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Only Black Republican in Congress Leaving; Judge Recommends Firing of Officer Involved in Eric Garner Death; Ratcliffe Withdraws as DNI Nominee. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired August 2, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Why did he withdraw his name?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, it has been quite a dramatic five days.
John Ratcliffe's name came to -- was surfaced last Sunday, when President Trump in a tweet said that he would be nominating the three- term Texas congressman to the post of director of national intelligence.
And at the time, a lot of people said, who? This is not a classic candidate for that role. The men who have held this role since 9/11, when the position was created, are people who have had deep foreign policy and intelligence experience.
And so over the course of the past five days, criticism over Ratcliffe's lack of experience grew. He had been a U.S. attorney in Eastern Texas, which is what he held up as his main national security expertise.
And as we started digging into his time as U.S. attorney, before he was a congressman, he stated very clearly on his -- in his bio on his congressional Web page that he had put terrorists in prison.
When we looked up terrorism-related cases in that area in his time there, we saw no evidence that he had prosecuted any of those. So it quickly became clear that not only didn't he have the experience, but also that he had embellished his resume.
There was also an example, Brooke, in that same bio where he said that he'd arrested 300 illegal aliens. That was an embellishment as well. He had been part of a multistate, multiagency operation, and then only some 45 of these illegal migrants had been prosecuted in his area.
So this criticism grew, largely from Democrats. Democrats were vowing up and down that they would do anything they could to block his nomination. He hadn't even been officially nominated yet. And we understand from sources both on Capitol Hill and at the White House that Senate Republicans had started voicing their concerns to the White House.
And as this criticism grew over the course of the past few days, President Trump, we understand, sources are telling our colleague Kaitlan Collins, that he, in turn, started to express his concerns that Ratcliffe would not be a shoo-in, that he was surprised, because he had been assured that Ratcliffe did have what it took.
Clearly, the president seeing the writing on the wall, and he tweeted just a short time ago that: "Our great Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe is being treated very unfairly in the lamestream media. Rather than go through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people. John has therefore decided to stay in Congress, where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas and our country. I will be announcing my nomination for DNI shortly," Brooke.
And then, a short time after that, John Ratcliffe himself also responding in a series of tweets. I will just read part of it because they're fairly lengthy.
"I was humbled and honored that the president put his trust in me to lead our nation's intelligence operations and remain convinced that, when confirmed, I would have done so with the objectivity, fairness and integrity that our intelligence agencies need and deserve."
But he says he "does not wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation."
So it is clear that both men saw that this was going to be a significant uphill battle. That nomination was far, far from guaranteed -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: And it wasn't just Democrats, Dana. I mean, I know you're hearing from Republicans. What are they saying to you behind the scenes?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
Yes. Well, Alex just talked about the fact that some Republicans, according to our sources, had been talking to the White House, saying, whoa, this is not a good pick.
Just since this news broke within the last hour, I have been communicating with some key Senate Republicans. And there was just one sort of emotion and reaction. And that is relief, relief that they are not going to have to go through a process that many of them -- and, again, we are talking about the president's fellow Republicans, the congressman's fellow Republicans -- go through a process where they do not think, even without digging very deep into the background of Mr. Ratcliffe, that he is the right man for the job for a whole host of reasons, never mind his bio, just his broad background.
I mean, you just talked to James Clapper, the DNI during the Obama years. He was part of the intelligence community, knee-deep in it, came from within the intelligence community, for 50 years. Now, that is an extraordinary amount of experience. Part of -- you don't necessarily have to find that, but at least a little bit of experience, given the import of that job.
And also just look at the CIA, which is kind of underneath. The president did nominate somebody who came from within. So it's not that it isn't possible. It's just generally not the president's style. And it is another bruise on the president's whole idea of trying to fill his Cabinet with people who he kind of thinks maybe look the part or are loyal to him.
And they don't get very far. Either they barely even get -- they don't even get the full nomination sent to Capitol Hill, or they're withdrawn once it begins.
Let me ask you about this as well to House, right, obviously the storyline we have been covering, impeachment what, how many people are in favor of it. Now we know a majority of Democrats support an impeachment inquiry. Look at all their teeny faces on the screen. Like, there are so many.
And this is according to CNN's latest tally. The numbers have been rising steadily. What kind of pressure does this put on the House speaker?
BASH: More. More pressure.
She was really hoping and other Democratic leaders who don't want to go forward with an impeachment inquiry, they were hoping that, once these members got back home, that it would sort of take the air out of the -- of the bubble, that the pressure would be relieved.
And that's not happening, in part because the grassroots, either activists or people who are just regular citizens and regular constituents of these members are going to them and saying, no, we want to push this forward.
So, yes, it is a majority of the majority, which is an important milestone. It definitely puts more pressure on the speaker. My sense is, in talking to sources about this before they got to this milestone, is it still not 218. And 218 is the majority of the House.
And to have a successful impeachment in the House of Representatives or to refer it to the Senate, where the trial would happen, you still need a majority. And it is just Democrats. It is very, very partisan, which, of course, mirrors the times that we're in.
But it's going to be harder when she gets back if these numbers keep climbing to push back an inquiry again. It's not just -- it's not saying impeachment will start. It's saying, we will begin to inquire about a potential impeachment in the Judiciary Committee.
BALDWIN: Yes. I'm going to say thank you, but I want to keep you up on the screen just to say, my friends, I have not spoken to you since your big week this week moderating two presidential debates. I hear it. I hear it in your voice. It's a lot of prep work. You
are elegant. You are classy. You are brilliant.
BALDWIN: And you did a phenomenal job. Bravo. Bravo, my sister. Thank you very much.
BASH: Thank you, my friend. That's so nice.
BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you.
Let's get to a major development in a longstanding police brutality case, the New York Police Department today suspending officer Daniel Pantaleo after a department judge recommended he be fired for his role in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill must make the final decision. And it is expected to follow the judge's recommendation. Garner died five years ago while being pulled to the ground during an arrest and the disturbing video was captured. It went viral, prompting a national rallying cry for activists battling police brutality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to see an actual process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Emotions running high in New York right now.
A short time ago, protesters interrupted a news conference with the mayor and presidential candidate Bill de Blasio, shouting at de Blasio that Pantaleo should be fired.
And members of Eric Garner his own family are here with me, daughter Emerald Garner back again today.
It's a pleasure to see you again.
And his son, Eric Garner Jr.
It's a pleasure to meet you.
ERIC GARNER JR., SON OF ERIC GARNER: Thank you. It's a pleasure.
Five years, five years. It sounds to me that Commissioner O'Neill will follow the recommendation of this judge and fire this man. This is what you have been waiting five years for. How do you feel?
ERIC GARNER: Well, the emotions is how right now. You what I mean?
I'm sort of happy that he came to a conclusion. Well, the judge came to a conclusion about it. But it's still just one step forward. We still got more steps, so we could make sure that this don't happen again to another family. BALDWIN: Are you OK?
EMERALD GARNER, DAUGHTER OF ERIC GARNER: I'm OK.
As I said yesterday, I didn't think that she would make that decision. I'm grateful that someone sees what we see, because, for a long time, they were saying that Eric Garner resisted, Eric Garner fought back. And that's not the case.
And it's now proven by a judge that you did something wrong and you should be held accountable. So I really do hope that Commissioner O'Neill makes the right decision, which is to fire Pantaleo.
BALDWIN: Yes, I want to play this clip. This is Mayor de Blasio responding to this judge's recommendation today. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, we finally saw a step towards justice and accountability.
We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial. And I hope that this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Is it bringing you the beginning of some peace?
EMERALD GARNER: He still hasn't said that Pantaleo has done something wrong.
So, I mean, de Blasio, you're talking in circles. That's just how I feel about it.
A judge has said that he has done something wrong. You should be saying, I agree with that judge, and he needs to be fired. That's what I would like to hear for de Blasio to say.
BALDWIN: The police union president actually just finished a news conference as well. Here's what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK LYNCH, PRESIDENT, PATROLMEN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION: To say that we had a fair process, when we listened to that drumbeat of the criminal advocates who have been chanting every time anyone on the other side tries to get the truth out, that is not justice.
I'm sorry to say that we have to tell our police officers, take it a step slower. Make sure we're thinking. Make sure you're making decisions in seven seconds, because you won't get backing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Eric, what would you say to him? And also just speak to his message to police officers, and, by the way, not just in New York City, but around the country.
ERIC GARNER: I don't know what to say to that, to tell you the truth. I just don't know what to say.
ERIC GARNER: I don't know. I feel like he's being arrogant.
ERIC GARNER: Because we have seen a -- well, we have my father to get choked out on camera. For him to say, to make a decision under just seven seconds, what is that?
EMERALD GARNER: Seven seconds vs. 11 times Eric Garner said, "I can't breathe," seven seconds vs. the five years that I have lived without my father, seven seconds vs. the two years that I have lived without my sister, the seven seconds compared to the two years that my daughter, my niece, and my nephew has been without Erica Garner.
So I don't want to hear that, to take it a step slower. They should have took it a step off of Eric Garner so that he can breathe.
BALDWIN: What would you say to Commissioner O'Neill, who ultimately can make the call as to whether this man is fired?
Look in that camera. And I want you to speak to Commissioner O'Neill.
EMERALD GARNER: Commissioner O'Neill, please understand that as everybody has been saying for the past five years, don't take it personal. Eric Garner is gone. I can never get my father back.
Do us a favor as a family and make this right. Justice for Eric Garner will be firing Pantaleo, standing with the family of Eric Garner, who has suffered for the past five years. Stand with the children and grandchildren of Eric Garner, who have been suffering for the past five years. Make the right decision.
And fire this officer. Pass the Eric Garner law. Continue to sign the petition. Continue to stand my family, because it's not over. And please look for action next week and all of the weeks to follow.
BALDWIN: What have these five years been, like last question, for your family?
ERIC GARNER: It's been up and down. Been hearing about this craziness about this officer just being on desk duty, still collecting a paycheck, after he just -- he just killed a man on camera, and he's still collecting a paycheck.
That should say everything right there. Like, it's just not fair. It's not fair at all. BALDWIN: Eric and Emerald, thank you both so much for coming in.
EMERALD GARNER: Thank you.
BALDWIN: I really appreciate your time.
EMERALD GARNER: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next here on CNN, the only black Republican in the entire U.S. House of Representatives announces he will not seek reelection, the eighth Republican lawmaker to do that just this year. We have that story for you.
Also, President Trump admits North Korea may have violated a U.N. resolution by launching short-range missiles, but he says he's not worried about it.
And, later, the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy found dead at the family's compound in Massachusetts. We will share part of the emotional letter she actually wrote just a couple years ago about her struggle with depression.
You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
BALDWIN: Last fall, Republican Congressman Will Hurd barely won reelection in his Texas district, defeating his Democratic opponent by less than 1,000 votes.
And while his margin of victory was pretty small, Hurd's presence loomed large, as the only black Republican in the House and the only Republican to represent a district on the border.
And, recently, Congressman Hurd talked to Christiane Amanpour about his unique spot that he occupied within the party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): Look, I'm the only black Republican and the House of Representatives. I go into communities that most Republicans don't show up in order to take a conservative message.
Now, we say, if the Republican Party in Texas doesn't start looking like Texas, there won't be a Republican Party in Texas. And I think that goes for the rest of the country.
I like to say I'm the face of the future Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:20:00] BALDWIN: And now, just two weeks ago later, Hurd is calling it quits, announcing on Twitter last night that he will not seek reelection.
So that makes him this six Republican in just the last two weeks and the eighth overall this year to announce their retirement.
Leah Wright Rigueur is an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School and author of "The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power." Abby Livingston is with me. She's the Washington bureau chief for "The Texas Tribune."
So, ladies, thank you so much for coming on.
And, Abby, we jumped right to your Twitter, and you called Hurd's retirement a political earthquake both in Texas and nationwide. Tell me why.
ABBY LIVINGSTON, "THE TEXAS TRIBUNE": I mean, my phone has not stopped vibrating, and it was going overnight. And it has been Republican operatives, consultants. They were just texting me in just complete shock. This was not expected.
We have been expecting a lot of retirements out of Texas, but not this one. This guy could have been chairman of Intelligence Committee someday. He has enjoyed being in Congress, in the sense that he's worked really hard to he's wanted to be in Congress a long time.
And it's that he's throwing it -- throwing in the towel is a huge statement. And, also, he's the best Republican politician in the state at the House level. And if he's doubting 2020, there's a lot of other people who are running scared.
BALDWIN: Let me get to that point, because, Abby, we know that lawmakers who are in the minority party often leave office. But do you think this wave of retirements suggest the Republicans don't really think they're going to regain control of the House anytime soon?
And I think that this seat, this Texas 23rd District, was supposed to be -- if Republicans can't hold on to this seat, it's almost impossible to see how they get back power. And so there's a chance they could still win this seat, but it is so much harder without Congressman Hurd.
Leah, you heard Congressman Hurd on with Christiane, basically saying that, as a black man, he would take his conservative message, he would go into neighborhoods that most of his fellow Republicans wouldn't actually go.
The question is, does the Trump era, to paraphrase the title of your own book, increase the isolation or loneliness of black Republicans and make it harder to sell the message? LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, HARVARD
KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: I mean, the loneliness of the black Republican, indeed.
I know, this announcement may be shocking, but we shouldn't be surprised.
WRIGHT RIGUEUR: Will Hurd has had an incredibly, incredibly hard and difficult job, which is that, essentially, he not only has to represent the Republican banner, but he also has to sell Republican policies and Donald Trump to a district, to an area that is increasingly not only skeptical, but actually hostile to these kinds of ideas, hostile to the idea of President Trump.
And then he has to navigate his race, his community and all of these things in kind of a shrinking pool within the Republican Party. That's not easy. And, historically, what we have seen in these kinds of situations is, at a certain point, Republicans like Will Hurd hit their breaking point and end up leaving the party.
It also never happens in isolation. We see a larger exodus. So we see it at the state, the local level, the national level. We see it in things like the RNC with people resigning. So this is an indication that something is seriously wrong, has been seriously wrong for some time, and just the real difficulty that Republicans are going to have trying to appeal to a nation that increasingly does not look like the Republican Party.
BALDWIN: So noteworthy that you're not surprised, A. B, the huge question is, well, why is he leaving?
And, Abby, according to sources to you, that his decision wasn't impulsive, wasn't a reaction to any one incident, but that he has been very publicly critical of President Trump.
He wrote a "New York Times" opinion piece saying that Trump was being manipulated by Putin. He opposed the border wall, was one of just for Republicans to condemn Trump's racist tweets targeting those four Democratic congresswomen.
Separately, a House Republican fund-raiser tells CNN that those resigning are tired of defending the president. So might this actually be Trump fatigue?
LIVINGSTON: I think that's very much a consideration in this situation.
Congressman Hurd has had to go to the Hill, go to the votes day in day out and be approached by reporters just like me asking for comment on his reaction to things Donald Trump has said or tweeted.
And he is a young guy. He's still, I think, in his early 40s. And I don't think he's done with politics. I don't think he's done with being in the political arena. And so I think it just -- it might serve him better to not be running for reelection and possibly lose in 2020 and to get out now, and maybe resurface if Trump does -- whenever Trump leaves office.
BALDWIN: Remember that autopsy, Leah, right, back after the 2012 presidential election, that Republican autopsy?
It said that they concluded that the party shouldn't -- and I'm quoting them -- write off any demographic, and that they needed to speak to minority groups on both sides of the aisle. So now you have one lone black Republican on the Senate side, Tim Scott of South Carolina. How do they even begin to attract more people, Leah?
WRIGHT RIGUEUR: You know, the problem with this is that everything that they have to do in order to attract these constituencies that they talk about, minority constituencies, underrepresented population, women, are all things that they are going to have difficulty doing because it is completely at odds with Donald Trump.
And so that's where you see the real tension. That's where you see the real problem. So a figure like Tim Scott is really going to be under the spotlight. People are going to be looking at his words, they're going to look at his policies, they're going to be looking at his vote in Congress, and they're going to either looking -- be looking at him to push back at Trump, or they're going to be looking at him to really rationalize what Trump does.
So how do you explain your continued support, not only of Donald Trump, but how do you continue -- explained your continued support of the Republican Party that has essentially become Donald Trump's party in 2019?
That is a difficult, difficult path. And it does not bode well for the 2020 election, the presidential election, but also midterms of state local levels. There is a real possibility that Texas will look politically different in a couple of years.
BALDWIN: That is so significant.
WRIGHT RIGUEUR: And the autopsy report warned about this, yes.
BALDWIN: That is so significant.
Leah, thank you, as always, for your voice.
Abby, you and your constantly vibrating phone that's going to keep on going there, and we're talking about Texas.
BALDWIN: Thank you very much, ladies, very -- both of you.
Want to get to this just into CNN, new details about how much special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into all the Russian election meddling actually cost you, the American taxpayer.
Jessica Schneider is live with me.
And what are the numbers?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, one week after we heard Robert Mueller's testimony, we're now getting a final glimpse at the spending that came from his office.
And we have learned in a filing that was just released from the Department of Justice that this special counsel investigation costs nearly $32 million. Now, this accounts for both the direct expenses from Robert Mueller's office, as well as the money that he borrowed from other DOJ components.
In terms of his own direct expenses for his office, that totaled $16 million. Of course, we know the president has repeatedly railed against this investigation, calling it a witch-hunt and also calling out among other Republicans the amount of money that this investigation has cost.
Now we know, after its completion, that it has cost nearly $32 million. Democrats, on the other hand, have been pushing back on this, Brooke. They have said that essentially that the costs that the government has recouped from these plea deals or convictions basically cancels out the entire cost of the Mueller probe.
In fact, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, just last week, when he opened the Mueller testimony basically said that the forfeiture from Paul Manafort would cancel out all of the costs of the special counsel's probe.
Well, we did a little bit of the number crunching ourselves. It doesn't exactly work out that way. Paul Manafort is expected to forfeit about $11 million. We know that $6 million of that will go to the IRS. And then there are other fines as well that will go to the banks that he defrauded.
Some of the other people here who have been convicted or pled guilty like Michael Cohen, they will in fact pay fines to the government, but that would go into a crime fraud fund that would only total about $130,000.
So, in all, Brooke, it does not look like the government will directly recoup this nearly $32 million. But we do know that is the final price tag for the Mueller investigation here, this two-plus-year investigation that has wrapped, costing taxpayers nearly $32 million -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.
Moments ago, President Trump announcing a deal to send more U.S. beef to Europe. Comes on the same day as a positive jobs report. But how good -- excuse me -- how good is the economy really?
We will take a look next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)