Return to Transcripts main page
Rep. Emanuel Clever (D-MO) Interviewed about Abandoning the Chair of the House of Representatives During Session to Vote to Condemn Some of President Trump's Tweets as Racist; Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) Interviewed on House Vote to Rebuke President Trump. Aired 8- 8:30a ET
Aired July 17, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The House passed this formal rebuke of President Trump, the first in more than 100 years. This resolution condemns the president's racist tweets that went after those four congresswomen of color, and the vote fell largely down party lines. Just four Republicans and one independent joined Democrats to condemn the president.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The vote itself was actually delayed for nearly two hours amid a bitter partisan debate over whether Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, had actually violated House decorum rules by calling the president's tweets racist on the floor. Now, that led to this moment with Congressman Emanuel Cleaver who was presiding over the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO): We don't ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that's what this is. We want to just fight. I abandon the chair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK, Congressman Cleaver joins us now. Good morning, congressman.
CLEAVER: Good morning.
CAMEROTA: Why did you throw down your gavel and march away from the chair?
CLEAVER: Well, because, frankly, I was embarrassed to remain as the chair presiding over what should have been a very shameful moment for all of us, and that is, here we were in the House of Representatives, and every person who spoke violated the House rules. I presided -- I was asked to preside to try to make sure that it was a fair kind of a thing, and that's what I did. So I admonished every single speaker, Democrat and Republican, and thought all I want to do is get through this ugly situation without adding any chaos to it.
And then, of course, the motion to take down the words of the speaker I thought were just a total disgrace, because I could have set the stage to take down the words of other Republicans that had spoken, but I just wanted to get through it without embarrassing us anymore.
CAMEROTA: Explain that to me, because Nancy Pelosi was punished for her words. I think that she was sort of rendered silent for a little while. But who else violated the rules? What did they say?
CLEAVER: Almost everybody who came up violated the rules. The actual legislation, the title of the legislation violated the rules. "Racist" was in the title of the resolution. And then if you look at the footage, just about everybody who came up there said what Nancy Pelosi said, that the president's words were racist, including Steny Hoyer.
So unfortunately, it was an opinion for people to escalate to make things worse, to make things messier, because I think for some people there's some enjoyment. Representative Collins is a good and decent guy. I think he was put in a situation where it's our opportunity to get Nancy Pelosi, and that's who they wanted. What I'm trying to say is there were other individuals, including Republicans, whose words could have been taken down. But my goal was this is ugly. It's embarrassing internationally. It's embarrassing to our children. Let's just get through this. And we were about five minutes from getting through when someone decided to take down the words of the speaker.
CLEAVER: And congressman, what do you mean embarrassed? Can you just expound on that?
CLEAVER: I don't know if anybody can look at what's going on here on Capitol Hill and think that it's OK and think that it's the normal way in which legislators conduct themselves. As I mentioned earlier and yesterday that people want to escalate. We're in a bad situation now. I'm just thinking about my children and the children all around the country, and here the adults on the floor -- think about the irony here. We're entertaining a resolution in which the president -- to condemn the president of the United States for saying words that are just, in 2019, unthinkable to fall from the lips of the presidency.
And so instead of just dealing with that now, we're trying to deal with the words of the speaker of the House who is trying to condemn the president, hoping that he would stop using this toxic language. Of course, he's not. My understanding is he's quite pleased with the way things happened yesterday. I'm not. I was embarrassed as a legislator in the United States House of Representatives. Can you imagine what the world is thinking as they watch this dysfunctionality here in Washington?
CAMEROTA: Are you saying you are now embarrassed to be a member of Congress?
CLEAVER: Well, everybody held some of that embarrassment, but I was certainly embarrassed to preside over a session where the goal was to make things worse. And I didn't want to be a part of it.
[08:05:00] And of course, Nancy Pelosi did violate the rules of the House. So did Steny Hoyer. So did some Republicans, just about every Republican who spoke. But if wanted to go down that road, we'd still be there and we'd still be in the midst of all kinds of chaos. My goal was to get through it without adding to the insult.
CAMEROTA: When you say that it was the goal of some people to make it worse, who are those people?
CLEAVER: Well, people on the Republican side I think are the ones who moved to strike -- to take down the words of Nancy Pelosi. I just want everybody to understand that if you look at the footage, everybody who spoke could have had their words taken down. I'm saying it was a design to do that, to take down the words of Nancy Pelosi, of Nancy Pelosi, not anybody who violated the rules.
CAMEROTA: But why is there a rule that you can't say that the president's words are racist? Isn't that a little limiting if you want to call the president's words racist?
CLEAVER: Well, when you think about it, some of the great orators of all time have stood in the well of the House of Representatives, it is supposed to be a dignified spot, a place where Webster and Lincoln addressed touchy issues of those moments. And so the rules were put there to make sure that the House is a place of dignity, where you can come in and have very, very serious debates without debasing the House. Now, that rules is put in the House rules books, and that rule can be changed. And it hasn't been used since 1984 anyway with Tip O'Neill, almost the identical thing happened.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, we're almost out of time, but what are you going to do the next time the president tweets? What do you suggest? Since you think you all wasted a day and that it was embarrassing, what's your suggestion for the next time this happens?
CLEAVER: Look, all the chaos that's taking place here in Washington derives from one human being and a tweet. And I think we're having government by tweet, legislation by tweet, debate by tweet. And I think at some point we, the legislators, as well, frankly, as the media, let the president just tweet away, tweet away his presidency.
But we can't continue to react to this. He's going to insult some others. He's going to speak some untruths, and so forth. We need to just let him hang out at the White House and do that. To the degree that we can still do legislation and get some things done, we ought to do it.
My suggestion to the House and the Senate and the people of the country is to forget the man's tweets. I think he's playing us like a Stradivarius. He knows there will be a reaction, and he also knows that a portion of his base is OK with him insulting people. And that's unfortunate for the United States of America.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, thank you very much for explaining your view from the front row of what happened yesterday. We really appreciate you being on NEW DAY.
CLEAVER: Good to be with you.
CAMEROTA: Erica? HILL: The Democratic caucus in the House united in condemning President Trump's racist tweets. There still, though, appears to be a rift between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the four members of Congress who have became known as "the squad." All that began, of course, last month when the Congresswomen were the only four Democrats to vote against the House's border bill, prompting criticism from Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez then accused the speaker of targeting the group because they are women of color. Well, this morning the squad discussed that feud for the first time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Our teams are in communication. Our chiefs are --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But shouldn't it be a face-to-face? I want to know --
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): She is the new member, not the speaker. She has every right to sit down with her at any moment, any time, with any of us. 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 have been racial justice work in our country for a long time, acknowledge the fact that we are women of color, so when you do single out, be aware of that and what you're doing, especially because some of us are getting death threats, because some of us are being singled out in many ways because of our background, because of our experiences, and so forth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alexandria, are you interested in having a conversation face-to-face with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely. And we've reached out to that end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Absolutely interested. Well, when will that meeting happen, will it happen, what's the communication between the offices? We have more on that just ahead. Stay with us.
HILL: A dramatic moment on Capitol Hill last night as Representative Cleaver dropped his gavel, frustrated at what was happening, telling Alisyn just moments ago he was actually embarrassed at everything that happened last night in the House. Joining us now, House Majority Whip James Clyburn. Sir, always good to have you with us.
JAMES CLYBURN, (D-SC) HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Thank you very much for having me.
HILL: As we just heard from Congressman Cleaver, he said not only was he embarrassed. He everyone, every person who spoke violated House rules, that the resolution itself, which has the word "racist" in the title also violates the rules, and essentially said that the president is playing you. Did Democrats do themselves a disservice last night? CLYBURN: Well, I think all of us can agree that this president is a
master of distraction, and he will do anything he can in order to keep the American people's minds off of what really ails them. On yesterday we were scheduled to debate, and we did to some extent, the Intelligence Reauthorization Act.
[08:15:08] We're going to vote on that today.
Intelligence is very, very important to the security of this country, and that's what we should be focused on.
And tomorrow, we're going debate raising minimum wage for the first time in 10 years. Nobody is talking about that, and that's what we need to be talking about.
I've said to some of my friends in the media, I would hope that some media entities can spend a day on focusing on the legislation that's been passed by this House sent to the Senate sitting over there without any action.
And when I go home every weekend, people are saying, what is it that the House is doing? And I'm telling them, we've done this, we've done that, we've done the other, and they say, well, we don't know anything about that. And that's simply because we cannot get the media to focus on the issues that we are debating, that we are voting on, that are affecting the American people.
We just had last week -- Senator Coons was on earlier and I agree with him 100 percent. Last week, we were discussing what it's going to be like if the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals were to get rid of Obamacare.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Uh-huh.
CLYBURN: And we cannot get the country to focus on that.
Here we are this week, we ought to be talking about that.
The number one issue of the American people: health care. We're not talking about health care.
HILL: Well, to your point, we have been talking about health care, I will say, sir, this morning on this program. And listen, we cover as much as we can, but the onus is not only on the media. Democrats themselves held this vote on a resolution last night. So, that is part of what's happening in the House and it was important that you wanted to hold that that resolution was held.
So, the question then becomes are you giving it too much oxygen. And to your point if you want to see is more coverage of what else is happening in Washington, should you be shifting your focus?
CLYBURN: I agree with that. You know, I used to be in the business so I know what it is to try and attract people to your headlines or to your newspapers. I was in the newspaper business, and so, I don't know a whole lot about the television. But I did know this -- that you go to great lengths to try and focus on people who are particularly interested in. So, I'm not blaming you for that.
I'm saying all of us ought to spend a little more attention not just reporting on what we're doing up here, but focusing on it, because I think the American people need to be informed about what it is the legislators are doing and not be so preoccupied with a lawless president who seems not to care much about the law.
HILL: And there is a lot happening as you point out. We have seven legislative days left, I believe, is the count right now to deal with the budget. We know that Speaker Pelosi has been in talks with Secretary Mnuchin. Those are positive developments. Hopefully, we'll see even more of a development in the coming days.
I do want to get your take, though, too, because a resolution we saw introduced last night by Representative Al Green, of course, would introduce articles of impeachment. You've said in the past, you believe impeachment proceedings are inevitable. You now, though, as a member of leadership have some decisions to make.
Where do you stand on this?
CLYBURN: Well, I've said before that I do believe we ought to build a foundation upon which to cast that kind of vote. And I've said time and time again, we're not there yet. Our committees are doing good work, and we are really developing what I think is a foundation that we can make a solid decision upon.
Look, we -- if you go back to Watergate, it was not to John Dean's testimony and Mr. Butterfield, those two peoples testimony is what broke that open. And we never got to an impeachment of Richard Nixon. We didn't need to because the American people, once they saw the record of what John Dean had to say and Alexander Butterfield, that was it for the American people.
Before that point, less than 30 percent of the American people favored impeachment. But after those two testimonies over 70 percent of the American people favored impeachment. And then, Nixon saw the handwriting on the wall.
That's what we're trying to do now -- have these people come in and get the testimony, build a foundation and maybe we can get this president to see what's on the wall.
[08:20:12] HILL: Really quickly, I want to get your take on something that was said by Representative Ayanna Pressley over the weekend. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GAYLE KING, CBS HOST: You know, when you say things hike the speaker of the house is being disrespectful to women of color, is she according to you being disrespectful to women of color because of your color or because she doesn't like your policies or the tactics that you all are taking to make your point?
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Right, and I'll clarify it. I did not say that she was disrespectful of women of color. I found some of the comments disrespectful, and that was my personal opinion.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: And I did feel that singling out on the basis of one vote was creating an opening.
But that doesn't mean that we -- that we fundamentally disagree or fundamentally disrespect each other's position and power and ability to be here. And that's what makes us united as a caucus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: That, of course, is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
HILL: And that came from an interview just released this morning with Gayle King on CBS.
There's that part of it, but also what I was referencing was what Ayanna Pressley had to say over the weekend, saying: We don't need anymore brown faces that don't want to be a brown voice. We don't need black faces that don't want to be a black voice.
She went on to say: If you're worried about being marginalized and stereotyped, please don't even show up because we need you to represent that voice.
Are you concerned about a growing racial divide within the Democratic Party?
CLYBURN: I do not think there's a growing racial divide within the Democratic Party there or racial issues in this country and the fan -- the flames have been fanned by this president. And so, I do believe that we are and should have a discussion of race.
Look, I've been around a long time. I'm from South Carolina. I know what it is to live in that kind of environment.
But I bring that experience here to the Congress. Others bring their experiences here to the Congress. Some of those experiences were predicated upon racial differences. And some of them are gender differences. Some of them have to do with preferences.
And we should have all of those discussions here, but we can do that in a way that we can be respectful with each other, and I do believe that that is taking place. It's always gone --
HILL: Representative Clyburn --
CLYBURN: I'm sorry?
HILL: Sorry, sir, I don't mean to cut you off. We are out of time.
CLYBURN: Thank you.
HILL: I always appreciate you joining us. We all do here. Thanks for taking the time this morning.
CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.
HILL: Thanks, again.
CAMEROTA: OK, Erica, you've given us a lot to discuss there.
So let's bring in Jonathan Martin, CNN political analyst and national political correspondent for "The New York Times," Abby Phillip, CNN White House correspondent, and Josh Green, CNN political analyst and national correspondent for "Bloomberg Businessweek".
OK, Josh, we just heard that new sound released this morning from the squad, and that was where Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez was talking about ongoing tension with Nancy Pelosi. And at this point after the vote last night, after all the tension that has been on display between the squad and other Democrats, is there a thinking that Nancy Pelosi will be able to corral them somehow because really President Trump has exploited all of that and capitalized on it to sow discord among the Democrats?
JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think so. If you go back three, four days before Trump's tweets the big story in the Democratic Party was what appeared to be this merging racial divide between the squad and Speaker Pelosi, and now I think, thanks to the president's tweets, they've had an effect of unifying Democrats against racism. And, you know, if you're a Democrat that's an easy vote to take.
And all the drama, all the Republican push back, all the attacks have served to minimize that divide in the Republican Party and unify Democrats against the president.
HILL: It's interesting we talk about this being unifier because part of what we also heard in that interview --
CAMEROTA: It didn't sound so unified.
HILL: -- there's not a lot of chitchat happening, there's not a lot of unity happening.
So, Gayle King asked specifically of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez whether she wants to sit down one-on-one with Nancy Pelosi. She said, well, you know, our teams talking.
Well, CNN later confirmed that Nancy Pelosi's office said they did receive a request for a one-on-one meeting between the two lawmakers yesterday.
So, you know, Jonathan Martin, as we look at that, it does beg the question of just how much communication there actually is and how much unity there is behind the scenes. JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not very much until yesterday
apparently. I think President Trump may have helped force that meeting and may have created a kind of rallying effect.
But here's where President Trump I don't think is going to be a factor -- the left wing allies of AOC want to effectively run purge campaigns in Democratic primaries next year against Democratic incumbents who they view as insufficiently progressive.
[08:25:19] That's how AOC came to office against Joe Crowley last year and they have a list of Democrats in the House they're going to go after. That's going to create problems with Pelosi and the Democratic leadership no matter what tweets President Trump sends out because the Democrats in the House are not going to tolerate primaries against sitting members that are, you know, basically tacitly supported if not outright supported by other members of the House.
And that's really the tension point, guys. As much as anything else policy-wise, process-wise in the House, it's the allies of AOC trying to unseat sitting Democrats, i.e., her colleagues in the House.
CAMEROTA: On a separate note, Abby, NBC has gotten their hands this morning on this old archival footage of a pool party at Jeffrey Epstein's house and Donald Trump seems to be one of the only other men there. And it's from 1992. You can see that they were quite close at the time.
They are talking about which women -- oh, sorry, this is at Mar-a- Lago. My mistake, this is Mar-a-Lago and Jeffrey Epstein is the guest. And there's a whole bevy of women who have been it seems flown in for this very occasion. Donald Trump is commenting on their looks.
And you had said earlier that the White House is aware of this, and basically just -- I mean, Donald Trump has already said after this he had a falling out with Jeffrey Epstein. But are they concerned that this is somehow a harbinger of more stuff to come?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is quite a bit before the falling out, but people in the White House are aware it is possible there could be more footage just like this, more photos, more images, more interviews illustrating the relationship that Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein did actually have at a time when Donald Trump was known to be a playboy, known to be the type of person who would attend parties with lots of women. I mean, this was not unusual -- at the time unusual for him.
And so one of it reasons why all of this blew up with Jeffrey Epstein and one of the president's cabinet secretaries, Alex Acosta, was caught up in it, it was seen by some somehow aides as an effort to sort of cut off one potential vulnerability for them. But there's clearly another vulnerability right there, and it's just the president himself, a well-established relationship with someone who has a long history of allegations of sexual assault, sex trafficking against minors, not just women but minors. And so, it becomes that, a potential problem. This particular tape is the two of them, they're talking. But at the
same time, this case in New York unfolding is just getting started. We don't really know and I think the White House doesn't really know what more is going to be uncovered about what Jeffrey Epstein did and didn't do and who he did and didn't do it with.
And so, it remains a real vulnerability and for the president, any time there's a video footage, they're going to have to deal with that. But as, you know, David Axelrod said earlier this is not the first time for President Trump. The "Access Hollywood" was as bad if not worse than this and the White House and president have just brushed it off two years later. So, we'll see what kind of political impact this all has.
CAMEROTA: All right. J-Mart, Josh, Abby, thank you all very much.
So, another Republican is considering challenging President Trump in 2020. We'll let you know who that is, and we will talk to him about why he is now considering diving into this race.