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Critical 24 Hours for Debt Talks Between Congress, Treasury; Trump Insists His Tweets Were Not Racist But the EEOC Disagrees; American Talk Real-Life Experiences of Being Told to "Go Back"; Former Mexican Drug Lord "El Chapo" Sentenced to Life in Prison, Speaks in Court; Man Who Lost 5 Relatives in Ethiopian Air Crash Slams Boeing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 17, 2019 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] MAYA MACGUINEAS, PRESS SECRETARY, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET: Yes. I think if you look at our fiscal situation right now, we're clearly in bad shape. Our national debt is the highest it's ever been relative to the economy, other than right after World War II. And it's on track to keep on growing.

And a big reason, a big problem with our growing debt right now is that our politicians refuse to make the hard choices that we're going to have to do to get control of this debt.

Right now, we're entering into a debt ceiling. We're about to hit it. No ifs, ands or buts, the most important thing we do is increase that debt ceiling and no antics about defaulting.

But at the same time, it sounds like our leaders are talking about putting together a deal that would increase the debt ceiling while increasing the debt. That, to me, is the height of irresponsibility. Ultimately, you want to increase the debt ceiling while bringing the debt down.

No one's willing to have an honest conversation in this election season but -- any election season really -- an honest conversation with the American people about the fact that we need to bring our taxes up. We need to reform our big retirement and health care programs. And we need to control our government spending. That's the way we're going to not hit new record levels of debt which, ultimately, really jeopardizes the economy and American families.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You say there are three big reasons why this should matter to everybody out there. Let me read it. You say, "The potential impact on American consumers is higher mortgages, higher car loans, higher credit card payments."

Explain why you believe a higher national debt leads to these three things.

MACGUINEAS: When the U.S. is borrowing, it means we're borrowing from somewhere else. Sooner or later, we'll have a Pollyanna effect where it will push up interest rates.

One lucky thing we've had so far is that interest rates have stayed low for a very long time, despite high levels or borrowing, because so many people want to lend to the U.S.

At the same time, what we're seeing now is that the entire world is getting overindebted. We don't know how long other countries, including ones we're not aligned with, will want to keep lending us or giving us this credit. So it leaves us very vulnerable.

If and when interest rates go up -- for instance, a 1 percent interest rate increase would lead to additional spending of $190 billion a year on interest payments alone.

So we are very vulnerable. It's a vulnerability you shouldn't have.

If you think about the debt, it's really kind of the fiscal foundation of the whole U.S. economy. And we're going into a situation where we have many challenges on the horizon. So over indebted, it leaves us much weaker and more vulnerable than we are as a nation.

CABRERA: How imminent is this, do you think?

MACGUINEAS: Nobody knows. Nobody knows what the tipping point is. It's not a problem until it is a problem.

I think one of the reasons it's so hard to force our politicians to do something about this, or our voters to care about it, is you can't see the direct effect. One great economist used to say it's like the termites in the basement. They're kind of eating away at the foundation. You don't know it's happening until it's too late.

But we have the luxury of getting ahead of this problem with a sensible, gradual debt deal before it becomes forced upon us.

Other countries, their markets push them to have deficit reduction plans. We have the luxury of doing it on our own terms. But we shouldn't be squandering that.

And really, I think it reflects how broken our government is. I think it has now become a reflection of toxic partisanship, ongoing delay and unwillingness to confront hard choices.

And you have parties competing, politicians competing over free giveaways and free promises, instead of governing and budgeting, which is what we need to be doing.

CABRERA: Maya MacGuineas, so good to have you with us.

MACGUINEAS: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thank you very much.

Protests in Puerto Rico are growing stronger as the governor refuses to step down amid a political scandal there. Look at what's happening now. We have artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ricky Martin speaking out over what's happening.

Plus, just moments before learning his fate, the notorious drug lord, El Chapo, spoke in court, taking a moment to complain. Hear what he said.


[14:38:09] CABRERA: While President Trump is not backing down, insisting his tweets attacking four Democratic congresswomen were not racist, the federal agency that polices racial discrimination in the workplace disagrees with him.

It is its official guidelines right here. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the EEOC, says, quote, "Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person's foreign accent or comments like "go back to where you came from."

I'm joined now by two women who have been on the receiving end of such attacks. Miranda Cooper is a Cuban-American who lives in Florida. And Nida Allam is a Muslim. She's also an officer in the North Carolina Democratic Party. And with us now as well is John Blake. He's a senior writer for CNN digital, with a piece that discusses the fallout from the president's remarks.

John, we'll talk about your piece in just a moment.

But, first, I want to speak with you, Miranda and Nida.

I want to ask you, if you would share your experiences of when people have told you to go back to where you came from.

Nida, I'll let you start.

NIDA ALLAM, MUSLIM-AMERICAN & THIRD VICE CHAIR, NORTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: As you mentioned, serving as the third vice chair of the Democratic Party, I get to a lot of these comments regularly.

When I go out and start organizing or I put myself out there, I receive a lot of messages from people who are telling me things like "go back to the desert," "you support car bombings," and comments that are very similar to what the president is putting up now.

It just goes to show that the hatred that we see the president putting out, it's not something he's just saying. It's something that he's emboldening other people to say to others.

CABRERA: How do you respond to those people when they make those types of remarks?

ALLAM: A lot of times, when they send me private messages, I try to ignore them as best I can. And at the same time, I know that when they send me these messages, they are just behind the keyboard. But sometimes there are people that will actually feel emboldened by these actions. And that's frightening because, actually, in North Carolina, three of my closest friends were murdered because of hate that their neighbors carried for them because they were Muslim. And they came into their home and murdered. So that hate is very real.

[14:40:27] So getting these messages is a reminder that there are other people out there who continue to feel this and they continue to feel emboldened by the president.

CABRERA: Miranda, I know your parents are from Cuba. You were born in Florida. Tell me about your experience.

MIRANDA COOPER, CUBAN-AMERICAN & WROTE OP-ED RESPONSE TO TRUMP'S TWEETS: Well, my experience, when I lived in Miami, I worked for an insurance agency. And the manager basically, at one point, for speaking Spanish to a co-worker, threw candy from a nearby candy bowl in my direction while yelling at me, "Stop speaking Spanish."

I've had people here tell me go back to Cuba, which is a place I've never visited before. I have not been there. I was not born there.

I think just because when I speak Spanish or my maiden name, people automatically assume that I was born elsewhere and will tell me to go back to Cuba.

Unfortunately, the president has emboldened people to behave in this fashion. And he's doubled down. He will just double down on his tweets and comments. And it's just dividing the country so much more.

There's -- like I said, unfortunately, it's just something that, as the president of the United States, it is your job to represent all of us that live here, all Americans.

And his remarks are doing nothing but divide a country that is already divided. This isn't helping anything or anyone. It's not even helping him.

CABRERA: John --

COOPER: It might embolden his base a bit, but it's just not a situation that I think is healthy for this country.

CABRERA: John, you wrote about this divide. You say the president's comments really have revealed two Americas.

JOHN BLAKE, CNN ENTERPRISE WRITER/PRODUCER: Yes. These two Americans have been around. It didn't start with Trump. It's been around since the nation's founding.

And a lot of people talk about President Trump but I think sometimes we don't talk enough about the millions of people who put him there, who they've heard statements like this for years. And this is the other America I talk about. They listen to these statements and it doesn't matter that much to them.

CABRERA: I want you all to listen to the president when he was asked if he was concerned about how white nationalists may interpret his comments. Here's what he said.



(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist, and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't concern me, because many people agree with me.


CABRERA: Many people agree with me.

Nida, what is your reaction to the president of the United States saying that?

ALLAM: My reaction is that he's confirming what the reporter was asking him, how do you feel about the white national supporting him. Many people that are supporting him and agreeing with him are white nationalists.

And it's really important for us, as Americans, to see that this is a time that -- yes, these two Americas have existed for a long time. But we have to act on this to stop letting this become so open to this hatred to fill this world with this hatred. We should be acting on it and organizing and finding elected officials and holding them accountable.

But when they encourage -- (AUDIO PROBLEM)

CABRERA: OK, I think we have a bad transmission there.

John, one thing this week has also shown us is that the president seems to believe it's up to him to deem who is patriotic and who is not. He's essentially saying, if you're criticizing this country, you're unpatriotic. What's your take on this?

BLAKE: If that's the case, then Dr. Martin Luther King was unpatriotic. Some of our greatest leaders have been people who have criticized this country because they loved it so much and they know it can be better.

So I don't think what he said really reflects our democratic traditions and reflects some of the people we hold in the highest regard.

CABRERA: John Blake, Miranda Cooper and Nida Allam, I really appreciate all of you joining us. Thank you.

[11:44:53] There are some people not outraged about President Trump's racist attacks. Hear from a group of Republican women. They don't just stand behind the president. They say it's the congresswomen who are racist.


[14:50:01] CABRERA: Notorious Mexican drug lord, El Chapo, speaking out today as a federal judge sentenced him to life in prison, plus 30 years. El Chapo calling his U.S. confinement psychological, emotional, mental torture 24 hours a day and insisting he did not receive a fair trial.

Here's what El Chapo's lead defense attorney had to say.


JEFFREY LICHTMAN, LEAD DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR JOAQUIN "EL CHAPO" GUZMAN: It didn't make a difference what the jury saw, what they said, what they discussed, what they voted on. At the end of the day, all that mattered was the government's evidence, no matter how flawed it may have been, no matter how many lunatics and sociopaths and psychopaths that it depended on. All that mattered was the evidence and the jury be damned.

We learned that up to five jurors violated the law while they were judging Mr. Guzman for crimes. Nevertheless, we couldn't even get a hearing to determine what actually happened.


CABRERA: El Chapo was convicted on multiple counts in connection with an international drug cartel that smuggled methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana. El Chapo is expected to serve his sentence at a super max prison in Colorado.

CNN's Jason Carroll is outside the federal courthouse in New York for us.

Jason, what else did El Chapo have to say at his sentencing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIOINAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he had a lot to say. He spoke for about 10 minutes. As he entered the courtroom, he looked for his wife, and he shook the hands of his attorneys.

And then he began speaking. And he made a number of points. He said, first, that there was no justice. He said that being incarcerated was one of the most inhumane situations he's ever had to live through. And then he basically called the United States a corrupt country.

Now, when you think of what's inhumane and when you think of what's corrupt, you also have to think about what was alleged during his trial. I mean, point by point, prosecutors said this was a man who either orchestrated or took part in the murder of 26 people. They talked about the billions upon billions of dollars that was earned through smuggling drugs through this country.

I mean, prosecutors summing it up this way saying, saying what happened today was not only a victory for the people of the United States but for the people of Mexico as well.


ANGEL MELENDEZ, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, NEW YORK OFFICE, HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS: This sentence today finally separates the myth of El Chapo from the man, Joaquin Guzman. And for the man, it is the end of the line and it is a reality that he will not be able to escape.


CARROLL: Again, prosecutors very happy with what happened today.

Defense attorneys say, again, that they do not believe Guzman got a fair trial. They believe the U.S. government just wants Guzman, quote, "to fade away to Colorado." And what they mean by that is that super max prison you mentioned is, in fact, in Colorado.

You know, Guzman has escaped from prison twice in Mexico, in 2001 and 2015. But no one has ever escaped from that super max prison in Colorado -- Ana?

CABRERA: Are they taking any special precautions, do we know, Jason?

CARROLL: We do know, during his time here, they've taken a number of precautions, extra security. When he stayed at the facility in Manhattan, not letting him up on the roof, things of that nature. They're doing everything they can.

But this is one of the most secure federal prisons in the United States. It's housed people from the Unabomber to the Shoe Bomber. They've housed a number of criminals. So a number of precautions in place.

But, again, this is a super max prison that has lots of facilities there to handle plenty of Guzmans -- Ana?

CABRERA: OK. Jason Carroll reporting. Thank you.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks out against President Trump's racist attacks, her office works to schedule a meeting with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. What both women hope to get from that one on one.


[14:58:25] CABRERA: A man who lost five members of his family in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 testified before a House committee on airline safety this morning.

Paul Njoroge lost his wife, his 6-year-old son, their 4-year-old daughter and 9-month-old daughter and his mother-in-law when the Boeing 737 MAX crash shortly after takeoff in March. He slammed Boeing, saying, had they grounded this kind of plane after that deadly Lion Air crash in October, he believes his family would still be alive.


PAUL NJOROGE, LOST FAMILY IN BOEING JET CRASH: My wife and my mom knew they were going to die. They had to somehow comfort the children during those final moments, knowing they were all their lost. I wish I was there with them.

It never leaves me that my family's flesh is in Ethiopia mixed with the soil, jet fuel and pieces of the aircraft.

Every minute of every day, they would be all around me full of life and health. I miss them every minute of every day.

If Boeing's wrongful conduct continues, another plane will dive to the ground, killing me, you, or your children or your members, all other members of your family.

It is you who must be the leaders in this fight for (INAUDIBLE).


CABRERA: Njoroge says the FAA surrenders too much of its authority to Boeing.

[15:00:02] Boeing and the FAA are facing multiple investigations after two 737 MAX jets crashed within months of each other killing --