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Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is Interviewed About Democratic Debate; Michigan Voters on Debate; North Korea Launches Missiles. Aired 9:30- 10a ET

Aired July 31, 2019 - 09:30   ET

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


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[09:31:45] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

We are just hours away from debate night two in Detroit. Debate night one showcasing deep divisions within the Democratic Party as moderate candidates hammered the party's top and unapologetic progressive Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

With me now is Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California. He currently is serving as co-chair of Bernie Sanders' 2020 campaign.

Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Jim, thanks for having me on.

SCIUTTO: So let's get right to the signature issue of last night's debate, but also frequently at the top of the list of voters' concerns, that of course health care. The debate last night focusing on Medicare for All or a more moderate plan.

The main argument against it, which you heard from Congressman Delaney and others, is the majority of Americans, they want to keep their employee sponsored plan. I wonder what your response is, particularly take a look at this polling. This is -- this is a survey from Kaiser. It found that even among Democratic voters, they would prefer building on the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, over Medicare for All by a wide margin.

So what do you -- why is this the right policy, Medicare for All, if a majority of Democratic voters don't want it?

KHANNA: Well, first of all, Kaiser isn't exactly an objective source in the polling. Most of the polling shows that Democrats and independents are overwhelmingly for Medicare for All, especially when you explain that people can keep their doctors, that people will have more choice in terms of the health care they want. And in terms of private insurance, it's rarely --

SCIUTTO: Well, that's not entirely true, Congressman. When voters are explained that they would have to give up their employer sponsored health care plan, support drops as well. KHANNA: But if you ask the second question after that, if you say, but

this means you get to keep your doctor, the support goes back up. So if they're just told that they --

SCIUTTO: But how do you promise -- how do you keep that promise? How -- and over what period of time and without a Democratically controlled Senate? I'm just trying to figure out how you make all that happen.

KHANNA: Sure. Sure. I think it's the way that Senator Moynihan, after doing 25 hearings on health care in the 1990s, he said, the only thing that makes sense is, let's extend Medicare. Let's get everyone basic (ph) Medicare. And the bill, very clearly, allows supplemental insurance. It's important to note this. I mean Bernie Sanders, as he said, wrote the law. People get basic Medicare. Everyone will get that. And then if people want more supplemental insurance, they can. It just says you can't have duplicative insurance, which is the current law under Medicare. So there are a lot of facts and --

SCIUTTO: Why would employers sponsor or subsidize additional insurance if there was Medicare for all? As you know, unions in particular, a key part of the Democratic base, they oppose giving up plans that they -- they fought for through negotiations for years.

KHANNA: Well, Jim, actually the unions, the AFL-CIO, has explicitly endorsed Medicare for all, and that's because they know two things. One, Medicare for all is going to be better benefits for their members with lower costs. But, second, they don't want to waste their time bargaining for basic health care, with wages stagnant. Want they want to do is bargain for better working conditions and better pay. If you allow for Medicare for all, they will actually be able to bargain better, and that's why Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO, and every major union is for Medicare for all.

SCIUTTO: Union members have a different view.

I want to ask you about this because you saw Sanders and Warren in lock step yesterday. There was a lot of talk leading into this debate that they might clash, try to establish themselves as the leader among the progressives. In the end, they were together and kind of fighting off attacks from the more moderate wing.

[09:35:13] But I want to ask you this, for voters who have to make a choice, progressive voters, why is Bernie Sanders a better choice for them than Elizabeth Warren?

KHANNA: Well, I think they both won the night for a progressive vision. I think what you saw last night with Bernie Sanders and why I think he won the debate is the real Bernie Sanders, is the Bernie Sanders you know. He was funny. He was passionate. He had a clear vision. He is appropriately frustrated with the special interests and he is building a movement for big changes in this country.

And I -- I have tremendous respect --

SCIUTTO: Does he have a clearer vision than Senator Warren? Beyond -- beyond being a funny guy.

KHANNA: I have tremendous -- I have tremendous respect for Senator Warren. I think they both bring important voices. And I think it will be for the voters to decide. But I think both of them clearly had the best night. I think Bernie Sanders had an incredible night in pushing back and exposing the corporate interests that have been blocking the agenda of reform.

SCIUTTO: You're going to the border with a group of 19 House Democrats. You're going to visit the U.S.-Mexico border tomorrow and Friday in El Paso, Texas. Of course another issue of disagreement last night was the idea of decriminalizing -- or rather we should be clear about what that is, illegal entrance into the country. Do they face charges in criminal court or civil action? Bernie Sanders, of course, supports decriminalizing.

I wonder how you defend that and how you can argue that that would not give an additional incentive for people to attempt to enter the country illegally.

KHANNA: Well, my focus is personally on making sure we end separations of children from their families. And I think actually you can do that by changing the law that currently there is a -- no presumption against separation. If you change that law and you said that before you can separate a child from their parents, there has to be a presumption against that, we can get to the issue at hand. And that, I think, all of the Democrats on the stage would agree with.

SCIUTTO: They do, but the disagreement, of course, is over decriminalization. Do you differ with Bernie Sanders on that? Do you think that that's a good look, a good position for Democratic candidates?

KHANNA: I -- I respect his position. My focus, and I think the party's focus needs to be on the separation of children because even if you decriminalize, if you don't change the policy which is leading to the separation, it's not going to do anything. You -- first, the administration is relying on policy saying they're helping the child, which is a complete falsehood, and that's the policy that I would focus on changing.

SCIUTTO: Final question, of course there was a shooting in Gilroy, California, not explicitly in your district, but not far from your district in California. What does a Democratic president, if elected, have to do to change the dynamic on gun control in this country, particularly when you have large numbers of Republicans against many measures, but even some Democrats reluctant to vote for them. Is the path only executive action?

KHANNA: Jim, Gilroy was 30 minutes from where I live and it was heartbreaking. Stephen Romero, and six-year-old boy, was shot to death. His mother was clutching him in his arms. The bullet hit her and then hit her son. And then she calls the father and says my boy -- our boy has been shot and the father runs to the hospital. When he reaches the hospital, Stephen is pronounced dead. It -- it is sickening. And any person, Republican or Democrat, we need

to ask, what are we letting happen to our children in this country? I really don't care about the politics. What I want to do is see, why can't we have some basic common sense laws? And I think when people hear these stories, I mean I can't help but think it's going to move the humanity of this country.

SCIUTTO: Yes, sadly it hasn't yet and so many times we're in this same position lamenting, wondering what happens next.

Congressman Ro Khanna, we appreciate you joining us this morning.

KHANNA: Thank you for having me on.

SCIUTTO: The first round of CNN's Democratic presidential debates, they're in the books. So how did voters in Michigan react? Key swing state in 2020. Residents of Detroit pick their winners and losers. That's coming up.

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[09:43:43] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, ten down, ten to go and a little more than ten hours away from round two here at the Democratic presidential debates.

Last night half of the 2020 Democratic field took the debate stage. Who came out on top? Senator Elisabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, all making headlines this morning.

How do voters here in Detroit think the candidates performed in their city?

My good friend Miguel Marquez spent debate night with a group of them and a little bit of beer, right, Miguel, at a local pub? What did they say?

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MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the pub, my safe space, Poppy.

Look, the crowd was up for it. This was -- this was like a stone throw away from the Fox Theater where you guys and the network was gathered yesterday. One thing was very clear coming out of that night, progressives resonated with the crowd, centrists, not so much.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the CNN Democratic presidential --

MARQUEZ: We watched the debate with Citizen Detroit, the local political activists group here. We're watching it in McShane's (ph) Pub, a spot of the historic Court Town (ph) neighborhood.

Who impressed you tonight? WALLACE JONES, DETROIT VOTER: Elizabeth Warren, I think she did an

excellent job. I was also impressed with Mayor Buttigieg and Bernie was Bernie.

[09:45:00] MARQUEZ: It was standing room only in this pub tonight. And the person who got the most love throughout the night was Senator Sanders.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump is a pathological liar.

MARQUEZ: Mayor Buttigieg and Senator Warren also got a lot of love from the crowd in this room tonight.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should stop using Republican talking points.

MARQUEZ: Who did you like tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Warren. Elizabeth Warren. I really did.

MARQUEZ: What impressed you about her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She -- she knows her words. She has answers and solutions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought Elizabeth Warren did the best job tonight. She showed passion, empathy, energy, intelligence, you know, grit, toughness.

MARQUEZ: Some of the centrist Democrats didn't do so well tonight, in this room at least. Governor Bullock, the congressman, Delaney and Ryan, they got booed at certain points here.

Who did you not like tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delaney's my least favorite by far.

MARQUEZ: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just -- I don't think he has the solutions that America needs right now.

MARQUEZ: Did anyone turn you off tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I wouldn't say that. There are people who I will not miss if they're gone, but not yet.

MARQUEZ: Did anything stick out or surprise you in this debate?

KYLE RICHARDSON, DETROIT VOTER: I mean I'd never heard from Steve Bullock before. It was kind of interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't say anyone impressed me in terms of becoming my candidate. I appreciated that Marianne Williamson was making a little more sense this evening. DOMINIQUE CAMPBELL, DETROIT VOTER: Marianne Williamson, tonight like, yes, like, I know she was Oprah's, you know, like spiritual adviser and I really appreciate just really a candidate talking about dark forces at work. I was like, whoa, like she actually said that in a debate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, in addition to looking forward to tonight's second round of the debate, they're also looking forward to -- everybody across the board at this pub is looking forward to fewer candidates in this race. They want a more substantive discussion. They want longer answers. They want more subjects covered, like women's reproductive rights and other things that they didn't get to last night.

HARLOW: Yes.

MARQUEZ: So those sort of things people are looking forward to.

HARLOW: Yes.

MARQUEZ: They think the process is fair. They like that this many candidates are in. But they're looking for fewer candidates.

Poppy.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HARLOW: Yes, I hear that. I hear that.

All right, Miguel, thank you. That was fascinating. I will look forward to your piece tomorrow.

MARQUEZ: You got it.

HARLOW: All right, North Korea issues a warning just hours after firing two short range ballistic missiles. This is the second launch in less than a week. Details ahead.

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[09:51:52] SCIUTTO: This morning, a warning from North Korea over what it is calling reckless, suicidal joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, though these are regular exercises. This warning from Pyongyang comes hours after North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles off its East Coast, the second launch in less than a week. Now South Korea says its military will be ready and watching all of North Korea's movements.

Joining us now, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Of course, Barbara, as you knows, the president has dismissed these short range missile tests as not important because they're not ICBMs that can reach the U.S. But, of course, there are U.S. allies in the region that are very much within range of these -- these missiles. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they would, in fact,

exactly right, be hypothetically in range if some day North Korea were to launch over their territory. The map shows us that just in this case, of course, where the missiles were launched from, they fell into the sea and did not pose a direct threat. But that may be, as you say, Jim, small comfort.

This is the third time now since May that North Korea has launched these -- this type of short-range missile in what is a test firing. So it is getting attention from military experts in South Korea, in Japan, and in the United States. The question, of course, is, what's North Korea really up to?

The sense of it is that Kim Jong-un is reminding nations he's out there and he's got missiles and he is willing to use them, even in this limited fashion. He has a lot of very harsh rhetoric against South Korea. President Trump, no direct reaction from the White House yet, but he has dismissed these missile launches in the past.

But what you can't ignore, even as the 2020 presidential campaign, of course, ramps up, candidates are going to have to address, what would they do about Kim Jong-un? What would they do if there was a North Korean missile launch that did threaten the United States? And right now we're not hearing a lot of answers on that from either the president or the candidates, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No, we're not. And will they continue the negotiations even when there have been no nuclear concessions by North Korea?

That said, we're learning that those negotiations may resume again.

STARR: Right. There was a U.S. official in the DMZ actually delivering photographs, apparently, of President Trump's recent meeting with Kim Jong-un there. And a North Korean official apparently made it clear to them that there might be the possibility of working-level conversations. But the question will be, to what end, to what goal? The administration's official policy is complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. And right now there's no indication that Kim Jong-un is on the road to any of that. So if they sit down and talk, what are they going to talk about? It remains to be seen. A number of U.S. officials hoping at least the talks can resume.

SCIUTTO: And that phrase, complete, verifiable, irreversible, has not been uttered by the president or senior administration officials for some time.

Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

Shocking video out of China this morning. This after a group of neighbors used a blanket -- now watch this. A three-year-old boy clinging for dear life from a balcony there. Neighbors responding. The boy drops, thankfully, into that sheet there. I mean just watch this again. It's remarkable. He tried to pull himself up. His feet kept slipping. He fell six stories, 60 feet. He was later taken to the hospital. Luckily, he suffered no injuries. According to police, the boy was left alone at home while his grandmother went out for groceries. Lord, what a near miss.

[09:55:30] Round two of the CNN Democratic presidential debates are just hours from now. And a bunch of candidates are setting their sights on the clear frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden.

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