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CNN Unveils Lineup for Upcoming Democratic Debates; Iran Denies U.S. Downed Iranian Drone; Trump Pressured to Disavow Rally Chant. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 19, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:02] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: So let's start there. They say they're friends. They are friends to a degree. But friends become rivals in a campaign, as we saw with Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. But let's start with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

This is a fight, I just want to show the debate here, up here, the two leading progressives here. This is a fight that neither candidate probably wants right now, but this is a fight that has to happen at some point in the campaign. They control nearly a third of the national polls of the Democratic vote.

They say they're friends. He was mad she didn't endorse him back in 2016. He's also mad that there was an effort by some allies of her to try to nudge Sanders out of this race. His team now whispers all the time, she can't lead a movement like Bernie. You got to stick with Bernie. Will it happen on this debate or will it wait?

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the reality for the Sanders' campaign is that of the two candidates, Elizabeth Warren is the one who seems to be ascendant. She is the one who is -- her poll is moving up, his is moving down a bit. And they are largely aligned on policies. So on those issues that Sanders says are most important to him, most important to his campaign, there's not going to be a lot of daylight for him to go after her so he would have to make a choice to go after her more personally.

You know, that's not something he's been completely comfortable doing, we saw that in 2016 a bit with Hillary Clinton. But, you know, I think that the Elizabeth Warren strategy is going to be really fascinating because if she does see herself moving forward, if she does say herself, you know, as the sort of inheritor of the Sanders movement and legacy, she has to make that seem like a safe space for those very loyal Sanders supporters. So she's going to be incredibly unlikely to go after him. She's going to basically want to send the message like the water is warm over here, Bernie bros. You know, come here and I will protect all these issues that you really care about.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. She wants to be the Bernie 2.0 if you will. But I think one thing I hear when I talk to Senator Sanders and other advisers, he mentions the electability argument over and over. And he points to polls and I suspect he will at the debate as well saying he defeats the president, and perhaps more so than her. So I think he will make that argument. But I think most of the exchanges on that stage will probably come from Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg who are, you know, might have a moment, and also other sorts of more moderate or conservative voices who'll be going after Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren together. But I would be surprised at the end of the evening if there's any type of sharp exchange between Warren and Sanders.

KING: But if you're looking for the -- this is the defining debate in the party, do you have a more pragmatic, Medicare for All, Green New Deal, free college one national election. Can the Democrats sell that to the country in one national election? The people who say no include the governor of Montana, the former congressman John Delaney, the former governor John Hickenlooper, the Senator Amy Klobuchar. They are among those who say look, we share your goals but you're trying to do way too much, way too fast, and it costs way too much.

Will we get that debate? And so will Warren and Sanders in an odd way be allies fending that off?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, probably, right? I mean, that seems to be the big debate going on right now on Capitol Hill as well where you have the squad debating Nancy Pelosi. And right now, you know, Democrats are trying to decide do they want to go with their heart, do they want to go with their mind? Can they find someone who can sort of bridge that divide? And so it'll be interesting to see do Warren and Bernie, you know, clash or are they on the same team for this debate and going after the more sort of moderate and centrist Democrats.

KING: Let's move to night two which I'm not sure Joe Biden is happy with the draw last night because he had a bad night, he had a bad night in the first round of debates so maybe he wants the rematch so he can show that he can rebound. We'll see. But we saw the fireworks in the first round here between then frontrunner, now you just have to call him the leader. He's come down in the polls since the first debate.

Senator Harris went at him. Senator Booker saw how this worked. Senator Harris went up, the former vice president came down. So he says he wants in. We'll see if he does this on the stage because he tends to be a more peaceful, friendly candidate. But his team is signaling he wants to get more aggressive.

Are we going to have the busing issue, the segregation issue, the crime bill issue, essentially Joe Biden, you're from another day, the party has moved on conversation?

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, and especially on the backdrop -- against the backdrop of what we've just seen happening with the president in the last week, where now Kamala Harris and Cory Booker can go out there and they've made it very personal for them, a lot of these arguments. And again, Joe Biden might have to be on the defense where he's trying to defend his own legacy and kind of relate to the voters and say this is an issue that matters for me. I'm trying to unite the country as well versus, again, these personal stories that some of these candidates have. It's going to be a challenge.

KING: So what is Senator Harris' calculation in the sense that it worked in round one and you do see her moving up. But you also hear when you talk to activists African-American voters around the country that be careful here. Maybe I'm not going to vote for Joe Biden and maybe I'm not sure who I'm going to vote for, but I love Joe Biden. And she's not as well known yet, she's still -- you know, this is early in the campaign. Is there a risk of taking -- of being too aggressive against an icon in the party?

PACE: I think clearly that first debate was a really strong moment for Kamala Harris. But behind that you did hear some questions about, you know, was it too contrived. The fact that the campaign had a picture ready to go, there were t-shirts ready to sell.

You know, from talking to some of her advisers, I think they are also cognizant that she has to not just prove that she can dish it out, you know, both in a debate and in a hearing, but she can also take it.

[12:35:10] You know, take some jabs about her own record with some humor, but also have some, you know, policy proposals ready to go. She's going to almost certainly get hit and questioned on where she really comes down on healthcare because she's been a little all over the place on that. And I think she does have something to prove about, you know, how she can hold up when the pressure is pointed in her direction.

KING: And only six of these 20 will qualify for the next round in September. So this pressure on the other 14 to find a way to break through too.

ZELENY: It's super high stakes. And I think the former vice president, I mean, if he doesn't have a stronger performance, then he won't even be the leader in this race. But everyone around him said or believes that he will have a stronger performance. He's been preparing. He will be preparing much more in the week before.

But I think that he is going to try and point out some inconsistencies in Senator Harris' statement. Medicare for All a chief example. And on busing as well, I mean, she's not been entirely consistent on that. But I am most fascinated by Cory Booker. Is he going to try and use this as a moment to actually bring it?

But I think the topics of discussion, mass incarceration, other things, it didn't really come up in the first debate, it will be more front and center. I'd be surprised if it's as focused on busing. Most Democratic voters are saying that is not that relevant in our lives today and I think Senator Harris knows that.

KING: All right, we'll keep an eye on that as we go forward.

When we come back, Iran's foreign minister says he wants to talk to the United States. To the Congress, not the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:41:04] KING: Topping our political radar today, Iran says President Trump's announcement that the United States downed an Iranian drone in the Straits of Hormuz is, quote, delusional. Iran says all of its drones are safe and sound. The president though says the U.S. Navy assault ship downed that drone after it ignored warnings and came in within 1,000 yards of the vessel. A Defense official telling CNN the drone was destroyed by electronic jamming.

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is in the United States to discuss the ongoing tensions with the United States. In an interview with NPR and hinted he's open to new talks with conditions.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We can do it right now in order to make sure that people can be at ease that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons. In exchange for a permanent lifting of sanctions ratified by U.S. Congress, exactly as envisaged for 2023, we can do it now. Engagement has lost credibility at home. People don't look at engagement with the international community. The United States for one reason, for not keeping its word.


KING: The last part there was the most interesting part to me in the sense that the foreign minister essentially saying he has lost some credibility at home where the hard-liners, of course, call the shots because he was the one who pushed for this deal, he's the one who negotiate -- helped negotiate this deal. The United States walks away. He's essentially saying his job is harder not only here trying to get the Trump administration to listen to him but back home.

SALAMA: And he's absolutely right. He's under a lot of pressure and it's been building. The Trump administration said just two weeks ago that they were going to put sanctions on him which will basically going to cripple his ability to interact with any countries. They've since scaled that back because they realized that for any kind of diplomacy to happen with Iran, they're going to at least have to give our European allies some breathing room to be able to meet with the foreign minister and to engage with them. And ultimately this comes back to Washington, it comes back to the White House.

President Trump wants to talk to Iran and he's said it over and over again. It's just the path of how. He doesn't want Iran to make him look bad, make him look weak in the eyes of the international community and the eyes of his own voters, and especially as he goes on the campaign trail and says, you know, I'm making peace with Iran. I'm making Iran submit to my demands.

And now Iran is essentially testing him out. What we saw this week was the latest provocation with Iran in a matter of weeks because Iran saw that the president was about to launch an attack a couple of weeks ago and then withheld it. He said he does not want another war in the Middle East.

I was just speaking with a senior administration official today on this matter, and that official asserted that the president wants to go through diplomatic and economic pressure. He does not want another war in the Middle East. And that was exactly what we were told. And so, it's really just going to be this whole game of you hit me, I hit you back, but for how long.

KING: And how do you get the conversation started. Zarif is in New York, there's no indication the administration is ready to do that yet.

SALAMA: Exactly.

KING: We shall watch.

Up next, how worried should President Trump's 2020 campaign be about that "send her back" rally chant?


[12:48:43] KING: The ugly discourse of this contentious week began with the president's Sunday morning tweet suggesting four Democratic congresswomen, all of color, all American citizens also, mind you, go back to where they came from. Six days later, he's full speed ahead with his attacks on those four Democrats. He did distance himself yesterday though from his big rally crowd and its racist chant of "send her back."

After the president criticized Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Ivanka Trump was among those who told the president the chant crossed the line. A number of Republican lawmakers also relayed that same message through the vice president. But looking back on this wild week, there's no doubt where that message in the chant started.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're not happy in the U.S., if you're complaining all the time, very simply, you can leave. You can leave right now.

It's up to them. They can do what they want. They can leave, they can stay.

Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists. If they don't like it, let them leave. Let them leave. Let them leave.

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 fast, as you probably noticed.

[12:50:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you'll tell your supporters never to say it again?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Well, washing -- trying to wash his hands off that. Whatever the particulars of the chant, whether the president really means it when he said he didn't like it, it is clear from this past week starting last Sunday, race, resentment, immigration, tension is the head of his campaign message.

PACE: This is going to be the space he's going to occupy between now and the election. And that's because he thinks it works. It's also because when he has moments like this, he may get gentle pushback from lawmakers or from advisers, but it's not a rush to condemn. He thinks he can get away with this. He thinks it will motivate his base and he also knows that his path to victory, just like 2016, is going to be very narrow.

He is doing very little to try to grow his base of supporters, so this is all going to be turnout among his base and Republicans. And he looks at his election in 2016 and he thinks that this is part of what got him there, so he plans to double down.

ZELENY: He's been doing it for a long time. I mean, we looked at the week but we could look back years and years. I mean, he started it with Barack Obama and he's continued it. It has worked for him up into this point. Now he's president of the United States, his words have, you know, a far heavier freight and weight. We'll see if he repeats that.

He has said he's unhappy about what the members of Congress said. He's never going to, I don't believe, tell his crowd to quiet down. I would be stunned if that ever happened.

PACE: And we'll have opportunities fairly soon to see. I mean, this question of how he really feels about the chants, you know, we're going to see that in play out in realtime pretty quickly.

BADE: For Republicans in the House, I mean, this is just another example of how Trump is putting himself before the party. I mean, they thought that if they could keep the focus on socialism that they could potentially grow their minority, probably not take back the House but that this is really an attack line highlighting these four women and how they support socialist ideas or flat-out socialism point blank, that they could win a lot of seats. And Democrats were really worried about that too. But I talked to Democrats yesterday who felt like even though they hated this rhetoric and they were really concerned about the safety of these four women, especially Congresswoman Omar, they felt like something changed and that, you know, now these women are not going to be held up as, you know, socialists or whatever. He's going to go to these racial attacks, these racist comments, and that helps them in the long run.

SALAMA: Also, he takes a lot of pride in just his events being spectacles. He likes that. He loves the interaction with the crowd and them shouting and chanting things. He takes a lot of pride in that. He likes the catchphrases that he's developed as well. And so he's never said that he was going to stop the crowd from saying it, he just said he didn't like it.

KING: And he didn't stop the crowd when they did say it.

Up next, a little bit of a political lightning round with a Hollywood twist.


[12:56:52] KING: Straight to the White House, the president of the United States just moments ago taking questions in an event celebrating 50 years of Apollo 11.


TRUMP: -- would 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.

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. But I'm unhappy when a congresswoman goes and said I'm going to be the president's nightmare. He's going to be the president's nightmare.

She's lucky to be where she is, let me tell you. And the things that she has said are a disgrace to our country. Thank you very much, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there an update on this ASAP Rocky case?

TRUMP: ASAP Rocky is a situation in Sweden. Sweden is a great country and they are friends of mine. The leadership. And we are going to be calling, we'll be talking to them. We've already started. And many, many members of the African-American community have called me, friends of mine, and said could you help.

So -- I personally don't know ASAP Rocky but I can tell you that he has tremendous support from the African-American community in this country. And when I say African-American, I think I can really say from everybody in this country because we're all one. I have been called by so many people asking me to help ASAP Rocky. Actually, the one who knew about ASAP Rocky was our first lady, right? She was telling me about, can you help ASAP Rocky. Do you want to give a little statement on that?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're working with State Department and we hope to get him home soon.

TRUMP: We're going to see. We've had a very good relationship with Sweden. He's being held as you know in Sweden and we've had a very good relationship in Sweden so that's pretty much it. Thank you all very much. Thank you, thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Thank you all.

TRUMP: Hopefully we're in good shape on the debt ceiling. I can't imagine anybody ever even thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge. When I first came into office, I asked about the debt ceiling. And I understand debt ceilings, and I certainly understand the highest-rated credit ever in history and a debt ceiling. And I said, I remember, to Senator Schumer and to Nancy Pelosi, would anybody ever use that to negotiate with? They said absolutely not. That's a sacred element of our country. They can't use the debt ceiling to negotiate.

And don't forget, President Obama during his eight years, he created -- he doubled the debt. You take every president, every president prior to President Obama, he then took it and doubled the debt over $10 trillion, 10 trillion with a T, not a B. Not a million, not a billion. President Obama put $10 trillion --