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AT THIS HOUR

Sen. Harris Unveils Plan for Black Higher Education & Businesses Ahead of CNN Debate; Biden Holds Wide Lead in South Carolina Democratic Field; 16 Marines Arrested on Human Smuggling & Drug Charges as Navy SEAL Team Removed from Iraq for Alcohol Use; Ole Miss Students Posed with Guns in Front of Emmett Till Memorial Sign. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:31:43] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, in the race to 2020, presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, is rolling out two proposals aimed at closing the racial wealth gap. The California Democrat wants to invest billions of dollars in historically black colleges and universities and black businesses.

She explained her plan just a short time ago at the National Urban League conference in Indianapolis.

CNN's national correspondent, Kyung Lah, is there with the breakdown for us. And we're also joined by Tiffany Cross, co-founder and manager of "The Beat D.C.

Kyung, first to you.

What is in Senator Kamala Harris's plan?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's basically a multi- billion investment in two areas that she says will eventually start to address the root problems of what is known as the racial wealth gap. That black Americans don't have the same access to STEM fields. They don't have the same access to the entrepreneurial fields.

She wants to invest $60 billion into historically black colleges and universities, specifically in the area of stem and then take another $12 billion and boost black entrepreneurship in this country.

This was part of her prepared remarks and her platform that her campaign is calling her black agenda.

But in the question-and-answer session, she took a question about her prosecutorial record. The question was whether the fact that she was a career prosecutor, if that hurt her in advocating for criminal justice reform.

Senator Harris gave a robust defense of her record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): I am acutely aware of what is wrong with the system. And I made, therefore, a very conscious decision to become a prosecutor.

And what I said then is what I maintain today. Why do we only have to be on the outside on bended knee or trying to break down the door? Shouldn't we also have a role on the inside where the decisions are being made in a way we can influence the change that must occur?

(APPLAUSE)

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LAH: Something we did not hear from the Senator on stage is Joe Biden. She didn't talk about the debate. She didn't talk about the former vice president.

But as she was walking away from the stage, as she was leaving this venue, a reporter did ask her, just shouted out, what do you think about Joe Biden, what do you think about his belief that he's -- I'm paraphrasing here -- but essentially are you going to be polite in the debate, and she said, I was raised to be polite -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: OK. So, Tiffany, just to follow up on the commitment that Kamala Harris is making and, at the same time, the challenge that she is getting as a prosecutor. I mean, that is a constant. That follows her, just as the crime bill with Joe Biden continues to follow him.

But I wonder if the two will end up finding kind of that commonality in being criticized and being ready to defend themselves on those platforms.

TIFFANY CROSS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Senator Harris is going to have to remind people what was going on. Because you're going to have over five million young people who maybe don't remember what was happening in the '90s around crime. And all they see right now are the negative impacts of that. But I recall when there were a lot of black mothers and grandmothers saying, yes, we need help to clean up our streets.

[11:35:10] Now, there were very negative implications of some of the policy that came out of that time and candidates are going to have to tell that narrative. Even though she said it on the stage at the Urban League, the Urban League is an audience of more business minded people. The same way we aggregate the voters of other colors, it's the same community. She will have to beat this message over and over.

If I were advising the campaign, I would advise her to talk to the face of criminal justice. She ought to make him an ally. Your colleague, Van Jones, has been out in front. She could get involved with the A$AP Rocky situation to highlight that she is a friend to the black community. Because there has been a lot of misinformation out there about her record that I think she needs validators to help her spread the message and spread the truth about her platform and what the intensions were. WHITFIELD: So days ahead of the next debate, the CNN debate with

Democrats there, Joe Biden still goes in crushing the competition. A new Monmouth University pole of Democrats in South Carolina showing Biden at 39 percent, Harris at 12 percent. And you see the rest there. The numbers are coming as Democratic presidential candidates get ready to tee up for that debate.

So Biden has said, Kyung, no more Mr. Nice guy. He is going to be unleashing, if he has to. But clearly, to avoid another versus Harris kind of debate stage moment. Why would punching down work when you look at how high he is in the polling?

LAH: The impression that I'm getting is not that he's punching down, per se. It's that he is ready to attack daily, that he is on the defense. That he's not going to take this Rose Garden policy of just standing back and trying to rise above it all. That he realizes he has to engage in the day-to-day battles.

So that's the impression that he's sending out, that if he is attacked on the stage that he plans on being, quote, "not so polite." That he will engage because he has to. That he saw after that first debate that if someone comes directly at him, he's got to be able to respond.

(CROSSTALK)

CROSS: can I respond?

WHITFIELD: Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: He was kind of caught flatfooted and he had kind of this engagement with the Democrats are not going to attack each other. But now he's essentially sign-posting that gloves are off. If you come at me, I'm coming at you, too.

CROSS: Well, I think this narrative of Joe Biden being the front- runner when they're quite a ways away from the voting is something the media has pushed. I know there's polling out there to say this. But you also have to consider who is being polled.

And then looked at the new voting electorate. They don't typically follow a lot of voter data. So I think Joe Biden realizes this is not necessarily his election to lose.

Certainly, he resonates well with people in South Carolina. He owns a home there. He has deep roots there.

But this is a very crowded field. You have over two dozen candidates running. And I think everybody knows they're going to have to go out and earn the vote.

We did see that Joe Biden looked ill-prepared last debate. Certainly, he should be prepared for whatever comes after him in this debate. However, I think the other candidates -- Kamala Harris has proven

herself to be a for biddable opponent. The daggers are going to be out from other opponents. And I just want to caution people that these are very serious issues they're discussing. These are serious things. And Kamala Harris and Joe Biden will not be the only candidates on the stage.

(CROSSTALK)

CROSS: And I really encourage voters to look at policies put out by all the candidates.

WHITFIELD: And it might be the last-ditch effort for some in that field --

CROSS: Right.

WHITFIELD: -- to really stand out, so they might really be coming out punching unexpectedly because the polling has them at the bottom, but they have even more to prove to really get out in front.

All right. Tiffany and Kyung, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Good to see you both, ladies.

And of course, you don't want to miss two big nights, the CNN Democratic presidential debates, Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:00, live from Detroit, only on CNN.

[11:39:20] Coming up, 16 U.S. Marines arrested on charges ranging from human smuggling to drugs. We'll have the latest on that, next.

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WHITFIELD: New details now on the 16 U.S. Marines facing charges that include human smuggling and drug-related offenses. The arrest yesterday at Camp Pendleton in California came one day after the U.S. military took the rare step of sending home an entire elite team of Navy SEALs from Iraq due to allegations related to alcohol use.

Joining us is CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, and retired Rear Admiral John Military, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst and has served as spokesperson at both the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon.

Good to see you both.

Barbara, you first.

What is the military saying about these two nonrelated but equally disturbing developments?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredricka. Not related, of course. But these are very high-profile incidents. The U.S. military knows that this gets the public's attention and they know substantively that they need to deal with this. It is raising questions certainly in both cases about leadership and whether troops really are understanding the ethics and morals training that they have and that obeying the law is not just an option.

[11:45:15] So the Marines, this grew out of a previous investigation where two Marines were arrested for smuggling undocumented migrants across the border. Now yesterday, 16 additional Marines taken into custody at morning roll call at Camp Pendleton, and another eight under questioning also for drug use.

On the SEALs, they were sent home. There are allegations of a very serious sexual assault impacting that unit. They were questioned about it and that is when they uncovered that the SEALs had also been drinking alcohol, which is against military regulations in the war zone, of course.

So a lot to be looked at here by investigators and by leadership.

WHITFIELD: And Admiral Kirby, do you think this is just coincidental or indicative of something larger or much more troubling within the us military?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I wouldn't be surprised to see senior military leaders asking themselves some larger, broader questions about discipline in the ranks as a result of these and other recent incidents. That's typical for military leaders to do that. They do a lot of introspection in the higher level of the ranks.

That said, Fred, I would be very surprised if there's any connection between these two incidents in terms of the larger moral ethical issue in the military or that there has to be some sort of systemic change to deal with it.

These are all serious charges and allegations. But they are just allegations right now. We have to let the justice system play itself out.

WHITFIELD: Yes, these are allegations. When you talk about top brass potentially coming together, but aren't these, at least how the allegations are spelled out, isn't it just common-sense behavior and expectation of these U.S. troops?

KIRBY: Sure. Look, the Uniform Code of Military Justice is very clear and concise. And the behavior that's alleged here obviously is overtly wrong on its face. And it's in conceivable to me that troops wouldn't know that going into deployment into the Middle East or even just acting here domestically inside the United States. So clearly, these are very obvious violations of that code.

But I want to get back to one thing that Barbara said about trust and confidence. One of the ways that the military will help to ensure public trust and confidence is by treating these as seriously as they are, by letting the justice system play it out and having them fully investigated and having these Marines and these SEALs the chance to defend themselves inside the process. All of that helps go, I think, to restoring and to completing American trust and confidence in the armed forces.

WHITFIELD: Admiral John Kirby, Barbara Starr, thanks to both of you.

KIRBY: You bet.

Next, a shocking photo. Three Ole Miss students holding guns in front of a sign meant to honor lynching victim, Emmett Till. Why the university is choosing not to take action, coming up.

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[11:52:14] WHITFIELD: A shocking and deeply upsetting image. Three Ole Miss fraternity brothers posing with guns at the Emmett Till memorial. In this photo, obtained by "ProPublica," the students are seen standing beside the sign, which appears to be riddled with bullet holes. It's not clear if they are connected to that damage, meaning the three.

CNN has reached out to the students but has yet to make contact.

Emmett Till was just 14 years old when he was kidnapped, beaten and killed in 1955, his body thrown into the river where the memorial sign remains today. Till was killed after a white woman claimed he whistled at her.

CNN correspondent, Martin Savidge, is in Oxford, Mississippi.

Martin, what is the latest in the investigation and what could come from this?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this photograph, without a doubt, has sparked a lot of outrage and may also spark a federal investigation when it comes to the Justice Department. But it hasn't really brought about any significant action on the part of the University of Mississippi.

They did come forward this morning and identify two of the men who are in the photograph. One of them, they say, is currently enrolled as a junior at the university. The other, they say, is no longer a student. The third person they don't identify at all.

There was another statement put out by the university, which I'll read to you, that sort of summarizes their feeling in all of this: "The university learned of the image in March through a report to its Bias Incidence Response Team and referred the matter to university police. That's -- I lost it.

And then it comes back and says that, "While that image is offensive, it did not present a violation of the university code of conduct. It occurred off campus and was not part of a university-affiliated event."

In other words, they're saying there's not much the university believes that they can do.

The fraternity to which these men belong did take action and they have basically banned them from that fraternity. They issued a statement and their statement said, "To the point that

the photo is inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable, it does not represent our chapter."

And that is the Kappa Alpha fraternity from which they have now been suspended.

Whether there's going to be a federal investigation, that's still to be determined -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Martin Savidge, in Oxford, Mississippi, thank you so much for that.

Still to come, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fires back at her Democratic critics, saying she's not trying to run out the clock on impeaching President Trump. More, coming up.

But first, every week, we honor everyday people doing extraordinary work to help others. But becoming a "CNN Hero" all begins with a nomination from you.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met my hero when we were volunteering.

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UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: -- for kids in our area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is my second mom. My mentor.

[11:55:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt like it was very important for people to know about Sister Teesa (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel honored that I was able to honor her in such a significant way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was so proud of myself because I was like, oh, my goodness, for everything she's done for me, I did something for her, you know.

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WHITFIELD: So if you know someone who deserves to be a "CNN Hero," don't wait. Nominations for 2019 "CNN Heroes" close Wednesday night. Go to CNNheroes.com right now before time runs out.

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