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Trump Speaks at the White House; Trump Disavows Chants; John Boehner and Joe Crowley talk About Current Politics; John Boehner and Joe Crowley talk about Saving Pensions for Retirees. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 18, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Problems. When you look at the statements they made that were so bad and so horrible to our country, you look at what they said, John, what they said was something that is -- it's hard to believe that they could make statements like that.

statements like that.

And I could go page over page over page, many, many statements, whether it's about us, whether it's about Israel, whether it's about the World Trade Center, and all of the different things that were said. It was a very terrible thing.

I'm not happy about -- when I hear chants like that. And I've said that and I've said it very strongly.

But I will tell you, the congressmen and women also have a big obligation in this country and in every country, frankly. But they have a big obligation. And the obligation is to -- to love your country.

There's such hatred. They have such hatred. I've seen statements that they made with such hatred toward our country. And I don't think that's a good thing. They should embrace our country. They should love our country. And things would be a lot better.

Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.


TRUMP: What?

QUESTION: With the Pentagon -- with the Pentagon's JEDI contract, is there any chance that you might intervene in that contract, in that...


TRUMP: Which one is that?

QUESTION: ... it's the Pentagon's...

TRUMP: The Amazon? QUESTION: Correct. Amazon and Microsoft...


TRUMP: So, I'm getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon. They're saying it wasn't competitively bid. This is going on for a long time; I guess probably before this administration.

And we're looking at it every seriously. It's a very big contract, one of the biggest ever given. Having to do with the cloud and having to do with a lot of other things.

And we're getting tremendous, really, complaints from other companies and from great companies -- some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it -- having to do with Amazon and the Department of Defense.

And I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what's going on, because I have had very few things where there's been such complaining. Not only complaining from the media -- or at least asking questions about it from the media, but complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM. Great companies are complaining about it. So we're going to take a look at it. We'll take a very strong look at it.

Thank you very much, everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, guys. Right this way. Thank you, press. Thank you, press. Right this way, guys. Thank you. Thank you, press. We're leaving now. Thank you, guys, very much. Thank you, press. Thank you, guys. We're leaving now. Thank you. Thank you very much. We're leaving now, guys.

QUESTION: Will you be taking any (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. TVs are leaving, press.

TRUMP: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TV (INAUDIBLE), we're leaving now. Thank you, guys.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: And that was President Trump answering more questions on the "send her back" chants last night at his rally in North Carolina directed toward Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar specifically, a former refugee from Somalia.

And, keep in mind, he was silent during those chants for 15 seconds. And also keep in mind, she is an American citizen and she is an elected member of Congress.

Now, this all comes back to the racist attacks, his tweets on Sunday when he told four lawmakers, including Omar, to go back to the countries from which they came. Before this new sound, the president said he tried to cut it off.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, number one, I think I did, I started speaking very quickly. It -- it really was a loud -- I disagree with it, by the way, but it was quite a chant. And I felt a little bit badly about it. But I will say this, I did -- and I started speaking very quickly. But it started up rather, rather fast, as you probably know.

QUESTION: So you'll tell your supporters never to --

TRUMP: Well, I -- I would say that. I -- I was not happy with it. I disagree with it. But, again, I didn't say -- I didn't say that, they did. But I disagree with it.

QUESTION: But they were (INAUDIBLE) when you said your first tweet that they need to go back.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think if you examine it, I don't think you'll find that. But I disagree with it.


CABRERA: So that was just a few hours ago, not even a few hours ago. But watch what happened at his re-election event in North Carolina, less than 24 hours ago, last night, and it was 13 seconds that lapsed before the chants ended, seeming to die out on their own. Here it is.


CROWD: Send her back.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And obviously, and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screens (ph).

CROWD: Send her back. Send her back. Send her back. Send her back. Send her back. Send her back. Send her back. Send her back. Send her back.

TRUMP: And she talked about the evil Israel, and it's all about the benjamins. Not a good thing to say.


[14:05:00] CABRERA: Congresswoman Omar, who represents Minnesota, had not heard that the president disagreed with the chants when she responded to the incident earlier today.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Our message is about hope. It's about making sure that people feel like they belong, and that we are extending that tolerance and hope and aspiration to all of them.

Because we have said this president is racist. We have condemned his racist remarks. I believe he is fascist because today even Lindsey Graham defended his comments by saying that if I was wearing a MAGA hat, if there was a person wearing a MAGA hat, they would not be deported. But because I criticize the president, I should be deported.

I want to remind people that this is what this president and his supporters have turned our country that is supposed to be a country where we allow democratic debate and dissent to take place. And so this is not about me, this is about us fighting for what this country truly should be and what it deserves to be.


CABRERA: The chants mark an even uglier turn in American politics as the nation witnessed a president's racist words mushroom into the motto of some of his followers.

The send her back taunts come just days after President Trump tweeted that four Democratic congresswomen of color, quote, go back to the crime infested places from which they came.

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House now.

And, Abby, were White House aides surprised by the president saying he didn't support the chants of "send her back"?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House is really struggling to figure out how to spin this one, frankly. But the president's saying one thing in an earlier gaggle, that he disavowed the comments. And in the second gaggle, when he was asked, what would you tell your supporters as a result of them using this chant that you disavow, and he didn't deliver a message to them, he only said they are -- they are proud Americans. He wants them to continue to be proud. And then he pivoted to attacking the congresswoman.

So the White House is neither here nor there on this issue. And I asked another White House aide, the principle deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, why would the president claim that he immediately stopped the chants or that he stopped it very quickly, when the tape that you just played showed he didn't do that. And Hogan Gidley implied that the president may not have heard the chants.

Well, our Kaitlan Collins was at the rally last night. It was an 8,000 person rally for President Trump. That's a relatively modest sized crowd. And you could hear the chants. You could hear the chants. You could see the president waiting until they died down before he started up again.

This -- the Trump campaign is trying to turn this into a campaign strategy because, frankly, they have no choice. The president said what he said, and now they have shifted it to making it about how they can tie the Democratic Party to these congresswoman. The president's speech last night was in the teleprompter. It was scripted. And it was -- it was an effort to paint the entire Democratic Party with the same brush that he's painting these four congresswomen. But the problem is, they are also struggling now to deal with what happened last night, as his supporters went back to his original comments, using that phrase "go back," which I think everybody knows now has not only a racist connotation, but a racist origin, and the White House is struggling to explain that.


CABRERA: OK, Abby Phillip at the White House for us, thank you.

My next guests have seen both the rise of the Trump administration, as well as intraparty squabbles among Republicans and Democrats up close. John Boehner is the former House speaker, and Joe Crowley is the former chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Gentlemen, great to have both of you with us. Thank you for taking the time.



CABRERA: Let me start with you, Sr. Speaker, and let's back up to the president's original tweets. Were they racist?

BOEHNER: I don't -- people can describe them any way they want. I just don't think there's room in American society for these kind of chants, this kind of conversation. It certainly doesn't belong in our politics. But, unfortunately, it's kind of reflective of -- of how divided America has become. And, you know, I grew up being taught that it doesn't cost anything to be nice. And that you can disagree without being disagreeable. Probably two of the most important lessons I learned growing up that helped me in my political career.

CABRERA: I can respect you saying that. I think a lot of people believe in that. I'm a parent and I teach my children to treat others the way they want to be treated --


CABRERA: As sort of just the bottom line, right? But, again, were the president's tweets racist?

BOEHNER: You know, I -- I don't watch the news every day. I'm not in the political arena every day. And so, you know, I'll people have that fight and that discussion.

CABRERA: I can -- I mean I can read the tweets to you. His original tweets say, he writes, why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came, then come back and show us how.

[14:10:05] They're from America.


CABRERA: They're all American citizens. Three of them were born here.

BOEHNER: Right. Right.

CABRERA: One of them was born in Somalia as a refugee, as a naturalized American citizen. How is this not racist?

BOEHNER: A little different style than I have, let's put it that way.

CABRERA: You don't want to go as far as to call it racist? What -- what -- what are you hesitant to do --

BOEHNER: Well, I'm not -- I'm not -- I'm not in the middle of this. I'm -- I'm involved in trying to protect Americans retirement security.


BOEHNER: That's why I came here, and that's what I want to talk about.

CABRERA: Yes, and we're planning to talk about that as well.

CROWLEY: I think it's --

CABRERA: Were they racist?

CROWLEY: I think at some -- from my perspective, as the speaker said, it really has no place in our politics today. This -- this -- this should be the -- the rhetoric that we're hearing today on all sides, quite frankly, is -- is not worthy of who we are as a country, quite frankly. And we have real issues that need to be dealt with, like this issue of pension reform, that is -- is really creeping already into people's lives.

CABRERA: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: And so that's why -- that's what the speaker and I are here talk about.

CABRERA: And you're -- and you're very -- and you're a great example of working across the aisle on an issue that's important to all Americans.


CABRERA: And I do want to make sure we spend a lot of time talking about that. We're going to devote a whole bloc to that as well.

But, Mr. -- Mr. Speaker, while we have you, do you recognize this Republican Party?

BOEHNER: Well, clearly it's changed in the years since I left. And -- and, you know, the president is probably the most unique person we've had as president. But the fact is, he's president. And we've -- our politics in America have gotten further and further apart. That's why the issue that we're here to talk about is really not a partisan issue. When you look at 10 million retirees in these multiemployer pension plans, they live in Democratic districts, they live in Republican districts.

And so --

CABRERA: Do you feel comfortable being a Republican and being attached to where the Republican Party is right now?

BOEHNER: I grew up as a Democrat, but I became a Republican a long time ago. I feel like --

CROWLEY: We're still working on getting him back.

BOEHNER: I am a Republican.

CABRERA: Well, I remember -- I remember, you know, before 2016, when Trump was the nominee, you said, quote, you -- that you thought he was barely a Republican, but that you were going to vote for him anyway. Do you feel -- is that how you still feel going into 2020?

BOEHNER: Well, listen, I made it pretty clear that I thought his choices for the Supreme Court would be more in line with my thinking than -- than his opponent. I believe that is correct and that's why I voted for him.

CABRERA: Congressman, I want to ask you also, because you famously lost your seat in Congress to Representative Ocasio-Cortez, who is also, you know, the target of these most recent attacks.

Do you believe she and other members of this squad, which they call themselves, have outsized influences in the caucus and do you think the president's framing of them as the face of the party would hurt Democrats?

CROWLEY: I think that what's getting lost in all of this is that we're focusing on the rhetoric and divisive rhetoric on all sides, and not focusing on the issues that matter to the American people, like the issue of pension reform, that if it is not addressed will be a catastrophe for our country. Not just for those millions of folks whose pensions will be reduced, but for our country's economy moving forward. The more we dither and dather and not get anything accomplished, the more we'll regret that, we'll rue the day, in years to come.

CABRERA: And in order to accomplish anything, you have to have at least a willingness to listen to the other side, to reach across the aisle, to have some sort of bipartisanship.

I want to ask both of you this question, because you held the former role as the House speaker, and you obviously have served along with members of Congress who currently have the majority, let me ask you, Mr. Speaker, what is your advice for Nancy Pelosi right now in order to try to get things done?

BOEHNER: I mean I think the speaker's got a tough job. I've been there. I know how tough it is. But focusing in on the work of the Congress is -- is what I think she's attempting to do. I think that actually is the right thing for her to do. And to try to move as much legislation that helps the American people as they can.

CABRERA: And what's your advice?

CROWLEY: I agree with the speaker. I think that Nancy Pelosi is -- is not new to this. She understands how government works, how it operates. She's a legislator. John would probably agree, she's one of the best legislators we've probably ever work with. And I -- I think she understands how we have to walk and chew gum at the same time, as we say. You know, let those hearings take place, let all those things happen, the politics happen, but there's a practical nature to getting things done and legislating. And she's about doing that as well.

CABRERA: And we know she has done that. The House has passed 216 bills or 210 bills, I should say, already this year. But only 16 of them have passed the Senate. Why is -- why is that?

BOEHNER: Oh, there's a real surprise.

CABRERA: Yes, you're not.

BOEHNER: The Senate -- no -- no. Neither is Joe.

CABRERA: But -- but is the government working as it should if that's the case?

BOEHNER: No, it's -- it's the way our country was designed by our founders. They always saw the House as the hot cup of coffee and they saw the Senate as the saucer underneath it cooling off the coffee.

[14:15:05] The Senate, while they do the same thing, they have a different set of rules. It takes 60 votes to do anything in the Senate. And so I'm not at all -- not at all surprised that the Senate -- we used to complain when Republicans had the majority in the House, Democrats had the majority in the Senate, we'd always complain about the Senate Democrats not moving our agenda. It's part of the process.

CABRERA: What do you think of how many -- how the -- Mitch McConnell, the House majority -- or the Senate majority leader, has -- has handled this most recent controversy over the president's racist tweets?

BOEHNER: I'm not sure what -- what -- what Senator McConnell said or didn't say. But I'm -- knowing Senator McConnell, he, like Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, is trying to focus on the work of the United States Senate.

CABRERA: Do you wish more Republicans spoke up against this kind of rhetoric?

BOEHNER: I think a number of them have. It's just that rhetoric -- it's just not necessary and not helpful in the political discourse.

CABRERA: What's your opinion about that?

CROWLEY: I agree with the speaker, that the rhetoric is not helpful in the political discourse.

I do, for one, think that the tenor is set by the top, and I --I hope that we have more positive rhetoric moving forward. And, at the same time, recognizing that that's part of the game, that's part of the politics as well. And what the speaker and I are talking about, and here today to talk about, is it takes both sides to actually get tough things done. It takes political courage, political will to do that, and work in a bipartisan way, like the issue of pension reform. It's not going to be easy for Democrats or Republicans to tackle this issue, but they have to come together because of the interest of the American people.

CABRERA: Mr. Speaker, how many days have you woken up since you left Congress and thought, I wish I were still speaker.


CABRERA: Not one?

BOEHNER: Not one.

CROWLEY: Don't ask me that question.

BOEHNER: I -- I don't have one moment of regret or remorse about when I left. And -- and, frankly, every day that I've been gone, I'm pretty happy.

CABRERA: You are?


CABRERA: And you said you're not paying attention to politics?


CABRERA: Why is that?

BOEHNER: It's somebody else's job now. I did 25 years here in the Congress. It's other people's job to -- to carry the -- the baton. I'll read some news. I -- I will not watch news on TV, any channel. And nothing personal, but I just don't watch news on TV.

CABRERA: Congressman, have you --

BOEHNER: It's hard enough to read it.

CABRERA: Well, I'm sure you have a lot of other things that you enjoy doing as well.

Congressman Crowley, have you decided which Democratic candidate you will support for 2020?

CROWLEY: No, I haven't yet. And I'm doing a good deal of television and making observations on behalf of our party. I think we have a great number of candidates up for this office. Some would suggest maybe have too many candidates. But we have a lot. And all good people with great ideas. And I'm looking forward to a robust discussion as we move forward in this president's primary.

I can say that, in my retirement from Congress, I have the opportunity to work with the likes of John Boehner, someone who I admired and -- and continue to and have a friendship with and be able to work on issues that we both care about in a bipartisan way, maybe set a stage, for example, for something (INAUDIBLE) as well for our former colleagues.

BOEHNER: And even when we were in Congress, and before I was speaker, Joe and I worked together, we were friends, we never said an ill word about each other. This is not rocket science.

CABRERA: So, on that note, let me ask you about the Democratic candidates. What do you think of -- of Vice President Joe Biden? I know you worked a lot with him in Washington.

BOEHNER: I love Joe. I love Joe. He's a great guy. I'm not sure he should be running for president, but, you know --

CABRERA: Would you support him if he were the Democratic nominee over President Trump?

BOEHNER: Well, there's a lot of if's there. And I just remember this old saying, if --

CABRERA: So you wouldn't rule it out?

BOEHNER: If ands and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. I don't know.

CABRERA: You don't know.

OK, gentlemen, like I said, we want to talk all about this pension issue that affects millions of lives. So, please stay with me.

BOEHNER: All right.

CABRERA: We're going to take a quick break and we're going to talk about this plan to help millions of Americans who are retired, who may be looking at no retirement savings. Stay with us.


[14:24:09] CABRERA: We're back now with former House Speaker John Boehner and former House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley. And this week they unveiled a bipartisan push to solve a problem they say threatens the U.S. economy and it centers on pensions, specifically multiemployer pensions that are at risk of running out of money. About 10 million people participate in these programs, but at least 120 plans, affecting more than a million people, are expected to become insolvent in the next two decades. And the fund designed to shore them up, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, that's expected to run out of money as early as six years from now.

And now the former congressmen are launching the Retirement Security Coalition to save those pensions a week before the House takes up a bill on this very issue. They're both being paid for this effort through a firm. And Congressman Crowley and John Boehner are back with us now.

I want to start with you, congressman, on this segment. What -- what types of jobs are affected?

[14:25:05] CROWLEY: Well, really, across the board, they're -- these are folks that are union jobs, these are folks that are multiemployer plans. And primarily, on the central states pension plan right now, that's the largest that is facing severe cuts if something isn't done to help ameliorate that.

CABRERA: So -- so when we talk about millions of jobs, though, are these -- what types of industries?

BOEHNER: Well, you've got the transportation industry. You've got the baking industry. Pipefitters --

CROWLEY: Plumbers.

BOEHNER: And plumbers, plasterers, you've got a whole long list --

CROWLEY: Carpenters.

BOEHNER: Carpenters.

CROWLEY: Teamsters.

BOEHNER: Where you -- where they -- these -- these members may work for multiple employers. And so these employers and labor unions come together to develop these multiemployer pension plans that have been around for a long time. But they are defined benefit plans. In other words, you work x number of years, you get x amount for your retirement, like a lot of big companies used to do. The big companies, by and large, got rid of these plans because they couldn't account for the fact that we're all living so much longer.


BOEHNER: And they became very expensive.

Well, the same problem is affecting the multiemployer plans. And, as you mentioned, about 25 of these plans have already seen some pretty severe cuts to benefits because they just don't have the money.

CABRERA: They just don't have the money. And is that why, because they don't save up enough? People didn't -- or they're spending more than they're bringing in? I mean that's the bottom line, right?

BOEHNER: People are living a lot longer than anybody ever expected.

CABRERA: So what is the solution?

CROWLEY: Well, you also had corporations, companies that fail to meet their obligation to the Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation as well. So the -- across the board --

BOEHNER: They may have -- they may have gone bankrupt.

CROWLEY: Right. Yes. BOEHNER: You know, one of the employers may have gone bankrupt. Well, all those employees that worked there, and retirees, end up being picked up by the other employers who are still in the plan.

CABRERA: So what do you see as the solution?

BOEHNER: Well, there's -- there's a dozen different ways and combinations of ways to fix this, but it's up to the affected retirees, the unions, the businesses and the Congress to come to -- together and solve this crisis.

I think our point today is to help people become aware of just how big a problem this is. There are about 10 million American families who have a stake in this fight. And -- and if these plans begin to fail, two things will happen. One, these -- these retirees will get dumped into the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation where they will get a fraction of the pension that they were expecting.

And, secondly, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation is going belly up itself. And so the sooner the Congress acts to deal with this, the better off I think all Americans will be.

CABRERA: We mentioned there's a bill that is before the lawmakers in Congress right now. It would cost $64 billion. It would provide loans to help shore up pensions. Some lawmakers, though, are balking at this proposal, calling it a bailout. Your thoughts on that?

CROWLEY: We're not here to tell the Congress how to do their job. That's -- that's their job to find the solution. We're here to raise the concerns about this. And to point -- put out the real practical effect or -- or -- the negative impact this is having on our former constituency, but the country.

Local 707 in New York, they're already seeing their pension slashed in half. They're getting $570 -- some are getting $570 a month. That's less than half of what they were expecting at this point in time. Try, you know, living off of that in New York, Long Island or New York City. It's -- it's nearly impossible. We need to do something. This country needs to do something to address this issue and to give them back a modicum of what they are losing right now so they can have a decent retirement life in the -- in their retiring years.

And that's what the speaker and I are here to talk about, really rings these alarm bells and letting the American people know that this is a real crisis that, left unaddressed, will leech that into other pensions that are also weakened. And we can have a real, real crisis on our hands.

CABRERA: And because it does cost so much money, according to this plan, that $64 billion that lawmakers are talking about, it's looking like it's heading nowhere in the Senate, which brings us kind of back full circle to our earlier conversation about bipartisanship and the lack thereof.

BOEHNER: There's a -- there's a dozen different ways we'll address this. This proposal next week is one of them. There are a lot of other ideas out there about how to address this problem. But it's not our job to do the -- the legislating. We used to do the legislating. We're out of that. But helping Americans become aware of how serious this problem is, is important to put pressure on the Congress to come to a bipartisan, bicameral solution.

CABRERA: And, Joe?

CROWLEY: I'll just add one thing to that. It's a public sector and private sector issue that all have to be working together. And it's going to take some political courage and political will to get this done and see it through.


CROWLEY: But that's what the folks are sent to Washington for to do.

[14:30:02] CABRERA: Congressman Joe Crowley, Speaker John Boehner, a pleasure to talk to both of you.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much.

CABRERA: Thank you for coming on.

President Trump