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Former VP Joe Biden Releases New Healthcare Plan; President Trump Tells Four Democrats to Go Back to their Countries; Prosecutors Seek No Bail for Jeffrey Epstein at Hearing; Trump Digs in on Attacks Amid Uproar over Racist Tweet. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 15, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:31] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow in New York and it has been 24 hours, 24 hours since the president launched racist attacks on four minority women and 24 hours of relative silence from nearly all Republican lawmakers. Never mind three of these four members of Congress that the president told to, quote, "go back" to what he calls the totally broken and crime-infested places where they came from, were born in the U.S., Cincinnati, Detroit and New York.

And while his party largely stays quiet, the president has not. He is digging in. This morning one of his targets is speaking out, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls the president's words "hall mark language of white supremacists." The president feels comfortable leading GOP into outright racism and that's should concern all Americans -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: That's where we are. So soon after July 4th. And if we are surprised, you really have to ask why because he has made comments like this, dismissive, offensive remarks about people of color, immigrants, again and again and again.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: They are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime, they are rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Killed a person. Heather Heyer --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They showed up in Charlottesville to protest --

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. They didn't put themselves down as Neo -- and you have very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

That question was answered perfectly. And I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general. Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals.


SCIUTTO: Well, he fought for the Confederacy against his own country. From Charlottesville to birtherism to the Central Park Five, there's a clear pattern here. The comments have been reflected, we should note, in policies from the Muslim travel ban to the wall at the border, to the family separation policy at the border. The words matter and they have led to policies that matter.

Joe Johns is at the White House.

And Joe, listen, the president clearly sees political benefit in this. He's appealing to an audience here. But it also must strike us, and our viewers, that the president genuinely believes these positions.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you think about it, Jim, this expression, go back to your own country, is an extremely common racist dog whistle that's been used in the United States for generations. But the idea that the messenger is the president of the United States, is being directed at duly elected members of Congress creates some difficult situations. Some cringe- worthy situations as a matter of fact.

The president, as you all mentioned, out tweeting this morning once again sort of raising the stakes on this and going after those four members of Congress saying they need to issue some apologies. Meanwhile, out here on the lawn, out here on the driveway just a little while ago, the vice president's chief of staff, Marc Short, was talking to reporters trying essentially to defend the president but also seemed to be suggesting that this wasn't so much a plural situation, but he was really talking about just one member of Congress. So listen.


MARC SHORT, CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I don't think that the president's intent in any way is 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.


JOHNS: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar certainly has been a real critic of the president and she also has said essentially that the president, in her view, is stoking white nationalism.

Back to you.

HARLOW: Joe Johns, thank you very much.

Moments ago, one of the president's biggest defenders, Senator Lindsey Graham, had a message for the president. Listen to him just moments ago on FOX News.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel, they hate our own country. They are 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 are anti-Semitic, they're anti-America.

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


SCIUTTO: They hate our country, he said, of four sitting congresswomen. They hate our country.

[09:05:01] Let's discuss now with Ana Navarro, she's CNN political commentator, Doug Heye, former communications director for the RNC, and Wesley Lowery, national reporter for "The Washington Post."

Ana, if I can get begin with you, just to get your reaction to this because, as I noted, according to Joe Johns, this is not isolated, it's part of a string of comments from this president. Go back to even before he started his campaign. But have also been, and this is important to note, reflected in policy from this administration. Your reaction.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think you're right. It's a pattern of behavior. It's been going on forever. It's been going on from before he was elected president. Let's remember that he almost got his start in this political foray when he began the birther movement, when he promoted that and fanned the flames against the legitimacy of the first black president, Barack Obama, back then.

The difference here is that at least at the beginning, at least when he called Mexicans rapists and criminals, at least when he said both sides about Charlottesville, you would hear some whimpers out of the Republican Party. There were some people willing to stand up. We have completely lost that now.

Everybody, practically every single elected Republican, is in complicit silence because they are afraid of him. And I want to ask Marco Rubio, my senator, whose parents came here penniless from Cuba, even before the revolution. They were economic refugees like so many of the people at the border, and who lives in a community and represents people like me who get told daily, go back to your country, where his voice is. And how about Rafael Cruz? You know that guy they call Ted? His name is Rafael Cruz.

And Rafael Cruz's father came here penniless from Cuba and speaks with an accent like I do, and I'm sure gets told every day to go back to his country. And how about Mitch McConnell, who is married to a Chinese woman, who I am sure has been told over and over and over again to go back to her country? Where is their voice on this? Where is their outrage? Where are they showing their faces and demonstrating to America that he does not speak for the Republican Party?

Practically every single person in this country has come from somewhere else, unless you are a Native American, including Trump's -- two of his three wives so far.

HARLOW: Doug, I mean, that left me speechless in part because she is so right. Lindsey Graham very much qualifying his aim higher statement this morning on FOX. We were able to find one other Republican lawmaker, Chip Roy of Texas, who wrote, "The president was wrong to say any American citizen whether in Congress or not has any home besides the United States." But where is everyone else and why?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, it comes down to Trump is not only overwhelmingly popular in their districts and in their states but the intensity. What Republican members of Congress and what senators hear from their voters are how are you backing up the president, period. And so --

HARLOW: I just don't believe that that much of America, that big a swath of America is that racist. Is that what you're saying?

HEYE: Well, no, I don't think they're that racist. I think the base that supports Trump wants to see their members, their senators, their governors support Trump, period. And they don't like the noise, they don't like the tweets, but they support Trump and so they put up with it. That to me is also troubling.

Everything that Ana said I agree with. And it's troubling that voters will support that because they support other things and put up with it. But that's where we are, unfortunately, in America right now.

SCIUTTO: Wesley Lowery, you, of course, cover this administration. And beyond this apparently reflecting the president's beliefs, his own personal beliefs, it appears that the president sees a political advantage in doubling down on this kind of rhetoric and intensifying it, you might argue with his comments this morning. That said, during the midterms in 2018, the president's focus on immigration, it was shown in the Republican Party's own post-election studies that that actually hurt Republican candidates in swing districts.

And I wonder, Wesley, if there's anybody in the White House who is cautioning the president from a purely political standpoint against this.

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, frankly I'd be surprised if at this point he's still being cautioned against this. I mean, Donald Trump has shown himself to be who he is, even beyond the conversation about whether or not these are -- I think sometimes we make a mistake in trying to position him as some type of skilled tactician. I do think he has some -- certainly has some innate decision-making but this is who Donald Trump is.

And I think that what we've seen -- my colleagues actually just did a remarkable profile of his current chief of staff, Mark Meadows, essentially arguing that unlike other chiefs of staff, the current staff around him is letting him basically do whatever it is he wants to do and handle it however he wants to handle it, although I do think the point about the specifically -- while Donald Trump very often believes that leaning into these issues especially around immigration are his strengths when, in fact, there have been several times where he has, you know, seized defeat out of the jaws of victory by leaning into his racism and nativism and just some of the more controversial parts of his -- both his beliefs and his policies to end point as opposed to many other parts of his presidency.

[09:10:23] The reality is, he's currently overseeing an economy that is doing pretty well. He still does have a solid chunk of support despite being a deeply unpopular president. And yet time and time again he leans into these hyper divisive issues, he expresses things in ways that are blatantly and clearly racist. He allows -- and the Democrats for the entire weekend, all week last week, in a deep ideological battle of the future of the party and the president comes up and tweets some racist stuff about four congresswomen, that does not help politically.


LOWERY: No matter how they want to frame it now.

SCIUTTO: It's a good point because, as you say, there is a kind of a conventional wisdom that there's a brilliant political strategy behind this but you're right on that. I mean, the focus was on a deep and real division within the Democratic Party and of course the focus is now on this -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. The Peter Baker --


NAVARRO: This is not about -- to me this is not about -- look, I think most Republican elected officials don't agree with Trump and probably find this as disgusting and outrageous as Doug and I do but they are terrified of him. They quake in their boots at the sight of him because practically every Republican who has dared speak up against Trump, who has dared confront him, has either lost their primary race, lost their general race, retired or died like John McCain.

There is a whole bin, there is a whole political cemetery full of people like Jeff Flake and Charlie Dent and Mark Sanford.


NAVARRO: And, you know, people like Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham was dead man walking in the Republican primary in South Carolina when he was confronting Donald Trump. Now that he is his best friend forever, now that he's replaced John McCain with him, now he's untouchable in that Republican primary. And so he's made a choice. And so have people like Marco Rubio, who were offended by Trump. And so have people like Ted Cruz who Trump said his father had been part of a conspiracy against JFK and who insulted Ted Cruz's wife. They are now eating out of the palm of his hand out of fear and cowardice and complicity, and because they care more about their political careers than they care about this country and about American values, plain and simple.

SCIUTTO: Listen, it's a remarkable time. It's a remarkable time in the country. We'll continue to follow this, Poppy and I, we always do our best to play it down the middle. There are some things you just have to call out as they happen.

Ana Navarro, Doug Heye, Wesley Lowery, good to have you all on. I know it's going to be part of a continuing conversation.

Still to come this hour, Jeffrey Epstein, the multi-millionaire accused of sex trafficking children, is set to appear in a Manhattan courtroom this morning. We're going to be live.

And Barry is not done yet. More rain brings new threats of flooding and dangerous tornadoes with millions of people in the path of a slow- moving storm as it makes its way inland.

HARLOW: Plus, former vice president Joe Biden releasing his health care plan this morning. How does it stack up to his Democratic rivals' plans? We'll tell you what's in it, what's not. Next.


[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right, this morning, former Vice President and Democratic Presidential contender Joe Biden has rolled out his healthcare plan. So far, folks are dubbing it Obamacare 2.0.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Let's bring in Jessica Dean with the details. So Jessica, we know healthcare critical issue in this election off of the top of the list of voter's concern as we head into 2020. Twenty million people currently enrolled in Obamacare, but this is also highlighting his position, a division among Democrats as to how far you go.

Medicare for all as some have staked out or this more I suppose you could call middle of the road plan from Biden.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, this is really crystallizing this issue and where we're starting to see the candidates really differentiate themselves. Let's talk about Joe Biden's plan for a second and kind of explain to you what the particulars are in this.

You can really think of it, and the campaign thinks of it as strengthening and broadening Obamacare. So, keeping what exists of Obamacare, but going further. So, what does that look like? Let's take a look at some of the options that they have on the table. Some of the proposals that they want for this.

They want to have a public option that would be similar to Medicare. So, this is going to capture people who are in states that didn't expand Medicaid, who would have been eligible for that. This is going to capture people who aren't happy with their current insurance. They're also offering federal subsidies to pay premiums regardless of income.

So, this -- a lot of the complaints about Obamacare is that the premiums are too high. You can get insurance, but you can't afford the deductible. Well, this is what the Biden campaign is hoping to do to lower that one example they gave, is a family of four that makes $110,000 which they say estimated -- save an estimated $750 a month.

So, that's a couple of those. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, allow people to import drugs from other countries. Now, this costs about $750 billion over 10 years. The Biden campaign says that they would pay for this by raising capital gains taxes on anyone making over a million dollars, and that they would also roll back the Trump tax cuts and effectively push that higher tax bracket back up to a higher number than it has been under those tax cuts -- under those tax cuts.

Now, how does this compare to everybody else in the field? Well, Jim, Poppy, you alluded to this, some people going all the way in on Medicare for all saying, let's get rid of private insurance, this is where some of the 2020 candidates stand right now.

[09:20:00] Bernie Sanders supporting Medicare for all along with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris supporting single-payer government-run health program. We're expecting to hear more from her this week about the particulars of that. But you guys, a lot of policy to kind of digest here and what you are exactly right about.

This is a huge issue in 2020, it's an issue Democrats won on in 2018, they all hope they get this one right.

HARLOW: So, Jess, let me just ask you one thing that seems to be missing from this plan. And this is, what is the rate at which hospitals and doctors would actually be paid at? Because that's what really determines whether they will actually take people on and expand the government plan, and if they won't, that's hugely problematic for an everyday American, right?

DEAN: Right --

HARLOW: That's betting on this. What's the campaign saying about that?

DEAN: Yes, can you get access to a doctor --

HARLOW: Yes --

DEAN: To the healthcare that you want. The campaign and the roll out of all of this is likening it to Medicare that they're going to use this system and the pool to then reduce costs for patients by negotiating with hospitals, with healthcare providers that it would be like Medicare.

Right now, we're not getting super particulars on dollars and cents on that, but that's what they are comparing it to.

HARLOW: OK. SCIUTTO: Jessica Dean, thanks very much. With us now is Ron

Brownstein; senior editor at "The Atlantic", CNN senior political analyst as well. Ron, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: On the politics of this, right? I'm curious --


SCIUTTO: Who you think has the politics right, does Biden or does Sanders? And I imagine it's a different question for the primaries and the general election here --


SCIUTTO: But who is closer to --

BROWNSTEIN: Not necessarily --

SCIUTTO: Where the Democratic Party is? Or maybe not, maybe it's the same question.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well, I think this is without a doubt the most consequential policy choice the Democrats will be resolving in the 2020 primaries. In that great summary that Jessica just did, she was correct. They're defending the Affordable Care Act, in particular, its protections for people with pre-existing conditions was absolutely essential to the Democratic gains in 2018.

And particularly to their recovery to some extent among those blue- collar Rust Belt voters, especially women, who are so critical to Trump's victory. And now they face a choice on whether to extend the Affordable Care Act, to maintain it, or to go beyond it.

Joe Biden's plan was at the far -- would be at the far left-end of what was originally proposed back in 2009, a public option of this magnitude --


BROWNSTEIN: And subsidies of this magnitude for the middle class was the far-left flank of the debate at that point that they could not even pass with the ACA, which of course is the first time any president had passed any national healthcare plan after Truman, Nixon and Clinton had failed.

But now, it looks like the center because you have candidates talking about removing private health insurance from 180 million people moving them into a government system. Even in the Democratic primary, Jim, that has not been a majority position in most polling, both CNN and Kaiser have found that a lot of resistance there, especially the CNN poll.

But this is the argument and it clearly divides the party along lines that are familiar from the broader race, younger -- SCIUTTO: Yes --

BROWNSTEIN: More liberal with Warren and Sanders, older more moderate with Biden.

HARLOW: What do you make Ron, of Bernie Sanders hitting back at Biden over the weekend. Biden saying essentially, you know, if you've got cancer, et cetera, we all know what it's like to have a family member go through that, you can't have a lapse in your care, six months, a year or two years. Sanders slammed him on that, saying that --


HARLOW: That was misrepresenting what he's proposing.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, Sanders is all in, right? On defining himself as the candidate of the left in the party. And really, it's kind of within the Democratic coalition, you have to remember that in 2016, Hillary Clinton beat him among self-identified Democrats by 2-to-1. His vote was concentrated among independents who identify with the Democratic Party, but in many ways feel alienated from it.

And you know, if you look at the support for single-payer now in the house for example, there are only two -- I believe two Democrats from districts that Trump carried in the house who have supported the single-payer bill that's analogous to Sanders' plan. He is betting on, you know, kind of the most ardent activist wing of the Democratic Party, and --

HARLOW: Right --

BROWNSTEIN: Biden's support is among people who are more middle-aged, middle of the road, middle of the country, and I think much more open to building on the ACA and replacing. By the way --

HARLOW: Yes --

BROWNSTEIN: An answer to your question under Biden's plan, the vast majority of people would stay in private insurance, so there really would be no change in their reimbursement rates. The public option would probably try to reimburse --

SCIUTTO: Right --

BROWNSTEIN: Hospitals at Medicare rates.

SCIUTTO: Ron, before we let you go, just on a different topic --


SCIUTTO: Of the president's series of tweets --


SCIUTTO: Bigoted, racist, regarding sitting members of Congress of color, who has the politics? There's principled issue which stands on its own.


SCIUTTO: But on the politics issue, because clearly, the president and his supporters are making political judgment here that this benefits them --


SCIUTTO: In the 2020 election here. Now, the president has gotten that wrong before. His focus on immigration did not help, that hurt Republican candidates --


SCIUTTO: Into 2018 mid-terms. Going into 2020, is this smart politics? And again, separating from the principle issue --


[09:25:00] SCIUTTO: Here or is it damaging politics?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, without question, there's a principle here over this kind of language we've never heard from a sitting president. You know, we haven't heard anything from a national figure, open appeals to racism like this since George Wallace. But if you look at the politics, it is not an unambiguous win for the president at all.

In fact, Jim, these two stories do connect together. The president is very consciously trying to divide the electorate along the lines of our attitudes towards cultural and demographic change. And what that means is he's forcing the Republican Party to trade younger voters for older voters, urban voters for non-urban voters, diverse voters for white voters or even among whites, blue-collar voters for white collar voters.

And what we saw in the last election was the Republicans eviscerated, routed in the area -- the big metro areas of the country, they're driving most of the economic growth that are diverse, more secular, more white collar, inclusive.

After this last election, Democrats hold 90 percent of the seats in the White House where immigrants exceed their share of the national population. Over 80 percent of the seats where minorities exceed their share of the national population, and 75 percent of the seats where college graduates exceed their share of the population.

He has moved them out of the metro centers where this connection -- the other story is Republicans hope their way back in is convincing though, some of those suburban voters who are culturally alienated from Trump's nativist and frankly, at times racist vision that Democrats will threaten their economy by raising their taxes and taking away --

SCIUTTO: Right --

BROWNSTEIN: Their private healthcare, so these two things are related.

HARLOW: Ron, to get in your brain and figure out how you recall all of those stats is remarkable. Can you tweet that last one out? It's fascinating, I don't think Democrats will --


BROWNSTEIN: I will tweet that -- now, better than that --

HARLOW: If you'll tweet that --

BROWNSTEIN: I will be in my column tomorrow morning --

HARLOW: Oh, now you're -- oh, good, it's not one today that I haven't read.

BROWNSTEIN: Another story we're following this hour, lawyers for multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein want to convince a judge to let him stay at home while he waits for his sex-trafficking trial. Next, why prosecutors say they cannot let that happen.