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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is Interviewed about Trump's Racist Attacks and North Korea; No Charges in Eric Garner Case; Harris Unveils Prescription Drug Policy. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 16, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, that he is using his platform of the presidency to foment racism and religious bigotry and to try to further divide our country. And, number two, that he is using that platform to try to shut people down who don't agree with him, to essentially say, look, if you don't agree with me, you should, quote/unquote, go home, undermining the very principles and -- and freedoms that each of us have enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, in our Constitution, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of religion. All of these things that really make us who we are.

So Trump's anti-American tweets, comments, the things that he is doing really undermine our democracy and undermine the rights and freedoms that so many of my brothers and sisters in uniform have served and sacrificed to defend.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Right. And, after all, he himself has often criticized the country.

As you know, the tweets, the comments, they were praised by white nationalists, publically praised. When asked if that concerned the president, concerned him, he said, not at all. You have some experience with this because David Duke, he repeatedly endorsed you for president, which you rejected.

I wonder -- to your credit. I wonder, in your view, the president not rejecting that support of his message? Is that, in effect, you know, accepting it? Is a failure to reject an acceptance of that -- of that support?

GABBARD: I think it is. And, again, I want to reiterate really what Trump is doing here that's so dangerous is he is stoking these racist sentiments in a very dangerous way in this country, further dividing us at a time when we need a president and a commander in chief who will reunite our country, who will bring people together, who will recognize, you can disagree without being disagreeable and that the freedom of speech that we have in this country has to be celebrated and protected, whether you agree or disagree with the speech that people are delivering. Moving us closer to that more perfect union and standing up for and upholding those principles in the Declaration of Independence, saying that all men are created equal, each of us endowed with these inalienable rights by our creator. These are the things that we need to celebrate and to protect at all costs and this is why I'm running for president, to do just that.

SCIUTTO: As you know, House Democrats today, Speaker Pelosi, to introduce and bring up a resolution condemning Trump's tweets, his comments here. I wonder, besides the symbolism, though, and the symbolism can be important. Besides the symbolism, what does that accomplish, because it's certainly not going to stop the president? The president has clearly decided this is to his benefit.

GABBARD: I think it's important to make a statement and make a stand about who we are as a country, what are these American ideals that we stand for, whether you're Democrats or Republicans or independents, it is these ideals that truly make our country great.

You know, Trump talks a lot about making our country great, but his actions are directly undermining what makes our country truly great, these ideals and these principles that we are founded upon, these freedoms that we cherish. So I think it's important that Congress does take action, that we stand up for these freedoms, we stand up against this kind of racism.

SCIUTTO: Question on a -- on a different topic, if I can, North Korea.

As I'm sure you know, North Korea is now threatening to renege on its denuclearization, at least discussion. Of course they've taken no steps to do so.

You've praised President Trump's decision to meet with the North Korean leader. He's done that with him three times, including most recently, we were there, just earlier this month. But North Korea has taking no concrete steps to do anything to curtail its nuclear program. I wonder if you think at this point the president's outreach to North Korea has failed?

GABBARD: It's clearly failed.

But first I want to say it's important for us to have leaders who have the courage to meet with both adversaries or potential adversaries in the pursuit of the safety and security of the American people and peace. So you've got to be able to have those negotiations and those conversations.

The problem with the approach that Trump has taken is, he is undermining his very attempts to negotiate a deal to denuclearize the Korean peninsula just by look -- you know, in many ways, but one example is by looking at what he's doing with Iran. Why would North Korea be interested in making a deal with Trump and the United States when they've seen how he has completely torn up the Iran nuclear deal. He has enacted crippling sanctions, even when Iran was complying with the terms of that agreement. And he's continuing to deploy more and more U.S. troops, stoking the fires of war and threatening regime change against Iran. So he's -- he's sending one message to North Korea, but undermining that very attempt towards denuclearization because of his failed foreign policy in places like Iran.

SCIUTTO: Quickly before we go, if you were president, would you rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, make the U.S. rejoin that deal? [09:35:03] GABBARD: I would. I think it's critical that we do that.

Obviously making sure that Iran gets back into complying with the terms of that agreement. We all know that this deal is not perfect. There are things that we want to be able to see and prove. We've got to re-enter the deal as it is to be able to prevent war with Iran and then look simultaneously and separately, how can we work out the differences? How do we improve the situation and the challenges that we are continuing to see with Iran separately?

SCIUTTO: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, thanks very much.

GABBARD: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We'll find out which Democratic candidates will face-off on each night of the next debates in a special live TV event. Watch "The Draw" for the CNN Democratic debates. That's going to be Thursday night at 8:00 Eastern Time.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That will be exciting.

All right, today space nerds listen up. This is such an exciting day as the world gets ready to commemorate 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing. CNN is counting down some of the key moments of that historic mission. Exactly 50 years ago today, at 9:32 a.m. Eastern Time, the Saturn 5 rocket carrying Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center bound for the moon as millions of people watched around the world.

Here's how the liftoff is captured in the newly discovered footage from the new award winning CNN film "Apollo 11." It airs this Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. right here. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten, nine, ignition sequence starts.

We have liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour. Liftoff of Apollo 11.



[09:42:06] SCIUTTO: Breaking news just into CNN. There will be no federal charges for the New York City police officer who was accused of fatally choking Eric Garner. Tomorrow is the five-year anniversary of his death.

HARLOW: Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, joins us right now in lower Manhattan.

SO, you know, there was that settlement by the city with the family in 2014. These were -- this was new. This was on a federal level, and still nothing.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. And these are the federal civil rights investigation, is whether or not the Department of Justice was going to bring charge, to find (ph) that this officer violated the civil rights of Eric Garner. Now we have a decision from the Department of Justice, from multiple sources, who say they are not. The Department of Justice is not going to bring any charges against the officer who has been under investigation. His name is Daniel Pantaleo. He's been on death duty since this happened.

And as you said, Poppy, he was investigated by the state. A grand jury in Staten Island, which was convened after the incident in 2014, they decided not to bring charges. And now the Department of Justice has decided not to bring charges against the officer as well.

Some important context here. This has been kind of a hot potato for the last five years. Tomorrow would have been the deadline for the Department of Justice to bring charges against the officer. It's the statute of limitations was going to run out tomorrow.

There's been a lot of behind the scenes drama in this investigation. There were FBI agents who did not feel there was enough. They were investigating this and they felt there wasn't enough to bring charges against the officer.

Also, the U.S. attorney's office, they, here in Brooklyn, at one point, about a year or two ago, during this investigation, they too did not see there any need for charges. But people at the Department of Justice, the attorneys and the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, did want to bring charges, but then what happened is we had a change in administration. The Trump administration came in. And so this case has sort of just languished and now we have a decision from the Department of Justice. After all these years, they say they are not going to bring charges.

There's going to be a press conference here behind me at the U.S. Attorney's Office at 11:00 a.m.

SCIUTTO: Just to remind folks watching this, Eric Garner, he was arrested at the time for illegally selling cigarettes. And the words he said in this moment we're seeing here now captured on camera were, I can't breathe, I can't breathe.


SCIUTTO: And those words became a powerful kind of rallying cry for people talking about the treatment --

HARLOW: Civil rights, yes.

SCIUTTO: Civil rights, et cetera.

Shimon, just very quickly, oftentimes you will have federal civil rights charges or attempted charges follow when local authorities do not charge, and, of course, so the DOJ has decided not to -- not to pursue here. Is this the end of legal jeopardy then for the officer involved here?

[09:45:07] PROKUPECZ: Yes, it is. This is over. This investigation is over. No more charges, criminal charges, can be brought against the officer because the grand jury in Staten Island decided not to bring charges, and now you have the Department of Justice deciding not to bring charges.

The officer, though, however, his job is still in jeopardy. He's been on desk duty since this happened and the NYPD, their department, internal investigation, there was a trial. That decision, their internal department trial, that decision is still pending. They just wrapped up that trial. The judge in that trial, the department judge, is yet to decide on what is going to happen, what the officer's fate is in terms of his employment.

It's highly expected that the officer will either be fired eventually or he's going to resign. It will be those -- one of those two options. But the idea that this officer is ever going to put on a uniform again and walk the streets again is probably over.

And also it's important to note, there's been a lot of changes at the NYPD and in policing in general since this incident happened. A lot has changed. Of course, this was one of the rallying cries for change, right? You also had the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown. We saw what happened there. So a lot of what went on here, there was change as a result of this. And I think that's not important to forget as well.

HARLOW: OK, Shimon, thank you. It's really important breaking news. We appreciate you getting it for us.

We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.


[09:51:03] HARLOW: California senator and presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, has rolled out her plan to try to keep the cost of prescription drugs lower. She's stepping into what can only be described as a major disagreement among Democrats running for president on how to handle the issue of health care.

SCIUTTO: Yes, breaking out right in the middle of the Democratic Party. Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Biden already facing off over the Affordable Care Act versus the Sanders' backed Medicare for all. So where does Kamala Harris stand on that issue as well?

Joining us now with details, CNN correspondent Jessica Dean.

Listen, this is the prime voting issue --

HARLOW: Totally.


SCIUTTO: By both polls in this election, health care. Tell us how it -- where she stands.

DEAN: So what she came out with today, we've been talking about Medicare for all, we've been talking the Affordable Care Act, she -- this is really focused on big pharma and keeping the cost of prescription drugs down. It's a very niche policy. So let me walk you through what she says.

So her plan right now is to set a price limit on prescriptions. Then she wants to -- and have what she calls a fair price. And then tax at 100 percent all the profits that companies earn for overcharging beyond that. Additionally, she's for importing lower cost drug alternatives and also giving the DOJ more oversight of price gouging by the pharmaceutical companies.

So then the question kind of becomes, well, how does that compare to what former Vice President Joe Biden rolled out yesterday? So when we break it down that way, again, really focusing on this more narrow topic of prescription drugs and keeping that cost down. For a lot of people, that eats into their budget every single month.

When it comes to the Harris plan, again, she's having the government set the prices. And the difference here is she's going to tax at 100 percent beyond whatever they set that -- whatever the drug company charges, and then that money from that tax would go back to consumers, either through the pharmacy, right there when they're checking out, or through a rebate.

As for Biden, the government's going to negotiate a price for Medicare, public option. If you want to have your drug involved in either of those plans, he's going to want to negotiate that price. And then there is a tax penalty on anything above an inflation rate.

HARLOW: To be in the big pharma board rooms this week --

DEAN: Yes.

HARLOW: They've got to be like just screaming about this. They're going to like it because they're going to call it anti-capitalist. The thing is, she's not saying, we set the price, that's it. We're just saying, comparable to other similar economies, like the U.K., Australia, we don't think it's fair to charge Americans more.

DEAN: Right.

HARLOW: And it's hard on its face to argue against that.

I'm interested in why she has put out sort of a more narrow, limited plan here. Is there more to come from her on the ACA?

DEAN: Yes. I think we can absolutely expect her to drill down on details there. You know, her -- we've heard a number of things kind of from her campaign about where she stands on Medicare for all. I think we're going to hear much more from her. And, obviously, people are going to want to know, is she for Medicare for all on its face? Is she for keeping Obamacare and expanding? Where is she on private insurance?

She's answered some of those questions. But in items of getting that full policy, like we've had from some of the other candidates, I think that's still to come. SCIUTTO: Right, now you have this very public battle between Biden and

Sanders on their competing plans.

HARLOW: Totally.

DEAN: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: Listen, it's part of the debates, right?

DEAN: That's right, as it -- as it goes. Yes.

SCIUTTO: They put those positions out there and then you, the voters, decide.

HARLOW: So watch the CNN debate --

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

HARLOW: Because you can bet there will be a lot on this.

DEAN: That's what you're going to talk about, yes. Yes.

SCIUTTO: Jessica Dean, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thanks, Jess.

DEAN: Thanks, guys.

SCIUTTO: The Pentagon has not had a permanent leader in 197 days. This with two ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that could all change this week. Right now a Senate confirmation hearing is underway for Mark Esper. He is President Trump's nominee for defense secretary.

HARLOW: His confirmation would end an historic period of upheaval at the Pentagon where there have been three acting secretaries of defense this year alone. If confirmed, Esper would immediately face a long list of challenges, Jim mentioned them, and, of course, that also includes Iran and North Korea.

[09:54:52] President Trump is now escalating his fight with a group of progressive members of Congress with new attacks and unfounded claims that they support terrorists.


SCIUTTO: A very good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

[09:59:49] This morning, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez is pushing back hard at the president after he accused her and her colleagues of saying, quote, some of the most vile and disgusting things ever said by a politician. Well, in tweets of her own, Ocascio- Cortez reminded the president of the time that he bragged about sexual assault. And in response