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CNN NEWSROOM

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) Discusses The Democratic Debates, Income Inequality, Medicare for All, Flint Water Crisis, John Ratcliffe for DNI; Two TSA Agents Placed On Leave After Racist Display Discovered; Cory Booker's Campaign Manager, Addisu Demissie, Discusses Debate 2 Tomorrow Night & Cory Booker Taking On Joe Biden; Eleven- Year-Old Reporter Scores One-On-One Interview With Elizabeth Warren. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 30, 2019 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00] REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): You've seen some interesting things. I think that there's a misperception that everyone wants wholesale restructuring of our culture, of our society. I just don't think that's the case.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Yes.

SLOTKIN: At least for my voters. People want the middle class to have a chance at prosperity and dignity.

BALDWIN: Yes.

SLOTKIN: That is what we want. It's not overly complicated. It's the most American thing in the world. They're looking for that, not for wholesale change.

BALDWIN: Speaking of dignity, Flint, Michigan. There are people still in line, years after that water crisis.

SLOTKIN: Yes.

BALDWIN: Still in line for water. That water is still contaminated. Why is that still happening.

SLOTKIN: I live 15 minutes from Flint. It was an apocalyptic poisoning of an American city.

Unfortunately, in Michigan right now, we have over 80 communities with higher lead levels than Flint. And we another chemical, called PFAs, which if you haven't heard of it, you soon will. Michigan has the highest number of sites in the country.

Michigan is going to be the state that sort of feels this existential question of whether clean water out of your tap is a right or a privilege. Do we get that, as taxpaying Americans, or do only certain communities, wealthy communities get clean water?

I believe it is a right. And the fact that the Great Lake state, 90 percent of the fresh water is here in our state and, yet, we're struggling to provide clean drinking water for people is an abomination. And people feel it.

So the whole thing for me is environmental security is Homeland Security. You can't give your kid a glass of water without thinking they'll get a learning disability. That is a threat to your family. It is not some crunchy left-wing thing. It is environmental security, Homeland Security.

BALDWIN: On security, you were in the CIA. You've done tours in Iraq, Pentagon, worked in defense, in your previous chapter of your life. And I wanted to ask you, based on your own experience, your thoughts on this potential director of National Intelligence, Congressman John Ratcliffe.

Let me play this clip first. This is what the president said about him this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John Ratcliffe is a brilliant man. He is a wonderful person. I spoke to him long before about this, long, before, months ago. I spoke to him long before the Mueller fiasco. That was a fiasco. I think probably nobody in the history of Capitol Hill has embarrassed themselves like what Mueller did to himself and to the Democrats.

But John Ratcliffe, I spoke to him about this for a long time. He's a very talented guy. He's a strong man. It's what we need in that position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Is he who you need in that position?

SLOTKIN: I'm going to try to give him the benefit of the doubt. The most important thing at the CIA, at the DNI's office is you need intellectual integrity. You need to be able to see what's happening in the intelligence and then portray that to the president honestly. That's hard sometimes. It's often not what the president wants to hear, but it's the responsibility of a cabinet-level secretary.

I don't know this gentleman very well, even though we served for a short time.

BALDWIN: Yes.

SLOTKIN: To me, we'll be able to know quickly. The senior staff is going to be looking, is this guy going to defend the intelligence community, stand up for them and represent what the truth is, or is he going to try to manipulate it? You'll know pretty quickly.

BALDWIN: I can still hear Robert Mueller's words from last week, Russia is still meddling as we speak.

SLOTKIN: Yes. They are. And to me -- I started a task force, the first bipartisan task force on protecting ourselves in 2020. We haven't actually changed the laws so that we're more protected. Things like, if someone offers you information on your opponent, is it right to take that?

BALDWIN: Right. No. It's not.

Congresswoman Slotkin, thank you so much for coming on.

SLOTKIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: It's good to see you.

BALDWIN: We continue on. Get ready to see a very different side of Cory Booker up on that stage in these debates. How he plans to take a tougher tact when he faces off against Joe Biden.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:38:14] BALDWIN: Now to a CNN exclusive. CNN has learned two TSA officers have been placed on leave after a racist display was discovered inside an employee workstation at Miami International Airport. And now an internal investigation is underway.

Rene Marsh is our CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent. She has broken this story wide open.

Rene, who discovered the display, and what did it show?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, the three African-American TSA officers, they found this at the start of their morning shift. We have the photo of what they saw. It was a noose and two stuffed gorillas.

This racist display was hanging from a pole in the center of a TSA workspace. This is an area of Miami International Airport where checked luggage is screened before it's put on the aircraft. There's no access to the public. This is just a space for TSA.

And that disturbing scene really upset these TSA officers. But their manager's initial reaction was like salt on the wound. TSA employees tell me that that manager tried to brush it off as a joke, saying it wasn't racist. As we know, monkeys have long been used in racist remarks against African-Americans, as well as the noose being just a painful reminder of the violence African-Americans have faced in their history.

With all of that in mind, it was not a joke for these three officers -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: What is TSA saying?

MARSH: We know, after reaching out to TSA, two officers are now on leave. The agency says they are investigating.

They sent us a statement that I'm going to read. In part, it says that, "The display was immediately removed. An investigation was launched into who was responsible for the unacceptable behavior. TSA does not tolerate racist or offensive behavior. And those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions.

[14:40:18] The agency saying they are actively working to get to the bottom of this Brooke?

BALDWIN: Stay on it for us.

Rene Marsh, thank you for breaking the story.

MARSH: Sure.

BALDWIN: No doubt there are a lot of media in Detroit right now. But not many reporters quite like Jaden Jefferson, the 11-year-old who joins me on set to talk about how he managed to score one of the biggest interviews on the campaign trail, coming up.

Also, Senator Amy Klobuchar arriving any moment now at the historic Fox Theater. We'll see her take a tour of the stage when CNN's special live coverage continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:45:21] Welcome back. You're watching CNN's special live coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin, in Detroit.

Just across the street from me, the historic Fox Theater. We've been watching, waiting to see who takes the stage, who takes a look at the lay of the land here.

The latest person we have is Amy Klobuchar. Senator Klobuchar -- there she is in the blue jacket. We've been watching various candidates come through. She will take the stage for the later this evening. This is where she gets a chance to see where she'll stand, get comfortable with the podium. Certainly, by now, she's prepped and knows the rules of the road and is ready to roll.

Let's talk about another person who wants to be the next president of the United States, Senator Cory Booker. He does not take the debate stage until tomorrow night. But he's raised some criticism about his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden over race and criminal justice reform. He's been making headlines on the campaign trail.

Both gentlemen will face off against one another for the first time. And the former vice president has already come out swinging.

Addisu Demissie, campaign manager for Senator Booker, is here with me on set.

It's so nice to see you. Thank you so much.

ADDISU DEMISSIE, CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR CORY BOOKER PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Good to be here. Good to be here.

BALDWIN: You guys are up night number two.

DEMISSIE: Yes.

BALDWIN: I wanted to talk to you today.

Biden says he's not going to be too polite. This is the first time both your candidate and the former vice president will share a stage. You tell me how the debate prep has changed between Miami and Detroit?

DEMISSIE: It's obviously different. We have nine other candidates not just the vice president. Different from last time.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: He's the front runner.

DEMISSIE: Sure. But our prep hasn't changed, our goal hasn't changed. We'll introduce Cory Booker --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: How has it not changed? You have Joe Biden standing next to you?

DEMISSIE: We also have Senator Harris. We have --

(CROSSTALK)

DEMISSIE: -- a couple new folks last time. It hasn't changed, our goal hasn't changed. We need to introduce Cory Booker to the electorate. He may be well known among people who are watching this show, the tens of millions who are watching tomorrow night, are meeting him for the first time. We need to let Cory be Cory. He'll do his thing. He'll be himself.

And ultimately put forth his message of why he's the best candidate to take on Donald Trump and why he's the best candidate to get us out of the darkness that Donald Trump has led us into.

BALDWIN: We've been talking, and I know it's the latest national polls and some say states matter more. One of the polls has shown that Joe Biden has continued his lead. Perfect timing for him, wind in his sails ahead of the debate tomorrow night. Does that give you any pause?

DEMISSIE: Not in the least. It's July 2019. People don't vote until February of 2020. Many of the candidates who won the Democratic nomination, from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, were not leading in the polls at this point.

Our goal is to win in February, March and April of 2020. Ultimately, that's when the campaign is. The whole point of a debate tomorrow, the campaign, is introducing yourself and making the best case for you, why you're the right candidate.

We believe when Senator Booker is out there making that case, our numbers will go up. And when people vote never February, March and April, they're going to vote for him in big numbers.

BALDWIN: This is the first opportunity we had you on since Biden came out swinging, taking on Senator Booker's record in the city of Newark.

I want your response to this. Let me read what -- Biden's attack, saying this: "As mayor of Newark, Booker promised a zero-tolerance policy for minor infractions, which is exactly the kind of policy that matched many undeserving people in a criminal justice system."

They went on, "In 2007, Booker was running a police department that was such a civil rights nightmare, that the U.S. Department of Justice intervened. Thousands and thousands of people, predominantly African- Americans, were stopped by Booker's force without legal basis. And 75 percent of the stops were improper."

Your response?

DEMISSIE: My response, it's pretty ridiculous. But look, I'm going to let Senator Booker and --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Why is it ridiculous?

DEMISSIE: Senator Booker, first, when he was the mayor of Newark, he put forth pretty groundbreaking police reforms in his city. He's been writing about criminal justice since college since he wrote about police brutality in the Stanford newspaper.

Someone, for his entire career, criminal justice has been at the center of what he's been doing and moving in a progressive direction. He did that as a mayor of New York. He did that as a Senator, passing the First Step Act.

He's put forth what I think is the most progressive, aggressive, bold criminal justice reform policy in this campaign. That's what his record is. It's what I want to speak to. If the vice president's campaign wants to attack on it, and we'll be ready for that.

BALDWIN: Early on, I can see him sitting in front of his house announcing. In Newark, Senator Booker really promised to being more idealistic, optimistic and avoid attacking fellow candidates.

So circumstances must have changed.

DEMISSIE: Look, there's no difference between -- Cory Booker --

BALDWIN: Me too.

DEMISSIE: What Senator -- I think introduced Cory in this race. He said this quite well. People sometimes mistake kindness for weakness. You don't have to be -- Cory said this all the time. You don't have to be mean to be strong. You don't have to be cruel. But you have to be tough.

[14:50:14] Cory is tough. He came up through the tough streets of Newark. There's a documentary about his first election to be called mayor. He knows how to mix it up. But ultimately, his message is of optimism and bringing people

together. I don't think those two things are in conflict. I think you can be tough, you can stand up and fight for the things that matter to you. While at the same time saying -- he's going to do that as president. While at the same time, saying the goal as president, his goal as president is to bring people together and lift us to a higher ground.

BALDWIN: Last question. More fun. You guys are up tomorrow night.

DEMISSIE: Yes.

BALDWIN: You have all this debate prep. Who's been playing Joe Biden?

DEMISSIE: You're not going to get that out of me.

(CROSSTALK)

DEMISSIE: Nice try. Nice try. Not a chance. Not a chance.

BALDWIN: Good to see you, Demissie. Good luck.

DEMISSIE: Thanks.

BALDWIN: We'll be looking for you guys tomorrow night.

DEMISSIE: Thank you, Brooke --

BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

DEMISSIE: -- very much.

We are keeping an eye on the debate hall across from us here in Detroit. More and more candidates are set to arrive ahead of tonight's debate number one. A lot has changed since these men and women were onstage face to face. I'll ask the experts what each one will have to do to make it to the next round.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:55:50] BALDWIN: You may not have yet heard the name Jaden Jefferson. He's a reporter working the beat here at the Detroit debate. He scored a one-on-one interview with presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Before I show you a clip of that interview, you should know Jaden is 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JADEN JEFFERSON, 11-YEAR-OLD REPORTER: As an outspoken critic of the president, what do you think is the worst policy he's issued?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Oh, yes. That's hard. He's done a lot of really bad stuff every day.

JEFFERSON: What are you doing for equal opportunities for people of color?

WARREN: That's a really good question. You know, every time I think about economic issues, I stop and say, but let's also see how it intersects with race. Here's an example, housing. The number-one way that middle class families in America build wealth is housing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And Jaden Jefferson is with me here.

Jaden, nice to see you.

JEFFERSON: Nice to see you.

BALDWIN: Pleasure.

JEFFERSON: Oh, it's a joy for me to be here.

BALDWIN: It's a joy. It's a joy.

Now, it is July, and was summer camp not challenging enough kids at camp are reading the Mueller report. Why are you here, my dear?

JEFFERSON: At summer camp, I've never been that kind of person. I'm the person who's like, I want to do my own thing during the summer. It's either me sitting at the house, sitting down and watching TV, watching the news or it's me going out and shooting stories like I did this summer.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about the news and your story. Your big scoop was Senator Warren. What was she like? And have you had an opportunity to interview any other candidates? Who impresses you the most?

JEFFERSON: She was the only presidential candidate I interviewed. After shooting the interview I wasn't thinking about it.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: No big deal.

JEFFERSON: Then when I got all the media attention, I'm like, am I here right now. It was a shock. And interviewing her, she treated me like any other reporter. A lot of people pointed that out on Twitter that she didn't treat me like I was a little kid. She took me seriously.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Did you feel like that from her?

JEFFERSON: Oh, no, I didn't feel like I was being treated like a little child. I felt like I was being treated like a journalist. Which I want to be treated.

BALDWIN: Who impresses you most? You've been reading about these candidates like we all have.

JEFFERSON: Marianne Williamson, definitely.

BALDWIN: Really?

JEFFERSON: Yes. There's been a lot of reaction on Marianne. People said she was trying to promote a book or do a stunt. Definitely, she's pretty impressive.

BALDWIN: She's up tonight and we'll be watching for her.

JEFFERSON: Yes.

BALDWIN: Senator Warren will be center stage next to Senator Sanders.

Let's fast forward a few years, where you may be standing on that debate stage or a debate stage moderating a presidential debate. Is that cool for you?

JEFFERSON: Yes.

BALDWIN: Dana and Jake and Don could be watching now and scoring corners from you, Jaden. What one question should people ask of these candidates.

JEFFERSON: There's a lot of them. That's where this question comes in: What separates you from the pack? There are 20-plus Democratic candidates running in this election. It's really hard to separate them all. Especially someone who's not into politics, they're going to be very confused. Definitely important to ask, what separate you from Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker. So --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Great question.

JEFFERSON: -- makes them unique.

BALDWIN: Now, I see mom and dad over there, and obviously they're very supportive of you being a young journalist. Why journalism?

JEFFERSON: I remember I met an NBC 4 reporter out in New York. I'm just walking. I didn't know who he was. I took a picture with him because he was a reporter.

BALDWIN: How old were you?

JEFFERSON: Probably 5.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Mom says four. JEFFERSON: After that, I went back to our hometown and never thought

much about what happened in New York, until I met our local meteorologist. I want to give him a shout out, Jay Berschback (ph).

BALDWIN: Shout out, Jay Berschback (ph).

JEFFERSON: Hey, Jay.

After meeting Jay, I got into meteorology, which sort of led me into the TV business. Once it started, I got serious about the TV business, I went to basketball games, shot news packages there. And then present them at 11:00.

BALDWIN: At what age?

JEFFERSON: Eleven.

[15:00:07] BALDWIN: Eleven. That's incredible. I thought I was all right starting at 21. You got me beat.