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Billboard Criticized For Inciting Violence On "The Squad"; Kentucky Coal Miners Protest After Not Being Paid By Bankrupt Company; Global Warming Causing Massive Wildfires Across Siberia. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired August 2, 2019 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00]

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And this issue, in particular, is something that we really haven't delved into. There's been a lot of stigma when it comes to mental health.

And just to hear this conversation -- I mean, you blow through commercial breaks, rightly so. You couldn't stop watching because you see both sides of this discussion in a way that people around the country clearly can identify with but don't feel comfortable talking about yet. So, to hear her perspective, to hear Anderson's perspective.

I think the critical part now, though, is if you're running for president and you bring up past tweets or past articles that you've promoted that don't have the science backing or that may have a bias in any way, shape or form, that was important for Anderson to point out.

I think the conversation overall is an important one and I would be very interested in having a mental health and just health care conversation with all of these candidates, focused on this issue. It's something that I think a lot of Americans would learn a lot from, too.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's a great point and that's one role that she does play.

GOLODRYGA: Yes.

CAMEROTA: She does bring up unorthodox topics and she would like to be talking much more about mental health.

But, of course, as she gains in popularity, Errol, this is -- this is how it works. You look at their past --

ERROL LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "YOU DECIDE" PODCAST: This is how it works.

CAMEROTA: -- and it's totally fair game.

LEWIS: It is fair game. Look, she didn't do a single thing wrong other than run for president,

frankly, because this is a conversation that does go on and that needs to go on. I mean, her skepticism about the pharmaceutical industry is absolutely well-placed and frankly, probably needs to be more thoroughly fleshed out in the course of the presidential debates.

But we're not used to hearing that, you now? I mean, we're not used to on cable television somebody saying you know what, look at all the ads that you guys are gunning, you know -- your channel, my channel, everybody's. And it does make an impact.

Look, we've seen rising rates of addiction, of suicide, of depression, of mental illness, and somebody needs to step out of the -- of the orthodox box of conversations and say this is happening for a reason and we need to do something about it other than resort to pills and a prescription and more money for big pharma.

BERMAN: Well, OK. And again, the point that Anderson was making is that anti-depressants save lives. And when you put a stigma on them for people it can be dangerous, just to give voice to what Anderson was saying last night.

From a political perspective, Sarah, you can't be defensive or angry when people ask you about your record. She doesn't have a voting record so people can't go back and look at the votes she's taken in Congress. She has no legislative record or governing record so people can't go back and look at what she's done while running a city or a state.

So people need to go back and look at what she's said and done in her job. And she just needs to be OK with that, correct?

SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's exactly right. That's not only the job of running for president but it sure is the job of being president is to be able to explain your views on the wide range of issues affecting Americans. And so, it's absolutely fair game.

I actually think she handled it, by and large, well. I think she's actually handled all of the debates better than expected.

That being said, you do have this perverse incentive right now of everyone running for president and her being a good example. Yes, it's been a few cycles now where outsiders are gaining some traction.

But also remember, at this point, Donald Trump was leading the Republican field. Marianne Williamson will most likely not make the next debate.

CAMEROTA: Well, we shall see.

In the meantime, let's talk about the strategy the Democrats seem to be using -- or one of the strategies at these debates this week that is now getting a lot of criticism, and that is to, I guess, reexamine, relitigate the Obama years and everything that Obama did so that they could criticize Joe Biden. And there were lots of people -- Rahm Emanuel -- and it sounds like

President Obama, himself, watching and saying what's happening right now? What's -- I thought that we were fighting Donald Trump.

And so, that strategy was interesting and I think unexpected for many people, and do you think it's a winning strategy?

GOLODRYGA: It made zero sense to me.

And you saw the president pounce on this yesterday, too, at that rally when he said look, they started bashing President Obama more than they bashed me.

Why you would go into a debate to attack or -- you know, it wasn't an aggressive attack but it was clearly a slight against President Obama, the most popular Democrat in the world right now. Ninety-five, 96 percent approval amongst Democrats.

Why you would attack him on issues related to health care, on issues related even to immigration when if the Democrats, which they have proposed that this country faces an existential threat from President Trump, that's the route they want to take as opposed to setting a united front, which you saw at points where they said anyone here on this stage would be better than Donald Trump. But then, they would pounce on this.

I don't think it's a winning strategy for them.

I think the focus on health care is an important one, but I think they need to focus on what they plan on doing to expand health care as opposed to, once again, at least have Americans feel that something may be taken away from them.

BERMAN: Watch what Joe Biden had to say about it because I think it's very interesting.

[07:35:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I must tell you, I was a little surprised at how much the 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, you know, it kind of surprised me, the degree of the criticism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: He says he's surprised. He looked disappointed, Errol. So then, I ask you why is he smiling?

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: I would submit because if you look at this counterintuitively, I think they're helping. You could make a case that they're helping Joe Biden by connecting him to Barack Obama and reminding people that --

LEWIS: From his point of view, that's his strongest card and he's going to play that -- continue to play that every day, to talk about Barack and to talk about how close they were and how friendly they were. And how much they want to continue the great work that they started and that sort of thing. But that's, of course, exactly why he's drawing all of these attacks.

Anybody who wants to get to first base has to get past Joe Biden. There's no way to get past Joe Biden unless you either go 20, 30, 40 years in the past and talk about his statements on bussing or something like that or talk about the more recent relevant past, which happens to be when he was vice president --

GOLODRYGA: But --

LEWIS: -- and you inevitably have to go after the administration.

GOLODRYGA: I would just argue it doesn't benefit Biden as much to Monday morning quarterback about this. We should have seen that side of him, if that's how he feels, on stage. It seems like he had a few hours from perhaps his aides and just seeing media coverage to really digest what had happened and what had transpired.

It took him about four answers on health care to finally even mention the word "Obamacare." So if this is going to be his strategy, he needs to invest in it 100 percent.

CAMEROTA: Sarah, from the Republican side, President Trump and Republicans seem to be lapping this up.

ISGUR: Yes. I mean, it's a -- it's a strange tactic when you look at the Democratic Party and I think Democratic primary voters, in particular.

But as Errol said, of course, the Democrats on that stage with Joe Biden didn't have another way around him. He was hugging the president and they decided to shoot the hostage. It was a -- it was a bizarre move but it makes sense for each of them individually.

What I think is very interesting moving forward and what Joe Biden has gotten very lucky with so far is he has not had that sort of progressive versus moderate versus establishment Democrat debate because Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have not tangled directly with him the way that they did on the first night. That's something to look forward to in the next debates.

Can he take on that argument where I don't think they're going to go after the president's record? They're going to make the case for a very radical shift in the progressive movement taking over the party.

BERMAN: Sarah, Bianna, Errol, thank you for being with us this morning.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much, guys. BERMAN: A shocking billboard targeting the so-called "Squad" is sparking controversy in North Carolina. We will tell you who is behind this and why he says he put it up, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:42:02] CAMEROTA: The four progressive congresswomen known as "The Squad" are being targeted again. This time, by a gun shop owner in North Carolina who put up this billboard that critics say incites violence. The owner of the gun shop says he'll take it down but he is not apologizing.

CNN's Martin Savidge has the story. Martin, what is this about?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Yes, I have covered this controversial gun shop and its billboards before. Many times, the billboards have had an anti-Muslim feel.

But this one goes above and beyond. And, of course, as you've already noted, it shows the four congresswomen of color who are known as "The Squad".

It depicts them as "The 4 Horsemen Cometh". It's a reference to the apocalypse. But it scratched out the "Cometh" word and has replaced it with "Are Idiots". It is signed, "The Deplorables".

Here's the thing. Anti-gun and civil rights groups say that this only could inspire anger, hatred -- perhaps even violence against these four members of Congress. It piles onto the hateful language that the president's already used.

The billboard company says it's going to take the billboard down. It says somehow the content of that sign managed to get past their management desk, and they've apologized.

The gun shop, though, is totally unapologetic and, in fact, says it will take the billboard and turn it into a bumper sticker.

Here's the owner defending the language.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOC WACHOLZ, OWNER, CHEROKEE GUNS, We don't like their message of turning this country into a socialist country. That's the message. Nothing more to read than that.

Well, they're calling us racists. I mean, I don't care if it was four white women, four white guys that have their view, they'd be on the billboard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: And I will show you that there is a litmus test you have to pass to get your bumper sticker. It says you not only show up at the store, you must eat a piece of bacon -- again, a reference to Muslims who, of course, don't eat pork -- and then you must tell the gun owner you're voting for Trump in 2020 to get the bumper sticker. "Snowflakes and liberals," the Facebook page says, "are not eligible."

John.

BERMAN: All right, Martin. Thank you for covering that and telling us what is being done down there -- very important. As you said, he promises that billboard will go down.

This morning, a group of coal miners in Kentucky is gearing up for a new day of protests. This will be the fifth. They say they're not going anywhere until they get paid. The company that oversees their mine abruptly declared bankruptcy last month leaving hundreds of workers without work and without pay.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in Harlan County, Kentucky with their story -- Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it is, in fact, a new day for these men and women who worked or work at the mines, but it means another day of uncertainty here.

Now, five days that they've essentially been camped out on these train tracks in southeast Kentucky demanding answers and more importantly, demanding their pay.

It was early July - July the first when Blackjewel, the company they either work or worked for declared chapter 11 bankruptcy and that essentially sent things into complete uncertainty, with many of these employees having their checks either bounce -- their paychecks bounce. And now, it puts them in a situation where they're unable to pay their bills.

[07:45:06] I was speaking to one miner right now -- a little while ago -- who says that she -- the last time she was able to fully pay her bills was essentially last month, not including July -- so, rather, in June.

So when you hear from some of these employees, you're able to hear the outrage as one individual, Chris Rowe, explains exactly how they got here in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS ROWE, EMPLOYEE, BLACKJEWEL: We had a couple of guys that live close by that had caught wind of the train coming in. And he went up and checked it and it was there. So we just all decided to come together and try to make a stand to get our money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: And as we heard from him and other employees, it seems that they certainly are digging their heels in here. They do not -- they do not plan on allowing any of these coal trains through these tracks here. The way they explain it, John and Alisyn, is they are the ones who dig this coal so they want to get paid for it before it leaves the area here.

CNN has made repeated attempts to contact Blackjewel, one of the largest coal producers in the country, but no comment so far.

CAMEROTA: OK, Polo. Please keep us posted on that. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, hundreds of wildfires are raging across Eastern Russia. The heavy smoke -- look at this -- it's blanketing cities in what has been described as a toxic haze.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in one of those towns to explain what is driving all of this smoke and these fires. Fred, what have you learned?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn.

Well, it's pure and simple. It is the global climate crisis that you can literally see, feel, and smell here in this part of the world.

And just to put these fires into perspective that have been raging out of control for months, if I take a commercial flight -- 3 1/2 hours to the west of where I am right now -- I would still be in the fire zone.

Now, the fires are being caused by rising global temperatures, by the melting of the permafrost here, and they're dumping megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Here's what we saw.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Hellfire in what should be one of the coldest places on earth. Russia's arctic is burning.

Firefighters we meet near the far eastern city of Yakutsk struggling to keep the flames at bay.

STANISLAV ZAITSEV, FIREFIGHTER (Pleitgen translating): We have a lot of land that is hard to reach so we need heavy machinery. By the time we get there they can spread very far.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): This year, they've spread extremely far. Fires are raging in almost all of Eastern Russia. By comparison, this would be the same area in the U.S.

Siberia's wildfires have gotten worse as our planet warms up. At the same time, the greenhouse gases they spew into the air contribute to further global warming.

Fifty megatons of carbon dioxide blown into the atmosphere by fires in arctic regions in June alone, scientists say, leaving scorched earth behind.

PLEITGEN (on camera): So here you see one of the reasons why these fires are so dangerous and spreading so quickly. There's a lot of dead undergrowth and dead trees here in this area that not only catch fire really quickly but then also store tons of carbon that's now being released into the atmosphere.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Towns like Yakutsk have been under heavy smoke for months while their foundation is literally melting away as the planet gets hotter.

This is what this region looks like underground. It's built on permafrost, now getting weaker as temperatures this summer soared into the 90s.

The head of Yakutsk's Permafrost Institute says the world needs to cut back emissions fast.

ALEXANDER FEDOROV, YAKUTSKK PERMAFROST INSTITUTE (Pleitgen translating): The depth of melting is growing, he says. The point of no return is almost here. We are at a critical point when it comes to permafrost.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And this is what it looks like when the point of no return is reached. Giant sinkholes, like this one, are popping up all over Siberia and growing.

The sound you hear is ice and frozen earth breaking off -- climate change in action.

PLEITGEN (on camera): The Russians call this place the "Gateway to Hell" because it looks almost like the earth is crumbling and the underworld is coming to light. And there are fears in this region that fast erosion like this could destroy entire cities very soon.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Melting permafrost also releases huge amounts of carbon stored in the melting ice, further fueling the hellish flames now eating their way through Russia's arctic and affecting our climate back home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And guys, the Russians say that they've now mobilized their military to try and help with these wildfires, but they say they're only putting them out if they endanger urban areas, not in more remote areas.

And by the way, the smoke from these fires has already reached the west of the United States, John.

BERMAN: Fred, I've got to say, the scope and the scale of those images and where you were, simply stunning. And it just goes to show, I think, the size of this problem.

[07:50:05] PLEITGEN: Yes, you're absolutely right. And something that we've seen here as well -- I mean, we've been flying over this area over the past couple of days and literally, every time you look out the window of your plane you can see fires and smoke underneath.

And a lot of these regions -- again, we have to say it -- they've been living with this for months. And one of the reasons they've been trying to put more pressure also on the Russian government is that people here simply say they can't breathe in the cities that they're living in, John.

BERMAN: All right, Frederik Pleitgen in Yakutsk in Russia. What a story. Thanks so much, Fred.

So, the numerical case that attacking President Obama's record might actually help Joe Biden. Inside the data, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: Twenty twenty Democratic hopefuls took aim at the most popular member of their party, President Obama. This happened at the CNN debates this week. Was that a smart move?

Let's get the forecast with CNN senior politics writer and analyst, Harry Enten. Great to have you here. Thank you for the bow.

[07:55:03] HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: Oh, I -- well, I mean, I'm in great presence right now.

CAMEROTA: It's true.

BERMAN: What do you got?

ENTEN: John's like --

BERMAN: Give me the numbers.

ENTEN: -- shut the heck up, Harry, and just get to the numbers, boy.

OK, here we go.

So, look at this. Views of President Obama among Democrats -- Democrat-leaning Independent voters. You know, what the heck are the Democrats doing?

This guy is so popular. Ninety-five percent favorable rating and just four percent unfavorable rating. I, myself, have a lower favorable rating than Wendy's and I eat it every day.

This is unbelievable. You cannot find a more popular figure within the Democratic Party.

BERMAN: Oh, but if you want a number higher than 95, there is somewhere you can look.

ENTEN: There is somewhere you can look. African American Democrats -- 99 percent favorable, zero percent unfavorable. There's one percent unsure. That's how you get to 100 percent.

And, Joe Biden's overwhelmingly been leading with this group. Not a big surprise if he's the one defending the guy who has a 99 percent favorable rating.

CAMEROTA: Well, John has been touting the philosophy in upside-down world where somehow this is helping Joe Biden. Your thoughts?

ENTEN: No, that's exactly right. That's not upside-down world, that is right side-up world. I mean, 99 percent -- the guy leads.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I'm saying that being critical -- you think that being critical of Barack Obama ends up actually helping Joe Biden how?

ENTEN: Well, the people -- the people -- the other candidates are critiquing Joe -- are critiquing Barack Obama so, of course, it helps him out if he's the one that's defending him.

And we can see this in another way. Look at this. This is the legacy.

So this is a question that Monmouth University asked -- building on Obama's legacy. Is it very important to you or not very important to you? Very important, Joe Biden crushing that vote 44 percent. If this -- if this was an electorate that didn't really like Barack Obama he'd been down at 25 percent.

It's this group -- the very important group -- building on Obama's legacy -- that is helping Joe Biden and that's why he's leading by 20 points in the polls right now.

BERMAN: What about the swing states?

ENTEN: So this, I think, is important, right? You know, we're talking about the primary but also about the general electorate.

If you want to go in and win those key swing states that Hillary Clinton lost last time in the Midwest -- Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin -- Barack Obama is a popular guy there. You can put him in there as a surrogate.

And if let's say those swing voters see you attacking Obama because he's not far enough to the left, they may think you're too far left and you may lose in these swing states just like Hillary Clinton did.

CAMEROTA: There was a lot of talk at the debates about health care and that, you know, people are -- many of the candidates want to move away from Obamacare.

ENTEN: Right, and I think this is also key.

This is a Kaiser Family Foundation poll that just came out this week. Would you rather build on the Affordable Care Act or would you rather replace it with Medicare for All and start all over? Democratic -- Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents overwhelmingly want to build on the Affordable Care Act and want to build on Obamacare.

You should not be going after Obama's legacy. It is a loser -- a loser in a Democratic primary.

BERMAN: You're saying it's a loser politically, geographically, demographically --

ENTEN: Demographically.

BERMAN: -- and on policy. ENTEN: It's just bad politics, folks. I'm not lying to you. The numbers are right here.

CAMEROTA: OK. What is 2020 ideology say to you?

ENTEN: So, you know, we just passed one debate. We're looking forward to the next one.

This is the matchup we haven't seen -- Biden versus Warren. And folks, I can't tell you of a differing group of people that likes these two candidates.

These are the percentage of the candidates' primary supporters who say they are moderate conservative. That is Joe Biden's base. Of course, Elizabeth Warren's base is very, very liberal.

So this is going to be a very interesting clash. We have not seen this, so far, where we're going to get a major ideological clash between two front-runners.

CAMEROTA: But hold on. Here's what I want to know. Who votes more, very liberal Democrats or moderate?

ENTEN: This group votes more and that's why Joe Biden is out ahead in the primary, so far.

One other thing I'll note, it's not just about ideology. Look at this. It's about race and it's about education levels.

Joe Biden's base is whites without a college degree. And, African Americans, they make up the vast majority. Elizabeth Warren -- the plurality of her base is whites with a college degree. So it's a lot of differences.

BERMAN: But what's interesting about that is everyone's looking for this clash -- this face-off -- but they're appealing to different groups.

ENTEN: They both can be doing very, very well. I wouldn't be surprised if those two end up as the two front-runners at the end of this contest.

One last --

CAMEROTA: Because one is for liberals and one --

ENTEN: One is for --

CAMEROTA: Moderates like one and liberals like one, so they could both do well.

ENTEN: Exactly right.

And one last thing I just want to point out -- Bachelorette. I just want to say I don't like Jed Wyatt, folks.

I do not like him. He's a bad, bad man. Zero percent -- Harry's personal favorable rating of him.

And, Shabbat Shalom -- have a good weekend, folks.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Boo. What more is there to say? Nothing.

BERMAN: You're right.

After Harry, the comics gave their own post-debate recaps. Here are your "Late-Night Laughs".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SETH MEYERS, HOST, NBC "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Marianne Williamson. Best case for Williamson, she gets a boost in her book sales. Worst case, she becomes President of the United States of America.

Senator Bernie Sanders. Best case, he finally secures the Democratic presidential nomination. Worst case, he throws his arms up so hard they get stuck that way, just like his mother always warned him would happen.

Senator Elizabeth Warren. Best case, she becomes a once-in-a-lifetime president who permanently transforms American society. Worst case, when the one-millionth person asks her if she's likable enough to become president, she finally snaps, murders them, and spends a decade in prison.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right.