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Interview with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); Interview with Mayor Karen Weaver, Flint, Michigan; John Ratcliffe's Terrorism Claims Pad Resume. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 30, 2019 - 10:30   ET



[10:31:15] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Welcome back. President Trump is continuing his attacks on Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore, going so far as to say he is getting calls to the White House from thankful African-Americans, many of them, he claims. Have a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are so happy at what I've been able to do in Baltimore and other Democratic-run corrupt cities. The money has been stolen, what they've done. It's been wasted and it's been stolen, billions and billions of dollars.

And the African-American community is so thankful. They've called me and they said, "Finally, somebody is telling the truth."


SCIUTTO: Well, we'll see if the president provides something to corroborate that claim. Joining me now from Washington to speak about this and other topics, Senator Chris Murphy. He's a Democrat from the state of Connecticut.

Senator, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Good morning.

SCIUTTO: First, I want to ask you, about a specific claim that the president made about a sitting congressman, Elijah Cummings. He said -- he seemed to say that Cummings is responsible for stealing billions of dollars in federal money. And the president has made unfounded allegations along those lines before about others.

But I wonder, how do you, as a sitting senator of the same party, react when the sitting president makes such a claim?

MURPHY: Well, I mean, the president lies every day. I mean, this is no different than yesterday or the day before or the day before that. This is who this president is. And that's the first time I've heard this particular lie about Elijah Cummings, but this is de rigueur for the chief executive. And I don't think we should normalize it. I think you've got to call him out every single time he says something that is deliberately untrue.

And, you know, our focus should be on trying to, you know, help places like Baltimore. Baltimore does have a lot of challenges. But the fact of the matter is, the president isn't pointing that out as a means to try to assist people in Baltimore, he's pointing that out as a means to try to win political points.

SCIUTTO: You announced that you had unfollowed the president on Twitter, specifically after the attacks on Elijah Cummings. And I wonder, when he makes comments like this, either on the White House lawn, as he has there, or in tweets, often politically motivated -- is it a mistake to repeat those attacks? I wonder. Is your argument, in effect, that silence with attacks like this, words from the president, is more effective than criticism?

MURPHY: Well, my decision was just personal. I mean, it just bums me out to start my day with all of this racist, hateful negativity from the president. I'll pick up on the truly important things that comes from the White House in other ways.

But, no, I don't think that you can ignore the president of the United States. And particularly when he is trying to divide us along racial lines, I don't think that we can be silent. Because I think silence, in some ways, risks implying endorsement.

So I don't think you can ignore him. I don't think that you can be silent in the face of these attacks. It's not the policy debate I want to be having, but if he's trying to split this country into two, I think we've got to stand up to that.

SCIUTTO: Fair point. You know, I was going to ask you about the shooting in Gilroy, California and the overall reaction to that. Of course, in the time since we were preparing for this interview, there's been another shooting, this one in Mississippi. Two people are dead, an officer wounded as well.

You've been very close to this issue, of course, because of your experience with one of the most heartbreaking shooting tragedies that -- in Newtown, Connecticut.

For our viewers who might be frustrated with progress on gun control in the wake of this spate -- continuing spate of gun violence like this, tell them, tell our viewers what has moved forward since Newtown, in recent years, on gun control or are we stuck in place? Are we moving backwards?

[10:35:12] MURPHY: Well, what has happened is that the modern anti- gun violence movement has come into being. And we now are more powerful than the NRA and the gun lobby. And you can see that in state legislatures.

Right after Newtown, state legislatures were predominantly passing laws to actually loosen gun restrictions. Today, we are passing more state laws that actually require laws to be tightened. At the federal level, we haven't had that breakthrough. But last election in 2018, 18 NRA A-rated incumbent Republicans lost their seats, all replaced by candidates who support universal background checks.

So we are making enormous progress. State laws are passing. And ultimately, I think 90 percent of Americans who want stronger gun laws, like universal background checks, are going to get their way. But it is a political process because the gun lobby was so strong in 2012, when Newtown happened.

SCIUTTO: Final question. As you know, the Supreme Court, next term, will consider extending the right to carry firearms in public nationally. And I wonder if you're concerned, given the conservative majority now on the Supreme Court, that the Supreme Court will derail or sideline or even prevent legislative measures like the ones you've mentioned here.

MURPHY: So I am. One of the reasons that I voted against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court is that he very likely holds an absolutely radical view of the Second Amendment.

We can get into a long discussion about what the Second Amendment is really about, but there's no doubt in my mind that even if it does allow for the private right of gun ownership, it allows for Congress to regulate that right.

But Kavanaugh and Gorsuch and perhaps others, may interpret the Second Amendment, moving forward, as to allow zero regulation or restriction from Congress or state legislatures, allowing private citizens, even criminals, to obtain any kind of weapon that they want.

And that, I think, would be an abandonment of the founding fathers' understanding of government intervention on the question of Second Amendment rights, but it would also make our country an even more dangerous place than it is today. I am very worried about the future of Second Amendment jurisprudence.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You look at the weapon used in Gilroy, it was an AK- 47, semi-automatic. Only place I've seen those is in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Senator Chris Murphy --

MURPHY: That's right.

SCIUTTO: -- thanks very much.

MURPHY: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Skepticism is running deep in Flint, Michigan as several 2020 candidates make new promises to help the crisis-plagued city. Reaction from Flint's mayor, that's coming up.

And remember, night one of the "CNN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES" will begin at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, moderated by our colleagues, Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper, of course only here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:42:45] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right. Welcome back to Detroit. So glad you're with us. In hours, CNN's first Democratic debate kicks off right here. And just about an hour drive from where I'm sitting is Flint, Michigan, where distrust in the city's water and politicians still runs deep, five years after the water crisis was exposed there. Residents, still lining up.

Look at this video, shot by our Jeremy Moorhead, lining up for water, some of them at 4:00 in the morning, just to get bottles of water from churches. Again, this video, not taken five years ago but taken now, five days ago.

In 2014, to save costs, officials switched the city's water to the Flint River. That exposed thousands of people, many, many children to dangerous levels of lead. It was also linked to a Legionnaires' Disease outbreak that killed 12 people.

And with me now is Flint mayor, Dr. Karen Weaver.

Thank you so much for being here.


HARLOW: Let's first set the stage with the conditions in Flint now. The fact that people still have to line up for hours for bottled water means this crisis is far from over.

WEAVER: And that's what we've talked about. And while we've made a lot of progress in the city of Flint, we still have challenges. And we're still dealing with the effects of those terrible decisions that were made five years ago.

HARLOW: By politicians?

WEAVER: By politicians.

HARLOW: By the government?

WEAVER: By the people that were supposed to protect us.

HARLOW: So, now, you have a number of the Democratic candidates coming here: Kirsten Gillibrand's been there, Beto O'Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, I believe, Senator Amy Klobuchar. But from all the press coverage I've read, a lot of your constituents, Mayor, think this is about politics and photo ops. What do they need to say on the debate stage to convince people that they would help as president?

WEAVER: You know what, we're looking for a lot of different things that we want to hear from the people that have been coming through, from the candidates. And one is that they understand the urban issues that we face, that we have not gotten through this crisis, that we still have needs around infrastructure, that we still have needs around water and better water quality standards and access to that.

That we want to hear about public safety. We want to hear about public safety and what they want to do about that. And that Flint is not forgotten, and that they will be a voice and an advocate for Flint, and we need a friend in the White House.

HARLOW: So a big reason that it's gotten better for some in Flint, at least, is that under the Trump administration, 2017, $100 million to fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades. Those actual pipes came to Flint. But it was signed off on by the Obama administration.

[10:45:09] WEAVER: Exactly. That's exactly right.

HARLOW: I understand that. But it did come under the Trump administration. Is there more you need from the White House?

WEAVER: No, yes, we need some more from the White House. But yes, I do want to be clear. It was the Obama administration that gave us that funding, and it was our delegation that really fought hard and was a voice for Flint, between Senators Stabenow, Peters and Congressman Kildee.

One of the things we're still fighting for is while we can have the best water in the world --


WEAVER: -- we can change those pipes, people's in-home plumbing was damaged.


WEAVER: And that's one of the things we've been asking for help with.

HARLOW: Well, I mean, also, the children.

WEAVER: Exactly.

HARLOW: I remember spending time in Flint in the middle of this, 2015, speaking to mothers who are terrified because the brain damage --

WEAVER: Exactly.

HARLOW: -- to their children, it's irreversible.

WEAVER: It's -- and that's what we've been talking about. And that's why there's so much distrust --


WEAVER: -- and so much anger. And it's justifiable.

HARLOW: Of course it is. So let's listen to the governor, former governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder --


HARLOW: -- when I was in Flint, I sat down with him on this very issue. This was in the midst of it. Here's what I asked him, and here's what he told me they would do. WEAVER: OK.

HARLOW: Let's watch.


HARLOW: It can mean a decline in a child's I.Q. forever, affect their behavior. It's linked to criminality, and it has multigenerational impacts. It can be passed on. Talk directly to the parents of Flint right now who have a child that is going to live with this.

RICK SNYDER, FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Yes. This is awful. And again, our goal is to do whatever possible to minimize the damage, to help support them through that. This shouldn't have happened.


HARLOW: Do whatever is possible.

WEAVER: Well, that hasn't happened. They did not do all that they needed to do and that they should have done, and they left us hanging.

One of the things they talked about, you showed lines of people for water. One of the things they said was they would continue those water pods until we completed the lead service line replacement. We're looking to be done this fall. We haven't completed that yet, you know? We're ahead of schedule, but we're not done. You fell short on that.

We talked about in-home fixtures and plumbing. We were told that we would get at least 4,000 new fixtures a year over three -- you know, every year for three years, which wasn't enough. But they stopped after the first year, you know? So, once again, they fell short.

We have a lead registry. We want to know and track kids and everybody that was impacted by this water crisis as far as health outcomes. That's been funded for five years, and year one is up. And so we need that to continue.

HARLOW: Look, I was pregnant in that interview with my first child. And I was scared to drink the water, I was scared to eat anything.


HARLOW: And my heart broke for those parents, whose homes are there, who --


HARLOW: -- could not leave. And it made me think if this were New York City, if this were Manhattan, would they be treated the same way?

WEAVER: Exactly.


WEAVER: And we said no.

HARLOW: -- I hope that your constituents there get everything that they need. Thank you for fighting on this front.

WEAVER: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Dr. Karen Weaver, it's so nice to have you here. We appreciate it.

Also worth noting that the doctor that alerted everyone to this, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint doctor, she will be at the debates. We'll see if this comes up.

[10:48:15] All right. So the president's pick to lead the U.S. intelligence community? It's a big job. It's getting less than a standing ovation on Capitol Hill. Coming up, the uphill battle facing Congressman John Ratcliffe.


SCIUTTO: President Trump could face an uphill battle, getting his nominee for director of National Intelligence, the senior-most intelligence official int he country, confirmed. Representative John Ratcliffe, a three-term Republican congressman, would become the leader of the U.S. intelligence community, but has little intelligence or foreign affairs experience. Alexander Marquardt joins me now.

So, Alex, Ratcliffe's resume says, in no uncertain terms, that he put terrorists in prison while serving as the U.S. attorney in Texas. Is he padding his resume there?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This could be a very clear case of a generous padding of his resume, Jim. This goes back to what's known as the Holy Land Case, in which eventually, several individuals were found to have funneled money to the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas.

But it clearly states, as you mentioned, in his bio, that Ratcliffe put terrorists in prison. We here at CNN ran a search of terrorism- related cases when Ratcliffe was the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, and we found that he was not a prosecutor on any of those cases.

Now, by way of explanation, we got a statement from Ratcliffe's office, in which it says that Ratcliffe investigated issues related to the outcome of the Holy Land Case. And that between 2004 and 2008, Ratcliffe opened, managed and supervised numerous domestic and international terrorism-related cases.

TEXT: "A Justice Department Order appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas John Ratcliffe to investigate issues related to the outcome of the Holy Land case...

"Department of Justice records will confirm that as both Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for the Eastern District of Texas from 2004-2008, John Ratcliffe opened, managed and supervised numerous domestic and international terrorism related cases."

MARQUARDT: Jim, note that it doesn't say anywhere there that he put terrorists in prison.

Now, I spoke with a government expert who was involved in both iterations of the Holy Land Case. He says he was intimately involved. When I asked him what Ratcliffe's role was, he said that he had no idea, that he had never heard of Ratcliffe.

[10:55:08] Now, even if all of this proves to be true, even if Ratcliffe had put terrorists in prison, the fact remains, Jim, that as you noted, he has an extremely thin resume when it comes to foreign affairs and intelligence, certainly when it compares to previous directors of National Intelligence. And that is why you're now seeing Democrats on Capitol Hill pile on, and Republicans --


MARQUARDT: -- voice a lot of hesitation.

SCIUTTO: Look at a James Clapper. He served as the head, the director, of two intelligence agencies before becoming the DNI. Alex Marquardt, we know you'll stay on top of the story. Thank you.

We are just hours away from the start of the first of two CNN presidential debates. Our coverage continues. Please stay with us.