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Interview with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Presidential Candidate, Op-ed Written by Joe Biden; Gillibrand Talks Race, White Privilege on Debate Stage; REP. Tulsi Gabbard Confronted about Her Syria Trip Remarks on Assad; Justice Department Declines to Prosecute Comey Over Memo Handling. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 1, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: 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?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he still didn't answer the question, he never actually told us, the American people and women, what he meant when he said it would lead to the deterioration of family. In his op-ed, he said that parents were avoiding their responsibilities, quote. So I just don't understand what he was saying then, and he didn't say that he -- he didn't explain what he was trying to say. And I was really dissatisfied. The reason why it matters is, we have a misogynist in the President right now. We have a man who devalues and --

BALDWIN: Before you talk about Trump and I know. No one -- no one wants a misogynist in the White House, but again, the op-ed to which you attribute is from 1981, and the title again is "Congress is Subsidizing the Deterioration of Family." And I know you pointed it out last night and I just want to be clear to people following along, Biden doesn't mention working mothers specifically.

In fact in a floor speech that same year, then Senator Biden said this, I have no objection to the fact that if a mother and a father want to get together and say, hey, by the way Joe, you take care of the child and I'm going to pursue my career, that is fine. That is a personal decision and I am all for it, Senator.

GILLIBRAND: Yes, I think he's full of BS when he says that, because the truth is, who works outside the home in '80s, '90s today. If you have two parents in a family. It's typically the woman who stays at home. Even today less than 5 percent of two parent households is the woman not the one to stay at home. So the truth is, he could only be referring to women, because that's the reality, when he wrote it, it's still the reality today.

BALDWIN: But you've stood by him in his past. He's done a lot for women. Why bring this up now?

GILLIBRAND: Of course he's done a lot for women. Vice President Biden is a man who's done great things for this country. I deeply respect his service. But we need a champion to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. We need a champion in the White House who's going to go full force to pass national paid leave. To pass affordable daycare and universal pre-K. To make sure that our economy thrives, because women are thriving in the workplace. Most women have to work to feed their families, to pay their bills, to pay their rent. And if you're demeaning that work by saying you're somehow deteriorating the family, it's so out of step with how I see the world, and how I saw the world in the '80s.

My mother worked outside the home. My grandmother worked outside the home. They both thought it was important to provide for their children but also to have an impact on society. My mother as a lawyer for LGBT couples when there were no other lawyers to represent them. My grandmother organized women for two generations so they could --

BALDWIN: No, and good on them. Good on them, Senator. I hear you loud and clear on that, but on the bigger picture of -- it was your good friend and rival Cory Booker.

GILLIBRAND: He's still my good friend.

BALDWIN: No, no, Joe Biden. Senator Booker's point last night, right, that all these interparty squabbles, is that just playing into Donald Trump's hands?

GILLIBRAND: No, the whole point of a primary is for people to talk about their vision for the country. To talk about their priorities. What they will accomplish and what they will do as President. I have a very, very significant vision for how we make the economy grow and how we make families thrive. I have a comprehensive family bill of rights that starts with making sure anyone who wants to be a parent can be a parent.

Making sure when you bring your baby home, the baby survives those first early months. Making sure that you have access to national paid leave. Making sure that you have universal pre-k and affordable day care. That's what I want to see in a President and that's why I'm running for President.

And so I think the American voter and American women are entitled to know what someone who's running for President wrote about women in the workplace. Because the language he chose to use was really severe. To say, again, deterioration of the family, to say again avoiding responsibility. I think that's highly problematic.

BALDWIN: What about former President Barack Obama? I didn't hear you jumping in on this, but there were several of your Democratic friends up there on that stage criticizing him and his legacy last night. And I wanted to know from you, did those Democrats cross a line?

GILLIBRAND: Again, the whole point of a Democratic primary is to show your vision for the country and to lay out who you are and why you're running. I think I made a pretty strong case that these debates are really creating a false choice. A false choice that you either have to have a progressive who inspires the base. Or you have to have a moderate who can win back those Obama -- [15:35:00] BALDWIN: That wasn't the question, the question is on a President who had a 93 percent approval rating leaving the White House. Why would these Democrats including a member of his own cabinet, why do you think though it's damaging your party, is my question?

GILLIBRAND: No, I don't. I don't. I think that candidates should speak about their values, who they are, why they're running. And I was really clear about mine. I'm not here to make excuses or defend other Presidential candidates. I am here to share with you my vision for this country.

And it includes a story for families. It includes a story for women. It includes a story for communities, that are deeply left behind across this country. And so I'm talking about why I'm running and I'm not going to talk about why they're running or what mistakes they may or may not be making.

BALDWIN: As we were just discussing. I had Emerald Garner on who actually in commercial break applauded you and said thank you for your response regarding her father last night. Daniel Pantaleo, the New York police officer accused of fatally choking her dad Eric Garner, could learn as early as tomorrow about the fate of his career.

And I know that you said if you were the New York City Mayor, that you would have fired him. Something that the current Mayor, Bill de Blasio has not done. Do you think that's disqualifying?

GILLIBRAND: I think it's the wrong decision. If I was Mayor, I would fire him. He should be fired. We've seen the evidence. We've seen the video. We saw this man struggling for breath, saying over and over again, he couldn't breathe. And for this officer to use a banned choke hold that they have already found he used is worthy of being fired.

That's the kind of thing, that disregard for humanity, that the lack of judgment that to me merits a firing. If I was President, I would make sure the investigation is made public. I would investigate that investigation if it didn't satisfy me. I'd enter into a consent order. So that's what you can do as President if you don't think that police departments are functioning well around the country.

BALDWIN: If you were the Democratic nominee for President, would you consider an all-female ticket? And if so, who would your Vice President be?

GILLIBRAND: Of course I would. And I got to tell you, the women running for President right now are amazing. And they're smart and they're capable and they have a vision for this country. And they know what they want to fight for.

BALDWIN: Who's on the Gillibrand ticket? Let's name names? Who's on the Gillibrand ticket?

GILLIBRAND: It's not the time nor place to do so. But I got to tell you, they're all amazing. BALDWIN: And then lastly, this has gone everywhere, you know, the

first act of the White House as you said, is to Clorox the Oval Office. And I'm sure you saw Trump 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, responded on Twitter. Let me read this for you.

Quote, funny Senator Gillibrand just said Clorox-ing the Oval while talking about climate change. Guess she isn't smart enough to know chlorine is one of the world's biggest pollutants.

Was there a retort? I thought the President didn't believe in climate change.

GILLIBRAND: Let's be clear. Obviously, they're not a mother. Every mother knows you need Clorox wipes somewhere in your house, so when a kid gets sick you can Clorox wipe every doorknob, every surface so the whole family doesn't get sick. That is what mothers do.

BALDWIN: And I guess they believe in climate science with that?

GILLIBRAND: Yes. And actually want to make sure that humanity survives.

BALDWIN: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. A pleasure, good luck.

GILLIBRAND: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We'll talk to you soon.

Still ahead here on CNN, the Justice Department makes a call on whether to prosecute James Comey for how he handled the memos, he wrote about President Trump, that's ahead. And we get to the bottom of Congresswoman's Tulsi Gabbard's meeting with the Syrian dictator, and why she still seems reluctant to condemn him.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard made headlines in the debate for going after Senator Kamala Harris on her record as a prosecutor. But now she is getting criticism all of her own for refusing to condemn Syria's brutal dictator. Gabbard is one of two military veterans in the Democratic race for the White House. She deployed for Iraq twice. And in 2017 she met with Syria's Bashar al Assad during a controversial fact-finding trip as it was called. Here is her post debate interview with Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: What is your take on Bashar al Assad? What did he say?

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My take is one of a soldier, where I've seen the cost of war firsthand. In Iraq serving in a medical unit every single day confronted with that high human cost of war.

So I will never apologize for doing all that I can to prevent more of my brothers and sisters from being sent into harm's way to fight counterproductive regime change wars that made our country less safe. That take more lives and cause taxpayers trillions more dollars. So if that means meeting with a dictator or meeting with an adversary, Absolutely, I would do it. This is about the national security of our country.

COOPER: I understand that position. Do you consider him a torturer and murderer?

GABBARD: That's not what this is about. I don't defend or apologize or have anything to do with what he has done.

COOPER: Bashar al Assad is a murderer and a torturer, do you not agree with that?

GABBARD: I don't dispute that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN political analyst Josh Rogin is a columnist for "The Washington Post." Why do you think she's reluctant to condemn a brutal dictator?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this has been a long pattern of Congresswoman Gabbard's where she claims to be on a mission to find a peaceful solution to avoid more U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

[15:45:00] But all of her actions show a pattern of propagating the Assad regime's narrative, defending the Assad regime's actions, minimizing the Assad regime's war crimes. I mean, on that 2017 trip, she didn't just go and meet with Assad and sue for peace. She went to Aleppo, the site of a recent mass atrocity, perpetrated by the Assad regime and Russians. And she declared it a just peace.

She interviewed Assad regime loyalists. And said that they supported the policy and then she came back and used that, as an argument that the United States was responsible for the destruction in Aleppo not the Assad regime which is bizarre.

And then actually made a video showing the Assad regime bombing Syria and blaming it on the United States. So there's an ideological argument here that's debatable and valid, and there's a distortion of the facts and a misrepresentation of her record that is not.

BALDWIN: You know, she says she went to Syria to promote diplomacy. I know you just laid out some of it, but what was she really doing?

ROGIN: Right. What she was doing was, she was lending a senior American official voice to the narrative that the Assad regime and Russia have been perpetrating. Which is on the one hand that you have to choose between Assad and the terrorists which is not true.

On the other hand, that it's the United States that's really responsible for all the violence because we're supporting all the terrorists in Syria, which is not true, or largely not true. And then she brought that back to sort of push back against people in the United States that wanted to hold the Assad regime accountable. And she opposed legislation to hold the Assad regime accountable. She calls it a thinly veiled excuse under the guise of humanitarianism.

Meanwhile, people in Syria are still -- innocent people are still being slaughtered, tortured and murdered, including today. What you didn't show from that Anderson clip was, when she accused the Trump administration of aiding Al Qaeda in Idlib. OK.

That's a pretty serious charge, U.S. government aiding terrorists. The truth is that the U.S. government is not helping anyone in Idlib. It's the regime and the Russians killing civilians wantonly. But again that's Assad's narrative and that just happens to be what she agrees with.

BALDWIN: I mean obviously, she has controversial views on foreign policy. Do you think there' is an audience for that?

ROGIN: Oh, definitely. To be fair to Congresswoman Gabbard, I think that her principled opposition to U.S. military intervention is genuine, and I think there's a lot of support for that. You know I don't think that she's doing that for political reasons. I do think that she's distorting her record, obscuring her record, defending the Assad regime. Parroting his propaganda. Actually producing Assad regime propaganda. There are videos where she actually does it.

But, yes, there is a big audience for that, and that's a reaction to decades of war weariness and American discontent with U.S. military intervention including the war in Iraq. But that doesn't make it true, and the bottom line is, that Tulsi Gabbard is entitled to her own opinions, but she's not entitled to her own facts.

If she wants to argue we should get out of the Middle East, she has to that on a reality-based approach. And that includes acknowledging the truth which is that Assad is the worst war criminal of modern history and that he's responsible, not the United States for the horrendous crimes going on there right now.

BALDWIN: Yes. Josh Rogin, thank you very much.

We have breaking news on Wall Street now. After President Trump has tweeted that he will put even more tariffs on China by September 1st, the Dow now down more than 200 points.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Just in this afternoon, the Justice Department has reached a decision on whether or not to prosecutor former FBI Director James Comey over his handling of memos that contained classified information. Evan Perez, is our senior justice correspondent. So, Evan, what's the story here, what are you hearing?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the story here, Brooke, is that the Justice Department looked into whether or not James Comey, the former FBI Director, mishandled classified information. This all has to do with some memos that Comey wrote after his interactions with President Trump early in the days of the Trump administration. He was bothered by some of those interactions. So he wrote these memos.

Later on, after he was fired, he passed some of these memos to a friend of his, an attorney up in New York, who then provided some of that information to "The New York Times." The Office of Inspector General, the Justice Department has been looking into this. They referred Comey for possible prosecution, for possible prosecution for mishandling the classified information.

It turns out some of the information in those memos the FBI later determined contained the lowest level of classification, which is confidential. So prosecutors at the Justice Department looked at this and decided that they could not bring a case, in part because they couldn't prove that Comey knew at the time that there was classified information in there, and he was purposely mishandling this information.

So the bottom line is there are not going to be any charges against Comey. Of course you know, Brooke, that the President has been tweeting all about this stuff for the last few months -- or actually, more than a year.

[15:55:00] And some of his allies in Congress have called on the Justice Department to bring charges against Comey for mishandling classified information. There's a broader investigation by the Inspector General, Brooke, and so we'll see the results of that investigation coming forward sometime probably in the fall.

BALDWIN: All right, we'll talk about it then I know. Evan Perez, thank you very much for the update there.

We are also following breaking news out of the North Korea. A U.S. official telling CNN they believe the regime just launched not one, but two short-range ballistic missiles. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

All right, before we go let's get a quick check of the Dow. And you see what has come has drastically gone down. The Dow down nearly 300 points here after President Trump tweeted that he will place new tariffs on China starting September 1st. That would impact products like phones, laptops, sneakers, etcetera. Before the tweet --

[16:00:00]