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Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Presidential Candidate; Interview With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI); Three Killed, 12 Wounded In Shooting At California Festival; Democratic Presidential Candidates Get Set For Second Debate; How Presidential Hopefuls Plan On Fighting Climate Crisis. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 29, 2019 - 16:30   ET



GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): To really attach the -- you know, the bigger ideas of out of Washington, D.C., into the daily lives of people, that's what matters.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It sounds like you're suggesting that maybe some of these ideas are a little impractical. Am I reading into that too much?

WHITMER: Well, I think in that first debate where you saw people raising their hands about private insurance, that just feeds into people's anxieties.

Insurance costs too much. There are huge gaps. That's what we need candidates to be focusing on, not playing into these little sound bite games, but really drilling down on, how are you going to expand access for people?

TAPPER: So, today, the Black Caucus of the Democratic legislature here came out and endorsed Senator Kamala Harris.

A couple days ago, the mayor of Detroit came out and endorsed Vice President Joe Biden. You have not endorsed anybody. You have talked to some candidates, given them advice. And are you just telling them what you have been telling us?

WHITMER: Absolutely.

I think people are always asking, what is the magic sauce in Michigan? There's nothing mystical about it. People want leaders they can look up to who can solve problems and actually deliver results for our people, improving our quality of life.

I haven't endorsed it. I may endorse before the primary. I may not. I'm going to be looking very hard at these candidates, and insisting that they are going to be a great partner to me in delivering for the people of Michigan.

TAPPER: All right, during the commercial break, you will tell me who your favorite secretly is. (LAUGHTER)

Governor Whitmer, thank you so much for your time.

WHITMER: Thank you.

TAPPER: And congratulations again on your election.

You don't want to miss the reason that we're here in Detroit -- 10 candidates will be on stage tomorrow for the first night of the Democratic presidential debate at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. Then the other 10 candidates debate Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. I'm going to moderate both nights, along with my colleagues Dana Bash and Don Lemon.

Two big nights only on CNN.

Voters say it's one of the most important issues of the 2020 election, but Medicare for All is causing something of a feud among Democrats, especially right now between Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders is going to respond next live here on THE LEAD.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our 2020 LEAD, we're just over 24 hours from tomorrow night's debate, and already battle lines are being drawn and candidates are vying to stand out, with a push to release new policy, including from Senator Kamala Harris of California, who today released a new health care plan that she says is Medicare for All, but would also keep private insurance.

Among other differences with the Sanders' Medicare for All proposal, it has a 10-year phase-in, instead of four years.

We have Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, on the phone right now, to get his take on Harris' health care plan.

Senator, thanks so much for calling in.

You say -- she says, rather, her plan addresses voter concerns about the transition process by taking 10 years, instead of four. What's your response to that, sir?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, I like Kamala. She is a friend of mine.

But her plan is not Medicare for All. What Medicare for All understands is that health care is a human right, and that the function of a sane health care system is not to make sure that insurance companies and drug companies make tens of billions of dollars in profits.

The function of Medicare for All is to guarantee health care to all people as soon as possible.

What we do, Jake -- and people criticize me for taking too long to do it -- we do it over a four-year period. And that is that, on the first year, we make Medicare eligibility from 65 down to 55. Then we go to 45. Then we go to 35. Then we cover everybody.

What we also do, importantly, is, we expand Medicare coverage for seniors, to include dental care, hearing aides and eyeglasses, something that does not exist now.

Furthermore, what we guarantee, which is not the case in the present system, is that every American have freedom of choice with regard to the doctor or the hospital they want to go to.

So in the midst of a major health care crisis, where over 80 million people have no health insurance or are underinsured today, 30,000 people are dying today. Half-a-million people a year go bankrupt because of their health -- their medical bills.

We think that four years is as long as it should be, not 10 years. And that's one of the reasons I disagree with Senator Harris.

TAPPER: So she would argue that her plan addresses the concerns of Americans who are worried about banning private insurance.

And she says that what her plan does is, it allows those companies, private insurance companies, to operate and compete with the public option, as it were, within a much tougher system.

Why is that less effective than your way?

SANDERS: Well, the private insurance companies may be greedy, they may be many things, but they're not stupid.

And the function of private insurance is not -- as every American who has dealt with an insurance company knows, not to provide quality care. It is to deny claims when they can. It is to make as much money as they possibly can.

At the end of the day, Jake, we as a nation have got to ask ourselves a very simple question. How does it happen that we spend almost twice as much per person on health care as do the people of any other nation?

And the answer is that we allow private insurance companies and drug companies to run our health care system. Under Medicare for All, we finally say that insurance companies and drug companies will not run our health care system, and that we're going to run a cost-effective system by eliminating the incredible profiteering that we're seeing from the insurance companies and the drug companies, the exorbitant salaries.

[16:40:12] For example, you're in Detroit. I'm in Detroit right now. The guy who is head of Blue Cross Blue Shield here in Michigan makes $19 million a year in compensation. And he is not one of the highest paid people.

You got the guy who is head of Aetna making a $500 million bonus for putting together a merger between Aetna and 500 million of health care dollars goes into the pocket of one person.

That is what the health insurance industry is about. And the reason we spend so much more than any other country is that those countries have understood that. And we have got to move in that direction.

TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, thanks so much for calling in. We appreciate it. I look forward to seeing you on the debate stage tomorrow night.

SANDERS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Let's talk about this.

Jen, your reaction to Senator Sanders comments on Harris' health care plan?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, Senator Sanders is the only purist on Medicare for All.

And there has been this perception that all the Democrats running for president are all for Medicare for All. That's not true. It's changed as time has gone on.

And as I have watched, I think they have all looked for escape hatches so that they are not running on Medicare for All in the general election. That's exactly what Kamala Harris did.

She positioned herself in between Senator Sanders and Senator Biden, essentially. And what she's trying to address here are the two criticisms, as you touched on it in the questions you asked him, which is the having to give up private insurance, and taxes going up on the middle class.

Now, ultimately, when it comes down to a general election, if she's the nominee, if someone else is the nominee, they will all come together. And I think the proposal will not be Medicare for All. It will be some version of Medicare for X or Medicare for America, where you are expanding access, you're making it less expensive, you're building on Obamacare.

That's where most of the Democrats are. It was interesting that he said, she's my friend, and he didn't go after her. I think that is an indication of perhaps what his strategy may be.

But if you're him, even with Elizabeth Warren, he is much more of a purist on this issue. He is not co-sponsoring other bills.


not just -- I mean, she has struggled so much with this issue, even in that first town hall that you did with her this year.

And she really needed to come out with a much clearer position of where she stands. Obviously, there's still criticisms about whether or not her version of it would work.

But at the same time, it's just -- just fascinating to me, like, how huge the disconnect is between the Democrats, particularly Sanders, and where moderate and independent voters are on this.

I mean, I just -- just being out in the swing states talking to these people, they don't want people to touch their health care. And many of them here in Michigan have worked very hard to get those benefits.

TAPPER: A lot of the union members.

RESTON: A lot of the union members.


What do you think?

ANDREW GILLUM (D), FORMER FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I would simply say, to break it down to kitchen table issues, people want to be able to ensure that they don't go bankrupt if they happen to get sick.

I respect both Senator Sanders, as well as Senator Harris. And I think they are after a similar objective, which is to decrease the cost, expand access, and to give some people some predictability around the kind of security they can have with their health care.

Now, there are a lot of ways to slice this thing. And I think that's what the debate will be about as you all get into the nuance of this. I don't think that there is one single way to address this issue.

And I'm looking forward to seeing how vigorously each of them defend their platforms tomorrow.

TAPPER: And -- go ahead, Senator.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN COMMENTATOR: Quickly, the -- Senator Harris' proposal is nothing but a delayed Medicare for All. Let's just be honest.

At the end of the game, private health care is eliminated, you will lose your private health insurance; 180 million people who are on private health care right now will no longer be able to have it. She says, we will keep the insurance companies around to do what Medicare Advantage does.

But it's a Medicare program or a Medicaid program. It is Medicare for All. And it is no -- no substantively different. So I disagree with you, Jen. I think the Democratic Party is moving -- whether it's in four years or 10 years, they're moving toward government-run health and socialized medicine.

When you listen to Bernie Sanders, he spoke like a true socialist there. I mean, now the private sector is evil. All -- they want money. And the only people that can do things is the government. The only people that can be fair is the government.

That's -- if that's their message, good luck with it.

GILLUM: But I think the difference is also clear. The Republicans are running to take health care away from people.

Democrats are running to expand access to health care for people.


SANTORUM: Donald Trump has done more to help Obamacare than anybody.


Terror as people scramble for safety, as a gunman opens fire at a popular food festival. Now police are looking into a possible connection to white supremacy.

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" today, horrific acts of gun violence erupted this weekend in Philadelphia, and Brooklyn, but the worst carnage was at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California where a shooter killed three innocent people and wounded 12 before police shot and killed him. The youngest victim is six years old.

And as CNN Sara Sidner now reports for us, the shooter's social media posts are giving police a dark look into a possible motive.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After all this chaos and panic at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, today a search for answers. Police now identifying the gunman as 19-year-old Santino William Legan saying he was armed with an AK-47 style assault rifle purchased legally in Nevada three weeks ago.

SCOT SMITHEE, POLICE CHIEF, GILROY CALIFORNIA: And despite the fact that they were outgunned with their handguns against a rifle, those three officers were able to fatally wound that suspect.

SIDNER: Police now trying to figure out why.

CRAIG FAIR, ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI: Our preeminent and principal concern at this point is motivation, ideological leanings, was he affiliated with anyone or any group.

[16:50:09] SIDNER: An Instagram account created four days ago under the suspect's name with two images posted shortly before the shooting. One is a photo taken from the Garlic Festival, the other posted an hour later is a photo of Smokey Bear warning of high fire danger. The caption recommends reading a white supremacist book. Police say Legan entered the festival by cutting through a fence around the property avoiding security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen him shooting at everyone. It looked like he just wanted to shoot everyone. He didn't have -- no direct target.

SIDNER: They're still investigating witness reports of a second suspect but believe Legan was the only shooter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can hear bullets and the bullets were hitting the ground. You could see him go up and that's what I called out it's a real gun.

SIDNER: We also now know that two of the three people killed were children, a 13-year-old girl and a six-year old boy named Steven Romero.

ALBERTO ROMERO, FATHER OF STEVEN ROMERO: I can't believe what was happening. They told me he was in critical condition, that they were working on him. And then five minutes later, they told me that he was dead.


SIDNER: Police say they engaged the shooter within one minute of the shooting. But by then, he had already killed three people and he had wounded 12 others. Jake?

TAPPER: Sara Sidner, thank you so much. Back to our "2020 LEAD." It is one of the most important issues on the campaign trail, the climate crisis, as part of our coverage of policy issues before tomorrow night's debate. CNN's Climate Change Correspondent Bill Weir is taking a look at how presidential hopefuls plan on fighting the impending threat.


BILL WEIR, CNN CLIMATE CHANGE CORRESPONDENT: Every leading Democrat for president agrees.

CHUCK TODD, HOST, MSNBC: It's a simple question what is the biggest threat -- what is -- who is the geopolitical threat to the United States?

WEIR: To save life as we know it.

TODD: Senator Warren?


TODD: Yes, Senator Booker?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nuclear proliferation and climate change.

WEIR: America must join her allies to fight World War C.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, I don't even call it climate change, it's a climate crisis.

WEIR: All of them say the U.S. should rejoin the Paris Accords but few have detailed exactly how they would stop humanity from cooking itself on fossil fuel. Less than half the field has put out a comprehensive climate plan and most of those are thin, but the first came from Beto O'Rourke.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are announcing the most ambitious climate plan in the history of the United States.

WEIR: To run against Ted Cruz for Senate last year, he took individual donations from oil and gas executives, but he swore off their money this time, and now vows to spend $5 trillion to get America off of oil and gas.

He favors outlawing carbon pollution by 2050 while others like Kirsten Gillibrand prefer a carbon tax. She'd had polluters pay a stiff $52.00 for each ton burned and would use the money on a national energy transition.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We want to use innovation entrepreneurialism and new technologies for wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, biofuels.

WEIR: But Pete Buttigieg and John Delaney would pass carbon tax money directly to you.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The greatest challenges we face in the future will be over technology, intellectual property, clean energy, a warming planet.

WEIR: Joe Biden caught grief from climate hawks for floating a middle-ground approach. And while his $1.7 trillion plan is vague, he has Obama's green legacy to run on. Elizabeth Warren is in for $2 trillion and wants to start the fight by forcing corporations to report exactly how much damage they're doing to the planet, and then use that data to keep lobbyists and lawmakers honest.

WARREN: It's 25 years of corruption in Washington that we're paying for now.

WEIR: Cory Booker is a rare fan of nuclear energy. And like fellow Senator Kamala Harris often emphasizes environmental justice for poor communities already being hit the hardest. But the most detailed plan by far comes from Jay Inslee.

JAY INSLEE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Other candidates might put it on their to-do list, that just does not cut it.

WEIR: The Washington governor would spend $9 trillion, create a G.I. Bill for displaced miners and frackers and force every new car to be 100 percent zero-emission by 2030. To him, everything on the President's desk from the economy, to health, to national defense is a climate issue.

INSLEE: We can't you know, tell China to solve the problem if we refuse to. We need to inspire them to act in the rest of the world and not give them an excuse for inaction.

WEIR: Bernie Sanders has yet to release a detailed climate plan. Surprising given his decades' old passion for the topic. He is a leading proponent of the Green New Deal, also a plan big on ambition, short on specifics.

AMERICAN CROWD: Green New Deal! Green New Deal! Green New Deal!

[16:55:01] WEIR: But the young activists behind this call to arms are short on patience. The Sunrise Movement wants America off oil and gas 15 years faster than Beto, Inslee, and the rests. For this generation, it's great that the grown-ups on this stage are finally talking about their planet. But if the threat is as bad as they say, the ideas and urgency are just too little too late. Bill Weir, CNN New York.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Bill Weir for that report. Republican leaders are not exactly celebrating President Trump's pick to lead the Intelligence Community. That story next. Stay with us.