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Republicans Blocking Election Security Measures; Democrats and Health Care; Democrats Divided Over Impeachment. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 15:00   ET




RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joining together two fire departments across borders.

Ryan Young, CNN, Newton, Iowa.


ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Top of the hour here on CNN. I'm Erica Hill, in today for Brooke Baldwin.

And begin with a -- we begin with a growing number of Democrats taking a major step toward impeaching the president, pushing ahead with or without full party support.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler just announcing he is going to court for the secret grand jury material in the Mueller report. And he will try to enforce a subpoena for former White House counsel Don McGahn, a key witness.

Now, they're admitting to CNN's Manu Raju there's not much night and day between today's legal action and an actual impeachment inquiry.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're saying no difference -- you're saying there's no difference between what you're doing now and an impeachment inquiry, correct?


What I'm saying is that we are -- well, I suppose there is one difference which you could draw. I mean, if you said that an impeachment inquiry is when you're considering only impeachment, that's not what we're doing. We are investigating all of this.

And we are going to see what remedies we could recommend, including the possibility of articles of impeachment. We're not limited to that.

But that's very much the possibility as a result of what we're doing.


HILL: And while Nadler says he has the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she says she's not ready to go down that route just yet.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed, not one day sooner. Their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage. I have no complaint with what they are doing. I'm willing to take whatever there is there to say, when we -- when -- the decision will be made in a timely fashion.

This isn't endless.


HILL: Now there faces a test of maintaining momentum. Congress leaves for six weeks of summer vacation today.

Harry Litman is a former deputy assistant attorney general, former U.S. attorney, and he's a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego.

Good to have you with us.


HILL: When we look at what has happened today, and specifically the actions we saw taken by Chairman Nadler, is this the most aggressive step toward impeachment yet? What does it say to you?

LITMAN: Yes, I think it is the most aggressive step.

And we have had Congressman Raskin say that it's already the equivalent of an impeachment inquiry. But Pelosi needs to try to protect the moderate Democrats who don't want to be on record as supporting an impeachment inquiry.

So she's endorsing this legal strategy that says, go to the courts, do what you want. It might only be an inch away from an actual impeachment inquiry. But, in this way, the Congress as a whole doesn't have to be on record as saying we have adopted an inquiry formally.

HILL: So they may not have to be on record, but they are battling time, and in more ways than one. There is this six weeks of summer leave that is coming up for them, obviously, starting later today.

And what's interesting is that before we heard from both Chairman Nadler and Speaker Pelosi today, we heard from Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who was saying, listen, we basically have until September, and then, at that point, we're kind of out of time. A legal route is not necessarily a quick one, Harry.

LITMAN: No, I mean, and that's what the administration has been banking on. It really isn't.

And time is their worst enemy. When they come back in September, we're in full bloom of a reelection or an election campaign. And people will be even more distracted than they are now and want to move along.

So time is their enemy, and they haven't used it well. And the White House has.

HILL: We look at this too. There was so much discussion during the Mueller hearing about Watergate and the importance of key witnesses, as we know, which, in many ways, made that so much more compelling for the American people who were really paying attention there.

So just put into context for us, what does Don McGahn mean to all of this?

LITMAN: Don McGahn, in the context of Watergate, means John Dean. He really is the witness of what happened in one of the most important obstruction charges, and he's somebody who could do a lot of damage to the president.

Now, when John Dean was subpoenaed, and the records that were subpoena, there was immediate compliance in 1974. So, much of the time game is to keep McGahn from being there and raising his right hand.

HILL: And before we let you go, there's also some talk about the fact that Chairman Nadler could launch impeachment proceedings, but just within his committee, and that even came up earlier today, rather than going through the entire Congress.

What do you think the outcome, though, of that would be?

LITMAN: Well, it's sort of a political strategy. It's the same idea where never will be out front. But the moderate Democrats who aren't on the committee don't have to own the action.


So I don't think it's any different from a full House doing it. He has authority to do it.

HILL: Harry Litman, always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

LITMAN: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: Speaker Pelosi also apparently clearing the air, weeks of public feuding with freshman Democrat -- Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the two meeting for a one-on-one conversation today.

And Pelosi, when asked about it afterwards, downplaying any need to bury the hatchet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PELOSI: I don't think there was any hatchet. I would never even say that it was a hatchet. But I do think that we sat down today. We had a good meeting. And the congresswoman is a very gracious member of Congress.

I have always felt -- again, it's like you're in a family. In a family, you have your differences, but you're still a family.


HILL: As for Ocasio-Cortez, she says her goal was to ensure she established open lines of communications with -- communication, rather, with the speaker's office.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): As always, I think the speaker respects the fact that we're coming together as a party and that unity. And I'm looking forward to getting back in September.


HILL: And joining me now is Ben Judah, who has a piece in "The Atlantic" today that zeros in on the freshman Democrat, her chief of staff. The headline, "The Millennial Left Is Tired of Waiting."

It is a great read.

Ben, good to have you with us today.

BEN JUDAH, "THE ATLANTIC": Thank you for having me.

HILL: So, as we look at -- let's start with the meeting. So the meeting seems like progress. We're getting the two of them in a room together to talk about things, but it really is a clash of generations. And that's what you're tackling in this piece.

Talk to me about the clash of generations that you see just between the two of them.

JUDAH: Well, I don't share all of the views of the Squad and this new generation of millennial Democrats.

But what I do share with them is a millennial perspective. And if you are in your early 30s, your world view is shaped not by a series of Western triumphs, but a series of catastrophic failures, beginning with the Iraq War. Then you have the financial crisis. Then you have the failure in 2016 of the liberal establishment to stop Donald Trump.

So you're not inclined to defer to the boomer generation of Nancy Pelosi or Steny Hoyer in the House as master experts on strategy.

HILL: Because you feel like they failed you in some way?

JUDAH: In many very significant ways, yes. And if we look at Congress now, Congress is one of the oldest in

history. The age of Congress has been going up dramatically since the Second World War. You have the average age in the Senate is 62. The average age for a congressman is 58. Nancy Pelosi is 79. Steny Hoyer is 80.

As you can hear, I'm a European. I'm from Britain. And Boris Johnson is 55. Emmanuel Macron is 41. The dominant leaders in Italy and in Spain are in their 40s. And it's very clear that the time is fast approaching for generational replacement to take place at the top of the Democratic Party.

HILL: It's interesting. In the presser today with Nancy Pelosi, one of the things she talked about was this difference, the differences within her party.

So I just want to play a little bit of that for you.


PELOSI: So, in our caucus, we have our differences. Respect that, instead of making a big issue of it. Respect that. Some personality issues in the rest, they are minor. We have a big schism in our country between what is happening, could happen in this Congress and what is happening in the White House.

Everybody knows we have to keep our eye on the ball.


HILL: So, what we're hearing from there is, respect our differences. She wants the younger generation to respect them, people to respect their differences.

Do you think it's the same for the younger lawmakers?

JUDAH: Well, I think in all clashes of generations. Both sides see the other as delusional.

And the younger Democrats think of themselves as the realists here. They think that the establishment strategy of a pursuit of civility and bipartisanship is just an illusion in the Washington of Donald Trump.

And, in many ways, they are inspired by history. And they're inspired by the success of the right and by the conservative movement, and how that, over the last few decades, built up a movement within the country, within the party, and then eventually took over the Republican Party with the aim of forcing through big cultural change, and not trying to sort of win the presidency of a weak figure, only to lose it a few years later.

HILL: It's an interesting parallel that you draw.

Really quickly, because we're almost out of time, this really stood out to me you. Write: "The millennial left in college in Congress isn't a fashion that needs to be slapped down, but a generation that should be engaged with, brought into the fold, and better understood."


Do you see that happening, a give and take of ideas between the generations?

JUDAH: I think that can happen. And I think the millennial left have a lot of problematic features, especially in foreign policy.

But I think that that's already happening, because Nancy Pelosi's strategy of slapping them down has backfired so spectacularly, she's there treating Ocasio-Cortez not quite as an equal, but as somebody very important in the party just today.

HILL: Ben Judah, great to have you with us. Thank you. Appreciate it.

JUDAH: Thank you.

HILL: Turning now to the number President Trump is watching closely ahead of the 2020 election. This is not polling. We're talking about productivity here.

The gross domestic product report just coming out, and, at 2.1 percent, it shows America's economy continues to expand, however, not at the same rate we have been seeing. The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the first quarter.

Linette Lopez is senior finance correspondent for "Business Insider."

Good to have you with us.

So, the president, we should point out, tweeting about the GDP, saying -- quote -- "Not bad, considering we have the very heavy weight of the Federal Reserve anchor wrapped around our neck, almost no inflation. USA is set to zoom."

So I don't know about you, Linette, but, to me, I read that, I think the president is blaming the Fed. Is that what you attribute this slower growth to?

LINETTE LOPEZ, SENIOR FINANCE CORRESPONDENT, "BUSINESS INSIDER": No, you can blame a lot of this slower growth on the president's own trade war and his policies.

What we're seeing in this report is that business investment sentiment is way down. So investors are scared because of the trade war. And we're seeing that exports fell 5.6 percent.

We also should note that last year's GDP number, which the president was very excited about, 2.9 percent for the annual -- annually for 2018, was revised down to 2.5 percent.

So now we know we were growing slower than we thought we were growing, and we are growing -- we are continuing to grow more slowly. If the president would stop with all this trade talk, things would be a lot easier, investors would feel a lot better, and businesses would start investing in the economy again.

But this doesn't seem over. And, in fact, the president attacked France today. So...

HILL: Yes, he did.

The president also treating just a short time ago that the World Trade Organization is, in his words, broken, saying he's directed the U.S. trade representative to -- quote -- "take action" because -- quote -- "The world's richest countries claim to be developing countries to avoid WTO rules and get special treatment."

Should we read that as being directed largely at China? It seems like it is.

LOPEZ: Yes, I think the president just subtweeted China.

And he's complaining because China has acted and appealed to the World Trade Organization as a company -- as a country that's not as rich and as evolved as it actually is. And that's true.

But the Trump administration has done absolutely everything to undermine the WTO itself. Trump doesn't want to work with a rules- based trading order. He wants to work with a trading order that allows the biggest and the strongest countries to do whatever he wants -- or to do whatever they want, and so whatever he wants.

And that is what we're seeing here, not some kind of defense of the world trade order.

HILL: I would also love to get your take on America's most valuable company.

So, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had this to say this week about Amazon and the Justice Department's antitrust review of it and other big tech companies. Take a listen.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think, as you know, is if you look at Amazon, although there are certain benefits to it, they have destroyed the retail industry across the United States. So there's no question they have limited competition.

There's areas where they have really hurt small businesses. So I don't think this is a one size fits all. And I don't -- I don't have an opinion going in, other than I think it's absolutely right that the attorney general is looking into these issues.


HILL: What's your take on that one, Linette?

LOPEZ: My take on that is that it's true. Amazon has definitely retailers. Amazon has used its own power to block competitors.

For example, in 2008, it tried to buy the company that owns, That company said no. And Amazon used its bots to be able to undercut that competitor in terms of pricing, and eventually undercut them so much that they accepted being bought by Amazon.

And then Amazon proceeded to raise prices. So, yes, this is hurting competitors. But I should say that Mnuchin is not telling the entire story. His friends on Wall Street in private equity have done quite a great deal of damage to retail as well by buying retailers essentially for their real estate and then gutting those companies.

So there's more than one reason why retail is suffering in this country. Amazon certainly has a lot of the blame to take for that. And we have legislation that can combat that. We used to enforce the Robinson-Patman Act from 1936, which basically outlawed predatory pricing.


So that whole story that I told you would not be allowed. And if we want to return to a level playing field in terms of preserving markets themselves, and not just worrying about prices at the end of the day, that will create more value for consumers, and we won't have companies like Amazon gobbling up share the way that they have.

HILL: Linette Lopez, really appreciate it. Thank you.

LOPEZ: No problem.

HILL: Two of the top-tier candidates in 2020 rolling out their economic plans with just a few days to go until the next big debate.

Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg also making headlines talking about racial divisions in this country today.

Plus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocking an election security bill, despite a report from his colleagues in the Senate that Russian hackers targeted all 50 states in 2016.

And, later, a disturbing photograph out of Mississippi -- two college students posing with guns next to the Emmett Till Memorial. We will speak with a relative of the lynching victim about why she thinks this is still happening in 2019.



HILL: Four days and counting until the next round of debates right here on CNN.

And all weekend long, the candidates will be crisscrossing the country, honing in on their messages, rolling out new policies. Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiling his new economic plan today. The plan

is pro-union, allowing all workers the right to join a labor union. He also calls for legislation to make pay gaps public and renews his call for a federal minimum wage of at least $15 an hour.

Today, in front of a majority black audience at the National Urban League's annual conference, Buttigieg also went after President Trump.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My generation saw this country elect its first black president, and then turn around and elect a racist to the White House. And we ought to call that what it is.


HILL: CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah is in Indianapolis, where Senator Kamala Harris spoke to the same audience to roll out some of her economic plans. And she joins us now.

Kyung, good to see you.

So, what more did we hear from the candidates today?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, from Kamala Harris specifically, you heard a similar anti-Trump sentiment.

And then she did unveil two planks of what her campaign is calling part of her black policy agenda, her black agenda, and those two planks being an investment, a $60 billion investment aimed at STEM investments, so the science, technology, engineering, math, at historically black colleges and universities, $60 billion.

So that's one proposal. The second proposal, $12 billion at boosting black entrepreneurship in this country, helping them sort of get started, startup money, if you will.

So, after she talked about that in her prepared remarks, then she took questions. And the first question she took was about her career as a prosecutor. And the question was whether she could advocate for criminal justice reform, given the fact that she worked on the inside.

Here's what she said:


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why do we only have to be on the outside, on bended knee or trying to break down the doors? 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?

And I'm very proud of the fact that it was because I was the first black woman elected DA in a state of 40 million people that I had the power to create one of the first reentry initiatives in the United States focused on young drug sales offenders, young adults, and getting them jobs and counseling and support in raising their families, so that they could reenter the community in a way they wouldn't re-offend.

I didn't have to ask anybody permission to do it because I was running the office.


LAH: Now, we have heard Harris make this similar robust defense of her record before on the campaign trail.

And this is something, Erica, that has followed her throughout these many months on the trail. And it is likely to come up again, especially in communities of color -- Erica.

HILL: Kyung Lah with the latest for us from Indianapolis, Kyung, thank you.

Health care, another top issue, of course, among voters, and there are really clear divisions among Democrats as they prepare for the CNN debates.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta now breaks down what all of this means for you.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They have different ideas on how to get there, but the same central message.


HARRIS: Access to health care should be a right.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time for this country to make quality affordable health care a right and not a privilege.

GUPTA: Better, cheaper health care. It's a challenge no matter where you are on the political spectrum.

ERIN FUSE BROWN, ASSOCIATE LAW PROFESSOR, GSU: Well, I think people are really frustrated with the current health care system.

GUPTA: Erin Fuse Brown, a health law expert at Georgia State, says the system has fundamental flaws.

BROWN: It's really the worst consumer experience.

GUPTA: And we pay a lot for it. The United States has the most expensive health care in the world, around $3. 5 trillion a year.

SANDERS: People should not be forced into financial ruin, into bankruptcy, for what reason, because someone in the family became ill. [15:25:04]

GUPTA: In 2016, his was a lone voice. But many Democrats are now getting in line behind Bernie Sanders, who has long called for a singer payer system.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm with Bernie on Medicare for all.

QUESTION: So then how does this plan differ from what Senator Sanders is proposing?

HARRIS: I think that they're very similar.

BROWN: In a single-payer system, everyone would be automatically enrolled in a government-run health care program, like Medicare.

GUPTA: It would cover doctor's visits, hospitalizations, but also hearing aids, dental, and vision, these candidates say. There would be some co-pays for brand name prescription drugs. But a sort of litmus test is starting to take shape. Question is, will a single payer system also eliminate private insurance as we know it?

LESTER HOLT, NBC: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?

GUPTA: At the Democratic debates in June, only Senator Sanders and Harris, along with Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio raised their hands. Harris later said she had misinterpreted the question.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anyone who has their employer based insurance can keep it if they want.

GUPTA: The former Vice President Joe Biden doesn't envision a system without private insurance. And he is leading the charge on the public option.

BIDEN: This is a big (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.

GUPTA: Perhaps no surprise, Biden wants to expand Obamacare.

BROWN: In a public option, everyone would have the option to buy a Medicare type of plan for themselves, but they wouldn't be automatically enrolled.

BIDEN: We can protect and build on Obamacare and make sure that at least 97 percent to 100 percent of the American people have coverage.

GUPTA: Biden's plan caps premiums and offers subsidies to buy insurance regardless of your income. Biden says his proposal would cost $750 billion over ten years, money he would raise primarily through taxes and cutting costs. Sanders' plan calls for tax increases as well. Money that he believes will be more than offset by lower premiums. SANDERS: My guess is that people in the middle class will be paying

somewhat more in taxes, but they're going to be paying significantly less overall in health care.

GUPTA: Harris says she believes her plan could be achieved without a middle class tax increase.

QUESTION: Senator Sanders is proposing...

HARRIS: Well, part of it is going to have to be about Wall Street paying more. It's going to have to be about looking at how we -- and what we tax.

GUPTA: But Medicare for all may not be an easy sell politically. A recently released NPR/PBS/Marist national poll found 70 percent favor Medicare for all for those who want it, but just four in 10 say Medicare for all is a good idea if there is no longer private insurance.

And 54 percent are even more blunt, saying it's a bad idea.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


HILL: And you can bet health care will come up again in the CNN Democratic debates, 10 candidates each night facing off, Tuesday and Wednesday 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN live from Detroit.

Up next: Senate Republicans blocking efforts to protect the security of U.S. elections. And now a member of the House Intel Committee says she is starting to think President Trump wants Russian interference in the next election.