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Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) is Interviewed About the Debates and Flint; Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is Interviewed about the Debates and Biden's Record; NYPD Officer Could Learn his Fate. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 1, 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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[09:31:37] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 2020 Democratic candidates on the defense today after two heated debates in Detroit. A big question now, did they launch too many attacks on one another, not enough on the president?

With me now Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan. He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, represents Flint, Michigan, notably.

Sir, thank you for being here. And we'll dive into Flint in a moment.

But what -- who won last night and what do you make of it? Was it too much an attack on, you know, our friends and not enough on the president?

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): I do think that. I think there was far too much attention on nuanced differences between the candidates that they tried to turn into big ideological battles. They're not. The big ideological battle, the big struggle is with this president. We ought to be focusing a lot more attention on that and on the issues that really matter to people -- you know, people who are trying to figure out their lives. People here in Michigan who are trying to make sure that we preserve our way of life here. We need to hear more about that.

HARLOW: Yes, I say our friends because they call each other friends, you know, and then they -- and then they attack each other like that.

All right, so is there -- was there a clear winner in your mind last night?

KILDEE: I don't think there was any clear winner. I mean, obviously, there was a lot of attention trained on the vice president. And I guess over the two nights, if there were winners that were -- some of those people who were able to present themselves and make their case. You know, I --

HARLOW: OK>

KILDEE: Jay Inslee was just on. I think he made a compelling case on climate change. Tim Ryan, who comes from the Midwest, made a -- you know, an argument away from left and right politics. So I think some of those candidates had a chance to present themselves.

HARLOW: Right.

KILDEE: But this is going to be a long slog and I don't think there's anything -- anybody can declare that they emerged the winner --

HARLOW: For sure.

KILDEE: But I think we'll go forward from here.

HARLOW: Let's talk about Flint, Michigan, that is in your district. Just last week you partnered with Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence. They introduce the Water Justice Act that would invest $250 billion into critical upgrades in the nation's infrastructure to make sure that there is not another Flint. But did you hear enough about Flint last night and also what Flint is symbolic of, congressman, as you've talked about across it country?

KILDEE: You know, I did not hear enough about Flint. You know, there were references to Flint, but it felt very much like a drive by conversation. Many of the candidates have made their way to Flint. And, you know, we appreciate them coming.

But what Flint does not need or want is sympathy. We don't need or want more photo-ops. We want people who are willing to step forward and say, this is an injustice what happened and we're going to make sure that things are made right in Flint and that we don't see another one happen.

And I think the discussion about Baltimore and the president's, you know, insistence on degrading the people of Baltimore was another inflection point that could have led to a conversation about Flint, about Youngstown, about Gary, Indiana --

HARLOW: Sure.

KILDEE: All those places that feel like they're being left behind.

HARLOW: For -- that not just feel like, congressman. I mean let's be real. That out -- that are being left behind if policy really doesn't change in this country and we stop just talking about retraining and actually doing it, right, from a government level and on corporations.

Do you -- you said this felt like a little bit of a drive by, by some of these candidates. Do you feel like the Democrats, who came to Flint in the weeks leading up to the debate, were largely using it for photo-ops rather than actually doing things to implement change?

[09:35:08] KILDEE: I think in some cases that is the case. I mean in some cases there's real policy that candidates have presented after seeing Flint, or, in some cases, real investment that they've helped to make.

And, you know, again, Congressman Tim Ryan came a year ago and now there's some investment that's taking place as a result of his work.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

KILDEE: That's great.

HARLOW: OK.

KILDEE: That's what we need. But what we don't need are people to use this as a backdrop.

HARLOW: Of course.

So, before we go, talking about Michigan and what you just talked about and the economy and what this means for those who have been left behind. Michigan economy as a whole has thrived under President Trump. Unemployment is down to 4.2 percent there. Obviously it's higher in Flint, 5.6 percent.

But listen to what Andrew Yang said last night about this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you go to a factory here in Michigan, you will not find wall to wall immigrant. You will find wall to wall robots and machines. Immigrates are being scapegoated for issues they have nothing to do with in our economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Is he right that more should be a focus on automation over immigrants taking jobs?

KILDEE: Well, I think what we should be focusing on is how we take technology and use that as an advantage, rather than use it as a way to replace hardworking people here in the Midwest. And there's a way to do that, but it takes an intentional policy around that.

You know, we can't just rely on the ebb and flow of economic cycles and then when we're at the top say, look, everything's fine, when the fundamentals still are really difficult. We have a lot of cities that are struggling. We really don't have educational performance that we know will put people in a position to be able to compete for jobs when things aren't going so well. We have infrastructure that's falling apart. That's not going to look good when the economy begins ultimately to decline.

You know, these are real issues. We have the Great Lakes that the president seems to want to ignore until it's -- politically it seems like a good idea to talk about them. These are issues that tend to get papered over when the economic cycles have us riding high for a period of time --

HARLOW: Yes.

KILDEE: But we don't deal with the fundamentals. That's the biggest mistake. And I think that's what -- if I can be blunt, that's a mistake that I think a lot of people running for president are ignoring.

Yes, we're in an economy that's moving, but it's a normal cycle of the economy that we've been able to continue, but it's not permanent. Unless we deal with the fundamentals, we're going to be making a heavy price in the coming years.

HARLOW: I think we will. I think you're right on that.

We're out of time, but come back and we'll dive into that more.

Congressman Dan Kildee, thanks for taking the time this morning.

KILDEE: Thanks, Poppy.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Great interview.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Just reaction on Flint, I mean it's remarkable, you know. It's obviously an issue that's very close --

HARLOW: He's saying fellow Democrats are using his, you know, city as a photo-op.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

Well, listen, coming up, Joe Biden under attack for the second straight debate. Should supporters be concerned about how the Democratic frontrunner is handling it all?

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[09:42:19] SCIUTTO: The crosshairs were on the former vice president, Joe Biden, last night. He was taking repeated blows on criminal justice reform, health care, immigration. Unlike in the first debate, however, Biden appeared better prepared this time, coming off strong and some defenses, struggling here and there. The big question this morning, is he still the best prepared and politically suited candidate to take on President Trump in a general election?

Here with me to discuss, Democratic Senator Bob Casey. He sits on the Health, Education and Labor Committees and is a Biden surrogate.

Senator, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): Thanks, Jim, good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So you watched the debate last night. The president -- the former vice president sharper, clearly was prepared to punch back when punched at. But there were some times, you know, even fumbling his campaign's text number at the end there.

I just wonder, does he have what it takes to take on the president?

CASEY: Jim, I don't think there's any question, and that's simply based upon his strong performance last night, but a record of not just public service but a record of fighting, fighting for the middle class, fighting to get wages up, fighting, frankly, to pass the Affordable Care Act, which covered 20 million people and gave protections to over 100 million Americans they never had before. And, frankly, taking on what Republicans are trying to do to this health care plan. You've got President Trump and congressional Republicans, who have no replacement plan, yet they're -- they're supporting a lawsuit which will eliminate the Affordable Care Act and decimate the Medicaid program. Joe Biden can take that fight to President Trump and beat him.

SCIUTTO: You know the way Trump fights, though. It ain't clean, right? On a debate stage he will be personal. He may not be factual in our experience there. And I just wonder if the debate performances you've seen so far from Vice President Biden show that he's got the meddle for that. It ain't going be easy.

CASEY: Well, Jim, I think he's been in a lot of battles throughout his life. He's had to confront dictators and despots all over the world, Vice President Biden has. He's had to fight battles in Washington, both as vice president and as a senator. He's going to be plenty ready for that fight.

I would say this, it's a lot more difficult in the Democratic primary to make arguments sometimes against folks in your own party because there's general agreement. And we had discussions now for weeks and months about how to reach universal coverage. But against a Republican president who has been far to the right on everything, he's rigged the tax code for big corporations and rich people. He's out to decimate the Medicaid problem and to destroy the Affordable Care Act. When we get to those issues in the general election, Joe Biden is ready and he'll come with a fight every day, not only in the debates, but in between debates. He's ready.

[09:45:13] SCIUTTO: Let's talk about health care because that's, of course, a subject of disagreement among Democrats here before you even get to the general election, Medicare for all, of course the vice president is against that. Warren, Sanders, others for it.

I wonder if your concern that the vice president's position, though not out of line, you might even call it mainstream with many Democratic voters, it is not where the base is right now. When you hear the applause lines the energy among many of the most active Democratic voters, they support that. And I wonder if you're concerned that the vice president is out of step with the base here.

CASEY: I don't think so. Here's why. When I go across Pennsylvania, which, by the way, is a must-win state. The Democratic nominee has to win Pennsylvania. Here's what I hear. From Democrats, Republicans and independents, they're concerned about two basic issues, maybe three, and I'll leave the third one for last.

But first and foremost, they're concerned about lowering costs. Second, they're concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs. And third, they want to reach universal coverage. But in the life of a middle class family, or someone struggle to get to the middle class --

SCIUTTO: Right.

CASEY: Who hasn't had a wage raise in a long time, they're concerned about making sure they -- we can get costs down. I think there's broad agreement among Democrats about how to get costs down. The debate is about how to reach universal coverage. The president -- or Vice President Biden has proposed a public option. We didn't do that in 2009 and '10 and I wish we had because that's one way to grow the number of people who have health care. You can cover millions of people that way, but you've got to make sure that you fight hard against what Republicans are doing right now.

Right now the Gallop organization, as of January, told us that 7 million fewer people have health care under this president. So the sabotage of the health insurance markets is unfortunately working because extreme Republicans like President Trump are doing that.

SCIUTTO: Right.

CASEY: And they're out to destroy not only Medicaid itself, or at least undermine it, they want to eliminate. This is the official position of the Republican Party --

SCIUTTO: Yes, no question.

CASEY: To eliminate Medicaid expansion, which is the one way that we fight opioid -- the opioid crisis and the addiction crisis.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And which is popular even in many red states.

CASEY: Right.

SCIUTTO: Finally, just very quickly, there was a lot of -- there was a lot of internal fire, friendly fire, in that debate, but Donald Trump's name didn't come up that much and I wonder if you're concerned that Democratic presidential candidates are hurting themselves and the party by focusing so much of their attention on each other and not the sitting Republican president.

CASEY: Absolutely, especially on health care. We've got to prosecute the case. Look what Republicans did. Over the course of eight years, they won the debate because all they did was trash the Affordable Care Act, had no replacement, still don't have a replacement today. All they're doing is supporting a lawsuit which will wipe out the Affordable Care Act. They're trying to take away Medicaid from people like -- the people in Pennsylvania, where we have almost 40 percent of our kids covered by Medicaid. That's what we should be talking about. Taking them on and prosecuting them on the question of health care. That's how we win the race in November.

SCIUTTO: Senator Bob Casey, from, as you say, a very important swing state in this coming election. Good to have you on the broadcast.

CASEY: Thanks, Jim.

HARLOW: All right, so you heard about him on the debate stage last night, now the New York City police officer at the center of Eric Garner's death could find out if he will be fired from the police department as soon as tomorrow. We'll have new details on that ahead.

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[09:53:03] SCIUTTO: This just in to CNN. New York Police Officers Daniel Pantaleo, the officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner, could learn as early as tomorrow if he loses his job.

HARLOW: So this is according to two senior law enforcement officials and a city official. The deputy commissioner of trials is expected to give NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill his recommendation.

Our crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz is the one who got this news.

And I immediately wanted to know is this because that he -- that officer was name checked. He was called out on the debate stage last night.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. So -- yes. I mean it's significant because it's now on the national stage even more given that it was on the debates last night. But this was always the plan.

HARLOW: OK.

PROKUPECZ: This is when our folks -- our sources told us this was always the plan. This was when this was going to come. It's just the first step in really what has been a long process.

The officer here had an internal departmental hearing. That is over. And that hearing is overseen by a deputy commissioner of the NYPD. That commissioner, she's expected to make her recommendations on whether Pantaleo should be fired. Those recommendations will go to his attorney, will go to other city officials and then eventually, at some point, we heard the police commissioner this morning say this will -- this process will now ensue his recommendations. It will be up to him. It is up to the police commissioner, not the mayor, not anyone else, as to whether or not ultimately this officer gets fired.

SCIUTTO: This has become something of a pattern here in cases like this, officer involved shootings. If there is no legal recourse, right, even under sometimes very questionable circumstances, like this one, that there is then administrative.

Daniel Pantaleo Yes, there is always that. This is a totally, completely administrative process. And you see these in these kinds of cases often. This is much more significant because of the attention that this case has gotten. And certain protocols, internal protocols, at the NYPD were violated, at least that's what the accusations were in this departmental hearing by this officer.

So it's going to be a big moment for the police department and a big moment for the police commissioner.

It i's expected that he's going to follow the recommendations of this departmental -- from this departmental trial. And we'll see what happens. But it's certainly going to be a very big decision here for the police commission.

[09:55:10] HARLOW: Yes. And the family has been calling for justice over and over again.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, asked for the officer to be fired. Yes.

HARLOW: Thank you very much, Shimon.

PROKUPECZ: Sure.

HARLOW: Appreciate the reporting.

SCIUTTO: Shimon.

Senator Kamala Harris had her sights set on Joe Biden last night, of course the frontrunner, but she found herself playing defense as well.

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