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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Continues Attacking Democratic Congresswomen After Racist Tweets; Republicans Mostly Silent on Trump's Racist Tweets, Democrats Push Back Aggressively; Graham to Trump After Racist Tweet: "Aim Higher"; No Major ICE Raids Reported in 9 Cities Despite Trump Warning; Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) Discusses No Arrests in ICE Raids Despite Trump's Warning, Trump Announcing New Regulation Making It Impossible for Migrants Coming Through Mexico to Apply for Asylum at Border; Biden Unveils Health Care Plan, Highlights Divide Among Democrats. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 15, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: But you brought their voices to life in this book.

Isha, thank you very much.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.

HARLOW: I wish we had more time.

But everyone can read it, "Beneath the Tamarind Tree." This is the book.

Jim and I really appreciate your joining us.

SESAY: Thank you, Poppy.

Thank you, Jim.

HARLOW: Thank you. I know it was a labor of love, for sure.

SESAY: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, thank you for being with us. Jim and I will see back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCUITTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with our colleague, Kate Bolduan, starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

This morning we're getting a good look at what the 2020 general election is going to look like. And if you were hoping for a high- minded debate about the bright future for America, you should plug your ears.

When it comes to Donald Trump, 2020 looks a lot like 2016. Division politics at its worst. And this time, Republicans really aren't even trying to stand up to him.

Yesterday, the president unleashed a racist outburst of tweets attacking four Democratic congresswomen of color, saying that they should, quote/unquote, "Go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came."

That's part of the tweet.

Go back from where you came from is obviously a time worn racist trope. And beyond that, three of the four lawmakers he's talking about were born in the United States. And all of them are American citizens. And all of them are elected officials.

If you're thinking to yourself right now, this doesn't surprise me, then maybe that is all the wake-up call that we need right now.

A big question this morning, besides where are the Republicans standing up against racist remarks, the big question this morning is, why is the president doing this in the first place?

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Boris Sanchez at the White House.

Let's get to it.

Boris, is the White House defending the president's tweets?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, so far, one official has spoken out to say President Trump is not racist, even though he frequently parrots the language of white nationalists and white supremacists. There are many examples of this.

And we know the president is comfortable doing it, in part, because he isn't exactly challenged by Republicans, even those who have been critical of him in the past.

Now, the president here appealing to people who are uncomfortable with immigration, who perhaps are uncomfortable with people of color. You get the sense from the way that the president speaks that he doesn't exactly empathize with people who have risked everything to become Americans.

And now White House officials have to play cleanup.

This morning, Marc Short, chief of staff for Mike Pence, spoke out about it and pointed to transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, to suggest she is an example of President Trump's inclusiveness and tolerance.

Listen to more of what Marc Short said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC SHORT, CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I don't think that the president's intent is in anyway racist. I think he's trying to point out the fact that, since elected, it's hard to find anything Ilhan Omar said that actually is supportive of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Let's point out the obvious here, Kate. There are many members of Congress that disagree with this president's vision of America, who say so very vocally, who are very vocal about their opposition to policies of this administration, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, et cetera. The president hasn't told them to go back to their countries.

So suggesting that this is a difference over policy is sort of missing the point -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Boris.

Manu, what are you hearing or not hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Republicans have been mostly silent since the tweets from yesterday morning. There was, of course, Sunday, there was nobody in the capitol. Today is a travel day. Members are not right back here on Capitol Hill.

They will return later today when they will be asked this question about whether they stand by the president's sentiments here or whether they're going to stand up to the president's remarks.

Right now, very few have spoken out, but only when they've been asked.

Lindsey Graham who went -- played golf with the president yesterday after the president issued those tweets did -- was asked about this today. But after calling these -- the Democratic lawmakers "Communists" who, quote, "hate our country," he did say the president should take a different tact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Aim higher. You don't need to -- they are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: But the Republican leadership in the House and Senate, silent so far. No comment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, not comment from the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy.

The Democrat, of course, are speaking out rather aggressively. The speaker, Nancy Pelosi, soon after those tweets came out, tweeted, "When Donald Trump tells four American congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to Make America Great Again has always been about making America white again.

So we'll expect more reaction later today, Kate, when people come back. But at the moment, Democrats are the one expressing outrage. Republicans mostly silent -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

As you saw Lindsey Graham speaking out this morning, we invited Senator Graham to join me on the show today. Unfortunately, he is unavailable. But we look forward to having him on the show again very soon.

Joining me right now, because there's much to discuss, White House correspondent for "The Guardian," Sabrina Siddiqui, and "New York Times" national political reporter, Astead Herndon, both CNN political analyst.

[11:05:04] Guys, thanks for being here.

Sabrina, there are two things that I want to get at, with both of you, and get your take on.

One, why is the president doing this? And where are the Republicans on this?

So, Sabrina, let's start with this. Chip Roy, he spoke out, Republican. He said the president was wrong. Lindsey Graham, you heard there, said the president should aim higher.

We've seen Republicans criticize the president in the past when he's said racist things. Charlottesville is a good example. Why is it crickets this time?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The fact that Republicans are largely silent speaks to the hold the president has over the Republican Party. We've increasingly seen Republicans more and more reticent to publicly voice dissent or disagree with the administration.

And you're very much seeing a glaring example of that right now where it would be fairly easy to say that telling people of color, much less sitting Congressmen, they should go home is one of the oldest tropes in the book.

There's no other interpretation but to suggest those individuals are somehow foreign when we're talking about four American citizens, two of whom are the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

It's also worth noting, some of those statements Republicans that have pointed out or have, where they have spoken out, they try to have it both ways. Lindsey Graham, before he said that the president should aim higher, said these are meme who hate their country.

So you really see the ways in which Republicans are also parroting some of that more incendiary rhetoric that the president has used. And it's another example where the president has tried to make overtures to white nationalists. Sometimes he has done it in ways that are more subtle and this is an example where it's much more overt.

BOLDUAN: Astead, let me play more of what Lindsey Graham said this morning. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: Mr. President, you're going to win. Just knock it down a notch.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: In what way?

GRAHAM: We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of Communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country. They're calling the guards along our border, the Border Patrol agents, concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins. They're anti-Semitic. They're anti- America.

Don't knock them down. Aim higher. We don't need to know anything about them personally. Talk about their policies.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: You see, as Sabrina is pointing out, Communist, anti- Semitic, anti-American is what Lindsey Graham said.

But you hear -- the president just tweeted out most of what Lindsey Graham said in that interview, notably though leaving out the part where he said just -- Lindsey Graham said, just knock it down a notch and aim higher.

He's calling on the president to stop. In 2019, that is what it sounds like coming from a Republican. The president clearly isn't listening, though, Astead. Do Republicans know that and so they've just given up?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there's a couple of things happening. One, Republicans are trying to act like this is an aberrant statement from the president, as if the tweets we saw are out of his character, when I think to any observer who has been following along this president, is in line with what he has been and who he has been for the entirety of his political career and largely his adult life.

Let's remember this is a president that called into question the fairness of a Mexican judge. This is a president that seemed to defend some white nationalists in Charlottesville and made his political kind of first foray into American politics by the kind of racist conspiracy theory of Birtherism. And this is a person who has never apologized for calling for the Central Park Five, to calling them convicted when they were exonerated.

So this is more in line with this president's history. And we're seeing Republicans trying to paint it as an aberration because it's in their political interest. BOLDUAN: As Astead lays out, Sabrina, he's answering my next

question, why is the president doing this? It's base-division politics without any sort of veil or cover now. What is motivating him?

SIDDIQUI: I think it's twofold. Look, the election is around the corner. And as you pointed out, we're going to see a lot more of the same in 2020 as we did in 2016.

Astead outlined some examples from the past. In 2016, he campaigned on banning all Muslims from entering the United States. And as president, he has taken extreme measures on immigration, he says, are designed to protect the borders. But when he makes statements like these, demeaning either people of color or other statements he's made in the past, criticizing immigrants, then it does call into question his real motivations.

I also think he wants to drive a wedge through the Democratic Party. It's no mistake that this comes amid a separate feud between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and some of those four members who refer to themselves as the Squad, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I think he really wants to seize on some of those intraparty divisions.

[11:10:07] But when he makes comments like these and goes after those members of Congress so personally, all he really does is unifies the Democratic Party against him.

BOLDUAN: Also raises another question, Astead. If the point is to make liberal members of Congress -- who can be controversial, we know this -- but if the point is to make them the face of the entire Democratic Party, is it working?

HERNDON: Well, I think that's been a point Republicans are trying to even outside the president. We have seen conservative media and Republican leaders largely try to really focus Democrat -- trying to paint this Democratic Party largely as defined by these members.

Now, certainly these members experience a wide number of support, drive interest through social media and grassroots funding, and represent kind of an ascendant wing of diverse populism in the Democratic Party. But are they the wide swath?

Let's remember who is leading the polls in the Democratic primary right now, Joe Biden. It is still an open question about --

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

HERNDON: -- whether this group represents the entirety of the Democratic Party.

What we do know is that sometimes the criticism of them has veered into outside of that kind of policy area and more into the kind of personal divisive racist attacks that we've seen all of them experience.

BOLDUAN: One final note, in case we have any doubt of the intention behind the tweets. Democratic Congressman Don Beyer had maybe the best analysis on the whole thing. He tweeted this out: "Only one of the members of Congress pictured" -- and just take look at the picture he puts up -- "pictured below was born below outside the United States. It's me. Also the only one who is not the subject of a racist tweet by the president today. All of us, including those like Ilhan Omar, and me, born elsewhere, are proud Americans."

Beyer's father was in the Army and he was born on a military base oversees.

But Beyers' has called for the president's impeachment. No fan of the president. And he, of course, is not facing any of this. An important final note here.

Sabrina, thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.

SIDDIDUI: Thank you.

HERNDON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, immigrant communities wondering what happens now after those threatened sweeping ICE raids weren't so sweeping. Even a top administration official says he doesn't know what's going on. Details ahead.

Plus, he was a rising star in the Democratic Party, a favorite to be the next mayor of his home city, but Jason Kander, an Army veteran, did something we haven't seen before. He dropped out of the race to seek treatment for his mental health. He'll be with me here, with me live, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:17:26] BOLDUAN: Make today the day. Nine U.S. cities now wondering what's next after Sunday came and went without the massive ICE deportation roundup that the president said was happening. Besides a few isolated operations, there's no reporting yet of major immigration sweeps this weekend.

And just this morning, one of the president's top immigration officials says that he doesn't have any data to share. Rather, he says he doesn't know what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, CUSTOMS & IMMIGRATON SERVICES: And I told you, I don't have details about any arrests that have taken place so far with respect to that operation.

Well, when ICE Is ready to do it, and maybe it's already begun, then they'll execute on it. But those are not details they share outside of their own law enforcement agencies with -- with -- in any breadth.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So they haven't told you? CUCCINELLI: Correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, Democratic Congressman, Adriano Espaillat, of New York.

Congressman, thank you for being here.

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D-NY): Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: You have a perspective on this that no one else does. You were an undocumented immigrant, brought here as a child, gained citizenship decades ago.

ESPAILLAT: That's correct.

BOLDUAN: What did you hear in your district this weekend?

ESPAILLAT: Fear for the most part. This action by the president, this threat by the president has sent chilling effects across the country and people were fearful.

They still have rights. Anybody that steps on U.S. soil has rights. The rule of law governs this nation. It cannot apply to one person and not the other.

Unless ICE comes with a search warrant signed by a federal judge, they shouldn't open their door. If they're arrested, they're entitled to an attorney. If ICE comes in illegally, they can film them on their own phones.

BOLDUAN: Did you hear of massive sweeps?

ESPAILLAT: No sweeps. This was a threat. I can't tell if they're going to start today or tomorrow. The fear is out there. It's cast out there in broad terms. And I think that's what the president is trying to accomplish.

BOLDUAN: Because that's actually

(CROSSTALK)

ESPAILLAT: He rules by fear.

BOLDUAN: Well, that was -- the whole conversation was, it's happening, 2,000 people will be picked up. And now it seems like it's something different. It might be slower, longer, more scaled back. Do you think it was a change in tactic or do you think this was a scare tactic?

ESPAILLAT: It's a scare tactic to try to motivate his base of white nationalists, very conservative and even racist people that are part of his political base for next year.

Let me say something, Kate. Border Patrol has about 11,000 people in custody already, 4,600 of which are family, 5800 are individuals, and about 421 are un unaccompanied minors. Cells are up to full capacity. What held 35 people now, there's about 155 people per jail cell. And so this will exacerbate the process.

[11:20:10] And it's mainly moms and people, recent arrivals that will be scoped up. So people are fearful. They should know their rights. They should exercise their rights.

I believe that ICE agents should wear body cameras. I have a bill that calls for it. And body cameras will document everything so that the ICE agent doesn't violate the law and, of course, the immigrant is also sure that his or her civil rights are protected.

BOLDUAN: Now add to that, the president will be announcing new regulation that it sounds like could upend asylum laws. Basically, making it impossible for anyone traveling through Mexico to apply for asylum at the U.S. border. What do you say about that?

ESPAILLAT: That's so, so horrendous.

BOLDUAN: Why?

ESPAILLAT: People are fleeing violence or natural disasters in some cases. A mom that is seeing her son be recruited by a violent gang will pack her things and leave.

A small businessman, like I met over in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the federal facility there, that was being extorted and threatened by gang members to pay a gang tax left everything behind. Didn't want to lose their lives.

And we're going to stop them at the border? That's so unlike what America should be.

We should -- each case by case, we should give them a full opportunity to make their case for asylum.

Now, in many cases the people that will be arrested if this threat goes through will be people that haven't been able to make it to court because they haven't been notified. They haven't --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: There's -- I have been told by immigration attorneys that the system basically has collapsed in terms of the notification to show up to court system. Something else --

ESPAILLAT: That's correct. Yes. Not only that, but for me to establish asylum, I have to bring evidence. Sometimes it takes a significant period of time for me to bring the evidence to show the judge that, in fact, my life is in danger. And that's not being offered to these immigrants.

So this is horrendous. This is unlike what we've done in the past, with people seeking asylum.

And, again, it's a wedge political issue that the president is using right now to motivate his voters for next year.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about, now is another politically motivated issue. The president has been just on a tear against some of your colleagues, in tweets this weekend, and more this morning, telling -- aimed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswomen Pressley, Tlaib and Omar, attacking them with racial trope -- we've talked about it on the show already this hour -- saying they should come back where they came from. What is your reaction when you saw this?

ESPAILLAT: Guess what? They come from America. I think maybe one or two of them --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Right. We have pointed that out.

But what -- when you saw the tweet what are you thinking?

ESPAILLAT: It's a racist tweet. And I think that these young women of color bring to our party a wealth of information, experiences, and bold ideas.

Our party is a big tent party. We have robust and very controversial debates. But at the end of the day, we sit at the dinner table and we break bread.

Unlike the Republican Party, which is very monolithic. You look at that side of the aisle, it looks completely the same. You look at our side of the aisle, it looks more like America.

BOLDUAN: Does it matter to you, Congressman, what the president believes in his heart when he's using a racist trope or if he's just saying something for purely political reasons?

ESPAILLAT: Oh, no, we're right and he's wrong clearly. Using the race card, a wedge issue, scapegoating immigrants. Traditionally, we look at history, every time, time and time again, has been used for real bad goals and objectives --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It worked for him in 2016.

ESPAILLAT: This will not work for him next year. And we're hoping America will see it for what it is, a threat to pin people against each other. We want to bring America to together.

And having those women at the table brings a different opinion for some folks. But I think --

BOLDUAN: Yes, and they can be controversial.

ESPAILLAT: You know, there's controversy in all parties.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

ESPAILLAT: Yet, we're able to come together and seek a common goal.

BOLDUAN: David Axelrod tweeted something out that it was really -- I thought interesting to point out. He says, "With his deliberate racist outburst, Donald Trump wants to raise the profile of his targets, drive Dems to defend them, and make them emblematic of the entire party. It's cold, hard strategy."

(CROSSTALK)

ESPAILLAT: I see that. But we have a leader in Nancy Pelosi, who -- I like to have her in the room when the boys are meeting to cut up the piece of pie, right? I like to have her there. I think she represents our interests. She's able to bring everybody together.

I saw how she came together with those same young women over the --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Yes. There was a fight that spilled quite publicly --

(CROSSTALK)

ESPAILLAT: She's a pro. And she held us together when government was shut down and the president tried to come in and impose his State of the Union. She told him, you can't come in here. And guess what? He didn't.

She is a real leader. She will bring us together. I have confidence in her. And I confidence in those four young women.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thanks for being here.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate your time.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

[11:24:51] Coming up next for us, Joe Biden unveiling his health care plan today, drawing a contrast to his Democratic rivals' push for Medicare-for-All. What it includes and what it leaves out, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Joe Biden rolling out a major policy proposal today on a major issue that's dividing Democrats in the presidential primary -- health care. Also the issue that voters care most about.

Biden's plan proposes massive new Obamacare subsidies and a public option that his campaign say would be similar to Medicare.

[11:30:01] In a new campaign video, Biden goes directly after rivals, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, featuring a key moment from the Democratic debate. Watch this.