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New York Times Reports White House Officials Think Trump's Attacks Are A "Bad Move"; CNN Democratic Debates Kick Off Tonight; Michigan Voters Size Up The 2020 Democratic Candidates. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 30, 2019 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:31:29] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're just hours away from tonight's high stakes CNN Democratic debate and it does come as President Trump is stepping up his attacks on several black critics. This morning, "The New York Times" reports that several White House officials think that the president's are a bad move.

Joining me now is Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and a Michigan native. Madam Chairwoman, thanks for being with us. Thanks for having us in your home state.

RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Welcome to Michigan. We're so happy to have you in my home state.

BERMAN: I was here with your uncle, Mitt Romney, at one point, and he said all the trees are just the right height and he's right.

MCDANIEL: He is.

BERMAN: The trees are perfect here.

MCDANIEL: I understood what he meant by that, by the way. If you go to California, the redwoods are very tall, so --

BERMAN: I want to ask you, 2016, Donald Trump won Michigan --

MCDANIEL: He did.

BERMAN: -- albeit by about 11,000 votes. In 2018, Republicans lost --

MCDANIEL: Yes.

BERMAN: -- the governor's mansion and also lost two House seats.

What changed from 2016 to 2018 here?

MCDANIEL: And we kept the Senate and the House statewide in Michigan.

I think there was a message that Gov. Whitmer ran on, which was fix the roads. If you know Michigan, the roads are horrendous. I hope CNN gets a chance to drive around. So she had a signature campaign promise and I think that helped propel her to victory in Michigan. It was a local issue.

BERMAN: All right.

On the national stage right now. "The New York Times" is reporting overnight that there are people within the White House -- within the building who aren't happy with what the president's been talking about in terms of Baltimore and Elijah Cummings.

Let me read you from this article.

"Several White House officials expressed agreement during a senior staff meeting on Monday morning that the president's attacks were a bad move." If you read down to the bottom they say, "Any political benefit he might derive by revving up his conservative, largely white base could be offset by alienating more moderate voters in the suburbs of states like Wisconsin and Michigan" -- here -- "that he needs to win a second term."

Do you agree with these White House aides that the president's attacks are a bad move?

MCDANIEL: I think the president's making a point to Democratic lawmakers, which is you represent districts who are in distress and you're more concerned about how do we get free health care for people coming to this country illegally. You're more concerned about an investigation of Russia -- on Russia.

Why aren't you focusing on the people in your district who are concerned about education and health care? It's more signaling out -- singling out these voters -- these Democrat Congresspeople and saying why aren't you helping your districts instead of focusing on people outside of your district?

BERMAN: So, Democrats aren't the only members of Congress who represent districts in distress.

Let me just give you a means of comparison here because Mo Brooks who represents Alabama five, right, they have a median household income which is less than Maryland seven where Elijah Cummings represents. They have a median home value which is less than Maryland seven, which Elijah Cummings represents. They have fewer people with bachelor degrees, and the poverty level is a little bit less than Maryland seven, but about in the ballpark.

So my --

MCDANIEL: The difference is Mo Brooks --

BERMAN: But, no. But my question -- my question to you is this. So, Mo Brooks spends a lot of his time defending the president. Why should he do that, by your logic, and not go home and deal with the issues in his own district?

MCDANIEL: Well, Mo Brooks is not advocating let's give health care to people coming to this country --

BERMAN: No.

MCDANIEL: -- illegally. It's a difference in policy. The president --

BERMAN: It's not. No, no -- it's a difference -- so --

MCDANIEL: It is a difference in policy and what you're focusing on.

BERMAN: -- I don't think that's the problem. The problem is -- what the president is saying is he's not focused on his home district.

MCDANIEL: No. Can I speak?

BERMAN: OK.

MCDANIEL: Which is Mo Brooks isn't running a Russia investigation every day and investigating this president. He's working for his district.

The president is saying the people of your district deserve to have you --

BERMAN: Yes.

MCDANIEL: -- focused on the problems in our district.

And guess what? Baltimore does have a high murder rate. And yes, there is a lot of poverty.

And I think a lot of people would like to see their congressional members and leaders focus on how do we solve the problems for the people we represent.

[07:35:00] BERMAN: You know who thinks that Elijah Cummings does a good job representing members of his district? Mark Meadows, who is a very conservative member of the House.

He says, "No one works harder for his district than Elijah. He's passionate about the people he represents. And no, Elijah is not a racist."

So is Mark Meadows wrong?

MCDANIEL: The president is saying let's look at the policies I've put forward. Lowest unemployment for the African American history has hit during my term as president.

BERMAN: Yes.

MCDANIEL: Criminal justice reform, wages are up. Poverty has decreased in the African American community. Why aren't we talking about the good policies that this president is putting forward?

And, by the way, you have a great opportunity with your -- BERMAN: Right.

MCDANIEL: -- debate tonight to talk to Bernie Sanders about what he said about Baltimore.

BERMAN: Yes, it --

MCDANIEL: Was he racist?

BERMAN: -- and these questions make them up.

MCDANIEL: He was on CNN Sunday and nobody asked him about his comments about Baltimore being a third world country.

BERMAN: Let me put up because you talked about the poverty rate and you talked about some of the data on African Americans in the country right now. You're absolutely right. It is the lowest unemployment rate we've seen.

But just so people have a means of reference here, the unemployment rate among African Americans has been dropping for some time. And, in fact, it was cut in half during President Obama's term and has continued under President Trump's term. Just so people know, everything you said there was correct about the rate in unemployment.

Again, you say the president was talking about that. I don't think he was because he didn't bring that up. What he said is Elijah Cummings is racist. He said "racist Elijah Cummings".

So I'm asking you, Madam Chairwoman -- and you are the chair of a party that includes Larry Hogan, and Mark Meadows, and Lisa Murkowski, all who have said that Elijah Cummings is not racist -- do you think Elijah Cummins is racist?

MCDANIEL: What I am saying -- I don't know Elijah Cummings. What I will say --

BERMAN: You know enough to know whether he's racist.

MCDANIEL: What I will say -- growing up minutes away from Detroit, which is -- we have a lot of urban communities that have been misrepresented by Democrats for a long time. We have a mayor who is in jail -- here from Detroit -- right now for corruption.

BERMAN: Yes.

MCDANIEL: We have a city under investigation right now for $200 million in federal funds that came for removing blight.

In Baltimore, you have 17,000 vacant homes, a high murder rate.

Let's focus on the problems we have here at home --

BERMAN: Sure.

MCDANIEL: -- and the president is saying why aren't we focusing on the people in these districts instead of the people at the border who we want to have come in illegally that the Democrats continue to talk about.

We have problems here in Detroit --

BERMAN: Yes.

MCDANIEL: -- in Baltimore -- all across this country that we should all be working to solve.

And he's pointing out Elijah -- instead of focusing on Russia investigations and how we give illegal immigrants health care, why don't we focus on the people in your district?

BERMAN: He said -- he said "racist Elijah Cummings". It's a simple question. Do you think Elijah Cummings is a racist?

MCDANIEL: I don't know Elijah Cummings.

BERMAN: And on the issues you brought up -- urban renewal -- issues that matter to these cities, I spoke to the mayor of Baltimore yesterday and these are legitimate issues that face Detroit, Baltimore, and cities around the country.

MCDANIEL: Huge issues.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

The president hasn't called the mayor yet. So what is the -- he is the president of Baltimore, correct? He is the president of Detroit.

MCDANIEL: The president reached out to him and said call me, I'm willing to help.

The president has helped the whole country with criminal justice reform, with what he's done with wage increases, especially the African American community. But why can't we tell those stories?

Why can't we --

BERMAN: Is --

MCDANIEL: -- talk about Matthew Charles and Alice Johnson and the --

BERMAN: Yes.

MCDANIEL: -- 2,200 people who were released from early sentences because they were -- they were disproportionately tried for --

BERMAN: And a lot of Democrats --

MCDANIEL: -- non-violent crimes? And this is the president who has led on that. So be fair -- share those.

BERMAN: A lot of Democrats are talking about criminal justice reform and are thrilled with it, and we'll be talking about it on this station.

MCDANIEL: And they happened under President Trump.

BERMAN: I just want to ask you again, one more statistic that has to do with all of this, and just choices and the consequence of choices.

In the Fox News poll that came out last week there was a question, "Does the president respect racial minorities?"

MCDANIEL: Yes.

BERMAN: Fifty-seven percent say no.

MCDANIEL: He does.

BERMAN: Fifty-seven percent say no.

MCDANIEL: No, the president is bringing the message differently. He is saying the Democrat Party has taken you for granted too long.

Every four years, like clockwork, we hear Republicans are racist. But you know what? Democrats get continually elected and elected and elected and problems aren't being solved.

In Baltimore, in Detroit -- in cities across the country where Democrats are at the helm, we are not seeing improvements. And you know what?

BERMAN: Why is the Fox News poll --

MCDANIEL: The mayor of Baltimore said that. Look at what she said.

BERMAN: Why are -- the former mayor of Boston.

MCDANIEL: Yes, the former mayor. Nobody's playing that clip --

BERMAN: She is --

MCDANIEL: -- of her saying this smells like rats and this smells like dead animals.

BERMAN: All I want to ask -- and again --

MCDANIEL: That was the mayor. She wasn't racist when she said that.

BERMAN: -- and I have to let you go. If you're going to make that case, then why are the respondents in the Fox News poll -- why don't they see it that way?

MCDANIEL: They should. And you know what, part of it's the media. You've got to tell the story of criminal justice reform, and the low unemployment, and the loan forgiveness for HBC use, and the economic opportunities -- almost 9,000 (ph) of them across this country.

President Trump has been a champion for the African American community and that story is not being told. BERMAN: Madam Chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, it is great to have you here with us. It's great to be in your home state.

MCDANIEL: I love having you here in Michigan --

BERMAN: All right.

MCDANIEL: -- and the debates here in Michigan.

BERMAN: Come back again.

MCDANIEL: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

New polls show where the Democratic candidates stand ahead of tonight's big debate. So who has the most to lose? We break down the numbers, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:44:03] CAMEROTA: All right. We are just hours away from the CNN Democratic presidential debate here in Detroit. So who has the lead going into this big event?

Let's get the forecast with CNN senior politics writer and analyst, Harry Enten. Harry, great to have you here. This is the night that you dream of all year long.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: It's definitely the night and I feel so like a football announcer here or maybe Britney Spears, as John was telling me in the break.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BERMAN: He's a great football announcer, by the way.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you're right. These microphones are very --

ENTEN: He's the jack of all trades.

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's move on.

ENTEN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So who has the momentum?

ENTEN: I mean, what's so interesting to me, right, before that first debate, Joe Biden had a clear lead in a Quinnipiac University poll. Then after that first debate where Kamala Harris took it to him, she was able to take a lot of that lead away and basically came within the margin of error of him. But now, a recent poll that just came out yesterday shows him bouncing

right back up. It was almost as if that first debate didn't even happen at all. It's amazing.

And, you know, it kind of reminds me of what happened going into the second debate and then after that with the Republicans back in 2016. And what we saw then was Donald Trump basically get a 'take it to him' by Carly Fiorina. His poll numbers dropped, her poll numbers rose. But obviously, Trump was able to recover and go on and win the nomination.

[07:45:10] BERMAN: So, Harry, one of the things tonight, obviously, is this first debate is going to have Sen. Bernie Sanders side-by-side with Elizabeth Warren. And one of the things that we have said on this show and people say in general is oh, they're fighting after the same voters. They're in the same lane.

Do the numbers bear that out?

ENTEN: I mean, look, they're both going after very liberal voters and we know that. And we know that Bernie Sanders won those last time around by about 14 percentage points over Hillary Clinton.

And if you look right now in an average of polls you basically see Bernie Sanders running in third amongst those and you see Elizabeth Warren all the way up at 29 percent in a recent average of polls. So we do see that she's going in and taking in some of that base.

But I should point out, John, that there are major differences between their two bases. One big example that we've spoken about over and over and over again is their support by education.

What we see is that Elizabeth Warren does considerably better among whites with a college degree than whites without a college degree. With Bernie Sanders, it's the exact opposite. He does considerably better among whites without a college degree than whites with a college degree.

So despite the fact that Elizabeth Warren is running this populist centrist campaign she's, in fact, not winning those white voters without a college degree.

CAMEROTA: But who votes more, with or without?

ENTEN: Interestingly, they both are about even par to the Democratic electorate. So that's part of the reason why they're about even in the polls right now at about 15 percent if you take an average of all the polls.

BERMAN: I just think it's interesting, again, because always say oh, they're fighting for the same lane. They have very different voting bases -- they're very different -- and it all has to do with college degrees.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. But, you know, it's not just that, it's also about sort of how the voters sort of envision the Democratic primary.

So what you see is we recently asked in our poll which is more important -- basically, electability or agreement on the issues. And for most Democrats, they say electability this time around.

But look at Bernie Sanders' support among those who say electability is more important or issue base is more important. He does considerably better among those who say issue agreement is more important.

It's the opposite with Warren. One way I would put it, Elizabeth Warren's voters are Democrats, Bernie Sanders' voters are ideolots.

CAMEROTA: OK. Talk to us about the other candidates who will be on the stage for whom this is a -- you know, in some ways, a make or break 48 hours.

ENTEN: Yes. Look, there are about 10 candidates who I'd say are probably in this throughout or at least are going to make the next debate.

But there are 10 candidates who will be appearing on stage tonight and tomorrow night, and what we see with them is they are in major danger of not making the September debates. They have less than two qualifying polls. You need two percent in at least four polls in order to qualify for the September debates and what we see with them is they have less than -- they either have one or zero.

These are people like Delaney, Hickenlooper, Bennet, de Blasio or Williamson. You just go on and their -- this field is going to get sliced in half after this debate unless some of these candidates do much better than we expect.

BERMAN: Well, and it will, right? What's the threshold? You need 130,000 single donors and you need to be at two percent.

ENTEN: Two percent in four polls, and that's much higher than this time around.

BERMAN: And two percent doesn't sound like a lot and there will be many candidates who don't get there, which gets to a point, Harry, that I think bears repeating, which is that though there are 24 candidates in this race, the voters don't look at it like that right now.

ENTEN: Yes, they do not look at it that way. They basically are seeing maybe seven, maybe 10 candidates and that's going to be what's going to end up happening. It's going to be interesting to see whether or not any of those other candidates try and get through tonight.

One last thing I kind of just want to point out is we're in Detroit. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin -- over 70 percent of Americans like her music. Only about 11 percent dislike her music.

I love her music. I don't understand -- 10 percent, excuse me. I don't understand who these people are who don't like her music. It makes no sense to me. She is fantastic.

BERMAN: The Russian bots.

ENTEN: That's exactly -- the Russian bots are infiltrating.

CAMEROTA: That's it.

Harry, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, up next, I sit down with a group of Michigan voters about what they are looking for in a candidate this time around and their confidence or lack thereof about a Democratic win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: How many of you -- show of hands -- are optimistic that a Democrat will win in 2020?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: We will bring you their response after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:53:08] CAMEROTA: All right.

While we are here in Detroit, we figured it would be the perfect time to check in with the all-important voters in this swing state.

So we sat down at the Detroit Foundation Hotel with a group of engaged voters, mostly Democrats, one Independent, some of whom have volunteered on various campaigns in the past. We wanted to find out what kind of candidate they think can beat Donald Trump. And as you are about to hear, Democrats are wrestling with whether to go bold or practical, progressive or pragmatic.

Here is your "Pulse of the People".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: How many of you are still candidate shopping? All of you.

Edith, are you leaning towards anyone?

EDITH: Joe Biden.

CAMEROTA: For you, Joe Biden is at the top of the ticket?

EDITH: So far.

CAMEROTA: And, why?

EDITH: I've watched Joe Biden over the years. I find him to be competent, politically; solid in foreign relations; and that he never forgot where he came from. I like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to say the one I'm leaning towards most is Julian Castro because he has a really good stance on reparations of any of the candidates and he talks a lot about immigration reform and then a lot about native people in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love so many of them. It's almost like an embarrassment of riches because we've got so many wonderful choices.

I respect Joe Biden, I respect Bernie Sanders, and they would have been my person last time. But now, I feel like we need something besides an old white guy.

CAMEROTA: Ryan?

RYAN: So my type candidate right now is Elizabeth Warren. She's not in it just to say that oh, I'm president. She's in it because she really cares about ordinary people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think what is really important is that my family lost our home in the financial crisis and Elizabeth Warren stepped up to the plate and was taking on those big banks and trying to help people like my family.

[07:55:04] CAMEROTA: Sayyid (ph)?

SAYYID: Joe Biden. I think that what the country needs now and probably for the next few decades is somebody who can right the ship because the waters are going to get stormier, they're going to get choppier. And the idea of simply replacing one person who is rocking the boat with a person who is going to rock the boat on the other side is probably not wise at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a lot of people do support Joe Biden, like my friend here, thinking that because he's moderate that he will appeal to most people. But I think we've seen from the Republican Party that somebody who wasn't moderate, somebody who was very far right, changing things -- trying to change the country -- I think to battle against that we need somebody who is very far left and really supports radical change.

CAMEROTA: What do you all think about all of the conversations that we've had of late about race?

EDITH: I think that at his core, 45 is a racist. He came down the steps of Trump Tower a racist, he rode into the White House a racist, and he has opened the door for every racist who has been hiding in the corners to come out and show themselves.

CAMEROTA: I mean, it sounds like you're saying that he didn't start this, he just tapped into it. So how much responsibility do you put on President Trump?

EDITH: I put all of the responsibility on President Trump. It doesn't matter if it's been there. There has never been a candidate since George Wallace who has exploited it to the extent that Trump has. And it's going to take us a long time fix and mend this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a debate for me on like if he's a racist or not. I think it's very clear that he is.

He holds the highest office in the land I think he's legitimizing hatred throughout this country, and it really, really shows. And it's a dog whistle to many, many races out there who feel as though they can say these things and feel like it's OK, but it really isn't.

SAYYID: Since 9/11, being a Muslim American has brought with it its own challenges. And perhaps more historically, the idea of hearing "go back home" has always loomed over me. So I think some of those verbal cues which seem to be more benign happen with much more frequency than somebody actually yelling at you, saying go back home, you're not welcome here anymore.

CAMEROTA: And what do you think about the internal squabbles about race in the Democratic Party? Show of hands -- how many people think that it's fair game for Democrats to go after each on past issues of race? (Five hands raised). So, fair game.

Why don't you think so, Sayed?

SAYYID: You know, it's ironic. Ronald Reagan said that the one golden rule was that Republicans shouldn't go after each other but they should really circle the wagons. And part of that was recognizing that everyone's got skeletons in their closest.

You can go ahead and disagree about politics, you can go ahead and disagree about policy, but dredging up things from the past strips it of its context.

CAMEROTA: You thought that Kamala Harris going after Joe Biden at the first debate was a low blow?

SAYYID: I think it was a premediated, scripted low blow, yes.

EDITH: I have a story about that -- about bussing -- about being the only black in a school. So, I have a story. But I also try to think about what other people bring to the table and I don't expect them to have the same feelings about it as I do.

CAMEROTA: How many of you -- show of hands -- are optimistic that a Democrat will win in 2020? (No hands raised). Why don't you think that you have better chances in 2020?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that a blind optimism is how we got Trump. People didn't feel that they needed to turn out because they assumed that Trump would lose. We really need a candidate that is going to increase Democratic turnout and not a candidate that's going to convince Trump voters to vote for them because it's not going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm usually optimistic about a lot of things, but I'm really afraid of this next election. I think a lot of these subjects coming up today is that the person who is elected the Democratic nominee, I think that he will go too moderate to think that he's going to get a big base of voters. And while doing that, lose a lot of the people that would have voted for a person that was more passionate, more liberal, more progressive.

EDITH: We're fighting for what is America and what does America stand for. You've got to have passion about that. If we don't, we're lost.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So, that was so interesting and so informative of where the Democrats are. Only one of the voters on that panel said they feel confident. And I think that fear informs everything they said before that. What they -- all they want to do is win.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. They want to beat Donald Trump and, as you heard, half of them believe --