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Six-Year-Old, 13-Year-Old Killed In Festival Shooting; Kamala Harris Releases Her Medicare For All Plan Ahead Of CNN Debates; Trump Using Racism As A Political Strategy In New Rhetoric; Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) Discusses Trump Using Sanders' Comments To Attack Baltimore, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Impeachment & Mueller's Testimony; Trump Picks Congressional Loyalist As New Intel Chief; Op-Ed: When It Comes To Russia, McConnell's No Patriot. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 29, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We don't know the motive. They say they're going to be looking at ideological leanings, is there some affiliation with a group. That's what the FBI deputy - agent in charge said they're going to be looking. They're assisting the Gilroy police, Sara. There are a lot of unanswered questions at this point, in time.

I do want to point out we learned this was a legal purchase of a weapon in Nevada that happened July 9th and it was an A.K.-47-style rifle.

What stood out to you, Sara?

SARA SIDNER CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What stood out to me were the ages of the people killed, the 6-year-old, the 13-year-old children killed at this event. And someone who was in their 20s. So these are young people who are suffering at the hands of someone who used an A.K.-47.

There's one purpose for that weapon, and that's war. And he declared war on innocent people at this Garlic Festival who had no way to defend themselves and had no reason to believe that something like this was going to happen.

It is stunning. It is disturbing. And for this community, it is heartbreaking for all of these people to have to suffer like this for no apparent reason. This person has decided to wage war on people who had no idea of his intentions.

I do also want to mention that it was purchased on July 9th in Nevada. But it is actually illegal to possess assault-style weapons like this one here in California. So, had he been caught with it, he could have been arrested. But because he was not, and it was relatively recently that this was purchased, he clearly brought that or got it across state lines.

And here we are today with three people, two very young people, killed, and at least 11 others injured -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Sara Sidner, in Gilroy, thank you for that report. Senator Kamala Harris is setting up a showdown over health care at the

CNN debate with a new Medicare for All plan.

Also, the president inflaming racial tensions, and it's clear that he's doing it in part as a re-election strategy.

Plus, I'm going to speak with a Maryland congressman who represents parts of Baltimore to respond to President Trump's attack on that city.


[13:36:57] KEILAR: Senator Kamala Harris' health care plan puts her in the middle of the Democratic pack on this issue. Liberals want to move toward a single-payer health care system, literally Medicare for All, and moderates want to expand coverage and decrease costs while maintaining the private insurance system.

Now Harris is calling for Medicare for All with private insurance. This is coming after months of mixed messages and confusion from the California Senator on whether she'd scrap private health insurance as part of her plan.

Julie Rovner is the chief Washington correspondent for "Kaiser Health News." She's going to help us understand everything that is going on here with Senator Harris' plan.

In terms of the cost or the size of this plan, what can you tell us about how much you see this costing, and just how broad this proposal is?

JULIE ROVNER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, KAISER HEALTH NEWS: It's pretty broad. We don't know how much it would cost yet. No one has done a cost estimate. They have done detailed cost estimates of the Medicare for All plan Senator Sanders has. For Vice President Joe Biden, who put out his plan a couple of weeks ago, has some estimates. This would presumably come in between these two things, but not necessarily. We have only sort of an outline here.

It looks pretty broad, though. It would offer all of the Democratic plans. It's hard to call any of them moderate because even the moderate ones are pretty expansive, even compared to the Affordable Care Act that's in place today.

So this would be probably closer to the Bernie Sanders than the Joe Biden end but, again, we'd have to find out more of the details.

KEILAR: And do we have enough of the details to understand how this would change how Americans get their health coverage, get their health care?

ROVNER: Sort of. Basically, what she's saying is she wants Medicare for All, so everyone would transition tom and this would be a new Medicare program. It's confusing because people's parents and grandparents are on Medicare and they like it. But this would be a Medicare on steroids. Medicare with many more benefits that would cover much more of people's costs.

Right now, about a third of Medicare enrollees are in something called Medicare Advantage. Those are private plans but give all the Medicare benefits, usually plus more. Sometimes people pay premiums for those, sometimes they don't.

Basically, what Senator Harris is saying is that we'll move to Medicare for All but we'll keep Medicare Advantage so you could have the basic government plan or you could have the private plan that goes in place of Medicare.

What she doesn't talk about is what would happen to people who now have employer-provided insurance, whether they would simply have a choice of Medicare or Medicare Advantage. It's still a little bit murky.

KEILAR: OK. But that would go away or that would -- do we know exactly?

ROVNER: We don't know exactly what would happen to employer-provided insurance. I'm sure someone will ask her that at the debate.

KEILAR: We really need to know. That's a question people who get their insurance through their employers would want to know.

What about -- back to the costs. She's proposing a 4 percent tax on households making $100,000 or more and proposing taxes on financial transactions such as stock and bond trades. Is that something that would work? Is that going to generate enough money for something this broad?

ROVNER: That's obviously the big question. Senator Sanders has said that he would need to tax everybody in order to pay for his plan. That's a concern for people in the middle class.

[13:40:04] You know, what Senator Sanders says is, well, you won't have to pay any of your health care bills anymore. So it will be a tradeoff and everybody will save money. Pretty much, only people who save money who now have health care costs. Not everybody does. If you're healthy, you might end up paying more.

So Senator Harris is trying to say, we're going to protect the middle class, the sort of lower middle class. But, again, we don't know enough of what the package includes to know how much it's going to cost to know whether that would be enough.

Clearly, what she's saying is we're going to try to protect the middle class. She'll point out that's what they did in the Affordable Care Act. They basically taxed the rich. They have been to this well before to pay for health care. It's hard to know how much is left.

KEILAR: Very good point.

Julie Rovner, thank you so much.

President Trump and his aides apparently see the politics of hate as a winning campaign strategy as she escalates attacks on Baltimore and black leaders.

Plus, President Trump wants to give over the keys to the nation's intelligence to a partisan loyalist.


KEILAR: After a racist Twitter attack on Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, President Trump followed up by calling Cummings a racist. And now he's is expanding his attacks on Baltimore and its leaders and trying to use comments from Bernie Sanders to back up his anti- Baltimore rhetoric.

He tweeted this, "Crazy Bernie Sanders recently equated the city of Baltimore to a third-world country. Based on that statement, I assume that Bernie must now be labeled a racist just as a Republican would if he used that term and standard.

The fact is Baltimore can be brought back, maybe even to new heights of success and glory, but not with King Elijah and that crew. When the leaders of Baltimore want to see the city rise again, I am in a very beautiful oval-shaped office waiting for your call."

Sanders making those comments back in 2015 while railing against income inequality. He likened west Baltimore to a third-world country while he toured the city following the death of Freddie Gray, a young man who died after being severely injured in police custody.

Joining me now is Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes, who represents part of Baltimore. He's also on the House Oversight Committee.

Sir, thanks for being with us.

REP. JOHN SARBANES (D-MD): My pleasure to be here.

KEILAR: What was your reaction to this initial tweet this weekend when the president called Cummings' district, which neighbors yours, a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess?

SARBANES: What you've got to understand is Baltimore is a very, very proud city. The people here are wonderful. It's a great city. We're very proud of the city and also very proud of Elijah Cummings.

[13:45:11] The president's attack on the city and on Cummings was just wrong. It was mean-spirited. It doesn't accomplish anything to tear down places like Baltimore city or tear down leaders like Elijah Cummings. We should be working together at all levels to lift up cities across this country. That's what the president should always lead with instead of backing into it three days later.

So, yes, people here are angry, but, you know, Baltimoreans know how to take care of themselves. They definitely know what a ballot box looks like and they'll be marching to the ballot box next November, and that's where we'll register our grievances with this president.

KEILAR: The president is essentially saying there's no difference between what he's saying about Baltimore and what Bernie Sanders said in 2015. You were saying that you find Trump's comments mean- spirited. Is that the distinction that you're making between these two, that the president isn't, or is this more to it?

SARBANES: Well, for starters, that's it. I mean the president always leads with this hard edge, again trying to tear people down. You can acknowledge that the city has challenges. We all do that. The question is, where do you go from there? Do you try to lift it up? Do you do things that are constructive? I think that's the direction Bernie Sanders would head when you look at the kind of investments he wants to make across the country.

But you know what the president is doing, is he's revving up his noise machine. This is all about trying to distract people from the fact that he's just not a very good president. He hasn't delivered on his promises.

He said he was going to do infrastructure. It's nowhere to be seen. He said he was going to lower prescription drug prices. Hasn't done that. In fact, he's attacking the ACA, would throw 20 million people off of their health care. He said he was going to clean up corruption in Washington. He's made it worse.

And he said he would protect our country, but he's not paying any attention to election security issues, even though we know the Russians are coming next year to attack our elections again.

So this is about the president not being effective, not getting the job done for people. He creates this noise to try to distract from that. That's right out of his playbook.

We're not going to take the bait. We're going to focus on the issues that people care about. And then we're going to deliver a verdict next November that says we want a new president.

KEILAR: I want to switch gears now, because you are on the Oversight Committee. You have not so far taken a position in favor of impeaching the president. Where are you now after the testimony of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

SARBANES: Well, I thought Mueller's testimony was effective on two fronts. One is he re-energized all the investigative committees that are looking at what Trump did during the campaign and, frankly, what he did since he came into the White House. And we'll continue to shake those trees. I think our committees are doing a very good job. I think they should stick with that.

The impeachment issue is tricky, because the problem is you have a corrupt jury on the Senate side. Mitch McConnell and the Republicans over there are not going to convict this president. They made that very clear. So as a prosecutor, do you want to take your case to a corrupt jury, to a kangaroo court?

I would prefer, looking at it now, I would prefer to put, you know, 70, 100 million Americans in the jury box next November 3rd and have them deliver a verdict on this president. Our job in the meantime, through our investigative committees, like

the one that's headed up by Jerry Nadler, Judiciary, but also Elijah Cummings on Oversight, our job is to get as much evidence as we can in front of the American public so that they're equipped to make that judgment.

KEILAR: Congressman John Sarbanes, thank you so much for being with us.

SARBANES: Thank you.

[13:49:03] KEILAR: So do you remember the recent hearing when Congressman Cummings defended Republican Mark Meadows from an accusation that Meadows was racist? Well, now Meadows is silent about the president's attacks on Cummings.


KEILAR: President Trump is nominating Congressman John Ratcliffe, a deeply partisan loyalist, as the country's next director of National Intelligence to replace Dan Coats.

Ratcliffe, a Texas conservative, has also been an aggressive critic of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and a defender of the president. This is him in last week's hearing.


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He's not. But he damn sure shouldn't be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report puts him.


KEILAR: Now Dan Coats has been in his job since the early days of the Trump administration. But he's also, at times, been the target of the president's ire.

Who can forget this moment at a national security conference where Coats was caught off guard by the news of a White House visit by Vladimir Putin?


BARBARA WALTERS, FORMER HOST, "THE VIEW": The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.



WALTERS: You -- Vladimir Putin --

(CROSSTALK) COATS: Did I hear you --

WALTERS: Yes, yes.




COATS: That's going to be special.



KEILAR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is already raising concerns about Ratcliffe's nomination, saying that Dan Coats was respected on both sides of the aisle and warning that, quote, "DNI Coats' successor must put patriotism before politics and remember that his oath is to protect the Constitution and the American people not the president."

Julie Hirschfeld Davis is a congressional correspondent for "The New York Times," and Dana Milbank is a political columnist for "The Washington Post."

[13:55:01] The questioning that Ratcliffe gave, or his appearance, his protest, if you will, over Volume II of the Mueller report, did that endear him to the president?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. He met with the president before the Mueller hearings and the president knew of him and was already considering him for this position.

But no question, when he came out swinging in the hearings, you saw he's very telegenic. He looks the part, which Trump loves, of a congressman, or a cabinet member. The fact that he was so aggressive not only in putting the spotlight and putting questions on Bob Mueller but in defending President Trump was a big factor in his favor. The president likes to see that.

KEILAR: How do you read the shift, Dana, from someone like DNI Coats -- I mean, you heard Nancy Pelosi say he's respected on both sides of the aisle. He was someone Democrats could very easily live with. Now to someone now who's a partisan.

DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Coats was a first-stringer, to use that metaphor. What we have seen elsewhere in the administration is we are down to the third and fourth string. Ratcliffe was chosen in the usual way. He liked what he saw on FOX News.

I think there will be a question of, you know, have we gone too far down. It's a bit of the equivalent of saying, OK, you passed your first aid course. Now we'll have you do a heart transplant. That's the situation we are in now. Will people go along with that?

But there's no question he liked what he saw on TV. He knows the guy will be loyal.

KEILAR: Do Republicans worry about that, that he doesn't have the expertise he should?

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: I think there's some uneasiness. We saw Republicans come out with statements in the wake of the announcement that Coats was leaving that praised Dan Coats but not necessarily praising Congressman Ratcliffe. I think that's an indication they maybe don't think he's the best person for the job.

But they also know that the president will get who he wants for most of these positions. They are not willing to stand up and oppose him, particularly on personnel matters.

We're at a point also, not just in terms of going down the list of people willing to serve but it is clear the president doesn't want people who challenge him in the cabinet. He doesn't want people who challenge him in his orbit, particularly with intelligence and national security. I think Republicans feel that that's abundantly clear and there's not going to be a way to push back on it.

KEILAR: Dana, you have a column out over the weekend. You write -- you make this argument that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset. Not a spy, but someone taking positions that aid Russia to the detriment of the U.S., blocking bills to enhance election security. One example you cite is an election security bill that came up on the floor hours after Mueller testified that Russians are already trying to undermine the 2020 vote.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): I will ask unanimous consent for the Senate to take up and pass legislation I have introduced to help protect our democracy from foreign interference.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Is there objection?

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Mr. President, I object.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I have offered and I will shortly ask for unanimous consent for the passage of S-1247, the Duty to Report Act.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Is there objection?

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Mr. President, I object.


KEILAR: It's odd. That is the Senator doing the work of Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell is leading his conference when it comes to saying no to all of these things. It's a strange place to be where it is a partisan issue about foreign meddling in an election.

MILBANK: Right. It isn't a partisan issue in the sense that we have people like Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, Richard Burr, all Republicans, all who have been supportive of various parts of this.

The part that confuses me the most is what usually happens here is Senator McConnell doesn't like this, he comes up with a substitute, something he likes. He's not coming up with any alternative here. Clearly, at some point, the whole idea is not to have this kind of legislation pass. And then you need to ask the question, why does he not want this legislation to pass?

KEILAR: Why does he not want this legislation? I'll ask the question.

MILBANK: Good question.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: I think that's a very good question. I think part of the issue here, normally what would happen is, obviously, he doesn't like the Democrats proposals on this issue. That often happens. He's the Republican leader. But you would think they would put the Democratic ideas against the Republican ideas.

The problem here is --

KEILAR: Which they did with the Tom Cotton-authored bill.


MILBANK: It's there but that's not coming up either.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: The is you have the president of the United States who sees any move in this direction to be a direct challenge to him and his legitimacy. If you are passing legislation to do these things, you are admitting Russia did interfere, Russia did have a hand in his victory.

I think the Republicans' calculation is, why are we going to take the political risky steps of trying to have a real debate over this when we know legislation like this is very unlikely to be signed by this president. It puts them in a position where they have to be against something that many of them are actually for.

KEILAR: Yes. That seems to be a theme lately as well.



KEILAR: Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Dana Milbank, thank you very much to both of you.

[14:00:00] That's it for me.

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.