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House Votes to Condemn Trump's Racist Tweets; House Dem Files Articles of Impeachment Against Trump; New Statistics Show that 76 Billion Opioid Pills were Distributed in the U.S. from 2006-2012; El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison; Investors Wait for News on U.S.- China Trade War. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 17, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:41] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. The question today, now what?

After chaos erupts on the House floor during a vote to condemn the president's racist tweets a deeply divided Congress is exposed, Republican support for the president solidified, and the so-called squad of congresswomen targeted by the commander-in-chief, as you've probably guessed, they are not going anywhere.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): There is no bottom to the barrel of vitriol that will be used and weaponized to stifle those who want to advance rights for all people.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): I'm trying to represent my district. It's a very diverse district with 20 different ethnicities. And I'm trying to fight on their behalf, trying to make sure that they have a voice here. At the same time I'm dealing with the biggest bully I've ever had to deal with in my lifetime.


SCIUTTO: As Democrats unite over the president's tweets and his subsequent comments, they face a new task -- what to do with an impeachment resolution that many Democrats frankly don't want to tackle right now.

Let's bring in Manu Raju, he's on Capitol Hill.

So rules are that when this impeachment resolution is presented, they've got to deal with it.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they do. Within two legislative days the question for the speaker is going to be how to dispose of it because clearly she does not want to move forward on an impeachment resolution at the moment. Any Articles of Impeachment they can either refer it back to the House Judiciary Committee or they could essentially kill it on the floor. And the question that would actually put Democrats on record.

So it's not a particularly easy vote particularly for Democrats who want to begin an impeachment inquiry. Last night when I asked the speaker about that, Jim and Poppy, she would not say what her next steps are. She said that we're going to discuss that with our leadership meeting -- among our leadership team and just behind me in a few moments, they're going to talk about their litigation strategy going forward. So that's where she wants to keep her focus, on the lawsuits, getting information, not moving forward on impeachment -- guys.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We'll see if she can keep the caucus together on this issue.

Manu Raju, thanks very much.

HARLOW: The president will no doubt bring this up tonight. He is speaking at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina. Remember it was planned to be tonight because Mueller was going to be today.


HARLOW: But now Mueller is on the 24th.

SCIUTTO: Counter programming.


HARLOW: To say the least. Question is what is he actually going to say about this vote today.

SCIUTTO: Late last night Trump praised the Republican Party for standing by him mostly during Tuesday's vote claiming Democrats in the House are, quote, "wedded to bitterness and hate."

Let's dive deeper now into all this, we're joined by Jackie Alemany, she's author of the "Washington Post's" "Power Up," and Tiffany Cross, co-founder and managing editor The Beat D.C."

You know, it's interesting, Jackie, watching the members of the Squad on CBS this morning and how they were, well, certainly not pulling punches against the president but taking a shot or at least keeping up the disagreement with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Have a listen to Rashida Tlaib this morning.


TLAIB: She is speaker of the House. She can ask for a meeting to sit down with us for clarification. The fact of the knowledge is and I've done racial justice work in our country for a long time, acknowledge the fact that we are women of color so when you do single us out be aware of that in what you're doing, especially because some of us are getting death threats.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: Singling us out. Accusing the speaker of singling them, fellow Democrats, out. Really no sign of repairing that split.

JACKIE ALEMANY, AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST'S "POWER UP": You know, this is the quandary that Nancy Pelosi finds herself in. You know, after a week of infighting last week that really spilled over into the public sphere Democrats were sort of saved by the president's racist remarks. You know, I hate to put it through those political lens but, you know, there was a temporary distraction. It was a welcome distraction.

And last night there was this great show of unity that really exposed, you know, these deep-seated schisms between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party on the issues of race and ideology in Washington, but this morning we are already back to talking about the infighting that really all leads back to impeachment as well in the Democratic Party.

You know you had Nancy Pelosi uniting the party, sticking up for the Squad, and the Squad in turn used this moment to have that press conference on Monday afternoon to renew calls for impeachment, to use the -- to put the power of the progressive plank to push forward and renew these calls to impeach the president.

[09:05:05] HARLOW: On the issue of impeachment, Tiffany, we know that as soon as next week, maybe even the same day as Mueller testifies Democratic Congressman Al Green of Texas is going to push this forward to move forward right now to impeach the president. It's the third time in as many years is he's going to do it. The last two times have failed because Dems voted to table it.

I just wonder if you think that this could help Trump by firing up his base and subsequently hurt Democrats by rushing something that perhaps methodically and more slowly could be more effective for them?

TIFFANY CROSS, CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGING EDITOR, THE BEAT D.C.: Well, I don't think that filing Articles of Impeachment will help Donald Trump. I think that's a ridiculous reverse psychology move that Donald Trump has said and that some Democrats have brought into. And like you said, this is Congressman Al Green's third time. This is something he's been very consistent with since this president has come in, and I think there is something a little dangerous about --

HARLOW: Let's listen -- let me just jump in.

CROSS: Yes. Sure.

HARLOW: Let's jump in here, Manu Raju, for this interview.

CROSS: Some of the (INAUDIBLE) people.


HARLOW: Yes. He is.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): -- colleagues and I want to make sure that we're not -- that the timing is such that we don't affect anything that's about to happen.

RAJU: Are you worried that it could be too soon?

JAYAPAL: I just want to make sure we get Mueller in here before anything else happens so that's my main concern.

RAJU: Sorted out what lines of questioning you're going to ask Mueller?

JAYAPAL: Yes, we've been talking about that and we've been -- you know, I don't think anything would be a huge surprise. We really want Mueller to go over what's in his report but to do it in a way that the American people actually starts to understand what's in his report and that he sees -- that he shows us exactly what he went through to get there because there's pretty damning things in the report and I think we just want them to be said in his voice since Bill Barr has really misinterpreted so much of what's in there.

RAJU: All right, thank you, appreciate it.

HARLOW: OK. Tiffany, let me get back to you there. Obviously she's an important voice in all of this, so let me -- finish your thought.

CROSS: Well, I just think that members of Congress have an obligation to do their jobs and we have seen as evidenced in the Mueller report that there has been certain -- not law, there hasn't been a criminal -- there has been conspiracy that Donald Trump has, I think, you know, maybe collusion, but he has conspired. People around him have conspired with foreign adversaries. And I think that is something that members of Congress have to hold them accountable to do.

They can't chase polls on this one. They can't -- because most of the American people have not read the Mueller report, and there have been people who have said I didn't know there was anything bad in the Mueller report.

HARLOW: Yes. I would just say, it's interesting, then we can move on, but that Al Green's this time pushing impeachment is not about the Mueller report. He's saying it's because of the president's bigoted comments.

SCIUTTO: Right. Right. Adding that --

CROSS: Well, there is. There actually is federal law that identifies his comments as discrimination. And there is -- this is an Al Green's -- he's not focused on multiple things but certainly there are multiple things that he could focus on and certainly members of Congress should look at a full view, a holistic view, on what this president has done and how he's destroyed democratic norms and vote with that in mind. Not necessarily poll chasing. Not thinking about the next election. But perhaps they should think about the next generation and use that as their guidance when thinking about moving forward with this Article of Impeachment.

SCIUTTO: Jackie, I want to talk about the Republican response to the president's tweets and comments now. Representative Will Hurd, the lone black Republican sitting representative and one of the four who voted in favor of this resolution.


SCIUTTO: Along with Justin Amash, formerly of the Republican Party, he could be heard on the House floor yesterday as he conferred with members of the Black Caucus across the aisle in his words that two thirds of the GOP caucus were struggling with how to respond to the president's tweets and comments.

You've done a lot of report on the Hill. You speak to a lot of folks up there. Is that your sense as well that in private, though not in public, there are many more Republicans who don't approve of the president's comments?

ALEMANY: Yes. Well, first of all, I just want to go back to Congressman Jayapal's comments. I do think it's really interesting that the self-described den mother of the Squad is saying that it's too soon for the Articles of Impeachment. But back to Republican sentiment, I mean, again, it's -- I hate to talk about these racist remarks that really do offend millions of Americans and are really antithetical to some of our founding principles and ideas of dissent in political terms but that is the way that a lot in the Republican Party are viewing these remarks.

Is it politically expedient for me to come out against the president and criticize him, or is it better to fall into party line?


ALEMANY: And I think what we saw last night, exactly what we saw last night with only four Republicans breaking from the ranks in order to vote for this resolution and condemn the president was this idea that, yes, we might not agree with the president's tactics, this language is reprehensible, people saying that in much stronger terms in private. But at the end of the day in order to keep my seat, in order to --


ALEMANY: You know, please the president and not fear the wrath of being on the end of a tweet or a rant tonight during his campaign rally is to stay in party line.

[09:10:10] SCIUTTO: Yes. This after the big -- just the chasm between the privately expressed concerns and the public.

ALEMANY: Yes. And you know --

HARLOW: Absolutely.

ALEMANY: Exactly.

HARLOW: I'm so sorry, Jackie. You both -- both will be back soon. We have to leave it there. We've got another interview we've got to hop to.

A potential problem for the president, his racist tweets could be used against him later in court.

Let's talk about this with a wise lawyer, Jim Schultz, former White House Trump lawyer.

You've seen how this stuff has played out for the administration. Jim, thank you for being here and let's begin with that. Let's get your reaction to "The Washington Post" piece this morning by Fred Barbash. He writes this, "In conjunction with other factors, they," meaning the president's words and tweets, "could help persuade judges to block policies he claims are crucial to his agenda particularly on immigration on the grounds of racial or ethnic animus."

We saw this. We saw judges bring it up with the first and second version of the travel ban. We saw it with the citizenship question on the census. We saw it with some of the immigration policies. Salient point?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: So I think you're going to see judges taking some of this -- certainly lawyers are going to make those arguments, no question about it.


SCHULTZ: They're going to take what the president says, put it in legal documents and use it against him on matters that folks are bringing in the Ninth Circuit and other places around the country and district courts around the country to oppose his policies. So that's certainly something the judges are going to take into consideration, also the reason why the president needs to be a little more careful about how he speaks about certain things and -- because they have broader implications both from a policy perspective and both the civil discourse in this country.

But I also think that, look, we've seen -- what Congress has done, you spent a couple of minutes talking about what Congress did yesterday. We've seen a similar thing happening with Congresswoman Omar, where she made the -- all about the Benjamins comments as it relates to the Jewish community and the way that the Jewish community advocates in this country. And they twisted themselves, Democrats in Congress, for two days to come up with a plan to deal with that and rebuke hate speech generally.

And I think that's -- that's part of the problem here, right? Congress needs to focus on a number of things right now. The most important is dealing with the issue at the border and the crisis at the border. They're now agreeing it's a crisis after months and months and months of the president calling it a crisis.

They need to deal with --


SCHULTZ: You know the USMCA and trade. And I think that all kind of feeds into this narrative, right?

SCIUTTO: I get the point that Americans would prefer Congress to pass legislation rather than debate. But let's be frank, I mean, this is a problem that goes back --

HARLOW: The House has passed --

SCIUTTO: Goes back many generations.

HARLOW: Three hundred pieces of legislation.

SCHULTZ: No, no, no. I agree 100 percent but --

SCIUTTO: Well, they have. They have. So my question is --

SCHULTZ: It's not without merit.

SCIUTTO: No, I hear you. I hear you. But let's get to how the president is handling this, right? I mean, for instance, infrastructure was the issue that was going to be one that would bring both parties together.

HARLOW: Totally.

SCIUTTO: The president kicked Democrats out of the White House when they were coming to speak about an infrastructure plan. So, my question is, you know, how has the president's behavior and comments helped get legislation passed as opposed to the opposite?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think you're also -- that was also the reaction to Democrats focusing more on impeachment. You just talked about impeachment.


SCIUTTO: I know, but it's like here we are, it's like they did and he said it.

SCHULTZ: Whether it started out -- started out with collusion, then it went to obstruction, now it's racism. And we've seen that at this point in time.

SCIUTTO: Yes, but, Jim --

SCHULTZ: We've seen them run the gamut on talking about impeachment and not talking about really solving problems in this country. And granted, I agree. The discourse needs -- the level of discourse needs to get to a reasonable level here, both by the president and by Congress so that we can -- so that they can accomplish things here for the American people.


HARLOW: Well, it's like bickering spouses who forget -- they're so caught up in the fighting they forget to take care of their kids in the interim. And the question I think Jim was getting at, and so shouldn't the president be above it all?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think all of our elected officials should be above it all. Look, I think it's -- you know, who couldn't -- who doesn't agree that Congress and the president should sit down and deal with asylum? The president has been asking for it, Congress has been asking for it. And to say that one side or the other is more at fault here because it's not happening is just more of that partisan bickering.

I think Congress needs to come with the solutions. The president doesn't pass laws. Congress passes laws, and they're not doing anything right now on it.

SCIUTTO: Well, the president leads the party and his guidance certainly leads where Republicans vote on these issues.

But, Jim, it's always good to have you on. It's always good to have a sane conversation --

HARLOW: Come back soon. Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: About these issues.

Still to come this hour Senator Kamala Harris has faced criticism for not having a clear plan for health care. Now the defining issue for Democrats on the 2020 campaign. Up next in a CNN interview she attempts to clarify her position.

Plus, today may be the last time the public ever sees El Chapo.


The notorious Mexican drug lord facing a life sentence in prison. We could hear from him before he's sentenced, though.

HARLOW: And these numbers, listen to them, they are shocking. Newly released data. This was sort of pulled out of -- pried out of the hands of the federal government shows the true face of the opioid epidemic, 76 billion of those pills distributed in this country between 2006 and 2012, a very important report, do not miss this.


HARLOW: All right, the big topic when you ask voters about 2020 --

SCIUTTO: By far --

HARLOW: Is -- yes, is healthcare. And it's also top of mind for the candidates, as we said the voters. Here are their numbers in recent CNN polling, 56 percent in favor of national health insurance even if it means higher taxes, 40 percent were opposed to the idea.

SCIUTTO: Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to address healthcare himself later today while Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris continue to clash on the question of Medicare for all.

[09:20:00] In a CNN exclusive interview with Harris, our colleague Kyung Lah was told that the former vice president is wrong on this, that Medicare for all does not mean scrapping Obamacare and starting over. Have a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From what Vice President or former Vice President Joe Biden would suggest is that you're not necessarily being clear with the American people, and just this past week, he was asked about ending private insurance as we know it.

And when he asked about the others, the former Vice President responded so far not. Because 150 million Americans are covered by private insurance. Are you -- what happens to those 150 million Americans under President Harris?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's the same as the millions of Americans every day that transition into Medicare seniors. It's seamless. Without any difference to their coverage, in terms of access to healthcare. It has to happen over a period of time.

There's no question, we would have to go from the current system into a Medicare for-all system and transition into it. But the idea that there would be any substantial difference in terms of the healthcare that people receive is just not accurate.

LAH: So people who have private insurance would eventually have to give that up under your plan?

HARRIS: They would eventually be covered under Medicare for all, and they would still see their doctor, and that's what they want.

LAH: How long would this transition take do you envision?

HARRIS: I think the transition is going to have to take -- I mean, the bill is four years. I think it's going to have to take more than that to be honest with you, yes.

LAH: And all this time without a middle class tax hike?

HARRIS: Without a middle class tax -- yes --

LAH: Thirty trillion over ten years.

HARRIS: There are ways to pay for it, also understanding the investment that we're going to be making in a way that is going to reap great benefits in terms of other costs.

LAH: The investment, where?

HARRIS: In American health, and what we are otherwise paying as a cost for people not having access to healthcare and the burdens that places on systems across the board when people don't have access to healthcare.

LAH: And when you -- when people question that there is no formula for this, that you are going to find money in magical ways is not realistic thinking, how do you respond to that? HARRIS: The status quo is not enough. So, we have to be open to

challenging status quo so that everyone has access to healthcare and price is not the -- is not the barrier. We have to agree that what's happening right now is not affordable to many working families.

It's just not affordable. One in five people can't afford their prescription medication. We're looking at a situation where one in four diabetes patients can't afford their insulin. We're looking at it -- at a situation where seniors are coming out-of-pocket as much as $4,000 a year to pay for their arthritis medication because it's not -- otherwise, they can't afford it. We have to move to a system where price is not the barrier to access to healthcare.

LAH: Well, Joe Biden says that this is what you are suggesting, an elimination of Obamacare. Is that accurate?

HARRIS: It's absolutely not. Listen, I will put my record up against anybody as having been a fighter for the maintenance and the sustainability of Obamacare. As Attorney General -- I mean, I'm sure on the debate stage, I'm the only one who went to court to fight to keep in place all of the benefits of Obamacare.

But like President Obama himself has said, he used the analogy of being like a starter home, it was a profound public health policy and shift. It was incredible. The courage that he had with so many others to actually get it done, and the wherewithal to get it done was profound.

LAH: But Obamacare is --

HARRIS: And so now, instead of taking it to its -- but now, it's about taking it to the next step.

LAH: So it is moving on from Obamacare?

HARRIS: And making improvements on it. And President Obama himself said, that there are -- there are improvements to be made.

LAH: Your policy that you released today, the drug policy, what I found quite intriguing about it is that in proposal after proposal from your gun policy to drug policy, you've said that you will lean on executive action if Congress fails to act.

You're a sitting member of Congress. What does this say about -- your belief in the authority of Congress?

HARRIS: But Congress has the authority. The question is there the will? The question is there the courage? What I have witnessed is that on so many of the biggest and most fundamental issues in the two years that I've been there, Congress is just not acting.

[09:25:00] And, you know, and so where it fails to act, and where there is a long-standing need for action by the American people, then where the authority exists in the executive branch to use executive power and take executive action. I'm prepared to do it. I believe in just getting stuff done. And for some of these issues like the affordability of prescription drugs, I would just suggest to you that Congress and frankly this administration have been in the pocket of the big pharmaceutical companies to the point that the American people pay more for the same drugs than people in Canada and in the U.K. pay. Why is that?

Why is it that the American government would let our own people pay more for the drugs that they need to relieve their pain or extend the quality of their life?

LAH: And last question very quickly. You said last May that you thought Joe Biden would make a, quote, "great running mate". Do you still believe he would make a great running mate?

HARRIS: I think that we have to get past the primary, and then we can start talking about running mates, and I'm happy to talk to you about it at that time.

LAH: Thank you, senator.

HARRIS: Thank you, thank you for airtime, thank you.


SCIUTTO: And of course, she was at the top of the ticket.

HARRIS: Yes, that was one of the best interviews of Kamala Harris --


HARRIS: I have ever seen. Pulling those answers --


HARRIS: Out of her methodically. Kudos to Kyung --

SCIUTTO: Absolutely --

HARRIS: There's a lot more of that exclusive interview. She also of course asked Kamala Harris about the president's racist comments regarding those four elected members of Congress. To see the full interview, go to

All right, find out which Democratic candidates will face-off on the same debate stage over those two nights in Detroit coming up at the end of the month. For the CNN debate tomorrow night, watch the draw for our Democratic debate, it is tomorrow, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here.

SCIUTTO: And this could be the last day most people will ever see "El Chapo" in public. Will we hear from the former drug lord before he is sentenced to life in prison?

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Stocks struggling to find direction in recent days. All three indices are at or near record highs. Investors still watching for any news on the trade war between the U.S. and China.