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Interview With Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Decision on Officer in Eric Garner Case Expected Soon; Democratic Debate Fallout. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 1, 2019 - 15:00   ET




Todd Graham, thank you very much. Next debate in a month. I'm sure we'll talk then.

Let's roll on.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: You are watching CNN on this Thursday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

Now, after two nights of heated exchanges, clashes over how to reform health care and immigration, and, surprisingly, for many, jabs at the legacy of former President Barack Obama, the 2020 Democrats are fanning out across the country today in their quest to be the party's next presidential nominee.

And while Beto O'Rourke and Elizabeth Warren have taken their campaigns West today, Cory Booker, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are still in Detroit.

Now, earlier today, the former vice president addressed the jabs from his fellow Democrats coming from all sides really last night, saying that that comes with the territory of being the front-runner.



And, look, I hope, we're going to get a chance to talk about the future in these other debates that are coming up. I'm looking forward to them.


BALDWIN: CNN's Kyung Lah is traveling with Senator Harris' campaign.

So, Kyung, moments ago, we listened to her weighing in on the debate. What was her message overall?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, her message was that workers, like the event that she's here now -- she's taking a day in the shoes, taking a walk around with the average worker. This is a worker named Delores McDaniel.

And what Harris is trying to do in this first retail stop is to try to bring it down to the average person. What does the average person care about?

But, inevitably, all the questions came up about last night's debate, all the attacks that she sustained, not just from Tulsi Gabbard, but Joe Biden. And here's what she had to say about the attacks from Gabbard.

Let's take a listen.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, there were certainly large inaccuracies. There were certainly inaccuracies about my record. There's no question about that.

And from a person who has been an apologist for Assad, who is, by all accounts, a murderer of his own people, an accusation by someone who refuses to call him a war criminal, and that even just last night was offered five opportunities to do so and failed to do so. So, I take those attacks with only so much seriousness.


LAH: Now, this is central to her message to voters, though, her prosecutorial record, that she is the one best suited to be on the debate stage with President Trump and to prosecute the case against four more years of Trump.

Harris saying she has no intention of diverting away from that central mode -- central message to voters, that is, Brooke.

And one other thing. I want to mention that Harris also responded to the president's latest tweet announcing that trade -- that tariff on China. And she likened his entire trade policy, while not specifically talking about this particular tax, likened it to the Wizard of Oz. And when you pull back the curtain, there's just a really small guy standing there.

So the attacks also on President Trump coming from Senator Harris -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Kyung Lah, so great to see you in Detroit. Thank you very much.

And as you just heard, Joe Biden says he wasn't surprised by the attacks from his rivals during last night's debate. And one person who as more than ready to deliver a few punches, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who has made Biden's past work on criminal justice a key focus of his in the last couple of weeks.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a system right now that's broken. And if you want to compare records -- and, frankly, I'm shocked that you do...


BOOKER: ... I am happy to do that.

BIDEN: There was nothing done for the entire eight years he was mayor, there was nothing done to deal with the police department that was corrupt.

BOOKER: Mr. Vice President, there's a saying in my community, you're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor.

You need to come to the city of Newark and see the reforms that we put in place.


BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza is a CNN politics reporter and editor at large. I know. I hear you. I hear you.

And that was just one of many, many, many attacks against the former vice president.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I still don't totally get that dipping in the Kool-Aid thing, but, yes, Brooke, one of a number.

And I would say, look, that's what these debates are for, candidly. The front-runner needs to be tested. We need to be able to inform voters of the differences between these candidates.

OK, so let's go through a few and we're going to start here on climate, Jay Inslee, the Washington governor, and Biden.

Let's play the clip. We will come back and talk about it.


GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have heard you say that we need a realistic plan. Here's what I believe...

BIDEN: No, I didn't say that.

INSLEE: Here's what I believe. I believe that survival is realistic.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Just to clarify, would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?

BIDEN: No, we would -- we would work it out. INSLEE: We cannot work it out. We cannot work this out. The time is

up. Our house is on fire. We have to stop using coal in 10 years, and we need a president to do it or it won't get done.



CILLIZZA: So what you see there -- and you're going to see a lot of this throughout this segment, Brooke -- is you see Joe Biden trying to walk a middle ground, right, not fully embracing Inslee's plan.

And Inslee has said climate change is the only issue he is really running. Inslee called his plan, Biden's plan, middling. So, Biden has got to take some of those slings and arrows because he thinks that it preserves him for the general election. We will see.

OK, let's go to the next one. There's a lot of these.

OK, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, obviously, this was the big showdown in the first debate on busing. In this debate, the main clash was on health care. Let's play that clip.


BIDEN: The senator has had several plans so far. And any time someone tells you you're going to get something good in 10 years, you should wonder why it takes 10 years.

If you noticed, there is no talk about the fact that the plan in 10 years will cost $3 trillion. You will lose your employer-based insurance.

HARRIS: Under our plan, we will ensure that everyone has access to health care.

Your plan, by contrast, leaves out almost 10 million Americans. So I think that you should really think about what you're saying.


CILLIZZA: So, actually, again, remember, this had come -- this face- off had happened before, Brooke, and Kamala Harris had clearly won.

I actually think Biden was fine in that. I think Harris does have some weakness on health care. I think Biden exposed some of it. So not all of the attention he was getting was negative. And that's why it's so hard, I think, to decide how Biden did in this debate.

I wound up naming him a winner by a whisker, because I think he was better than the first debate and did enough to beat down, if not end the storyline that he's just not with it enough to win this race.

But I will tell you, it was not an easy task with six, seven other candidates on stage going after him -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, can you ultimately win by a whisker? That will be -- I can't wait to see more of those candidates all mixed in, in a month.


BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza, thank you, thank you.

And in addition to obviously attacking one another last night at the debate, several candidates selected a surprising target, former President Barack Obama, or at least attacking his own legacy, in their efforts to diminish the current front-runner, Joe Biden.


BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I asked the vice president point blank, did he use his power to stop those deportations? He went right around the question.

BOOKER: Mr. Vice President, you can't have it both ways. You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can't do it when it's convenient and then dodge it when it's not.

HARRIS: Your plan, by contrast, leaves out almost 10 million Americans. So I think that you should really think about what you're saying.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't.


BALDWIN: Et tu, Julian Castro, the former HUD secretary working in the Obama administration?

And Joe Biden hit back just a little bit ago.


BIDEN: I must tell you, I was a little surprised at how much incoming was about Barack, about the president.

I mean, I'm proud of having served with him. I'm proud of the job he did. I don't think there's anything he has to apologize for. And I think it kind of surprised me, the degree of the criticism.

And the idea that somehow it's comparable to what this guy's doing is absolutely bizarre.


BALDWIN: Joshua DuBois is a former White House adviser to President Obama on faith and race.

And, Joshua, always a pleasure to speak with you.

My question, when President Obama left office, he had a 93 percent approval rating among Democrats. That is massive. And so I get it, no president is perfect. But why would these Democrats think attacking him is a smart strategy?

JOSHUA DUBOIS, FORMER SPIRITUAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: It is bad strategy. I think bizarre is, in fact, the word.

And Democrats have to be really careful here. I mean, as you said, he -- or even now, the former president has around 90 percent approval among Democrats, 65 percent among independents.

Listen, if I had to devise the worst possible strategy for a Democrat in this cycle, it would be to attack Barack Obama. He's also respected around the globe. And if you have limited minutes on a debate stage, do you think you should be drawing a contrast with a respected leader, perhaps the most respected leader in your own party, or with the current President, Donald Trump?

So I think maybe it was a short-term hit, a little bit of a sugar high in this particular debate, but in the medium and long run, I think it's a really bad strategy.

BALDWIN: But were the questions, for example, on Obama's immigration policy and the high number of deportations under his administration, is that fair game?

And Cory Booker, for example, rebuked Biden for his -- pulling out his Obama credentials really don't when it's only convenient, cherry- picking when he wants to align himself and when he doesn't.

Can you have it both ways if you're Joe Biden, Joshua?

DUBOIS: Yes, I think you can have legitimate policy conversations, but you can do so in a way that does not tear down the former president or his legacy.

And I think -- I don't think necessarily last night was over the top, but Democrats are going down kind of a troubling road there.

And, just strategically, again, when it comes time for the 2020 election, Barack Obama is not going to be on that ballot. Donald Trump is going to be on the ballot. They're going to have to draw contrasts with him.


And you know what? The first two phone calls they're probably going to make to get some help in that fight for whoever the eventual nominee is, it's going to be to Barack and Michelle Obama.

And so, again, it makes for a nice contrast in a singular debate. But in the medium and long run, you can have a legitimate policy conversation, but I would focus more on how to lift up and emphasize the Obama legacy, rather than tear him down.

BALDWIN: Listen, they may listen to you and also talk, I think of Obama, hope and change or espouse vision. We didn't get a lot of that last night on that stage. I know, there's so many candidates, and they only have so much time to talk. But when they are talking and disputing things so publicly and

attacking the legacy of Barack Obama, how much damage do you think that does to the Democratic Party at this critical, critical point?

DUBOIS: I think it definitely has an impact on the party.

I think the biggest thing that Democrats can do right now is draw a moral contrast with the person that's in the White House right now. We have so many devastating issues in front of us, from the way -- from the humanitarian crisis at the border, to issues of race and racism that we're seeing on Twitter, it seems, like every week.

We have got to be able to keep the moral high ground and draw those big contrasts, not tear other progressives and other Democrats down, but lift people up and talk about how that's different from Donald Trump.

And I think there were, again, some interesting moments, interesting sound bites last night, but a number of candidates missed that bigger picture.

BALDWIN: Joshua DuBois, thank you.

DUBOIS: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Good to see you.

DUBOIS: You too.

Just ahead here, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who challenged the former vice president on equality for women, will join me live. Got a lot of questions for her.

But, first, I will speak to the daughter of Eric Garner, the man who died five years ago at the hands of a New York City police officer, what she thought of Mayor Bill de Blasio last night on the stage being pressed on why he hadn't fired that police officer and all the protests that erupted as a result of that.

And, later, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard getting buzz for going after Senator Harris on her record as a prosecutor. Now Gabbard getting backlash for her own meeting with the dictator of Syria. We will get the backstory on that coming up.



BALDWIN: The New York Police Department, the officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner may be much closer to learning if he will be fired.

Garner's last words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. And last month, the Justice Department declined to bring charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo after Garner died five years ago. Pantaleo's career has been in jeopardy ever since. The crux of the

NYPD decision remains whether Pantaleo used a choke hold, which is banned by the police department. Two senior law enforcement officials and a city official tell CNN a decision on whether Pantaleo will be out of a job could happen tomorrow.

And that looming decision faced public scrutiny at last night's Democratic debate in Detroit.

Here is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio:


DE BLASIO: I know the Garner family. They've gone through extraordinary pain. They are waiting for justice and are going to get justice. There's finally going to be justice. I have confidence in that, in the next 30 days, in New York.

You know why? Because for the first time, we are not waiting on the federal Justice Department, which told the city of New York that we could not proceed because the Justice Department was pursuing their prosecution.


BALDWIN: We will come back to that point and fact-check that in just a second.

But protesters also interrupted the candidates multiple times, chanting "Fire Pantaleo."


DE BLASIO: ... country and to make sure it's a country that puts working people first.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Fire Pantaleo! Fire Pantaleo! Fire Pantaleo! Fire Pantaleo! Fire Pantaleo!


BALDWIN: One of those protesters, activist Tamika Mallory, tweeted -- quote -- "While NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio misrepresented his positions on stop and frisk, and continues to employ the police officers who killed Eric Garner, in particular Daniel Pantaleo."

And the youngest daughter of Eric Garner's, Emerald, is with me now.

Emerald, thank you so much for being with me.


BALDWIN: And as I was watching that debate last night, I was like, we have got to talk to you, because to hear your father's name invoked as much as it was, to hear from "Fire Pantaleo" essentially stopping a debate that millions and millions of people were watching, what did you think of that? Did you know it would happen ahead of time?

EMERALD GARNER, DAUGHTER OF ERIC GARNER: I was not aware of any protests that would be happening at the debate.


GARNER: I was made aware when my phone started receiving so many text messages.

I do salute the people who stood up and screamed "Fire Pantaleo," because that's what I have been firing -- screaming for the past five years. So for it to be the reason why the presidential debate was stopped, that was powerful to me, because the reason why my family is going through what we're going through is because of Daniel Pantaleo.

BALDWIN: But to hear Bill de Blasio, Mayor de Blasio, say that he, the city of New York couldn't do anything because they were waiting for the Justice Department to do something is just -- it's false.

GARNER: Which is basically what I have been saying for the past five years, which is everybody is saying, not me. You know what I'm saying? It wasn't me. It's not me. It wasn't me.

The same thing that Mayor de Blasio said to me in person at Gracie Mansion was the same thing that he said to Ebro in the morning. So it's something that he practiced. It's something that he rehearsed.


And I feel like everything that he's saying is pretty much rehearsed.


BALDWIN: The DOJ never told the city -- according to our reporting, never told the city that they had to wait for DOJ. If Bill de Blasio wanted to fire Daniel Pantaleo, Bill de Blasio could do so.

GARNER: Right.

I can't say what the federal -- what the conversation was between him and the federal Justice Department. But what I can say is that we have been waiting too long. Time is up. We need answers now.

So I understand that they feel like there's a process, and de Blasio feels like he needs to keep repeating the same thing over and over again. I will continue to say fire Pantaleo. I will continue to call for someone to make a decision.

As I said, I don't care who makes the decision. Someone needs to make the decision now.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about your petition. It's


BALDWIN: It has now received more than 100,000 signatures.

GARNER: One hundred thousand signatures.

BALDWIN: So I hear you plan to deliver it to Mayor de Blasio's office?

GARNER: Well, my plan is to deliver it to the decision maker. So the decision maker, to my understanding, is Mr. O'Neill. So, now, Bill de Blasio has directed me towards...

BALDWIN: O'Neill reports to de Blasio.

GARNER: O'Neill, right. So, that's what my understanding is.

But what de Blasio keeps saying is that it's ultimately up to O'Neill and the judge who is making the decision in the...


BALDWIN: So you plan to go to Commissioner O'Neill?


GARNER: Commission O'Neill, Mayor de Blasio.


BALDWIN: What are you going to say to them?

GARNER: I'm going to show up my signatures. I have -- the whole world agrees that Pantaleo needs to be fired.

So whether it's de Blasio or O'Neill, we just want him fired.

BALDWIN: When you first saw that Mayor Bill de Blasio was running to be the next president of the United States?

GARNER: I will say what I told Change,.org, that how could you president a city when you can't -- how can you president the world when you can't mayor the city?

If you can't give me answers on Daniel Pantaleo, then you can't give me answers about the free world. I'm sorry.

BALDWIN: What about Trump's Justice Department, right, as a part of this?

Earlier this month, the president's Attorney General Bill Barr, he decided -- let me quote him for you -- "The evidence here does not support charging the officer with a federal criminal civil rights violation."

Why do you think Trump's Department of Justice decided not to prosecute?

GARNER: I mean, as we can see with Trump's track record and his -- basically his administration, is that we don't matter.

That's what I get from it.

BALDWIN: Who is the we?

GARNER: We, us black people. Eric Garner didn't matter, and that's why he was choked on the street. Eric Garner didn't matter. And that's why we still don't have justice now.

So I hear what you're saying, sir, but I want justice.


GARNER: So if it's not firing of Pantaleo, without him receiving city tax dollars, because, right now, the city is paying him. The city paid him to murder my father.

And I pay taxes every year. I have been paying taxes since I was 18. So you're telling me I'm paying the man that killed my father, and you're telling me you don't have any answers?

I think all of the people who stood with me for the past five years, especially shout-outs to NAN Youth Huddle, National Action Network Youth Huddle, Ashley Sharpton, Reverend Sharpton, and his whole organization.

I do -- I stand with everyone who has been standing with us, 100 suits. We've been Justice League. We have been dealing with all of the organizations. Everybody came together.

BALDWIN: For five years.

GARNER: For the past five years to scream justice by Eric Garner.

We will continue to scream. My sister died fighting for justice, and I will continue to fight until my dying day as well.

BALDWIN: What does justice look like?

GARNER: Justice is having the Eric Garner law in place, where, when someone uses a choke hold, you label it as a choke hold. You will not call it a seat belt maneuver. You will not call it an arm technique or arm hold technique, because that's not what it is.

A choke hold is a choke hold, and there's no way around it.

BALDWIN: Emerald Garner, thank you very much.

GARNER: Thank you so much for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you.

Coming up next, she made waves by going after former Vice President Joe Biden on gender equality. And now New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joins me live to talk about that strategy and where she and her Democratic Party should go from here. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BALDWIN: Defense was the name of the game for former Vice President Joe Biden last night, as he was hammered on everything from his work on immigration and health care to his views on the climate crisis, during the Democratic debate.

But, at one point, the conversation turned to Biden's 1981 vote against expanding a child care tax credit, an op-ed Biden wrote shortly thereafter about the measure and its impact.

And the title of Biden's column in '81 was: "Congress is subsidizing the deterioration of families."

And it led to this exchange with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What he wrote in an op-ed was that he believed that women working outside the home would -- quote -- "create the deterioration of family."

I just want to know what he meant when he said that.

BIDEN: That was a long time ago, and here's what it was about. It would have given people making today $100,000 a year a tax break for child care. I did not want that. I wanted the child care to go to people making less than $100,000.

GILLIBRAND: But Mr. Vice President, you didn't answer my question. What did you mean when you said when a woman works outside the home, it's resulting in -- quote -- "the deterioration of family..."

BIDEN: No, what I ...

GILLIBRAND: ... and that we are voiding -- these are quotes. It was the title of the op-ed.

Either he no longer believes it -- I mean I just think he needs to ...

BIDEN: I never believed it.

BASH: Thank you.


BALDWIN: And Senator Gillibrand is with me now.

Senator, a pleasure to have you on. Welcome.

GILLIBRAND: Thank you.

BALDWIN: I know you get just bits and pieces of time to be able to respond, so I just wanted to give you the opportunity right now. Listening to the former vice president, you know, being asked this question by you, what did you make of his response?

GILLIBRAND: Well, he still didn't answer the question.