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Biden Rebounds, Harris Slips In New Poll Ahead Of CNN Debates; Trump Taps Congressional Loyalist, Russia Probe Critic For Intel Chief; Top Republicans Hesitate To Embrace Him; Trump Steps Up Attacks On Cummings And Baltimore, Calling Congressman's Majority-Black District "Rodent Infested". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 29, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: They didn't know the man was a police officer and thought he was going to hurt them. The officer's funeral was held today. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Biden rebounds. A major shift in momentum as the 2020 candidates prepare for the first of two make or break debates right here on CNN. And Donald Trump chooses a loyal lawmaker to be the country's spy chief. Are Republicans onboard though with Trump's pick? Plus, Trump playing the race card again. Will his strategy with his base win reelection? Let's go out front.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett live outside The Fox Theater in Detroit for the CNN Democratic presidential debate. OUTFRONT tonight, Biden is back big time. Huge surge for Joe Biden who is now the clear frontrunner as he prepares for the most important night thus far in the fight for 2020.

According to a brand new Quinnipiac poll, Biden is now at 34% and when I say surge and big time, I said it for this reason. That is up 12 percentage points from earlier this month after the last debate. That's a really big jump, OK, and Biden's rebound is coming ahead of this crucial debate here. And in part, coming at Kamala Harris' expense, the Senator who took Biden on, called him out on busing to a poll surge and a lot of accolades, but now dropping to third at 12 percent.

Harris telling reporters that her game plan for regaining her momentum is this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your mission in this debate, specifically, and then going off of your healthcare --

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To not mess up. My mother raised me to be polite and I intend to be polite. I will express differences and articulate them and certainly point out where we have differences of opinion because I believe that Democrats and the American voter have a right to know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Well, obviously, a crucial night for her and meanwhile on

the progressive left, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are now preparing to go head to head, side by side on the stage, defending their progressive agendas, including Medicare for All, which tonight is actually at the center of a very bitter back and forth between the candidates. Kamala Harris today unveiling her new Medicare for All health care plan that allows people to keep private insurance.

Now, that's not just a change for her. It is a plan that Sanders is slamming in a statement saying, quote, call it anything you want, but you can't call this plan Medicare for All. Kyung Lah is out front with me in Detroit. And obviously, Kyung, you have spent a lot of time on the trail with Senator Harris, putting out this health care plan. She's sort of switched her position back and forth on this and now tonight being hit from all sides.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. She's taking it both from the left, from Bernie Sanders saying, "Hey, this is not a Medicare for All plan." And then she's also taking it from the right, Joe Biden saying that what this plan essentially does is tear down the ACA. That's what his team is saying.

What this plan does, a plan that Harris has rolled out is it puts her ideologically right in between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. That is where she wants to be. So let's take a look at the plan, what is the Harris plan? It essentially scales up Medicare, as we know it. Medicare in 2019.

It calls for traditional Medicare. There is that public option that will be government run, but there is also that option for private insurance. So if you get your insurance through your union, through your employer, that may still exist at the end of the 10-year scale up that she's thinking, but it would all be regulated by the federal government. She envisions it would look a lot like Medicare Advantage today.

Now Medicare Advantage is something that one third of Medicare enrollees take part in. It is still a very popular part of Medicare. It works right there with the government run plan for Medicare and so Harris does believe that this would work. One other thing, Erin, we should point out that the timing of this can't be ignored. She's doing this right before the day one of the debates, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you very much. And out front now, Paul Begala, Democratic strategist who served as White House Counselor to President Clinton, Maria Cardona, Democratic Strategist and former DNC Communications Director, and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed former Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate who previously served at the health commissioner here in Detroit. OK, thanks to all of you.

So, Paul, let's just start with the Joe Biden surge.


BURNETT: OK. Joe Biden's last debate was not a great one. He knows that everyone knows that and a lot of people said, "Oh, so much is riding on this." So he didn't even have another debate, yet, and he has surged. Twelve percentage points is a very big jump.

BEGALA: It is. It's really impressive. It's going to put a bigger target on Joe's back on debate night, but he already had a target there. I do think uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

[19:05:01] He's the clear frontrunner. Any other Democrat has a perfect right to go after him. I think what's driving it is this, it's what's driving almost all Democrats. This is a single issue election who can beat Donald Trump.


BEGALA: Now, maybe he's the right choice, maybe it's not. I don't have a favorite in the race. I really am undecided. But that's the only issue. I'm a JFK Democrat. I will bear any price, pay any price, bear any burden, support any friend, oppose any foe to ensure the defeat of Donald Trump and that's what I think is driving Biden's popularity.

BURNETT: Which is an interesting point because, you heard what Kyung said, trying to describe the field, right?


BURNETT: She's like, to the right is Joe Biden that shows the shift here in the Democratic Party that Joe Biden is described as to the right of where they are.

CARDONA: Yes, that's true. Right.

BURNETT: But Harris' numbers are really down since that debate performance, which was widely - people thought that was a very strong performance that she had.

CARDONA: Right. I think that's right. I think coming out of that debate, people - everyone was saying that she had certainly won the night. She raised a lot of money off of it. Her number has surged for several days, perhaps weeks after that. But I agree with Paul, I think that people kind of came down and who knows if this is going to take it. It's still really, really early, right?


CARDONA: But the single most important issue right now in democratic voters minds is who can beat Donald Trump and I will say that I think the last several weeks, where Donald Trump has once again shown what he's going to do to try to win reelection, which is really focused on the racism and bigotry and the xenophobia goes back to the reason why Joe Biden says he jumped into this race. His vision was one of this is a fight for the soul of America and I think people are really feeling that right now and so of the moment, I think he is really taking advantage of that.

ABDUL EL-SAYED, FORMER CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: I do want to jump in and say a few things. Number one, it's hard to interpret anyone poll, A. B, Joe Biden does benefit from having been Vice President for eight.

BURNETT: He's got the name recognition that no one ...

EL-SAYED: Everybody knows who Joe Biden is.

BURNETT: ... well, Bernie Sanders has name recognition but other than that Joe Biden ...

EL-SAYED: And persistently good support. But the other point that I don't want to forget is that Hillary Clinton was the most electable candidate in American history. She lived in the White House for eight years. She had been a senator. She had been Secretary of State, nobody was better prepared and look where that got us. This electability argument that says that Joe Biden is the one doesn't make any sense, because I'll tell you the reason he appears so far right is because our electorate is looking for something more.

You can point to unemployment numbers that look really low, underemployment is at an all time high. It's not paying to have a job anymore. And unless he's willing to go to a moment where we have to say, "Actually, this past is not working." We have to ask, "Well, what's the plan here?" And it doesn't seem like he's got anything except to say, "Well, let's go back to the Obama years."

BURNETT: So one thing I've noticed, OK, when you say it isn't all about being Donald Trump. Yes, that is what it seems to be about for Democrats. However, they all want to say, "But I'm going to give you a reason to think I can be that person." There has been a lot of policy coming up from these guys and health care is ...


CARDONA: ... before.

BURNETT: Bernie Sanders has successfully moved something perceived as socialism to the main stream and now they're all in talking about Medicare for All. So Kamala Harris comes out with this plan. OK. I'm just going to play a little bit of her in the last debate. Look, it's unclear, it looks like she's changed a lot and back and forth. Here she is.



LESTER HOLT, ANCHOR, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government run plan? All right.

HARRIS: Medicare for All - my vision of Medicare for All includes private insurance where people can have supplemental insurance.


BURNETT: OK, so I don't know what really was going on there. Was she sure what she wanted or is she not sure. Now we've got this plan, is she going to now show 'I'm going to stick with it'?

CARDONA: I think she has to now. And I think that it was smart for her to come out with this plan now, because I think they understood that she was a little adrift, because it wasn't just that in the debate, even before that she had told Jake (ph) one thing about where she was on Medicare for All and then completely went back on it. So this was very smart of her.

She needed to do it and frankly, she's got to be ready for attacks on both sides. But if she is in a place where as Kyung said that she is kind of in the middle of people who think that Joe Biden is way to the right on this or people who think that Elizabeth Warren is way to the left, that might be the right place for her to be in terms of the overall Democratic caucus.

BURNETT: Joe Biden slamming her though, Dr. El-Sayed. This new habit every which way approach.

EL-SAYED: That's fair. I'm not going to disagree. Although, I will say that Joe Biden hasn't given us any approach. Look, I'm not that old but I'm old enough to remember when Medicare for all meant something. It meant single payer health care. And the reason it has been so popular is because people realize that it is the best way to address the fundamental failing of our health system, which is that we're relying on corporate for profit health insurance to take 15% off the top, make the overhead in healthcare super expensive to the exclusion of five to 10% of Americans and we pay more for healthcare, mediocre outcomes than any other country in the world. We can see Canada from here.

And there, they ...


EL-SAYED: ... than we do.


BURNETT: ... out the window. But, Paul, yet when you look at ...

[19:10:07] BEGALA: That was not a Sarah Palin moment, that's ...


CARDONA: We can't really see it.

BURNETT: But yet when you look and Medicare for All is one issue so I'm not trying to equate that fully with socialism, but you have Bernie Sanders, Democratic socialist, policies that to the Democratic base, socialism is popular. People think that makes sense. But to the overall American electorate, it is not. So do they go too far left at their peril?

BEGALA: Yes. The first rule of a primary is don't say anything on that stage, Tuesday and Wednesday night, that's going to kill you in November 2020. The last debate in Miami, so Kamala won or Biden won, Donald Trump won the last debate in Miami because too many of the Democrats took positions, maybe out of great principle, but still took positions that they cannot sell in November of 2020.

BURNETT: You mean like raising your hand when you're talking free health care.


BEGALA: When you abolish private health insurance. He's thinking about ...


EL-SAYED: Let me push back on that just for a second. We're in Downtown Detroit, you can walk a mile in any direction and these are folks who have been left behind by the debates that we're talking about. And if we want to win, it's going to be because we do a couple of things right. Most of all, it's going to be because we pull out our base in communities like this and unless we're actually advocating for solutions that affect people's lives, we're going to miss that opportunity.

So we're having the same debate that we were having in 2016 about is the ACA good or not good.

BURNETT: That's not a turnout debate.

EL-SAYED: It's not a turnout debate, so we have to make sure that Democrats coming out of this primary are fired up over ideas that will actually affect their lives.

BEGALA: But that base turned out like no never before in 2018 in the midterms.

CARDONA: Right, exactly.

BEGALA: And none of those Democrats run on socialism, they run on moderate mainstream middle class issues.

CARDONA: That's exactly right. And in fact, the base actually isn't all for socialism.


CARDONA: If you believe the base is Latino voters, African-American voters, they are not there in terms of where socialism is.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, all. And next, Republicans not exactly embracing the President's pick for the next Director of National Intelligence. Well, how significant is that?


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): Donald Trump is not above the law, he is not, but he damn sure shouldn't be below the law which is where Volume Two of this report puts him. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And that won the President over. Is Congressman John Ratcliffe ready to be the head of America spies? Plus, President Trump choosing racial division as a strategy to win in 2020. His own team says that's what this is about, go after a black guy and that helps with his white base. And round two of the Democratic debates, 2020 candidate Andrew Yang on his debate strategy out front.


[19:16:21] BURNETT: New tonight, top Republicans not onboard with the big Trump move. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the number two Republican in the senate, John Thune tonight declining to back Trump's pick for the powerful Director of National Intelligence in charge of America's spy agencies. Congressman John Ratcliffe is his name.

A nominee who Democrats are blasting as unqualified and partisan. Now, if confirmed, he would replace Dan Coats who clashed with Trump during a lot of his two years as the DNI especially on Russia's meddling in the U.S. election. Here's Coats.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: In regards to state actions, Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor, no question, and they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy.


BURNETT: This is what the President said just three days later.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.


BURNETT: It was a statement the President tried to correct by saying he meant to say wouldn't and then there was this moment when Coats was seemingly caught off guard when he was told that the White House announced Putin was coming to the White House to visit the President.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I do want to say we have some breaking news. The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.

COATS: Say that again.


BURNETT: OK. After a few laughs, that was all Coats could say and then this.




COATS: That's going to be special.


BURNETT: OK. Well, that was not something the President appreciated and then the two also disagreed on whether or not North Korea is denuclearizing.


TRUMP: We have made a lot of progress as far as denuclarization is concerned.

COATS: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.


BURNETT: Taking on Trump has not been a successful strategy for professional longevity in this administration. So Coats' departure is not a surprise. The surprise though to many is who Coats' replacement is, Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas.

Sources tell CNN that this was sort of, in a sense a last minute thing, because Ratcliffe impress the President with his questioning of Robert Mueller last week. Trump calling him a quote, warrior.


RATCLIFFE: 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.


BURNETT: All right out front now Phil Mudd, former CIA counterterrorism official and David Urban Advisor to President Trump's 2020 Campaign and a lobbyist who's worked on behalf of energy defense and transportation companies, because we put it all out there, David.


BURNETT: OK. So you're here with me, so let's just start with you on this.

URBAN: Sure.

BURNETT: President comes out with this, obviously, there was a lot of speculation Coats was not long for this administration. But now you've got --

URBAN: He started being here two years and 150 days.

BURNETT: Right. But now you've got McConnell and Thune, neither one of them are quick to say, "OK, Mr. President, we're behind you." They're not doing that. Why?

URBAN: Listen, I think the Senate has a very important role here on their advise and consent. Congressman Ratcliffe is a very serious member. He's been remember of the House Intelligence Committee for six years. He's a prosecutor career. He's done very well by himself in terms of - and by the way, while he's a prosecutor he also worked on the counterterrorism task force, so he doesn't come to this fresh off the street.

[19:20:08] BURNETT: The way you present it, they should be jumping onboard. It's their president, it's their pick, he's qualified. What am I missing?

URBAN: Well, he still has to make his case. He still has to make his case that he's going to be independent. I think people see the video. They hear the narrative and they want to know, are you going to be independent? Do you believe the Russians interfered?

I think if you ask those two questions in the affirmative, he'll sail through.

BURNETT: What do you say, Phil Mudd, when you hear how David's laying it out? Obviously, Coats had what, 20 years in Congress, Congressman Ambassador. Senator Ratcliffe obviously doesn't have that same depth of experience, but if you hear David he's laying out, prosecutor, terrorism prosecutor. Is he qualified?

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I don't think that's the question I would ask. I'm almost, and this is miraculous, halfway with David. Look, he's got some experience. It does not match people like James Clapper in terms of people who have had this position before. It's not even close.

But look, you can learn the job. From the inside, that is not the question I would have. The question I would have is given the partisanship of this member on the issues the intel community has with the President, North Korea, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, can you guarantee, and David raise this, can you guarantee that this individual will not only speak the truth to the President, I'm not sure I would believe that, but also there'll be like situations.

The FBI Director doesn't speak that much publicly, the CIA Director doesn't. This job does. Will this person go out in public and say regardless of what the President says about North Korea or Russia, I've got a different view. I'm not sure. URBAN: And I would just say, as Phil knows, the Director of National

Intelligence directs nothing. He has no operational control over any of the intelligence community. He has no say over - he's the king of an empire of his own staff.

BURNETT: So you're saying the job doesn't matter?

URBAN: Not that the job doesn't matter, but I think Phil would be the first to admit also that the director doesn't direct anything.

BURNETT: He's an important job though, Phil. I mean you got obviously to people ...

URBAN: He's a coordinator.

MUDD: Yes. He is.

BURNETT: ... you have people like James Clapper and others.

MUDD: He is in theory.

BURNETT: I mean, this is an ...

MUDD: We used to say this is big hat, no cattle. In other words you've got a big job.


URBAN: Thought so.

MUDD: But you don't have a lot of people. The difference I would say in this case in addition to the public persona, the opportunity to speak to the American public is this is somebody who's going to have access to the President which means the ability to say this is what we think about Iran or North Korea. So I agree not a lot of influence within the community, but the opportunity to go face-to-face with a man, that is the President who doesn't believe the intel.

BURNETT: Well ...


MUDD: That's right.

BURNETT: Theoretically.

MUDD: That's right.

BURNETT: So David, let me ask you because this is an important thing. If you're McConnell and you're Thune, something that you have taken the President on about has been the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, right, Republicans took him on, on this. They said, "Look, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia directed it because the CIA said that that's what they concluded. The President of the United States is wrong."

They have not supported him on other things he wanted to do with Saudi Arabia as a result of that selling weapons, et cetera. So when this guy, Ratcliffe, Congressman Ratcliffe goes and is asked the question, do you accept the CIA's assessment that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia directed the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?

URBAN: Well, it'd be interesting to see what he says.

BURNETT: Right. But let's just say he says - so he says, "No," and the President - if he says, "Yes," goes against the President, what's the President do?

URBAN: The President can withdraw his nomination if he deems it's unacceptable. It's up to those Members of the Senate. That's their job, advice and consent, to vote the guy up or down. He's got to make the case. He's going to be independent. He's going to speak truth to power and I think that's what the Members of the Senate look to hearing.

BURNETT: So Phil, then what happens at that moment, that moment that the President, I mean, I'm just giving one example, but I'm giving it for a very specific reason because Republicans have taken the President on that specific issue. What does Ratcliffe do?

MUDD: He's going to try to thread the needle and that's where - I'm with David. I mean, I think this is really interesting. I'm not going into the hearing saying I'd vote him up or down if I were ever, god forbid a Member of the Senate. I'm going in saying I'm interested in his answers.

If he threads too carefully, I would sit back and say we're going to hear that when he's DNI and the president's going to hear that when this individual who's talking to him in the Oval, I want to hear some clear answers. I'm not sure we'll get them.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it, Phil, David. And next, President Trump thinks his racist rhetoric could help him win reelection. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus respond. And 2020 candidate Andrew Yang is out front. His debate strategy to break out from the pack.


[19:28:15] BURNETT: New tonight, Trump, again, slamming the House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings tweeting, quote, Baltimore under the leadership of Elijah Cummings, has the worst Crime Statistics in the Nation, 25 years of all talk, no action. So tired of listening to the same old bull.

Trump's tweets continuing a three-day attack on Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings. Trump attacking the powerful head of the House Oversight Committee. Cummings oversees currently no fewer than 12 investigations into the President and his family and his business. And Trump picked a line of attack to feed his basis tendencies referring to Cummings' district overwhelming African-American as, quote, disgusting rat and rodent infested, places no human would want to live. And don't take my comment about Trump's base as a guess. The

Washington Post reports that Trump's advisors concluded that attacks like these are quote good for the President among his political base, resonating strongly with the white working-class voters he needs to win reelection in 2020.

They said it. They think slamming minorities, black congressmen will resonate with Trump's white voters. That is a deeply ugly admission. And infest is a word the President often uses when it comes to black and brown, just the other day telling four minority American congresswomen to go back to the crime infested countries they came from.

Infest has become sort of a trope for Trump. Here's a couple of his past tweets, this one, Democrats don't care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be to pour into and infest our country. And of civil rights icon, John Lewis, "Congressman Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the United States."

[19:30:00] Infest is a loaded word throughout history..

And when people defending Trump say, well, literally, there are rats in Baltimore, that shows a painful willingness to look the other way.

Abby Phillip is OUTFRONT at the White House for us tonight.

And, Abby, the president's advisers clearly see this as a re-election strategy. And they see it as something that will resonate with their words his white working-class voters.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. And in some ways, they have no choice because this is a strategy that President Trump himself has set out on. When President Trump first attacked the squad, his campaign reframed it as an attack that was really about patriotism and nativism. And now, here, as you are seeing President Trump attacking Elijah Cummings, his advisers are coming to his aid.

We saw him also expanding his attack to people like Al Sharpton, telling supporters via Twitter that Sharpton hates whites and hates cops. President Trump linked these two things together, linked the Cummings attacks and the Squad's attacks together. In a tweet this weekend, he said, if the Democrats are going to defend the radical left squad and King Elijah's Baltimore fail, it will be a long road to 2020.

So, President Trump is making it plain that this is his path to re- election. But the question is, can they reframe the Cummings attack as some kind of nativist attack that's really about patriotism? That I think remains to be seen, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Abby, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, member of the House Oversight Committee chaired by Congressman Cummings, as I said.

And, of course, I'm here with you in person in your state.

All right. So you heard the reporting which I thought was quite profound, because it was team Trump saying that they think that things like this resonate with Trump's white voter base. They said that. They put the word white in there.

Does it surprise you that they will admit that this racially charged talk they think is effective?

REP. BRENDA LAWRENCE (D-MI): You know, if you look through history in times of Jim Crow, times when we were struggling with the civil rights movement, there was always this effort to separate white America and black America. It's always been this effort to dehumanize black people. So, when you call them infested and you give them titles, they're not as equal. They're not as --

BURNETT: A place no human would want to live.

LAWRENCE: Exactly. If you are living there, you're not human. I just really don't want America, especially black America to be sucked into this rabbit hole, because this is a deliberative attempt by this president to get us distracted, to start looking at our white neighbor and saying are you one of those people who think that way about us?

In America, we have history lesson after lesson where people come together. This president is really trying to divide this country and suppress the vote. Because if he gets black people to say, oh, this country doesn't care about me, it's no good.

BURNETT: That they don't vote.

LAWRENCE: And they don't vote.

BURNETT: All right. So, the latest FBI -- the president is saying this is actually -- let's look at the facts.


BURNETT: The latest FBI data shows Baltimore had more homicides than any larger American city in 2017. But Baltimore it has a lot of crime problems, right? We know that. That is a fact.

In one of his tweets, Trump writes, quote, there is nothing racist saying plainly what most people already know. Dems always play the race card when they are unable to win with the facts. Shame.

Your response?

LAWRENCE: The president, again. He is the president of the United States of America. Baltimore is a part of the United States of America.

If he was a true leader, his comment would be what can we do to fix this? Even if he felt that Elijah Cummings was not a good leader, where -- what do you offer, sir? As the president of the United States, what have you offered to bring this country together? What have you offered to reduce crime? What have you done to enrich this country?

Everything is about dividing. The tax cuts, then you don't want to raise the minimum wage to $15 so that all ships can rise and everyone can take part of the American Dream.

BURNETT: So, I'm trying -- you know, you were at Michael Cohen's hearing back in February. There was a moment there that I thought was -- I don't know, poignant about this moment, Cummings defended Republican Congressman Mark Meadows. Meadow Meadows was essentially called racist because he brought one African-American woman out and said, look, here she is, this proves Michael Cohen's wrong, President Trump isn't a racist.

LAWRENCE: Which was ignorant.

BURNETT: So, it was ignorant.


BURNETT: Cummings jumped in to defend Mark Meadows, his friend, and I just wanted to play that moment.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): You are one of my best friends. I know that shocks a lot of people.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): And likewise, Mr. Chairman.

CUMMINGS: Yes, but you are. And I can see and feel your pain. I feel it.


[19:35:05] BURNETT: I have not forgotten that moment, because I thought that was a moment where you can say someone -- Elijah Cummings, Mark Meadows who is completely on the other side, that they can say they are one of the best friends and defend, and Cummings defended Meadows.

The president of the United States isn't just slamming Cummings, he called him a racist, basically saying, well, because your district isn't doing better, you are the racist, Elijah Cummings.

Does Mr. Meadows need to speak out publicly for his friend?

LAWRENCE: Mr. Meadows has a lot of demons he has to address, because I know Meadows, as well. I have known him to be in the right place on so many issues. And to be silent and to try to support this president as so many other Republicans are doing, it is shameful. And it's -- there has to be accountability for this because right is right, wrong is wrong. You know what the gauge is? Would you tell your children, I want you

to be just like the president of the United States? I want you as my child to grow up and call people names, make racist comments. You know, the president of the United States is a role model. How many Republicans can say that?

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate your time, Congresswoman. Thank you.

LAWRENCE: Thank you. Thank you so much.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, on the eve of the crucial Democratic debates, the bar is getting even higher for those looking to hang on. Candidate Andrew Yang is OUTFRONT. And the issue the candidates say is the biggest national security threat.


[19:40:14] BURNETT: The fight for 2020, we are about 24 hours away from the first CNN presidential debate. It is going to be a make or break moment for many of the candidates especially those trying to pull ahead in the polls, get more name recognition. These are the moments that are early and crucial.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic candidate for president, Andrew Yang.

And I appreciate you being with me. Nice to see you in person, Mr. Yang.

So, today, you announced you qualified for the third debate.


BURNETT: And, you know, yours may not be a name that has full household recognition, but you have a very loyal, loyal following, online following. You have to get up in the polls with the mass recognition.

So, how are you preparing for this debate to do that?

YANG: Well, I'm thrilled for the opportunity. I actually spent much of the last 10 years working here in Detroit. My organization helped create hundreds of jobs, and Detroit is a ground zero for the automation of so many manufacturing jobs over the last number of years. We're going to use this debate as an opportunity to call out the economic transformation we're in the midst of, and then propose real solutions like freedom dividend of $1,000 a month, which would be a game changer for the families here in Detroit and really across the country.

BURNETT: And you have laid out -- I know obviously, so here's the thing -- last time you didn't get a ton of talk time for whatever reason that may be. What are you going to do differently this time so that you get out there and make a point?

YANG: Well, the great thing and you just said, we're now one of the eight campaigns to qualify for the debates, not just this week, but also in September and October. So, we have a real great opportunity not just this week, but throughout the coming weeks to make this case to the American people. We are in a fortunate position where we are not in desperation mode where many campaigns are in a bit of a Hail Mary situation.

BURNETT: Lob a bomb just because?

YANG: Yes, and that's one of the unfortunate dynamics where it tends to degenerate into rehearsed attack lines because you were in a situation where you feel like your back's against the wall. That's not where our campaign is which makes very, very happy and glad.

BURNETT: So, when it comes down to obviously talk time isn't what it is all about, right? It was three minutes. Kamala Harris had four times that amount. Joe Biden got a lot more than that. Do you want a lot of time?

YANG: Of course, you have rather more time than less.

BURNETT: Right. And what I get us, you know, you're making the point on universal basic income, $1,000 a month. And there is a lot of curiosity about that and you have to tell people about that.

YANG: Yes.

BURNETT: Do you want to be defined only by that?

YANG: Well, it is not a length of time talking contest. I mean, you have to use your time to make points to the American people. But the fact that we are in the midst of the greatest economic transformation in our history, and we need to solve the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place.

We're going to make those points I'm sure this week. And we're just thrilled to be here to have another opportunity to make the case to the American people.

BURNETT: So, you spent time in Detroit. And as you said, you helped rebuild Detroit. You can see downtown Detroit as a place they spent a lot of time. A lot of time has been spent. People like you, people like Dan Gilbert.

And you see that in some other cities. Baltimore is one of them.

YANG: Yes.

BURNETT: Baltimore harbor, you look at things over by Johns Hopkins, I grew up in Maryland. And yet, there are a lot of problems in Baltimore and we all know that. And the facts are the facts and they're ugly.

But the president says of Elijah Cummings, his district, right, that Baltimore is disgusting, rat and rodent infested. You also worked in Baltimore. What do you say? YANG: I do. Well, there are problems in Detroit. There are problems

in Baltimore. At the same time, there are incredible individuals and organizations trying to make things better. That's the challenge we have, but it is not helpful for someone to say, oh, look at all the problems. The reason why I have been working in these communities for the last eight, nine years is because I believe we can do better and we can do better.

BURNETT: So, when the president says rat and rodent infested? Is that just blatant racism?

YANG: We have to stop running around after Trump's tweets. If he verifies he is Donald Trump for the 1,000th time, it's not a game changer for us. He is who he is. We have to try to solve the problems on the ground that got him elected. That's the focus of my campaign, and that's where in my opinion, the entire field should be focused.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Andrew Yang, I appreciate your time. Thanks very much. Very good to see you.

YANG: It's good to be here, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And don't miss the Democratic debates right here on CNN. The first of two is live tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern.

And coming up next, the 2020 candidates on the issue they believe is key to beating Trump.

And face off. Jeanne Moos on what the smile behind the words may really mean.


[19:48:44] BURNETT: It will be one of the most important issues during the CNN debates here in Detroit, the climate crisis. Democratic candidate Jay Inslee, of course, has made this his single issue. He is now urging his 2020 rivals to make it their top priority, writing in a "New York Times" op-ed, quote, putting climate first is critical. We will defeat Donald Trump by attacking his failures on climate change, not by running from the issue.

Bill Weir is OUTFRONT.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every leading Democrat for president agrees.

DEBATE MODERATOR: It's a simple question. What is the biggest threat -- who is the geopolitical threat to the United States?

WEIR: To save life as we know it.




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 United States.

WEIR: To run against Ted Cruz for Senate last year, he took individual donations from oil and gas executives.

[19:50:01] But he swore off their money this time and vows to spend $5 trillion to get America off of oil and gas. He favors outlawing carbon pollution by 2020, while others prefer a carbon tax.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We want to use invasion, entrepreneurs and new technologies or wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, bio fuels.

WEIR: But Pete Buttigieg and John Delany 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 and intellectual property, clean energy, a warming planet.

WEIR: Joe Biden caught grief from climate hoax 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 are doing to the planet. 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 being hit the hardest.

But the most detailed plan by far comes from Jay Inslee.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Other candidates might put it in 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 giving his decade's old passion for the topic. He is a leading proponent of the Green New Deal, also a plan big on ambition, short on specifics.


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 rest.

For this generation, it's great that the grownups 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.


BURNETT: And next, debatable faces, what Bernie Sanders might really be saying when he looks like this.


[19:57:25] BURNETT: Tonight, while the candidates are getting ready for the debates, they should not forget one thing.

Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sometimes the faces debate candidates make are debatable, and who better to dissect them than the guy who wrote the book, actually several books on facial decoding.

Dan Hill has some advice for the Dems based on their previous performance, what not to do.

DAN HILL, FACIAL DECODING EXPERT: Glare and stare and be full of grimaces. You have to come across as someone who's going to occupy the White House, not burn the place down.

MOOS: He points the finger at Bernie Sanders, oh, yes, you, Bernie. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nothing will


MOOS (on camera): President George W. Bush once looked so cranky during the debate, that Democrats turned it into a negative ad.

(voice-over): Call it faces of frustration. Not too annoyed but not too smiley, either.

HILL: The biggest thing you shouldn't do is big cheesing grins like this.

MOOS: It may look like pleasant smiling to us.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Immigrants, they do not diminish America, they are America.

MOOS: But Hill says it took away from Amy Klobuchar's gravitas to compare it to Walter Mondale's smiling too much. When Reagan joked about not exploiting --

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: My opponent's youth and inexperience.


MOOS: Joe Biden has plenty of experience but our facial decoder cited hesitation.

HILL: During the hesitation, the mouth would fall open a little bit.

DEBATE MODERATOR: You did not raise your hand. Did you raise your hand?

BIDEN: No, I did.

MOOS: Kamala Harris got props for her unusual use of sadness.

HARRIS: And that little girl was me.

HILL: You really can't attack someone who's showing sadness. You're going to look like a heel. So, Biden had no place to go emotionally.

MOOS (on camera): And there is that face not physically present on the Democratic stage but ever present.

(voice-over): Our facial expert says it's not so much the funny faces president Trump makes but signature expression. Chin pushed up, a sign of disgust and sadness.

HILL: Donald Trump shows the largest percent take of sadness of any president we ever had.

MOOS: So sad it makes you want to rub your eyes and blink.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: It's like a born actor. Thanks so much for watching.

Our special coverage here in Detroit outside the Fox News Theater continues now with Anderson Cooper.