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Gulf Coast Braces for Storm; Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R-LA) is Interviewed about Storm Preparations; Biden Foreign Policy Speech; Buttigieg Unveils Racial Justice Plan; Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is Interviewed about ICE Deportations, Nancy Pelosi, and Alex Acosta. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 11, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Justice Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. Just a shout-out to one of our guests here, Carl Hulse, and his new book, "Confirmation Bias: Inside Washington's War over the Supreme Court, from Scalia's Death to Justice Kavanaugh." You see it right there. Come on the show some day. Carl will sign it for you. Just barge in when he's here.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Don't go anywhere. Brianna Keilar starts RIGHT NOW.

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

Underway right now, all eyes on the Gulf and the levees in New Orleans as millions brace for a storm that could make landfall as a hurricane.

Fears rise in cities across America as the Trump administration gets ready to carry out raids on undocumented families.

And the president expected to take executive action to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census. He's setting up a fight he likely can't win, but he's hoping his base catches him trying.

Plus, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is suggesting Speaker Nancy Pelosi is singling out Democratic women of color.

Also, a Republican politician won't let a female reporter cover his campaign unless she has a male chaperone.

We begin with Louisiana's state of emergency and the millions of people threatened by Tropical Storm Barry. Storm surge, hurricane- force winds and up to 15 inches of rain are forecast across the state when this makes landfall. Officials there are preparing for worst-case scenarios. Some local parish presidents have already issued mandatory evacuation orders.

Let's get to CNN correspondent Natasha Chen. She is live for us in New Orleans.

What is the greatest concern with this storm, Natasha? NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, right now it's that

rain risk that we're talking about, 10 to 15 inches through Sunday. And right now we're expecting the Mississippi River to rise to about 19 feet. It's currently at about 16 feet.

We're on a levee right now. So you can see the problem is that we have an unprecedented combination here. This year we've already seen record high flooding causing the river to rise and so then add on top of that a tropical storm, that's what officials are really monitoring right now. The good news is that it's not expected to come over the levee here.

Now, over there we see a flood gate that was just closed in the last few minutes. We saw a crew from the Flood Protection Authority. That's what's been happening all along the river. They are closing dozens of those flood gates in preparation.

The mayor of New Orleans says that the pumps in the city are all working optimally, but the city can't just pump its way out of this one. And so the mayor is telling people to shelter in place.

We also know, of course, that several areas here, including the state wide -- there's a state of emergency. The city hall was closed yesterday and remains closed today and tomorrow. So really telling people to start preparing, especially those places that have declared mandatory evacuation with a couple of other parishes calling for voluntary evacuation.

And we're seeing people take those warnings. They are sandbagging in certain areas. So we're going to watch and see, despite the fact that it's very dry right now, some of that heavier rain and winds will start to pick up tomorrow afternoon, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Natasha Chen, thank you so much for that report from New Orleans.

Louisiana Senator John Kennedy says he's worried about potential loss of life with this storm. Here's what he told our international correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): The most important things in life are not things, they're people. That's my worry. People -- if you're told to evacuate, don't question it. I know it's inconvenient. Leave. Get out now.


KEILAR: All right, so we are watching, of course, the levees there. Also the pumps are an issue. Perhaps as you heard Natasha Chen explaining that you can't just pump your way out of this. There's already been some weather in the area and they are watching this very carefully, as you see the storm that is tracking here on the screen expected to reach hurricane strength when it makes landfall.

I want to get now to Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. He's in New Orleans for us.

Lieutenant Governor, your state has had extremely high water levels from record flooding this year on the Mississippi River. Now you have this tropical storm that's moving in, could be a hurricane. Are you confident that these levees, that these flood gates can hold up?

LT. GOV. BILLY NUNGESSER (R-LA): Well, as it's projected now, we feel very confident. But, as you know, if this storm does a stall and intensify and was able to slow the water or push water up the Mississippi River, we saw that before with a category one, you can't take a slow-moving storm if it stalls that water in the river, and especially with the flow we have in the high river now. So this is something we've never seen, this high a river this late -- this early in the season with a storm in the Gulf.

[13:05:00] KEILAR: What are you doing, what are you prepared for if a levee or a levees break, if a flood gate fails, if pumps fail?

NUNGESSER: Well, the governor and the homeland security, they have positioned sandbags and we'll be ready to move. But if the levee was to fail, this water flowing into a community would be devastating to that community. We're hoping that the levees hold and that that storm moves through quickly and does not bring this water over the levees.

In Plaquemines Parish they're really concerned. In many areas that doesn't have 100-year protection. Obviously those are the -- the concerned areas where this water is extremely high this time of year.

KEILAR: And how all are you advising people to prepare from this storm? We -- obviously very good advice coming from Senator Kennedy, which is, if you need to evacuate, you have to leave. Life is so important there.

NUNGESSER: Well, absolutely. You know, you always want to take the best-case scenario, hope for the best -- prepare for the worst and hope for the best. But when you're dealing with this high a river, with a storm this early in the season that we haven't seen before, and the unprecedented inches of rainfall, if you're in low-lying areas or areas where you don't have 100-year protection, the advice is to get out if you've got somewhere to go. It's better to be safe than sorry.

KEILAR: All right, Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, thank you for joining us. We certainly are watching your city and hoping for the best.

NUNGESSER: Thank you.

KEILAR: So to the campaign trail now, and any moment former Vice President Joe Biden will deliver what his campaign is billing as a major foreign policy speech. He's expected to specifically take aim at President Trump's strained relationships with American allies and his friendly embrace of authoritarian leaders like North Korea's Kim Jong- un.

Biden's plan includes rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, rejoining the Iran nuclear deal. He's also going to call for a summit of the world's democracies to discuss responsible leadership.

Biden would also end the Trump administration's family separation policy. He would get rid of the global gag rule on abortions and he would bring back the daily briefings at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department.

Let's get now to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's with the Biden campaign in New York.

Tell us why he's doing this now, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, there's no question that Joe Biden wants to reframe this Democratic primary discussion. He wants to focus the race on the fact that he is indeed running to defeat President Trump. And you can see the former vice president taking the stage behind me here now, Brianna.

This is part of a July reset of his campaign, if you will, again trying to make the case that he's the strongest Democratic candidate to take on President Trump. Of course, after a rocky debate in Miami late last month -- I'll drop my voice here as the vice president speaks -- but we are seeing three pillars that he is going to be talking about, and those include this. He is going to be talking about reinvigorating democracy and strengthening the coalition of democracies, calling for that summit of democracies around the world, as well as rallying the world to address the existential climate crisis. As well, he says, he's going to be talking about renewing the commitment for arms control of a new era. That, of course, is going to include North Korea and Iran.

But, Brianna, first and foremost, Joe Biden trying to make the case that he's ready to be president and that he is trying to, again, refocus Democrats on the matter at hand here. There's no doubt his campaign is looking for a reset. He hopes that happens by talking about foreign policy.


KEILAR: All right, Jeff, we know you will monitor that and let us know if there's anything that we need to certainly be dipping into. Thank you.

And this just in, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has released the details of her plan for immigration reform. And in it she pledges to reverse a series of Trump administration policies. Some examples, decriminalizing the crossing of U.S. borders without authorization, separating law enforcement from immigration enforcement and authorizing the Department of Justice to review allegations of abuse of detained migrants. Warren ruled out this plan for addressing the Latino -- she was addressing the Latino Civil Rights Organization in Milwaukee.

And Mayor Pete Buttigieg, he is releasing an ambitious plan in his effort to court African-American voters, after a recent CNN poll shows his support among black voters at zero percent. He calls this the Douglass Plan, named after Frederick Douglass. And this includes free college tuition for low-income families. There's a $25 billion investment in historically black colleges and universities, as well as related institutions. And on criminal justice reform, he would eliminate prison time for federal convictions for drug possession and reduce sentences for other federal drug offenses. And those both would be retroactive for people who are currently in prison.

He would also make sure that felons would be able to vote as soon as they get out of prison and not face any obstacles doing that as they do in many states.

[13:10:10] Buttigieg also says the federal government should split from Washington, D.C. and that a new state called "New Columbia" would be formed and it would get three electoral votes.

In the next line of the plan, though, he says he'd eliminate the Electoral College. So keep that in mind.

David Axelrod is a CNN senior political commentator. He's also the host of "The Axe Files."

And in that capacity, David, you just spoke with the mayor. Let's listen to part of this.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I know these are at first moral and governmental questions. They're also political implications. And right now CNN did a poll last week and you had zero percent among African-American voters, a group that you call the backbone of the Democratic Party.

How do you fix that, and can you win if you don't?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not interested in winning without black support. I'm interested in winning black support and deserving to win black support. It's why we're making sure that through initiatives like the Douglass Plan people understand exactly what I propose to do with the powers of the presidency in federal office to deal with racial inequality from what's going on in the criminal justice system and the fact that we need to cut incarceration and can, I am convinced, without crime increasing, cut incarceration by 50 percent in this country, all the way through to the reforms in the credit system that will help black entrepreneurs be able to create more jobs and improvements in homeownership, education and health.

So two things that I founding about black voters. First, they're not monolithic. There's no single black vote. Just like here in South Bend, you will find enthusiastic supporters and you will find critics of mine.

We're also talking about voters who do have this in common, which is that a lot of people feel like they've been lied to by various politicians coming along from both parties for as long as I've been alive or longer. And so when you're new on the scene, and you're not yourself from a community of color, and you've got a city with a complex history, you've got to do a lot of work in a short amount of time to build that trust and build those relationships. But we're determined to do it.


KEILAR: I mean no truer words have been spoken. That's a lot of work in very little time.

David, does he realistically expect that he can change the minds of black voters in a big way?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Brianna, you know, he has been the most surprising story of this campaign. No one really knew of Pete Buttigieg just four or five months ago and he burst on the scene and, through energetic performances, has leveraged his way into the race, including raising $25 million last quarter.

But this is a significant barrier for him. Obviously zero percent is a stunning number in a party that is 25 percent -- 24 percent, 25 percent African-American. You cannot be nominated without significant African-American support. And once you get out of these early states, Iowa and New Hampshire, and get down to places like South Carolina, where the African-American vote represents 60 percent, this is an insuperable barrier unless he can change people's minds. And that's what this plan is all about. It's very comprehensive. It goes right at systemic racism. It's thoughtful.

But he also has to answer questions about his record in South Bend. And we had a -- quite a conversation about this during "The Axe Files" show that you're going to see on Saturday night.

KEILAR: That's right. I'm -- and I'm so curious to hear his answers about that because he has -- I mean he has very real issues. He has strained relations with the black community in his city, in part for firing South Bend's black police chief, the first African-American police chief, and then recently there was the shooting of an unarmed black man by a police officer, a white police officer. And some voters, of course, are going to look at Mayor Pete Buttigieg and say, oh, well, you know, now you want our vote, even though you didn't do the work to represent us consistently in your elected office. I mean how does he combat that?

AXELROD: Well, I think this plan is part of it. And, you know, we talked about some of the problems that he's had in South Bend relative to police staffing, which has actually dropped among African -- there are fewer African-American officers today than when he took office seven years ago. We talked about minority contracting in his town out of city government, which is quite, quite low. And so people are going to measure the commitments that he is making in this plan with his performance there. And it is -- it is -- it is a negative ad headed his way should he come out of Iowa and New Hampshire, and he has to be prepared with answers. And we began that conversation in South Bend that you'll hear tomorrow night.

KEILAR: All right, can't wait, David. Thank you so much. David Axelrod. And, remember, you can see David's full interview with Mayor Pete

Buttigieg on "The Axe Files." That will be Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

[13:15:03] Fears are rising across America as the Trump administration prepares to carry out raids on undocumented immigrants in multiple cities. We are learning where and how these are going to go down.

Plus, an explosive remark. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says Speaker Nancy Pelosi is singling out women of color, and Pelosi just responded.

And the president setting up a constitutional crisis over questions on the census, all to play to his base.


[13:20:21] KEILAR: Nationwide, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids that were originally postponed by President Trump are back on now, and they are expected to start this weekend in ten different cities all across the U.S. and they will specifically target families who previously had court orders to leave the country.

Let's bring in Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, live from Capitol Hill with us.

Congresswoman, thank you for being with us.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And I want to start with these impending raids.

You represent -- you represent a sliver of San Francisco. You are going to certainly be adjacent to the community where this is happening, if it's not in your community. What are the concerns that you're hearing in and around your community?

SPEIER: Well, I think those who are here with children that are U.S. citizens are quite fearful that they may be stripped from their families. This appears to be a pattern with the president and this administration to separate parents from their children, which is diabolical and has, I think, irreparable damage that occurs to the children as a result.

I will be leading a group of some 20 members of the House to the border Friday and Saturday to revisit McAllen and Brownsville in Texas.

KEILAR: And that's one -- and that's what we've seen your party do at this point in time. They've been making detention center visits. They've been talking about the conditions. They've been vocal in bringing them to light. Is there -- is there anything else the Democrats can do?

SPEIER: Well, I think we can, you know, shame the administration into recognizing that separating families at the border is not just inhumane, it is very detrimental to the child's brain development, as the American Pediatric Association has said over and over again. So it is our hope that by going to the border, we're going to make sure that these families aren't being separated, that there are humane conditions, that they are properly fed and clothed and that there is health care available to them.

This is a manufactured crisis because all of these people who are seeking asylum have sponsors in the United States to whom they can be sent. And these sponsors have to, by credit card, pay for the bus tickets for these migrants. So rather than house them in these overcrowded, unsafe, lack of sanitary conditions, let them go to their sponsors that live around the country.

KEILAR: You voted yes on the House version of the immigration bill. That's not what made it through Congress. In the end, the House took up what the Senate moved. And it included $70 million for ICE travel and overtime.

You did not vote for that. Are you concerned that money is paying for these ICE raids?

SPEIER: Well, I wouldn't be surprised. That was one of the big concerns I had was that we're not fencing this money to provide the humane services on the border and to relieve the overcrowding that's going on. So, again, there's a despicable aspect to the president's role here. He is much more interested in fanning hatred and creating fear, which is where he gains power is by trying to create fear. And that's not what our country's about.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about something different now going on inside of your caucus, a showdown between Speaker Pelosi and four prominent freshmen. She has made some dismissive comments about them. They have fired back, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pointedly tweeted that all of them are people of color. She explained her tweet today.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): It's singling out four individuals. And knowing the media environment that we're operating in, knowing the amount of death threats that we get, knowing the amount of concentration of attention, I think it's just -- it's just worth asking why.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think she has racial animus? Is she a racist?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No, no, absolutely not.


KEILAR: And Speaker Pelosi was asked about this today. Let's listen to what she said.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I said what I'm going to say in the caucus, but I'm not going to be discussing it any further.

With all due respect, I -- maybe you didn't hear what I said. I said what I'm going to say on the subject. What I said in the caucus yesterday got an overwhelming response.

And that's all I'm going to say on the subject. So if you want to waste your question, you can waste your question.


KEILAR: As you watch this, what do you think that all of the parties here need to do?

[13:25:00] SPEIER: Well, I think what would be advisable is for everyone to take a step back and reconvene. I mean our caucus is a big tent caucus. We have blue dogs and we have new Dems and we have progressives and then we have the Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus. And then there are subsets among all of these groups. And so I think we've got to refocus ourselves on maintaining a majority and making sure that the principles that we espouse are being protected. Affordable Care Act, reducing the cost of health care, creating more jobs, and making sure the corruption is not commonplace in this government and in this administration. So I think we've got to get back to basics.

KEILAR: Let's talk about Labor Secretary Alex Acosta. He, of course, while U.S. attorney in Miami, helped broker that cushy plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein, who is a registered sex offender, now accused child molester. Acosta didn't apologize for this, even though a judge ruled he broke the law by not telling Epstein's victims about the deal.

Do you think this lenient deal led to there being more Epstein victims?

SPEIER: This deal was gross on every level. And I do believe that there are probably more victims as a result of this deal. And I believe that Mr. Acosta is not being truthful or fulsome in his comments.

There was a 53-page indictment that was already prepared against Mr. Epstein, and then Mr. Acosta, as the U.S. attorney, meets at a confidential location, having breakfast with the attorneys for Mr. Epstein, and brokers a deal, does not tell the victims, as he's required to do under the Crime Victim's Rights Act, and agrees to an agreement that prevents any further actions taken against Mr. Epstein, who then is allowed to work and only spend evenings in jail. I mean it is such an absolute repugnant act by a person who's supposed to be complying with the laws and making sure that the laws are being implemented.

Mr. Acosta has to go. And I have authored two letters. I've been joined by over 60 members of the House saying it's time, Mr. President, to relieve Mr. Acosta of his responsibilities because not only is he the secretary of labor, he is in charge of child sex trafficking. And he's suggested reducing 80 percent of the funding there. So none of this adds up as someone who is committed to making sure that children are protected in this country.

KEILAR: All right, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thank you so much for joining us from Capitol Hill.

SPEIER: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: A showdown is looming as the president is expected to defy the courts and order the citizenship question be added to the census.

And, no male in the room? No interview. That's what a Mississippi candidate for governor told a female reporter.