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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Baltimore Sun To Trump: Better To Have Rats Than To Be One; Pete Buttigieg Looks To Gain Ground At CNN Debate; Trump Attacks Black Congressman Less Than Two Weeks After Lashing Out At Congresswomen Of Color. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 29, 2019 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Randi Kaye, CNN, Baltimore, Maryland.

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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: The news continues right now. Want to hand it over to Chris for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME, live from the Motor City.

We are revving up for the first CNN debate of 2020, and we have one of the top five in the polls with us tonight, Mayor Pete Buttigieg on debate eve. How does he see this moment in our country?

How can he beat this President and make this country better, in a context, new numbers from the polls, Quinnipiac, spelling trouble for him, and the rest who are trying to take down frontrunner, former VP Joe Biden.

So, how will they all step it up on that beautiful stage we were just showing you, tomorrow night? Is the plan to step on one or more of their opponents?

And we have new information on the latest mass shooting in California, kids, stolen, a young man, stolen. Why it happened? And why too many are too quiet about it?

What do you say? Let's get after it.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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CUOMO: This President has a particular venom, that's the quote, for people of color, according to the latest person of color caught in his web of racist attacks, Al Sharpton.

But the most blistering response to President Trump's infestation conflagration comes from The Baltimore Sun's Editorial Board. Have you seen this? Here's one of the main parts.

"We would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, he's still not fooling most Americans into believing he's even slightly competent in his current post, or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one."

I have never heard anything like that from an Editorial Board. The Baltimore Sun is a long and storied publication. So, what does it mean? Where are we? What is to be done about it?

Let's hear from one of the people who wants to lead us as President. We spoke a short time ago with Mayor Pete Buttigieg here in Detroit.

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CUOMO: Appreciate you being here.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: So, big night, big moment in the country also. So, the debates will be tomorrow and Wednesday.

But we are living something right now. This Editorial from The Baltimore Sun, I've never seen language like that from an Editorial Board about any major politician, let alone a sitting President.

How do you see where we are right now?

BUTTIGIEG: Well it's a consequence of the President attacking his political critics by attacking an American city.

And so, you got a newspaper standing up for their City. Baltimore is a proud City. We're all proud of our cities. And, you know, the - the President is continuing to go down this road of being the Divider-in- Chief, right?

CUOMO: Do you see it that way as in terms of right - everything right now, two sides, right? People will say, "Well isn't he right? Isn't Baltimore one of the 10 toughest places to live, you know, doesn't it have a lot of problems?"

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. But he's talking like - he is the President of the United States. Baltimore is in the United States. He is the President for the people of Baltimore, and he's talking about it like it's somebody else's problem.

The question should be if Baltimore faces challenges, which it does, as every major American city does, what is he doing to help?

And, you know, what we see is a President whose response is to attack fellow Americans, whether it's Members of Congress who've been critical of him or an entire city full of Americans, just because it - that city is partly represented by a Member of Congress who is critical of him. And he continues down this path of dividing Americans, Black versus White, rural versus urban, which is exactly why America is becoming weaker as a country under this President each passing day.

CUOMO: You believe that America is weaker--

BUTTIGIEG: Of course.

CUOMO: --because of this President?

BUTTIGIEG: Of course. And--

CUOMO: Seen how?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, first of all, our reputation is collapsing around the world. But also, our confidence in our own country is collapsing. And the President needs to be able to bring people together.

Look, even when we're divided out of disagreement over a policy, the President is supposed to stand, the Presidency is supposed to stand as a symbol of - of something that we all have in common.

And yet, this President has taken every single opportunity to turn us against one another. This is why - you know, there's a lot of talk over exactly how far the extent of Russian interference went, we spend far too little time talking about why.

Why did a very sophisticated ad - adversary of the United States calculate that the best way they could undermine our country was to get a guy like this elected? And it was because they knew, correctly anticipated that America would become weaker and more divided under his Presidency.

CUOMO: Do you believe he's using words specifically, saying infested so often when dealing with things that have a racial component? Do you think that that is intentional?

BUTTIGIEG: Well there's no question. I mean, look at the pattern, right?

This is a - a kind of terminology that he reserves for places and situations where there are a lot of minorities involved. And, you know, we can debate over how strategic it is, how intentional it is, but on its face, it is racist.

[21:05:00] CUOMO: So, you articulate the message well. You see the problem. When we look at the polls that came out today from Quinnipiac are pretty consistently, you struggle with African-Americans, literally defined almost as zero percent, why?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, you know, African-American voters are tired of having been lied to or taken for granted by politicians.

And so, when you are new on the scene, when you haven't been known for years or decades, and when you're not yourself from a community of color, you've got a lot of extra work to do in order to validate what you have to say and earn that trust.

I've been able to do it before, and I'm going to do it this time, partly by explaining what I propose to do. The most comprehensive plan in the 2020 field, The Douglass--

CUOMO: The Douglass Plan after Frederick Douglass.

BUTTIGIEG: Exactly. It is about tackling systemic racism in every aspect of American life, and doing it with intention from, you know, everything from making sure we invest in minority entrepreneurship, to investing in dealing with health inequities, like the inequity that has Black women three times as likely to die in childbirth as White women.

It's looking at employment. It's looking at housing. It's looking at economic empowerment as well as criminal justice and democracy. But it's not just the policy piece. It's also the outreach. It's the actual work of reaching out to voters where they are, and recognizing that, you know, the Black vote is not monolithic.

In order to deserve to win, I need to reach out to lots of different groups of voters, including lots of different groups of Black voters, and that's exactly what we're going to do.

CUOMO: What is your understanding of your experience at home with the African-American community, and why there's a difference in support, and why there has been criticism of your reaction in moments of crisis?

BUTTIGIEG: Well it's a journey, and it's a difficult one. Look, any urban Mayor of a diverse city, and especially a diverse city like ours, has to confront some of the most searing and difficult challenges that cities and communities face.

And as somebody who is responsible for a community that is 25 percent Black, and responsible for the safety and well-being of these residents, and is also responsible for a Police department, that means that the wall of mistrust be - between law enforcement and communities of color, and Black residents in particular, is one that I've got to try to bring people together around, and it's never going to be perfect.

But we've made progress, and we're making more progress now.

We're living right now in the wake of an officer-involved shooting, Eric Logan, a Black man killed by a White officer. And I've requested, and we now have an Independent Prosecutor to review what happened. The Officer said he was attacked with a knife, but the body camera wasn't on.

We're not waiting for that information to come back to take steps together as a community. We're going to come together and review the body camera policy. We're working together on--

CUOMO: It's got to be on all the time. We see this problem again and again and again. They all have to have body cameras. They all have to be on.

I've been following this for a decade. I know the arguments on both sides. It is the only remedy. It's better for the police. It's better for the community. Everybody's got a camera. It's always on.

BUTTIGIEG: Well that's one of those things that sounds good until you're taking evidence from a child or entering a sexual assault scene, and you're creating footage that by law has to be handed over to anybody who asks for it. That's why these things aren't as simple as they seem on their face. But what we're doing in South Bend is--

CUOMO: But I think it's this - I think that you can over-sophisticate it. And, not you, personally--

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, and that's why in South Bend, we just--

CUOMO: --but that argument.

BUTTIGIEG: --procured a technology that will automatically turn it on any time a gun is removed from a holster, for example. So, we'll continue working on solutions. But--

CUOMO: Right. I just think that the more transparency, at the end of the day, it works. I know they're sensitive situation.

BUTTIGIEG: Understand anybody who says there's a simple answer is wrong. There - there's never a simple answer.

CUOMO: Transparency is the simple answer.

BUTTIGIEG: Transparency is always--

CUOMO: How you get transparency--

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, no that's for sure. And another thing we've done is--

CUOMO: --becomes a little tricky.

BUTTIGIEG: --and I don't think a city our size in the Midwest has - has done it the way we have.

But we've started publishing, and this was before this last incident, publishing incident level data, so people knew how many times there was a use of force, and what was going on. Now we're looking at how we can make that even more transparent.

CUOMO: Good. And that's--

BUTTIGIEG: There's no question that it has to happen (ph).

CUOMO: --always the key. People feel that there's something going on they're not being told--

BUTTIGIEG: Right.

CUOMO: --and that hurts the perception of officers-- BUTTIGIEG: Right.

CUOMO: --when it's unwarranted, and the, you know, the - the confidence in the community. So, one more step on this.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes.

CUOMO: Obviously, White politicians find a way to connect with African-American communities. I thought you would get some respect when you said "I couldn't get it done having more Black cops on."

BUTTIGIEG: Yes.

CUOMO: "Couldn't get it done, I tried."

BUTTIGIEG: Well we have. As I've been speaking to Black audiences, a lot of people tell me they appreciate that I was candid about the--

CUOMO: Right.

BUTTIGIEG: --work that we still have to go on with that.

CUOMO: Because people usually never shoulder any blame. What is the lesson you've learned to this point in the campaign?

BUTTIGIEG: When it comes to reaching out to--

CUOMO: Your appeal and why you're not getting more traction?

BUTTIGIEG: Well again that - you have to have serious plans, and you have to have quantity time.

You know, it took me years of work in South Bend of people understanding, not only where my heart was, but what my work was going to be, for my Black support to go up, as it did between my first election and my second, and in the primary.

But this time, I don't have years. I've got months. And so, it's going to be my job to communicate what we're going to do about gaps in education, what we're going to do to make sure Black entrepreneurs have a chance to thrive, what we're - how we're going to go about reducing incarceration in this country by 50 percent.

[21:10:00] That's my job to go out and sell it, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to continue to communicate about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Yes. And the Mayor's got an interesting plus/minus right, which is his age. He's in his mid-30s, 37, so he's right.

He doesn't have a lot of time in this campaign. He also hasn't had a lot of time to develop his record, right? And that's something that will play out for better and worse on the stage.

And he's also right about African-Americans. You can't just look at that voting group as a monolith, especially when it comes to policy. They tend to favor moderate policies. That's not what the Mayor is pitching.

So, how will he connect tomorrow night? We're going to test the Mayor on that, next. Our special pre-debate coverage continues from Motown, next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a smart guy. I mean, objectively, he is. He's also stuck in the polls objectively. He got a pop from the rest of the field. But since, he hasn't grown in the last couple of months.

So, how does he explain his wrestling with residents? Is he ready for the attacks that are likely to come his way tomorrow night? Here's what he told us a short time ago.

[21:15:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Everybody who gives an appraisal of your performance when you're doing these things, you check all the obvious boxes of being smart, articulate, you have an interesting background. You're young, which cuts both ways.

Now that we see what we're living, this is going to be an identity politics election. I'm not saying it should be.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes.

CUOMO: I'm saying it will be.

And when you're on that stage tomorrow night, how do you communicate to people that "I can take the most fearsome politician in a generation on toe-to-toe, and what he does to other people, he will not do to me. I can beat this President."

BUTTIGIEG: I'm not scared of this President. I mean this is a guy who was working on Season Seven of Celebrity Apprentice when I was driving armored vehicles outside the wire in Afghanistan. I'm not afraid to take him on.

The question is how do we take him on in a way that doesn't just empower him? You know, the - the - the gift of this President is to take any energy that goes his way, even if it's in the form of criticism, and turn it into a kind of food that he just grows off of, and gets bigger. That's the code that we've got to crack.

And I think the way to do it is to name and confront everything that he does wrong, but then immediately go back to talking about the impact that we will have on voters' lives.

If we're talking about him, that means we're not talking about you. If we're talking about your everyday life, that's what gives different voters a stake in this election, and also, by the way, unifies voters who have been divided by this White House's masterful practice--

CUOMO: Right.

BUTTIGIEG: --of White identity politics.

CUOMO: But this is how he won. And, you know, the trick of it is, you know, you have political correctness, and then you have perfect candor, OK? And that's what he's playing to, which is this talk of his, it's not that his supporters are deplorable.

You've been traveling - traveling this country. You know the disaffection is real. You know the pain is real, and that there are a lot of White Americans who feel forgotten by what others celebrate as diversity and multiculturalism. They see him as a proxy, a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant proxy.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. But he's playing them for suckers.

I mean he's the - the - the message that he's telling to these Americans is "Yes, you're not making enough money. Yes, your houses or - or housing is becoming unaffordable. College education is out of reach for your kids, and your job may be automated away in 10 years, but your big problem in life is political correctness."

That's what he's trying to get people to believe. And sure, a lot of people voted this way last time around because they had been so let down by people on both sides of the political spectrum that they decided to just vote to burn the house down because they felt disaffected or because they didn't like our nominee.

And this isn't to excuse the racism or the misogyny or the xenophobia in that campaign. But we should look at why those things found more fertile ground than usual, without excusing it.

And I think what we've got to now say to these voters is, OK. You voted to burn the house down. Now the house is on fire, but he has not done one thing to make your life better.

And if you think your problem is Brown people when your job is about to get automated away, and you don't have the retirement savings you need in order to actually have a dignified remainder of your life, then you're not going to make it--

CUOMO: He'll say I gave you the best economy ever.

BUTTIGIEG: --through this precedent (ph).

CUOMO: And I'm finally speaking the truth.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, the best economy ever! I mean, under Obama, unemployment goes what, from 10 to 5? Trump sees it go from 5 to 4, and he thinks he's the one who - who - it's like that rooster in the morning, thinks he made the Sun come up.

Meanwhile, there's the very simple fact that while GDP is going up, life expectancy is going down. So, yes, the Dow's up. There's some nice economic numbers. Fantastic!

90 percent of Americans have not seen their incomes budge more than the slightest amount the entire time that I have been alive. This President - I mean this is a problem that goes back before this President, but he has done nothing.

Look, he and his ally, Mitch McConnell in the Senate are killing the Minimum Wage bill that was passed out of the House. They're killing every serious effort that has come about. The--

CUOMO: They say the Minimum Wage winds up actually reducing wage rolls because people are going to lose their jobs to make up for the mandate.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, they say that as if it's a theoretical question, as if we didn't have decades' worth of data showing that that's not true.

This is what we're learning in this moment is that Reagan Conservatism economically is just like communism, sounds good in theory, but we tried it, and it failed in practice.

CUOMO: Tomorrow night, there's a good chance you're going to have to show you can take a punch. We've heard that Beto O'Rourke and there's some others now see you as a target.

You know, in this recent polling, it's very interesting to see how Biden recovered, since that last set of numbers after the first debate. You are in that same place, 5 to 7 percent. You got there quickly and surprisingly to people. You've stayed there. Now you're a target.

How are you going to take a punch tomorrow night, someone comes at you, and starts talking about your age and inexperience, that's the first one, how do you take that punch?

BUTTIGIEG: Look, I'm going to talk about why I'm the best person to be the nominee, and to be the President. And folks can poke holes. It's - it's what they do. That's part of what a debate is for. I welcome it.

And, you know, this is an opportunity for many Americans, many of whom, by the way, have not been following the blow-by-blow of the process, the way folks like you and I have, to take our measure, to see what we're made of, and what they're going to see is a different message, and a different kind of messenger.

I'm just not like the others, and I think that's going to come across tomorrow night.

[21:20:00] CUOMO: Do you have vulnerability digging into your past employment for Baker McKenzie (ph), what you were doing over there for them, the contractor, the consultants.

BUTTIGIEG: No. I - I did good work. I never worked on anything I didn't believe in, in my private sector career.

I also figured out pretty quickly that my heart was in public service. And after two or three years in business, I decided to commit myself to public service. It was definitely a - a pay cut. It was definitely a - a life change. But it's a good one.

And my military service, and my public service has really shaped me, and it shapes the heart that I bring to this Presidential campaign.

CUOMO: As I always say to people when they come on this show, in your position, one, I rarely get to say this, but thank you for your service--

BUTTIGIEG: Appreciate it.

CUOMO: --to the country. And two, I wish you good luck--

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

CUOMO: --because everybody's got to agree that we need better in terms of our dialog and our relationship with politics and the people than we're getting right now.

BUTTIGIEG: Now's our chance.

CUOMO: And good luck to you tomorrow night.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, Mr. Mayor, appreciate it.

BUTTIGIEG: Pleasure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, I mean what I said. Thanks again to Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Critics say racist rhetoric helped this President win in 2016. Is that true? If so how? And will it work this time? One of the biggest names in his base is rushing to his defense, wordplay included, Rush Limbaugh.

Explosive reaction from our PRIME TIME Primary Experts, live from Detroit. I don't know that it's explosive, but I'm betting it will be, next.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: "Disgusting rat and rodent infested mess." Those are the words of this President talking about a city just miles away from the White House, Baltimore. And it didn't take long for conservatives like Rush Limbaugh to praise this President for his comments. Take a listen.

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RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW: Detroit, Flint, Los Angeles, San Francisco, massive homeless problems. Wherever you find this decadent decay, you're going to find Democrats having run the operation.

The Democrats take every one of these minority groups' votes for granted, and it's about time somebody pushed back against the real human misery.

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CUOMO: Now, I'm going to be honest. I see that as a distraction. I could give you numbers all night about how many of the best places to live in the country are run by Democrats, and some of the hardest places in this country to live are run by Republicans, I think it's a distraction.

Let's deal with the bigger part of this narrative, but it's important for you to see what the defense is for the President.

Dave, the argument basically is, and thanks to each and all of you for being here, this is just the truth. Baltimore has a lot of problems. It does have these infestations. That's all he means. Do you accept that?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP 2016 CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: No, listen, so I think what happened is the President got in here with Representative Cummings, who's an honorable guy, everybody likes him, the Congress, both sides of the aisle.

You know, Representative Cummings took a punch on the President on the Border. The President punched back, and then it got it devolved from there into something that it shouldn't be.

Listen, we're in Detroit, Michigan. The President is losing a big opportunity here, and I said this to him before, "Tweet out about how great things are in Michigan." Unemployment's down, jobs' up, 120,000 new jobs in the State of

Michigan, 30,000 manufacturing jobs, real G - real wage growth at the bottom end of the - the rung here, increasing economic opportunities abounding in Michigan under this President, and he's losing the opportunity to speak about that because he's - he's stuck on this for the past week.

CUOMO: Well you - you're pointing out an interesting metric. People who approve of the economy, good number, people who approve of him even though they approve of the economy, low.

Why is it upside down? Because saying that things are good at Michigan, Angela, doesn't cover up for what seemed to be code about the people who live in Baltimore.

ANGELA RYE, ATTORNEY, IMPACT STRATEGIES PRINCIPAL & CEO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, NPR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, and David, to your point, I think it's interesting because it sounds like he's the President of Michigan, but then not of Maryland. So, there are some great--

URBAN: Well--

RYE: --Members of Congress doing some amazing work here, Rashida Tlaib is one, and Brenda Lawrence is another. They have Detroit in their district. So, it's just interesting that he's the President of an area that's doing well, but he's not the President of an area--

URBAN: Well listen--

RYE: --that's not doing - I wasn't finished I think the other thing that we have to acknowledge here is to your point again, yes Congressman Cummings is honorable. Congressman Cummings should not be susceptible to these kinds of attacks.

And, most importantly, this President has to figure out a way to conflict with folks on policy, and not personally to the point where it says it makes them susceptible - susceptible to death threats and antagonizing attacks that they don't deserve.

URBAN: Well, listen, so death threats and antagonizing attacks, entire Trump family, myself, anyone who supports the President, people have been shot at a restaurant, so I - I clamp back--

RYE: Well I've also been susceptible to death threats.

URBAN: --I clamp back on that a little bit, OK.

RYE: You can clamp all you want to.

URBAN: Clamp back on that. So let me - let me--

CUOMO: Nobody - nobody is, hold on - nobody is--

RYE: But the reality of it is this is the problem.

CUOMO: --got the market cornered in terms of--

URBAN: Yes, yes--

CUOMO: --bad behavior. We're all - we're all--

URBAN: Right. But - but - but again, listen.

CUOMO: --feeling it. It's an unusual topic.

RYE: I don't agree with the "Both sides" argument.

CUOMO: But hold on.

URBAN: But - but - but--

CUOMO: Let me well - but I'm just saying, he's had a hard time, I've had a hard time, you've had a hard time, you know there's a lot--

RYE: It's--

CUOMO: --there's a lot of reach there in terms of people who are having a hard time.

What I'm saying is this. Michael, the idea of this is what we're living right now, and I believe the President believes it works for him. It's the only metric I believe he follows.

"Is this good for me to fight Elijah Cummings about how lousy it is in Baltimore, even if it plays his code? Good for me, I'm going to do it. Is it good for me to talk about why this guy did the shooting in Gilroy? No, not good for me, I'm not going to do it."

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I think it's all with malice aforethought. I think it's all calculated on his part.

I don't think the Elijah Cummings battle is a battle that he - that he seeks. But when the split screen is Al Sharpton, that is a confrontation that I think that he welcomes. I think going after the so-called Squad is something that drove his numbers up within his own base.

And, you know, I pay attention closely to some data that's being drawn from a group called Engages of Swing Voters, people who actually went from Obama to Donald Trump, or Romney to Hillary Clinton, people who really hang in the balance.

There's a mentality among those folks of "Send them back," meaning those who are here illegally, not a citizen who's a Member of Congress, but a lot of this bleeds together.

And my point is simply this. We can't make the mistake that many of us, yours truly included, made in 2016 is, which was to think every time he said something beyond the pale, you thought he's done. John McCain, a war hero, he's done. Mexico sending us rapists, he's done.

[21:30:00] Time and again, he disproved all that conventional wisdom. So, who knows how it plays in 2020? There's 15 months on the clock.

CUOMO: True. Why is it different this time?

RYE: This is why I hope it's different. When you consider the fact that people haven't had enough that doesn't make me afraid of Donald Trump. It makes me afraid of people who I share spaces with in restaurants, people who I share workspaces with.

The fact that there is a Quinnipiac poll that says that 45 percent of White Americans approve of this President, even right now, for - based on results that came out today is troubling to me.

I'm wondering, what will it take for people to stand up for righteousness? This is not a sidebar issue. This is not a distracting issue for someone who is a Black American in this country. It is my primary issue.

CUOMO: It's also not an issue that he's being chased with, David.

URBAN: No.

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: With Joe Biden--

URBAN: Yes.

CUOMO: --this was brought up by other opponents who said, "Look, you got to explain this."

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: This President is taking this fight. He's like "I'm happy to talk about this all day I'm having." Remember when he said--

URBAN: Yes.

CUOMO: --"I'll give you my healthcare plan after the election." This is his plan. Let's talk about who we are and who we're not.

URBAN: Listen, again, I advocate talking about what he's done, right, arguing completely on the record.

This President can talk about the First Step Act and Opportunity Zones in - in - in Detroit, and other big cities. I mean he's got a great message to take to the African-American community. He is not doing that.

CUOMO: Except for bringing back the death penalty--

RYE: No, he doesn't.

URBAN: Well he's not - he's not - he's not - he's not doing--

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: --First Step Act.

URBAN: Well the - the death penalty, the federal death penalty is - is completely different than the state's death penalty, in my - in my estimation, right? There's - it's a--

CUOMO: Whether do you want to kill people or you don't.

URBAN: --it's a much - it's a - it's a much smaller - it's a much smaller--

CUOMO: Whether do you want to kill people or you don't--

URBAN: No, and listen--

CUOMO: --and it's disproportionate. You know - you know all the arguments.

URBAN: No, listen, I'm not - I'm not - you're not going to get me. I'm not going to argue in favor of the death penalty.

CUOMO: Right.

URBAN: I think it's something else. But I think the President's got a very strong record to stand on. He should be standing on it. When you're winning, use the - use the facts. He's winning. Use the facts. When you're losing, you resort to these types of things.

The President, in my - in my estimation, is losing right now, losing arguments he should be winning every day--

CUOMO: Well--

URBAN: --day in and day out.

CUOMO: --tomorrow is the test, right? We're going to see if somebody can put together a pitch of "Here's the message, and I'm the right messenger."

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: So, let's take a break. Let's come back and talk about what we're anticipating on this stage, who's got the best plus side, who's got to worry about what happens, let's go through all of it, all right?

So also, when we're talking about who will be on the stage tomorrow night, some good news for the former VP on this debate eve. Have you seen the latest poll numbers? He took a beating in that first debate whether his supporters want to own that or not, but he bounced back. Why?

Let's go through these latest numbers, who came up and who didn't? Let's figure it out, next.

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CUOMO: Joe Biden actually expanding his lead even after the first debate. If you look at the field, right here as we're on the eve of the CNN debate in Detroit, he's up nearly 20 points in the latest poll. What happened?

Let's bring back our team of political insiders. I am surprised by this.

SMERCONISH: I have an answer.

CUOMO: Please.

SMERCONISH: I have the answer. So, he's 22 a month ago, he's 35 now. Nothing has transpired in the last 30 days. You cannot name an event where you can say "What a shining moment that was for Joe Biden!"

What explains it is the behavior of the President that we've been discussing. The more he acts like he's been acting, the more harden Democrats say "We have got to beat him."

And if you go to the internals of the Quinnipiac survey, 51 percent of Democrats say "He's the one with the strongest shot."

CUOMO: Smerconish reading the crosstabs.

All right, so do you think that that's what is - I mean in the commercial, I was literally saying, "I don't know what this is? He's not even running targeted ads in a place--

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: --that would explain this." Do you think that's what it is?

RYE: I think it's that, and I think there's also a name recognition piece.

So part of the reason why folks believe that Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump is because he spent the last eight years before Donald Trump in the White House with the President - with President Obama.

He also has a tremendous amount of support from at least older African-Americans, which I think is a huge support base for him.

But right now, I think this is mostly a name recognition piece. Most - nobody else knows who anybody else is that - especially the folks who are not paying attention to this race. And there's a number of people who are not yet paying attention to this race.

CUOMO: How big is tomorrow night for Biden?

RYE: I think it's huge. Biden has to show up and deliver like in major ways he had--

CUOMO: What does that mean? What does that look like?

RYE: I think that it means he has to show what his policy prescriptions are, how he stands out, how he's different. He's normally been the guy that could go to blue-collar Middle America. He needs to demonstrate that he still - demonstrate that he still has those bona fides.

I also think that he has to look like he is, I'm not just saying this because he's older, but a senior statesman who has - has a way of kind of bridging this gap that currently exists under this big tent party that we exist in.

CUOMO: What are you looking for?

URBAN: So listen, I think both Angela and Michael are correct here. I think Michael, on the crosstabs is exactly right, and the people desperately want to beat this President on the other side, so they're looking who looks - who looks the best.

I think Angela's partly right in terms of he's the only person anybody knows. They look down the list, and they say, "Here's a name." They know he's Vice President, so there's a lot of that going on.

What I think is troublesome, and Michael and I were talking about this a little earlier, was Bob Mueller's performance a few weeks, you know, two weeks ago. And to Angela's point, they're the same age, right? Senator Biden, Vice President Biden--

CUOMO: Seems like two weeks. It was last week.

URBAN: But - but - but so--

RYE: It was last week.

URBAN: --OK. OK. So there we go. But he's - he's lost a step, you know. You see--

CUOMO: So, you think Mueller--

URBAN: Yes.

CUOMO: --having people in part critique his performance as a "He's not who he was 10 years ago"--

URBAN: Yes, yes.

CUOMO: --is going to wind up being revisited?

SMERCONISH: Wait, I have an answer. RYE: And Trump is old too.

SMERCONISH: Hold on.

RYE: He's old.

SMERCONISH: Listen, Mick Jagger turned 76--

URBAN: Well that's--

SMERCONISH: --and performed in Washington--

RYE: That's the exception.

SMERCONISH: --in front of a 100,000.

RYE: Not the rule.

URBAN: Yes, exactly.

SMERCONISH: So, 76 and they're 76.

URBAN: I'm sure like if - if I was Joe Biden, I'd break out that Trans-Am, and start polishing it and driving it around again, right? I mean he's got to do something--

RYE: Right.

URBAN: --that look a little more crisp, a little more, you know, appealing the folks that he's here for the fight.

RYE: Here's one thing that I would like to see from Joe Biden too. It's frustrated me that he's felt like he doesn't have to appeal to African-Americans who have been the most loyal voting bloc in the Democratic Party.

When asked about a Black agenda, Joe Biden kind of blew it off and said, almost Barack Obama-esque, "A rising tide lifts all boats. I'm going to have an agenda for all Americans." Every other candidate who's credible right now has a Black agenda.

CUOMO: But he is the only one who's had the legacy of service that you can connect to policies. You know, that's one of the problems of being a Senator, right?

RYE: Yes.

[21:40:00] CUOMO: Is that, you know, the reason they struggle sometimes at the Presidential level is it's hard for them to put their name on signature achievements, and Joe Biden can do that all day long, because of his time in the White House.

SMERCONISH: There's going to be a lot of action in the center of the stage, both nights keep your eye on the fringes. This is go big or go home--

RYE: Definitely go home.

SMERCONISH: --for half the people who are going to be across the street.

RYE: Yes.

SMERCONISH: They are looking at Kamala Harris as the playbook as to how you stay alive in all this.

CUOMO: Now, do they go at Biden or they go at Harris?

SMERCONISH: I think they go at Biden. On - on that second night in particular, the New Yorkers are the ones I have my eye on, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bill de Blasio, I think they are coming for Joe--

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: So wait, so a Philly guy is telling me that like--

SMERCONISH: Yes.

CUOMO: --you have jaundice on people from New York?

SMERCONISH: No jaundice. I meant it as a compliment.

CUOMO: Yes, it sound a little bit - oh, oh, oh, I bet you did.

So, in terms of who gets targeted, I had Pete - Mayor Pete Buttigieg on here. I think he's going to get some heat last night because people have what he wants. You know, he popped out of that main bubble. They want to be that spot on the outside of the bubble.

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: We have reporting that maybe it's going to be Beto O'Rourke. That's why I asked him about the Baker McKenzie (ph) stuff. We do need to see how some of these people take a punch.

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: I know that sounds sophomoric, and that's - well politics is more sophisticated, except it isn't, right?

RYE: No, it's not.

CUOMO: And you can have a great answer. I can even know the answer. But if you don't deliver it well, I'll let Joe Biden, you lose.

URBAN: I think the biggest fear--

RYE: Every time.

URBAN: --of these two nights is simply being ignored, right?

That's the - if you lose, if you don't come out with it, some - some media, and where there's 20 folks on the stage, it's pretty hard to break through. So, there - the - the worst possible thing you could be is ignored and passed to the next (ph).

CUOMO: That's true. It would be nice to see somebody have a moment that is positive that--

RYE: Also like authentic.

CUOMO: --distinguishes them, you know? Yes.

RYE: Like authentic. That's--

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CUOMO: And look, I know they're all going to be mad at me right now for saying "What do you mean?" I - I'm not saying that they - they're not putting their best foot forward. I'm saying that someone who says something that galvanize is not that--

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: --"Ooh, did you see what Cuomo did to Rye? She wasn't ready for that." You know, that's the easiest way.

RYE: That happens every Great Debate, by the way.

CUOMO: Yes, but in reverse is like it takes me like 10 minutes. Somebody used to tell me, "You know, she smacks you right in the nose on that," I'm like "Wait, what?" So--

RYE: That's not true.

CUOMO: --it would be nice, Michael, wouldn't it? If somebody surprises you tomorrow night saying, and where you're like, "Oh, you know what? That's a reason for people to believe."

SMERCONISH: It's tough. The format is tough, 60 seconds, a 60-second response, I - I think those moments get easier when we get into the fall.

CUOMO: You're so reasonable. No! Michael Smerconish, Dave Urban, Angela Rye, thank you--

URBAN: Thank you.

RYE: Thank you.

CUOMO: --very much. It's always interesting to see what we expect because then when it happens, often we are all taken by surprise.

All right, so let's look at what the President's saying. He is disgusted by the conditions in Baltimore. That's what it's about for him. OK, then why didn't he take on his own son-in-law? Why would he do that?

I'll give you the facts, and then we'll figure out the feelings with D. Lemon, next.

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CUOMO: Now listen, here's the problem with abusing the facts. If the President wants to take Baltimore's housing issue seriously, if that's what this is really about, he should pick up the phone and call his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The Baltimore Sun reports Kushner's companies own nearly 9,000 rental units in Maryland, most are in Baltimore County. In 2017, the company was cited for more than 200 code violations countywide.

For what? Mice, mold, lack of plumbing, maggots, all the while profiting from lower-income tenants, at least $90 million a year, according to The Washington Post. Why didn't he bring that up?

Let's bring in D. Lemon. Your take? And first of all, seriously, I'm very happy for you tomorrow night.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Thank you, brother.

CUOMO: Do the people proud.

LEMON: Thank you, thank you, I think we will, I think we will, thank you. I appreciate it.

I listened to several cliches, if you want, or words of advice that you could say to this President, number one is people who live in glass towers shouldn't throw bricks or verbiage around like infested and rats and all that.

You know. You live in New York City. You don't know where are you going to see, right?

CUOMO: It's true.

LEMON: Those things. And I think that, you know, he should clean up his own house, meaning within his family, before he says things like that.

It is obvious that he was trying to insult, right, Elijah Cummings, but I think it's also obvious that he was trying to bring up certain things, and make people think that, you know, infestation, vermins, rodents, rats that there's something wrong there.

CUOMO: No human-- LEMON: No human--

CUOMO: --would want to live there.

LEMON: --would want to live there. And it's very insulting. And you say, listen, I do have to give a shout-out to my colleague.

CUOMO: Victor?

LEMON: To our colleague, Victor Blackwell, very proud to - to work with him, and I'm very proud that he stood up. He was very - obviously, it's very personal for him, and emotional.

And I think that was important because it's very personal and emotional for people who live there, and if you have family members there, so good on you Victor Blackwell for doing what you did.

CUOMO: There is a pattern of watching this President pick fights he should not pick--

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: --and avoid fights that he should take up.

LEMON: But he picks fights that he should not pick, at least most people think. But then, there are - rarely does he suffer consequences, and that means from his base.

But also rarely does he suffer consequences from people who may be independent, right, or maybe Democrats who voted for Barack Obama, maybe - maybe voted for Clinton or whatever, because they are allowing him to get away with that - with horrible language.

And again, just imagine someone speaking about your family member that way, and it has been made on this network and others, and - and in all sorts of media that there are poor elements of almost every single city--

CUOMO: Oh, sure.

LEMON: --every place in the country. And he doesn't--

CUOMO: Some - I think eight of the nine--

LEMON: --he doesn't usually talk about them that way.

CUOMO: Correct me in the control room if I'm wrong. But it's like eight or nine - out of nine or nine out of 10 of the hardest places to be in this country are run by Republicans, not by Democrats. So, the idea that the Democrats have done you wrong, African-Americans should leave them--

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: --you know, what that is, is insulting to what has happened at the federal level that local politicians have not been able to defeat. LEMON: Well and just because you say, well a lot of people agree with me, that doesn't make it right.

CUOMO: That's right.

LEMON: Because you're the President of all of America.

CUOMO: Right. And--

LEMON: And, by the way--

CUOMO: --and a lot more people disagree with him about this stuff than agree.

[21:50:00] LEMON: There are really good things about Elijah Cummings' district. African-Americans very high, when it comes to - to income, right, and education, and that's something to be proud of. And when you look at all the - the - the - the medical things that have been done, innovations that have been done in Maryland, in Baltimore--

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CUOMO: They've got a long way to go. But he - he - but he--

LEMON: Everybody has a long way to go.

CUOMO: That's right.

LEMON: Skid Row is not L.A. It's not Beverly Hills, right?

CUOMO: A 100 percent.

LEMON: And if you - if you look at some of the - the places that are hurting in New York City, it's not Trump Tower, it's not Fifth Avenue.

CUOMO: That's right.

LEMON: Every - every single place has issues.

I got to say, coming up, you know, many people have been calling this racist. Some of the Black pastors visited the President at the White House today. We're going to have one on who actually defends him, and says it's not racist.

CUOMO: That I want to watch.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: All right, I'll see you in a little bit.

LEMON: See you buddy, thanks.

CUOMO: This is like Don's dream is for us to do a show together. But they elevated his seat artificially, just know that.

LEMON: Oh, no (ph). CUOMO: Just know that.

Remember when the President says that he doesn't see White nationalism as a rising threat. It wasn't that long ago. Look, this is a pattern. We have to point it out.

And I'm going to tell you a little something about Elijah Cummings that I learned firsthand. That's the closing, next.

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[21:55:00] CUOMO: If you want to talk about the shooting in Gilroy, California, this is the picture to see, six-year-old Stephen Romero, this is the picture to see, 13-year old Keyla Salazar. They were shot dead along with Trevor Irby who was in his 20s, all three stolen from their loved ones by hate, a dozen others were injured.

The murderer legally bought the rifle. Of course, he bought it in Nevada, took it into California, where it is illegal to buy the same weapon. That's a problem that we just can't seem to fix. He got it in by cutting a hole in a fence to sidestep metal detectors.

But I want to talk about why he did this. He posted two Instagram messages right before the attacks, OK? That is called a present sense impression in the law. It's not a maybe. This is what was on his mind right before he killed those people, and I don't understand why we're hiding from it.

The book he suggested is a White supremacist book from the late 1800s. Don't dismiss what this murderer believed. He's now dead, so his days of acting on hate are over, but there are a lot more like him, and we have to stop hiding from that fact.

Just ask Trump's FBI Director Christopher Wray.

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CHRISTOPHER A. WRAY, DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we've investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call White supremacist violence, but it includes other things as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Number of hate crimes up, number of White supremacist groups up, number of racist rallies up, the amount of White supremacist propaganda up.

But too many are saying, "Well we don't know that this guy was a real racist or a real White supremacist," and that rationale is extended as protection to this President for not addressing what seems pretty clear about why this happened.

I am not blaming the President. But what you ignore, you empower. Why strain to defend people in Charlottesville? Why play down what happened in New Zealand and why?

He said he felt bad for the victims here, and for the families in Gilroy, and that the killer was wicked, and those are the right things for a President to say. But what explains his not mentioning what this murder was about? Fear of being wrong?

Please! What other President, in my lifetime, would stop where he did?

A President should condemn the motivation, condemn people who think that way as un-American that we all together are much more powerful than they, and we will root them out where they live and punish them for acting on the worst of ideas about the rest of us.

No problem calling Baltimore infested. "No human would want to live there." No problem stoking those feelings time and again, hiding behind surrogates who say "He's talking about conditions, he's refusing to back down because he's tough, he's a fighter."

Look at what the paper there said, The Baltimore Sun. I've never seen anything like it. They literally called the President of the United States a rat. That is the animus he is engendering. This cannot be us.

Continuing that fight with a Congressman Elijah Cummings who returned home to Baltimore every night, I don't give a damn about his politics, this is about people.

Elijah Cummings walked me through the streets of Baltimore during riots. I saw a level of respect for that man and a level of connection to his community that is rare in the game of politics. Know that.

This President picks the wrong fights for the wrong reasons, and it's not enough for him to say to Don, he's the least racist, OK? He's supposed to be anti-racist, not just the least racist.

Words must carry the weight of resolve to elevate who we are and to promise action against those who try to divide us or worse, and he doesn't do it. He picks the wrong fights and he runs from the right ones.

He too often says things that foment division. He does it on purpose. And he has to own that. And if you support him, you must as well.

Even when someone else writes the correct words on a teleprompter, he struggles. He often ad-libs. This isn't about style. It's about substance. He says something to distort the right message. Why?

I don't see how he wins empowering a minority in a way that clearly is galvanizing the majority. I know there are few one-term Presidents, especially with a good economy, and no massive threat abroad, but this is not a normal time, and this is not a normal President.

Know this about the debate tomorrow night, the man or woman that shows this country they can be strong by building us up, and bringing us together, will find a country desperate to go along.

Thank you for watching tonight, the eve of a big occasion. CNN TONIGHT with one of the stars of tomorrow night, D. Lemon, starts right now.

LEMON: He emboldens bigots.

CUOMO: Yes.