this addendum like printing now, having this agenda of the question later or an executive order, this is of course, just all after the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Is that constitutional?

MICHAEAL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, yes, if the court says it is. What we have to remember is what the court was asked to decide was litigation that was begun in April of 2018, where the Commerce Department said they are adding a citizenship question to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

That was litigated. It was deemed by the plaintiffs to be a pretext. And the Supreme Court said that the argument that the Congress Department put forth and the DOJ put forth was contrived, and so it left in place this injunction against including that citizenship question on the census, but gave the administration the right to go back to court to see if they can come up with a non-contrived answer. And they had that answer do essentially now in the Maryland court.

So we'll see if they can come up with a rationale that the court says is acceptable constitutionally. So far, in the last year and a bit, they have not been able to convince a court that their reasoning is constitutionally based, as opposed to discriminatorily intended.


BALDWIN: Let's back up five -- five steps. Sara Murray, why is -- why is this even news? This notion of this citizenship question, why is this significant, especially for the President?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it's significant for a lot of things. I mean, one that the question is important, because if it's added to the census experts, including, you know, the scientists at the census believe that it's going to depress response rates, that it's going to scare, especially Latino families from responding. It's going to scare any household with immigrants in it from responding, even if they're immigrants, who are in the United States legally, and that has big repercussions for how we allocate Federal dollars, it has repercussions for how different congressional seats are apportioned to the various states.

But the reason we're dealing with this now is because there was this agreement among the Trump administration after the Supreme Court decision, "Okay, we are going to start printing the census without the citizenship question." You know, we've run out of time, essentially, the Supreme Court has spoken, we need to move forward.

And then President Trump essentially changed his mind and said, "Look, I don't want to give up this fight that easily. Go back to the drawing board, figure out what our additional options are to try to push this forward." But, you know, Brooke, they are on a very tight timeline here. And the folks at the Census have said, "Look, if we continue to push this forward, if we wait until that sort of the drop dead moment, which will be October, we're going to have to take dramatic steps and spend a lot of resources to make sure that people actually respond to this in time, and that we get good data for these purposes."

BALDWIN: Perfectly explained, and I think part of that confusion, and I know we were talking about an earthquake this time yesterday, so this fell by the wayside for us, but I want to bring this point back up, Michael, to you.

This Justice Department lawyer was clearly caught off guard by this whole thing when the President tweeted while making this argument in court, let me just quote this this DOJ lawyer, "The tweet this morning ..." being the President's tweet, "The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the President's position on this issue, just like the plaintiffs and Your Honor. I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the President has tweeted. I am doing my absolute best to figure out what is going on." Have you ever seen that?

ZELDIN: No, generally speaking, when the Justice Department makes a decision, as they did in this case that they have no viable legal basis for including the citizenship question in light of the litigation in the Supreme Court decision; that is the decision.

It's rare that a decision is made and announced that isn't accepted previously by the President. But in this case, the President makes up his own mind when he wants to make it up and he is not to, you know, averse to changing his mind as he wants.

BALDWIN: But when you heard -- when you heard the President -- sorry to jump in, but when you heard the President earlier today, saying, you know, I respect the Chief Justice, but come on back. And let me add to that we just got this in, this is from the DOJ telling the Federal judge in Maryland, here's a quote, "In the event, the Congress Department adopts a new rationale for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Census consistent with the decisions of the Supreme Court, the government will immediately notify this court so that it can determine whether there is any need for further proceedings or relief, but proceeding to discovery now in connection with a new decision that has not yet been made would be premature, it would be also extremely inefficient." To just turn that quote around for you in real time, Michael, so translate that for us, please.

ZELDIN: What they're trying to say is we're trying to come up with a new explanation, which if on its face, it is sufficient, we don't think, you, the court, need to engage in full discovery in our trial that's about to take place, but rather, where you can just decide on the merits that our argument is sufficient, and send it back up to the Supreme Court for them to decide whether that new argument is no longer contrived and meets constitutional muster.

So they're trying to avoid discovery, in this case, where they wanted to take the deposition of Wilbur Ross, but that didn't get taken, and now they want to do that.

And so what the government is trying to do is avoid that. And just get this back in the Supreme Court and say, "Here's our new argument, does it pass muster?"

BALDWIN: And on Wilbur Ross, Sara, I mean, all the mixed messaging and we heard a second ago from Kaitlan saying, you know, the President essentially saying he has confidence in his Commerce Secretary, but I mean, might we be on Commerce Secretary job watch? What do you think?

MURRAY: Well, look, I mean, there's no doubt, the President is frustrated with Wilbur Ross. He has been frustrated with Wilbur Ross at various other points during this administration and my colleague, Kevin Liptak over at the White House has some great new reporting on this today that says, you know, this sort of like early backing down that Wilbur Ross portrayed by putting up that statement that didn't sit very well with President Trump.

You know, no surprise, Trump is someone who likes to fight out an issue until the bitter end, but sources are telling Kevin Liptack that at least for now, Wilbur Ross, his job looks safe. I mean, Brooke, you could see just by the way this Census drama played out and how frequently and quickly the President can change his mind.


[14:10:07] MURRAY: So you know, if I were Wilbur Ross, I would I would still be a little bit concerned.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Sara Murray. Thank you very much. Michael Zeldin, great to see you. The President did not stop just there. He launches into an attack on Vice President Joe Biden after the Democratic front runner calls him a bully.

Biden called out Trump in an exclusive CNN interview. We will play part of his conversation with Chris Cuomo next.

And later, the sexual assault civil lawsuit against former "House of Cards" star Kevin Spacey has suddenly been dropped. Why the man who accused Spacey did that, ahead. You're watching CNN on this Fifth of July. We'll be right back.


[14:15:40] BALDWIN: Welcome back, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Just in to us, Senator Kamala Harris announced she raised nearly $12 million in the second quarter of this year. That is half of top fundraiser Pete Buttigieg who hauled in at $24.8 million, and behind the other top tier Democrats, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders who had $21.5 million and $18 million, respectively.

Joe Biden sat down for this wide ranging interview with my colleague, Chris Cuomo, and they talked about everything from his vision for this country, to why contrary to what his critics say, Biden thinks his policies are right in step with the Democratic Party of today.

Here now is the former Vice President in an interview you will only see on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You versus the rest of the field on the

economy, they're all going big -- 70 percent tax rates, free college, re-architecture of the economy, a forgiving debt for college, which happens to be the biggest asset on the American government's balance sheet. You do not believe in those things?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe in the way they're doing that. For example, I think there should be healthcare for everyone. I have a plan how to do that. That's rational. It will cost a hell of a lot less and will work. In terms of the --

CUOMO: Too incremental?

BIDEN: No, it's not incremental. No.

CUOMO: Would you bring back the individual mandate?

BIDEN: Pardon me?

CUOMO: Would you bring back the individual mandate?

BIDEN: Yes, I would bring back the individual mandate.

CUOMO: Do you think that would be popular?

BIDEN: Yes. Now, it would be compared to what's being offered.

And here's the deal, Chris. We're in a situation where if you provide an option for anybody who, in fact, wants to buy into Medicare-for- All, they can buy in. They buy in and they can do it. But if they like their employer-based insurance, which a lot of unions broke their neck to get and a lot of people like them, they shouldn't have to give it up.

The flip of that is, if you don't go my way and you go their way, you have to give up all of that.

And what's going to happen when you have 300 million people landing on a healthcare plan? How long is that going to take? What's it going to do? And in the meantime, a lot of people are going to be in trouble.

In terms of the economy, Chris, I've been proposing for a long time and I -- look, I know I'm Middle Class Joe, I get that part. It's not meant I'm sophisticated. It meant, I'm -- you know, the middle class built this country. You didn't have Wall Street build this country. And how did they do it? You gave people a chance. We allowed them to maintain their dignity.

And how did they do it? How can you have dignity without having healthcare? How can you have dignity without having access to an education? How can you have dignity unless you can live in a neighborhood that's not fouled by the environment and what's going on?

CUOMO: How do you convince the party that these more advanced ideas, like all in on Medicare-for-All, that matter to them -- BIDEN: I'm not calling it advanced.

CUOMO: But they're popular in the party.

BIDEN: Well, by the way, watch. That's what this election is about. I'm really -- I'm happy to debate that issue and all those issues with my friends. Because guess what? Again, look who won the races? Look who won last time out. We have -- and by the way, I think Ocasio- Cortez is a brilliant, bright woman, but she won the primary.

In the general election fights, who won? Mainstream Democrats who are very progressive on social issues and very strong on education, healthcare.

Look, my north star is the middle class. When the middle class does well, everybody does well.

CUOMO: How do you do better for them, economically, if not with these 70 percent tax rates?

BIDEN: Well, three things, one, I do raise the tax rate to 39.5 percent. I do, in fact, eliminate the ability for them to write-off capital gains the way to do now. I would raise the -- and raise billions of dollars, raise the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 28 percent. It was 36 to 28 percent. I'd raise billions of dollars.

CUOMO: Trump will say, but that's what brought the economy up to where it is, is those tax cuts.

BIDEN: Ask these people who work in this restaurant how that economy came up for them. Ask them how good they feel about it. Ask them how the stock market is really helping. Ask how driving $2 trillion greater in debt has done anything for them?

CUOMO: On healthcare, do you believe that undocumented people should have healthcare in this country?

BIDEN: I think undocumented people need to have a means by which they can be covered when they're sick. And so the idea is that's what I think we should be doing, by building more clinics around the country not just for the undocumented but for other people, when they're ill, when they're sick.

People need -- this is just common decency. You're not going to let somebody --

CUOMO: It's unpopular.

BIDEN: Well, I know it is.

[14:20:06] CUOMO: Well over 50 percent of people polled say, undocumented people here should not have healthcare on our dime.

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you something. In an emergency, they should have healthcare. Everybody should, anybody here in the country. How do you say, "You're undocumented. We'll let you die, man?" What are you going to do?

I mean, the idea that -- you know, I hear this stuff about how they're killing Social Security, et cetera. Those who have jobs, guess what? They've increased the lifespan of Social Security by close to a dozen years.

I mean, we got this -- this is part of what Trump is playing on. He's playing --

CUOMO: It works for him, this issue, the idea of law and order versus a left that seems like it is open borders because it means it's lawless. You have people who are running close to you now who are saying, decriminalize coming into the country illegally. Do you believe that should be decriminalized?

BIDEN: No, I don't. No, I don't. I think people should have to get in line. But if people are coming because they're actually seeking asylum, they should have a chance to make their case.

I would be surging, as we did, and Barack and I did, surging folks to the border to make those concrete decisions.

Look, the other thing, Chris, is why are they coming? The reason a vast majority of these people are coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is because they're in trouble. Crime rates are high, education is terrible. In Guatemala, you can't turn on a light switch and have them on.

And so, what do we do? I've put together a $74 million program with Republicans, I might add, at the very end and say, we'll make a deal with you. You do the follow things to make your country better so people don't leave, and we will help you do that, just like we did in Colombia.

What did we do in Colombia? We went down and said, okay, and I was one of the architects of Plan Colombia. I said, here's the deal. If you have all these crooked cops, all of these Federal police, we're sending our F.B.I. down, you let us put them through a lie detector test, let us tell you who you should fire and tell you the kind of people you should hire. They did and began to change. We can do so much if we're committed.

CUOMO: What do you say to the people in party right now when polled who say, "Yes, I like Joe Biden, but I think his ideas are the old ideas. The new ideas, I see a Warren, I see a Sanders, I see a Harris." You poll lower than them.

BIDEN: I have not seen that.

CUOMO: You poll lower than them on ideas for the future. What do you say to them?

BIDEN: I say to them, take a look at my ideas. Take a look at my ideas. I haven't seen those polls. I haven't seen where people say -- what I've seen around the country is the vast majority of Democrats where I am on the issues. We've got to be aggressive. And they are big ideas, the big idea on education, on healthcare, on

dealing with the environment. I mean, it's just -- I love how, you know, all of a sudden, I wish I had been labeled as moderate when I was running in Delaware back in the days when it was --

CUOMO: Eighty percent of your party says it's center-left.

BIDEN: No, I am center left.

CUOMO: You know, farther left is getting more attention. It's getting amplified. It's a disconnect.

BIDEN: Look, it's center-left, that's where I am. Where it's not is way left. Now, look, but that's what we can find out. That's what this debate is about.

CUOMO: Do you think you need, if you went the nomination, to have a female VP?

BIDEN: I think it'd be great to have a female VP and if I don't win, it would be great to have a female President. But the question is whose issues are best prepared in their wheel house that have demonstrated they know deal with them?

CUOMO: Would you consider not having a woman as a VP?

BIDEN: Look, here's the first thing about being a VP. I've learned, and that is in today's environment there's so much a President has on his or her plate, they need someone they completely trust, that they're simpatico with, have the same approach, political approach, and you can delegate significant authority.

The President, when he delegated authority to me, from the moon shot to Ukraine, he gave me the authority to make decisions because he knew I knew where he was, he knew that I knew something about it and he knew we were simpatico. And so that's what I'm looking for.

CUOMO: Do you think a Democrat ticket can win without a woman in one of the two slots?

BIDEN: Yes. Well, the answer is yes, but I don't think that -- I think it helps having a woman on the ticket and there's a lot of really qualified women out there.

CUOMO: Is Kamala Harris, assuming she doesn't win outright, is she still somebody you would consider a running mate?

BIDEN: Look, one of the things I'm not going to into because it got news before is when I was asked -- I don't even have the nomination and I'm presuming who I might pick as the Vice President. That's easily flipped on me in saying, well, Biden is being arrogant. Biden thinks I'll have him as my Vice President. So I'm not going to comment on any individual.

A woman came up to me. I guess it was, I don't know, a month ago, I guess, I was in New Hampshire, said -- CUOMO: All right, I'm almost done.

[14:25:04] BIDEN: Why shouldn't I vote for a woman? And I said, you should, if you think that person is most qualified at the moment right now to deal with our problems. Well, I'm not suggesting you vote for a woman.

Look, I have spent my career from writing the Violence Against Women Act before that to say, my daughters and granddaughters can do anything, and I mean anything, anything that a man can do, anything. And so I don't have a doubt in my mind.

And if I started naming some of the people around the country, women who are not running for President as well, who are fully qualified to be Vice President, again, with these awful presumptions, man, awful presumption. So there's a lot of really qualified women out there.

CUOMO: In terms of the last question, in terms of what we haven't seen from Joe Biden yet, I remember your -- hey, Jill, last question. Last question, I promise. Okay.

BIDEN: Okay, I will be there in a second.

CUOMO: Last question I promise. The last thing I remember talking to him about politically with you, Beau, was you know, what is the quality, you know, because he was asking me about what do you take from your father and this, what your take? Beau Biden said to me, "Nobody fights like my father." What does that mean to you, to fight harder than anybody else?

BIDEN: It means two things. One, to fight without being personal, to fight and convince. The role of a President is to persuade, persuade, not just go out and fight. If they want someone to clench fists, bare-knuckled fight, closed hand, closed heart, they've got one of those guys right now. That's not me. I have been pretty good bringing people together.

The whole idea of America is that when we're together, there's not a damn thing we can't do. And it's -- look, the most incredible response I always get for the last three years is when I talk about how optimistic am I about the future. People know it. They feel it. They know it. They understand it. And we can't stay in this state.

What are we going to do? What are we going to do if we can't get along better? And part of it is persuasion.

And people looking at you say, I know what he means, he'll stay with what he says and he'll do what he says he's going to do. And I think that's part of leading. We'll soon find out.

CUOMO: Thank you for the time.


BALDWIN: So lots to discuss. How does the 2020 Democratic front runner stay ahead of the pack and appeal to the leftward tilt of the party? We will discuss, next.