Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Now Adopting Defiant Tone On Racist Tweets, Chants; A British Tanker Has Been Seized By Iran; CNN's Two-Night Democratic Presidential Debate Starting On July 30, 2019. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 19, 2019 - 14:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: ... for Brooke Baldwin on this Friday. You're watching CNN, thank you for being here. In about an hour President Trump will depart Washington. He will head for his golf resort in New Jersey. But the chaos and the controversy of this past week won't easily be left behind and perhaps the President likes it that way.

Because just moments ago, just a day after the President claimed he was unhappy with that "Send her back" chant that broke out at one of his rallies earlier this week -- claims CNN has learned he made after his allies expressed their concerns. He said this.


QUESTION: President Trump, you said you were unhappy with the chant. However, the chant was just repeating what you said in your tweet. Do you take you take that tweet back?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: You know what I'm unhappy with? I'm unhappy with the fact that a Congresswoman can hate our country. I'm unhappy with the fact that a Congresswoman can say anti-Semitic things. I'm unhappy with the fact that a Congresswoman in this case, a different Congresswoman can call our country and our people garbage. That's what I'm unhappy with.

QUESTION: So, you're not unhappy about the chant?

TRUMP: Those people in North Carolina, that stadium was packed. It was a record crowd. And I could have filled it 10 times as you know, those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots.


CABRERA: That capping off a tumultuous week that began with the President's racist tweets, telling four Democratic lawmakers, all women of color and American citizens to go back to their countries.

CNN political analyst, Elaina Plott is chief White House correspondent for "The Atlantic." Elaina, thanks for being here. I want to ask you about your piece in just a minute. But you know, we're seeing an often use pattern by this President from Charlottesville to the "Lock her up" chants before that, first just start a controversy then he just distances himself and then he seems to embrace it. What is the thinking behind this?

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think, Ana, to try and understand the thinking would imply that there is actually a strategy at work. But when I talked to sources inside, the White House and people close to this President, I mean, this is not some four- dimensional chess come to life. It's the notion that President Trump really does believe that by positioning these women as the face of the Democratic Party, he kind of has the cumulative villain he's been looking for in this race.

So he doesn't really have any interest in kind of pushing away from what's been going on. And you know, talking about Ilhan Omar, he believes is in his best interest right now, he enjoys the controversy.

But again, you're going to have these swing voters that he needs that he nearly won over Hillary Clinton in the Midwest, wondering if the economy -- if the success of it is enough for them to overlook those things.

CABRERA: You have a new piece in "The Atlantic" titled, "Where's Ivanka?" And in it, you write about how Ivanka Trump characterized by some as a moderating voice in this White House has been out of sight on issues like the border crisis and her father's latest racial firestorm. What kind of influence has she had this week?

PLOTT: Ivanka's influence this week has been negligible. I know that there were a lot of reports that surfaced yesterday afternoon and even late last evening, claiming that she had gone to her father and made the case that she was displeased with the "Send her back" chants at the rally and that she urged her father to change course.

But as you just showed in the clip you played, Ana, and you know, he's not really inclined to stick to the distancing, as it were, that he put in place yesterday.

So, time and time again, we see that her so called influence that she would telegraph often on the campaign trail that she could have over this President where he to be elected has not really come to fruition.

So I think you have to question not only what kind of suede does she actually have, but also to what extent is she even trying to gain it?

CABRERA: And where is she putting herself out there? Because there's also this pattern with Ivanka that you write about in which she likes to sort of have it both ways and get involved when she wants to be but then disappear when things get controversial.

PLOTT: So, you know, it's interesting, Ana, when this administration started, she did find herself wanting to get involved in more substantive matters that didn't necessarily fall under the platform of women's economic opportunity, right?

So she was very publicly involved in trying to urge her father to stay in the Paris Climate accord. It didn't work, but she was happy to dip her toes in those substantive issues. Now, what we see as she just kind of steps in and out of her portfolio, not necessarily to make substantive pushes, but to just be part of the show.

We saw that when she played diplomat with Kim Jong-un in North Korea, even though, you know, anything else she'll say, "Well, I'm sorry, that doesn't fall under my purview. But I don't really understand how discussing nuclear warheads with a dictator falls under the purview of women's economic empowerment in the Ivory Coast."

CABRERA: Elaina Plott, good to have you with us. Thank you for your insight.

PLOTT: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: How is the world looking at what's happening right now in the U.S. with the President attacking these four Congresswomen, the chants of "Send her back."

[14:05:05] CABRERA: Well, at her annual news conference in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel blasted the President's tweets while throwing her support behind the four progressive lawmakers he continues to attack.

Merkel is just one of several world leaders reacting to the controversy here in the U.S. CNN is tracking those responses. Let's begin with Fred Pleitgen, he has more on Chancellor Merkel -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Yes, Angela Merkel was highly critical of President Trump. She said that it's always been her belief that what makes America so special and so strong, was the fact that it was so diverse. And that the many people from so many backgrounds make America stronger.

And she says, she believes that anybody who criticizes that or speaks against that is undermining America strength. She was also then asked whether or not she would take sides on the sides of those four Congresswomen who were attacked by President Trump.

She then became very emotional said yes, she would, and that she would stand unequivocal solidarity with them.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Paula Newton here in Ottawa. And the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been exceptionally careful. Some would say to a fault about not criticizing the President, certainly not when it comes to policies in the United States and not taking him on personally either. This time was different.

The Prime Minister called the comments hurtful, wrong, and completely unacceptable. It seems that the common system seem to have crossed a line. And Justin Trudeau leaves an incredibly diverse country. He has a very diverse cabinet, and he seemed to want it on the record. That as far as he was concerned, this was completely unacceptable.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: David Culver here. In London, where U.K. leaders are condemning President Trump's racist tweets along with the racist rhetoric chanted by some of his supporters, Prime Minister Theresa May among the first world leaders outside of the U.S. to actually criticize the comments publicly, where spokesman, May, said they were completely unacceptable.

It's worth noting May is on her way out of office here. The two candidates in line to replace her as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt later joined her in that criticism.

And just today the U.K.'s Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, one of the most senior Muslim politicians here described to "Send her back" chants from a recent Trump rally, was totally unacceptable. But he stopped short of calling the President racist -- Ana.

CABRERA: David, thank you. For many critics and perhaps even some of his supporters. The President's demand that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, these four Congresswoman go back to where they came from, is the opposite of what America should stand for.

And they point to words like these from Ronald Reagan, who said this in his farewell address to the nation.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We lead the world, because unique among nations, we draw our people, our strength from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation.


CABRERA: Simran Singh is a scholar of race and religion and a visiting scholar at the NYU Center for Religion and Media. He is also a senior fellow with the sick coalition, Simran, welcome.


CABRERA: Let me read you something from "The New York Times" columnist David Brooks. He writes in an op-ed titled, "Donald Trump Hates America," he writes this. "So apparently Donald Trump wants to make this an election about what it means to be American. He's got his vision of what it means to be American, and he's challenging the rest of us to come up with a better one ..."

Simran, he goes on to say, "Trump's version of America and American is defined by three things, xenophobia, nostalgia for a previous time, and whiteness." That's his analysis. What are your thoughts?

SINGH: I think David Brooks is right the sense. I think we live in a world where there are two different forms of America. There's an America that is quintessentially racist and that this country was founded on the backbone of racism, literally on the backs of slaves.

But there's another type of America that I believe in, and that many of my friends and family members believe in. It's the promise of America. It's why my parents moved to this country from India -- a belief that we could all live with this, liberty and justice for all with the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. And I think what we're seeing is Donald Trump doubling down on racism

is really ripping apart this idea of the America that I and millions of other Americans really believe in deeply.

CABRERA: What would be your message to that crowd in North Carolina where we heard those chants "Send her back?"

SINGH: You know, I would tell them about my own personal experiences. You know, I grew up in Texas. I moved to New York about 10 years ago. And I grew up hearing chants like that, racist slurs like that over and over again throughout my life.

And one of the most striking memories that came back to me after hearing these chants, was just after I moved to New York City. An elderly woman had fallen on the street.

[14:10:05] SINGH: And I went over to help her, it wasn't a big deal that she had fallen and I just went to give her a hand. And she reached out and then she looked up and saw me. And she pulled her hand away. And she told me go back to where you came from.

And it struck me that this is the story of racism in America that people would rather suffer in their own toxicity than to receive help from people who look like me. And that I think, is not the sort of America I want to live in.

CABRERA: That is a stunning story. A couple of years ago, I couldn't help but notice you pinned this tweet that still is on top of your Twitter page. That's from Angela Davis, a quote and this was shortly after Charlottesville happened.

You pinned this tweet and the quote is, "In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist."

Again, that was two years ago. It's so relevant today, obviously. Where do you think we stand today, compared to two years ago? Are we moving forward? Are we in a better place or worse place or about the same?

SINGH: Well, I think what we're seeing from statistics, right, let's start there. FBI reports tell us that hate crimes have increased every single year over the last three years since Trump took office. And so, we're actually not going forward. We're going backwards, and Trump is taking us there.

I think that that particular message of being anti-racist was a message for myself more than anyone else. It was -- I grew up dealing with the racism, and putting my head down and saying, if you just keep doing the good work, people will start treating you better.

And I didn't realize until recently, until Charlottesville, that silence is complicity. And so when we look at these Congress persons who are not calling Trump out on his racism, who are defending these tweets and these messages that he's putting out there, which are incredibly dangerous for so many of us on the ground.

Each of those Congress people who've refused to say anything, they're just as complicit as he is.

CABRERA: Simron Singh, thank you for sharing your experience, your thoughts, your perspective.

SINGH: Thank you.

CABRERA: Good to have you with us. I want to get to some breaking news. Now, the escalating tensions with Iran, we've just learned that a British tanker has been seized. Let's get right to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with the latest from U.S. defense officials. Barbara, what can you tell us?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, two U.S. defense officials are now saying that a British tanker has been taken in the Persian Gulf. This is the motor tanker Steno Impero. We looked it up it appears to be a petrochemical tanker British flag.

And a short time ago, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is operating in these waters and causing so -- behind many of these provocations, announced that it had seized this tanker. So this is the second serious provocation in two days.

Yesterday, we saw the U.S. have to deal with bringing down an Iranian drone that came too close to a U.S. warship in the Strait of Hormuz. It was warned away, it kept coming. They took it down.

Today we are now seeing once again, by all accounts, a British flag tanker being taken by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf area.

The question really becomes very rapidly, what happens now? These provocations are taking place with some frequency. It is a challenge for commercial shipping in this region.

You know, this is an area where that is so vital with oil and petrochemical shipments. Also regular cargo shipments moving through this area throughout the Middle East. These are routes that then go on to Asia, and also to the United States and Europe.

So just to say that these are sensitive waters, is you know, an understatement. This is vital. The safety of these waters is vital to international commerce around the globe.

And Iran, right now, is causing a good deal of concern and anxiety when they take these ships. It is very destabilizing, let alone being a national security threat to so many countries.

You have to remember these are commercial ships. They are manned by commercial mariners, people who are just out there trying to earn a living, doing their job, working these ships up and down the waterways.

And so again now, today, we have one of these provocations. Iran says it the U.S. says it that they have taken a British tanker once again -- Ana.

CABRERA: Okay, Barbara Starr, we know you'll continue to follow this, thank you. Much more on our breaking news. Coming up, we'll go live to London for reaction. Plus, we now know the lineup for CNN's Democratic debates. We will break down the plan for the two-night event including the most intriguing matchups.

And, a story you'll never forget. A father tries for years to join his daughter in the U.S. but their reunion came too late with the 13- year-old on her deathbed after a suicide attempt.



CABRERA: Welcome back. We now know who will face off in CNN's two- night Democratic Presidential debate. Night one, on July 30th, we'll see the top two progressives share of stage for the first time, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

[14:20:07] CABRERA: Night two, we'll feature a rematch of former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. Senator Cory Booker will also be in that debate. He will hold down the podium to Biden's left. And ever since that first debate, you know, Booker and Harris have been doubling down against Biden's recent missteps, especially when it comes to race issues.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're on a debate stage and if you have not prepared, and you're not ready for somebody to point out a difference of opinion about the history of segregation in our country, and what was necessary to deal with that, which at that time was busing, then you're probably not ready.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm not holding against Vice President Biden for saying something boneheaded. We all have but come forward, why have we created this culture where you can't say you made a mistake?


CABRERA: Now the deputy of communications director for Booker hyping up the matchup with this tweet, "Mark the date: July 31st, Joe Biden finally gets his own Senate Judiciary Committee hearing."

Leah Wright Rigueur is an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Leah, let's just start there. If you were advising Biden and this debate to stand out against these two, or to maybe fend off what he will be encountering, what would be your strategy?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY AT HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Well, for one, it's got to be a good strategy, and it means that he needs to prepare. That needs to be the number one item on his agenda right now, which is preparing because he is again, being the top dog in the in the current primary system right now, in the Democratic primaries, he's going to be facing challenges from all across the stage. Everybody's going to be looking to kind of take Biden out, as we saw in the last debate, and as we saw in the last debate stage.

But the interesting thing is that, you know, this is a moment, where not only is, you know, not only is there going to be a challenge to Biden. We saw that since the last since the last debate, you know, Kamala Harris has risen quite rapidly in the polls. So there are going to be other people on that stage who are going to be looking to go after her and are going to challenge her on a number of different issues.

So really, we're seeing the setup where a lot of these big names with big numbers behind them to go head to head. And ideally, the candidates should be prepared with ideas, with policies, and with actual concrete answers.

CABRERA: We are seeing another woman who's been rising, Elizabeth Warren. And she and Sanders have gotten much closer in the polls. They also have very similar platforms. I spoke to Sanders about how his healthcare plan shored up to other opponents this week and listen to this.


CABRERA: What are the big differences between you and Senator Warren in terms of policy on this issue?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'll let Senator Warren talk to her views. I am talking to mine.


CABRERA: Then he went on to talk about his. However, he has been going after Biden on healthcare all week long. We also, in that same interview, talked about Harris, but he didn't even want to take a moment to go after Warren.

Now they're going to be on the same debate stage. How do you expect that dynamic to play out? Do you think it'll be different?

RIGUEUR Well actually I think it's an important dynamic that needs to play out, you know, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, out of all of the -- you know, all the real main contenders or primary contenders in this primary debate and primary election, are the most similar in terms of kind of outlook in terms of presentation. And yet, there are also very clear differences between them.

Number one, Bernie Sanders identifies as a Democratic socialist, and Elizabeth Warren identifies as progressive or even a --

So you know, there are important differences. I think one of the things that we're going to see is that we're going to see Bernie Sanders double down on the ideas and the ways that he has pushed the Democratic party to the left and the influences of his ideas.

What we're going to see probably with Elizabeth Warren, is her really bolstering and putting out the ideas that she's had percolating that she's been going across the country, really selling to the American people, and really kind of hammering and hitting home on that as a way of differentiating, but also showing that they're really -- at the end of the day on the same side of this fight.

CABRERA: That will be so interesting to see that dynamic among many. Thank you so much, Leah Wright Rigueur, good to have you with us.

Let's go back to our breaking news. U.S. official say Iran has seized a British tanker and yet another escalation, we'll go live to Iran. Plus, he tried for years to join his 13-year-old daughter in the U.S. but their reunion happened at her deathbed. Please don't miss this powerful story.


[14:29:15] CABRERA: The broken immigration system is having a life and death impact on families. And CNN's Ed Lavandera spoke to one father who was preparing to bury his 13-year-old daughter.

She attempted suicide and later died of her injuries after her father was denied asylum. Their story started like many who fled the turmoil of their homelands hoping to build a new life in an unfamiliar country. CNN's Ed Lavandera has their heartbreaking journey.


MANUEL GAMEZ, FATHER OF HEYDI GAMEZ GARCIA (through translator): This is the hardest thing for a man. To know that the most important thing in his life is gone.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Manuel Gamez is living a nightmare, watching his life unravel. He's on his last walk to say goodbye to his 13-year-old daughter who's been on life support since she attempted to take her own life in early July. And the pain of knowing his attempts to cross the border failed ...