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CNN Democratic Debates to Kick Off Tonight; Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) are Interviewed About Impeaching Trump. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 30, 2019 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Back here. In Detroit, we are just hours away from the big debate. NEW DAY continues right now.


[07:00:10] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The stage is set for CNN's first night of Democratic presidential debates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to see moderate candidates try and push back on the tone of the first debate.

JOHN DELANEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a choice. We can turn off the middle of the country and give the election to Trump or we can run on common-sense solutions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump expanding his attacks against Cummings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not mature enough to take criticism. He reacts. Je's thin-skinned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he pulls punches on anybody. No matter what the color of their skin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This certainly is a terrible long-term strategy. We need healers to lead us, not people who bring out the worst in each of us.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: All right. Everyone, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. John and I are live in Detroit, where in just hours, the stage at the Fox Theater will be filled with Democratic presidential candidates. There it is, in all of its splendor.

This is the first of two high-stakes CNN debates that could shape the 2020 race. So tonight, all eyes will be on senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. They're the two biggest progressives, and they have mostly avoided any direct confrontations thus far in this campaign. What will their dynamic be tonight? But of course, there's all sorts of other people to watch, as well.

Tomorrow night, we'll feature a rematch between the front runner, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris, who you'll remember skewered Biden on issues of race and bussing the first time around.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There's a brand-new poll which gives us a sense of where things stand on the eve or the morning of this debate. It shows the former vice president, Joe Biden, bouncing back to where he was before the first debate. You can hear, we have campaign supporters behind us right now cheering that news in that poll.

You know, Joe Biden's nearly 20 points ahead of Elizabeth Warren, his nearest competitor. And you can also see Senator Kamala Harris, who had jumped up after the first debate sliding a little bit, and Bernie Sanders is back at 11 percent, as well.

So let us talk about what we are going to see tonight. Joining us, Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator; Lavora Barnes, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party; Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's Smerconish, host of CNN's "SMERCONISH"; and Jennifer Psaki, former White House communications director and a CNN political commentator.

Madame Chairwoman, I think we're your guest. So I'm obliged to start with you, and you're the only one who got a cheer from the crowd behind us right now.

CAMEROTA: Massive shout-out from the crowd.



BERMAN: One of the things that people are talking about in this debate that we're going to see tonight is we could see a divide between the so-called progressives, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and the pragmatists, some of the other candidates right now. Is that, in fact, a choice? And what will you be watching for?

BARNES: So plenty of choice for everyone. That's the exciting thing about having 20-plus people running. There's something for everyone, which is great.

But I will tell you this. At the end of this, which ever one of these 20-plus people as our nominee is going to be the next president of the United States, and that's what's important. We'll have great conversations tonight. Let's talk about the issues that matter to the people of Michigan and the people of this country, and then we'll pick one.

CAMEROTA: Well, the chairwoman's optimism is not felt in all corners, necessarily, even, of the Democratic Party, because there is this, I don't know if divide the right word. But there's still a lot to be sorted out on the Democratic side. So what are you watching for tonight? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know that the

divide tonight will be ideological. I don't believe, actually, that Bernie and Elizabeth go after each other.

I think the divide is more those who are likely or certain to be in the next debate, and those who are really, really on the bubble. You know, Janis Joplin, my fellow Texan, you say freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. So if you're Beto, if you're Amy Klobuchar, these are candidates who started with great promise. They had terrific rollouts, and they're at risk of not making it to the next debate. They're the ones, I think, who are really going to throw deep.

And by the way, the new entrance, Steve Bullock, who has never been on a debate stage yet, the governor of Montana, the only person running who's actually carried a state that Trump won.

CAMEROTA: By 20 points.

BEGALA: Yes. Trump won that. And he's won Montana three times. I think those three, particularly, I'm going to look for, because they've got to do something really big or they're not going to make it to the next debate.

BERMAN: I will note Kris Kristofferson is going to call and ask for royalties.

Jen Psaki, there is a choice that these Democrats have, and I think Elizabeth Warren may be faced with one of the bigger choices here, because she is standing next to Bernie Sanders. And they are seen as competing for some of the same voters. So does she try to create some differentiation with Senator Sanders? Or does she focus on Joe Biden or do a different thing?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they are friends, as they've both said, but they're running for the same job. They're not running to be co-president. So while I don't expect them to go after each other, and they've indicated they won't, I think they'll look for ways to draw contrasts.

And Elizabeth Warren over the past couple of weeks has come out and said she's for capitalism, for -- for making capitalism work better. She has rejected Democratic socialism as a label, so there are some differences between them.

On the Bernie Sanders side, he's come out and kind of indicated, "I'm really the only Medicare-for-all purist out there."

[07:05:05] So while they're not going to go after each other, I do think they'll find ways to draw contrasts, and they probably need to.

For Warren, she's -- she's been steadily rising. She hasn't built her rise in the presidential race on big moments, so she needs this probably less than Bernie, but I'll be watching for contrasts between the two.

CAMEROTA: Michael Smerconish, what are you looking for tonight?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Can I go back to that Quinnipiac survey?


SMERCONISH: That showed a significant gain by Vice President Biden. Nothing has transpired in the last 30 days, no milestone that would explain that.

My explanation is the worst, the behavior on the part of the president, the higher Biden's numbers are driven, because Democrats get so offended and worked up that they say, "My God, we've got to take this guy out. Who among us can do it?"

So the more tweeting and the more commentary about Baltimore, et cetera, et cetera, oddly, I think helps Joe Biden. The challenge, therefore, for everybody else on that stage is to somehow convey that they are an individual who can defeat Donald Trump.

BERMAN: What does that mean for Joe Biden, then? Of course, that's tomorrow night, not tonight. But if in fact, what you are saying is true, how does he approach the night? Because he's been -- his campaign, at least, has been critical of Senator Harris of late.

SMERCONISH: Right. Defensively, because I don't think that the incoming tomorrow night is going to necessarily be just from Cory Booker and from Kamala Harris, I think it's on the fringes. I think if I'm Kirsten Gillibrand, to use Paul's words, you've got to throw deep or you're going home. This will be the last time you're on the debate stage.

CAMEROTA: But if just by standing still, Joe Biden's numbers can go up like that because of the president, I mean, if Michael's theory holds true, maybe Joe Biden doesn't need a knock-out punch or anything tomorrow night.

SMERCONISH: Yes, but if I'm working for Joe, I don't like seeing that poll before the debate. Right? Because you don't want to become risk averse. And I'm sure every day, they tell him, "Don't make a gaffe. Don't make a gaffe." And so it takes him out of his game.

A lead is not an egg. You don't just sit on it and hope it hatches. You know, you want to be moving, moving forward.

And by the way, for Joe, his opponent is not Kamala Harris. I don't think Democrats are sitting around saying, "We need somebody who can beat Kamala Harris." It's Joe Biden. It's exactly what Michael Smerconish just said a moment ago.

Remember Joe said about Rudy Giuliani that his idea of a sense is a noun or verb and 9/11? If I'm working for Joe, every sentence has to be a noun, a verb and Donald Trump.

BERMAN: So Madame Chairwoman.


BERMAN: Tell us about Michigan. It's an interesting state, because in 2016, Donald Trump won it. No Republican had won it in a long, long time, but he won it in two ways, as far as I see it. No. 1, Wayne County here where Detroit is, huge under vote, some 70,000 fewer voters that came out for Barack Obama, largely seen as liberal African-American voters didn't show up.

And then he also won counties, you know, that Barack Obama had won, Macomb County, and some of those swing counties. So how do you win both, and which do you see as a bigger issue?

BARNES: I tell people all the time, we have to walk and chew gum at the same time. We have to do both. We have to get back into Detroit, back into our urban areas where we are now. We've got staff on the ground, working, talking to voters, knocking on doors.

We've got to do that work, and we've got to go to those communities outside the city of Detroit in the suburbs and talk to them about the issues that matter to them. And those are the issues that everybody cares about, the things you talk about around your kitchen table.

Why do we have to have two and three jobs to pay for our food and get our medicine? Why can't we count on having our health care that we thought we had when we had President Obama.

And then infrastructure issues. We've got communities here who don't have clean water to drink. Right? So as long as we're talking about those issues in all of these communities, we win them all.

CAMEROTA: But Jen, I don't know if those are the breakout moments, you know, that get translated into a sound bite and get a lot of play on cable news, and I'm saying that's no denigration of cable news. It's just that the debate is different. You know, the format of a debate is different than a substantive conversation about how to fix all of these things.

And so for the candidates who are going for broke, as Paul just said, what do they need to do?

PSAKI: Well, I think there's a lesson from what Kamala Harris did in the first debate, and it's not the one you think. It's not about attacking somebody. It's about introducing who you are and your biography, and why people should support you.

You know, I think after that debate, people went and Googled Kamala Harris, because they wanted to know more about her. They heard about her background, her upbringing, why she would fight for people. And that's a lesson not just some of these, you know, fringe candidates on the side but also even for the ones in the middle.

You know, why, if you're Mayor Pete, or you're Beto O'Rourke, who are you and why should you run. You know, I think if we've watched Mayor Pete a little bit this week really emphasize his military background and his credentials. He had the endorsement by Patrick Murphy. He kind of did some stories about his service in Afghanistan. He has a new line of attack on Trump. He's trying to introduce his biography. That's smart, and I think other candidates should be doing, too. That's what people are really watching for.

BERMAN: He's running on a different time line than many of these other candidates because of the money. He's raised enough money where he doesn't have to make a decision in the next month or six weeks.

If we can put up Michael, since you brought up the Quinnipiac poll, I want to put it up again. And Jen, you used the word "fringe candidate," which I don't think any of us want to use now.

[07:10:04] PSAKI: Put to the side. Put to the side of the stage.

BERMAN: But I get people are struggling with how to refer to the 19 candidates who aren't at 2 percent in the polls, here, Michael. There are a lot of people. We talk about this being the biggest field ever, but the voters don't seem to be looking at it that way.

SMERCONISH: There's a cross tab in those numbers that's not on the screen, but 51 percent of Democrats say that they regard Joe Biden as the strongest challenger for President Trump, and that's why I go back to that thought process that the president's behavior has been really all over the map.

Biden hasn't done anything to distinguish himself. That's not a rap on him. It just hasn't been a monumental series of events, and yet, his numbers go up.

I think it's because Democrats say, "We really need to defeat him. Who among us can do it? It's Joe Biden." So somehow tonight and tomorrow night, these other candidates have got to convince that they, too, have that stature to take on the president.

CAMEROTA: Chairwoman, how much do you think race comes up tonight?

BARNES: I think it comes up. We're in the city of Detroit. So I think we should be talking about race. The president continues to hate and be a racist frankly over and over again. I think it needs to come up. I think we need to talk about an urban agenda that will include conversations about race while we're here in the city of Detroit. So absolutely I think it will come up.

BERMAN: You know, well, I think lot of the times in this race, and it happened four years ago, too. Bernie Sanders is taken for granted, because -- largely because he's consistent in the sense that he says the same thing and has said the same thing for a number of years. Well, what does he do tonight? How do you think he approaches this? How do you think he approaches Elizabeth Warren?

BEGALA: It's really difficult. He's in a bit of a stall. You know, he's a legacy brand. He and Joe Biden are the only two of the 58 candidates who've run for president before, and they're known brands. They're what Hollywood calls a pre-aware title. You know, that's why we have, like, "Avengers 38," you know.

And -- and that's a real challenge. So again, if I'm advising Bernie, even though Joe is not on the stage with him, I would attack Joe, because he's the establishment candidate. Joe -- I mean, Bernie did so well. But he lost, but he did really well having Hillary as a foil last time around.

He had one establishment candidate, and he'd just shoot at the death star, right? And now he seems like he's losing some altitude. And that's why I'd go after Joe Biden, though he's not there to defend himself. It's kind of unfair, but politics is not fair.

CAMEROTA: If you want a Democratic who has a proven track record of winning in a Trump state, then Steve Bullock who nobody knows yet, is going to be on that stage tonight. And so does he just need to introduce himself as Jen said? Does he need to do not a stunt, but something a little bit more flashy, Michael?

SMERCONISH: I think that he absolutely needs to introduce himself, can't take for granted that, frankly, anybody who's watching is aware of who he is. That's not a rap on him. It's just the reality that most of those in the center part of that stage as you look at that graph, they are the ones who are known, and those who are on the fringe are now on the cusp of going home, even though it's his first visit here.

We all know that the stakes, the requirements, I should say, for coming back in September, have essentially doubled. You've got to have a 2 percent showing in the poll. That might not sound like much, but it's -- it's a monumental hurdle for most of them.

CAMEROTA: I mean, you can still stay in the race. You just won't be in the debate. So if somehow you have a lot of cash, you can still stay in.

SMERCONISH: Here's Tom Steyer spending close to a million dollars in social media, trying to get people to donate to him, because he runs the risk of never even entering the debate stage unless he can reach that threshold.

BERMAN: You know, we put those faces up, and you can see them on the screen right there. I'm old enough to remember, Jen, when Beto O'Rourke, you know, had a big splash when he entered the campaign.

PSAKI: Was sailing to the nomination.

BERMAN: Exactly. Things have not gone, perhaps, as planned. Or actually, maybe the problem was there was no plan. But what does he do tonight?

PSAKI: Well, I think for Beto, and also for Mayor Pete Buttigieg, they're trying to run on this generational change theme. Right? We're younger. We're up and coming. We have a vision for the future.

And you know, that's worked a little bit better for Mayor Pete than it has for Beto O'Rourke. But it's very early, and we've said this a lot of times. But he could have a night tonight where he can raise more money, and he can get a little bit more momentum. But it's challenging. And Mayor Pete has done this a little bit better than he has to date.

But I would expect that he would go out there and try to contrast his forward-looking vision with some of the old school. We don't need the ideas of the past. We need the ideas of the future.

CAMEROTA: Debates can shuffle the deck, as we have seen, and I'm sure we will see over the next two nights. Friends, thank you so much for all the analysis. Great to have you here.

So two big nights. Ten candidates each night. The second round of Democratic debates begins tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern, live from Detroit, only on CNN.

BERMAN: All right. Up next, they are both House Democrats from the state of Michigan, but when it comes to impeachment, they are split. We will tell you why, and they will discuss.

CAMEROTA: OK. These guys need to pace themselves.

BERMAN: Yes, I know.

CAMEROTA: You know, they've got a lot of hours ahead of them for this chanting. OK?

Coming up, Michigan Democrats are going to talk about the president, how he handles race and who they think can beat him. We get the pulse of the people, next.


[07:15:06] REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): He has opened the door for every racist who's been hiding in the corners to come out and show themselves.


CAMEROTA: OK. The second round of Democratic debates begin tonight here in the Motor City, and the stakes could not be higher. So what message do people in Michigan want to hear from these Democratic candidates?

Let's bring in two experts. We have two of the state's Democratic lawmakers, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and Congressman Dan Kildee, two proud Michiganders. Brought your own cheering section, I see.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): That's true.

CAMEROTA: Very -- my gosh. They were out early at 5 a.m.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): Hey, we're an early town.

CAMEROTA: I can see that. Great to have you both here.

DINGELL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, what does Michigan want? KILDEE: I think people want to hear very serious plans, you know. I

come from Flint, and everybody knows the story of Flint, but a lot of communities in Michigan that feel like they've been left behind during this period of general economic growth want to hear specific plans about how we bring everybody along.

[07:20:08] And particularly my hometown, what we don't want to hear is sympathy, and what we don't want are candidates to come and use Flint as the backdrop for a photo op. We need to hear specific plans about how we take the country forward in a way that it brings everybody along. Those kinds of economic policies are what people are looking for.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, do you agree? What do you think Michigan voters want to hear most?

DINGELL: They want to hear us talk about issues that matter to working men and women. So they want to hear about how we're going to keep jobs here. They want to talk about how we're going to keep manufacturing here. They want to talk about health care, and how much their health care costs are going up and their prescription drug costs.

They want to be able to educate their kids. They want to have a safe and secure retirement. They want their pensions to be safe. Table- top issues that we didn't do a good job of as Democrats talking about in the last election. And we've got to trade. It's a very big one. We've got to do a far better job of talking about this time.

CAMEROTA: I don't hear either of you mentioning what has consumed so much of the conversation over the past week, which is race. Does this matter tonight, to hear how the candidates feel about this?

DINGELL: You're in the city of Detroit. I'd put two buckets. This debate has got two buckets. One is the Midwest, the heartland of America, wants to know we've got candidates who care about us. But you're also in a city that is coming back. Race is a critical issue and this city, downtown is coming back, what are you doing in the neighborhood? How are we? It's a very important issue for tonight.

KILDEE: Certainly can't talk about what happened in my hometown without considering race, and when we hear the president or see the president tweet the way he does, his message about the people of Baltimore, when we hear Baltimore, we think Detroit. We think Flint, we think Youngstown, we think Saginaw, we think Gary, Indiana.

The president, I think, is -- is bringing race to this conversation in a really destructive way, when what he ought to be thinking about is how he as president could deal with those constituencies of his.

And when he talks about Elijah Cummings in his district, that is a district that is a part of the United States of America. The president has a responsibility to those people to do something to try to lift them out of their circumstances.

There's a racial dynamic to this, and the president uses it in the most cynical and the most destructive way.

CAMEROTA: And so you think that Baltimore is a synonym for all of those places. I mean, you think that when he says that -- Baltimore, what he means are cities that are maybe majority black, and that are struggling with poverty issues?

KILDEE: The president knows what he's doing. He, I think, has made a calculation that the way he wins is to divide this country, and to try to whip up support around his base and to divide us on racial lines or on other lines of demography, and it's a very destructive thing. It's un-American.

CAMEROTA: It did work in 2016.

KILDEE: To an extent it did. And you know, I think one of the big differences, and Debbie, obviously, was out there sounding the alarm very early.

One of the big differences between 2016 and 2020 is that we know the threat now. People understand what this presidency represents, whereas in 2016, I think part of the problem we had, certainly here in Michigan, is the assumption that, well, you know, he can't win.

And so a lot of folks either didn't vote or voted for a third-party candidate or came to vote on election day and voted in every race except president. I don't think we're going to see that take place. But we have -- we have our work cut out for us. We can't take anything for granted.

CAMEROTA: What do you think has changed since 2016 here?

DINGELL: Well, for starters, I'm worried. I think 2018 was about health care and it was a different election. I'm out. I'm out every single weekend talking to people, and I can feel it. There are people -- I am very concerned like Dan about what the president is doing.

You know, this week it was coming -- our colleague, Elijah Cummings, but last week it was Rashida Tlaib. I'm the one that actually has the largest population of Arab Americans and Muslims in this country. I don't think he realizes, or he probably does, because I think he knows what he's doing. But the community takes it so personally.

I have children that are third-generation Americans that are scared somebody is going to rip them out of their homes and never be seen again. I mean, I don't -- the president's job -- I respect the office of president, but his job is to unite us as a country, not to destroy us, and what he is doing isn't just going after the people he thinks he's going after, he is destroying communities.

And do you think that people hear that differently this time, or will in 2020, than they did in 2016?

DINGELL: I think this race could go either way. I think people are more engaged than I've heard it. I'm out and about. And you know, farmers' markets even in Ann Arbor, and give minutes, three different people say different things. And anything can happen between now and November. This state is at

play. Everybody needs to know their vote matters, and we're going to have to -- I hope everybody votes, because if they do vote, they have a responsibility.

[07:25:00] CAMEROTA: I don't hear either of you also mentioning impeachment, in terms of an issue top at mind for voters. But you, Congressman, do you think that it is time to begin an impeachment inquiry, along with 106 -- 6 or 7 of your fellow House Democrats? Do you still have that position?


CAMEROTA: And did the Mueller hearings change anything for you?

KILDEE: No, because I had already come to that conclusion before Mr. Mueller testified but I think, you know, obviously each member comes to their own conclusion on their own time line.

And I think it's really important that we understand we have to be able to do more than one thing at a time. I don't think it's a choice between the question of exercising oversight and in my case, believing that that oversight extends to initiating an impeachment inquiry but really focusing on those issues that people actually talk about when they're sitting around their kitchen table. If we can't do both of those things at the same time, I think we're going to have a very difficult time.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, where are you on an impeachment inquiry?

DINGELL: Well, I voted no on -- not to table the green amendment -- or the green resolution, because I was so disgusted by what he was doing to the community that I live in. I do believe we've got to do -- we've got to follow the facts. Nobody's above the law. But we've got to stay focused on issues that matter to the people.

CAMEROTA: And does that mean it's time to start an impeachment inquiry?

DINGELL: I think the committees are doing their investigations. I think we have chairmen doing their job, and I think we have to do both, and I think we have to be very very careful. And I don't want to see us get President Trump reelected.

CAMEROTA: OK. Congressman Kildee, Congresswoman Dingell, thank you for rolling out the red carpet for us here in Michigan.

KILDEE: Welcome to Detroit.

DINGELL: We love having you here.

CAMEROTA: We're having a great time. Thanks so much for being here -- John.

BERMAN: It is great to be here in Michigan. Democratic candidates in this debate, will face off on the issues, they will have to deal with the issue of President Trump, and the things he has said over the last few days.

There is new reporting from inside the White House that White House aides are not happy with his attacks on the city of Baltimore and African-American Congressman Elijah Cummings. The chair of the Republican National Committee gives us her take, next.