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Dem Candidates in Las Vegas Today; GOP Rep. Will Hurd Will Not Run for Re-election; Ratcliffe DNI Nomination Withdrawn; Saoirse Kennedy Hill's Death Examined; U.S. Adds 164,000 Jobs, Unemployment Holds At 3.7 Percent; Hong Kong Police Fire Tear Gas At Protesters; Cummings Speaks Out On Trump Tweet for the First Time. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired August 3, 2019 - 12:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: ... presidential hopefuls will be making their pitches, hoping to land the endorsement from one of the biggest labor unions in the country. CNN's Jessica Dean is in Las Vegas at the event. So Jessica, you know why is this forum so important for so many of these democratic candidates?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Are we still in commercial?

WHITFIELD: All right, Jessica. Can you hear me, Jessica? Hi.

DEAN: Fred, we're here in Las Vegas. And that's right, these candidates are looking for a big endorsement from one of the largest labor unions in the country. So what are they doing today? Today they get to make their case to so many of the members who are gathered here and watching all across the country. They're going to be able to ask about a lot of these issues. We just heard from the president of this union. They're looking at things that we've heard about on these debate stages -- heath care, immigration, climate change, how are families covering their basic needs, and health care a really big one because there's a lot of different plans here and these members are very focused on how does that impact their date-to-day lives.

So they're going to hear from a number of those candidates today. They'll have 15 minutes on the stage being interviewed and they're going to get the questions back and forth from the union members. Nevada, of course, a critical state in this 2020 primary. It has a big Hispanic population which they'll be talking to as candidates disperse from this and go out into the state. Also a heavy union population and that's a group they really want to get the endorsement of. That can be a big key turning point on the race. So they have a lot on the table in talking to these people today.

Now all of this with the candidates looking ahead to the next debate. Yes, there's yet another one. We just finished the last one. That's coming up in September and the stakes go up a little higher. It's tougher to get into that September debate. If you take a look, right now eight of the candidates have qualified. You're going to need 2 percent in four or move polls. You're also going to need 130,000 unique donors. That ups the ante for these candidates to get on the debate stage and that's important because that's how they get exposure and that's how you get fund-raising and that's how you continue to campaign across all of these states. So, of course, they'll be looking ahead to that, but again, Fred, today making the case to these union workers here in the critical early state of Nevada.

WHITFIELD: All right, we're looking forward to hearing and seeing some of that today. Jessica Dean, appreciate it.

All right, now to Washington where republicans have just lost one of the two GOP African-American members of Congress this week. Congressman Wil Hurd of Texas calling it quits, announcing he will not seek reelection next year. The news stunning Hurd's colleagues who have seen several other republicans also announce their retirements. CNN's Phil Mattingly has more.


REP. WILL HURD, (R) TEXAS: As Dan(ph) said, I'm Will Hurd. I represent the 23rd Congressional district of Texas.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ask republican officials about the future of the party in recent years and one name would inevitably come up, Texas Congressman Will Hurd.

REP. CHARLIE DENT, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I'll tell you if republicans have any hope at all of picking up some seats in this 2020 election, they're going to need people like Will Hurd.

MATTINGLY: Forty-one years old, former undercover CIA officer, winner of hard fought races in a majority Latino Texas border district tending toward democrats, the lone black House republican who repeatedly made the case that his party, which has grown whiter, older, and more male, needed to expand its reach.

HURD: My goal and what I'm trying to do is make sure that when folks look at me they're not like, hey, you're the outlier.

MATTINGLY: It's a position Hurd, one of the few republicans who would regularly vote and speak out against President Trump embraced.

HURD: Well I like to say I'm the face of the future Republican Party.

MATTINGLY: But one he'll no longer pursue from elected office. Hurd announced Thursday night he would not seek reelection, following seven of his colleagues so far this year including two of the conference's only 13 women members; a gut punch one senior House GOP lawmaker told CNN of Hurt's decision, yet one made at a time when Trump is the singular dominant force in the party.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fortunately I've made the economy so strong that nothing is going to stop us.

MATTINGLY: (voice over) Boasting about a 90 percent approval rating and a divisive and at times racist political attack strategy that Hurd made clear served only set back efforts to broaden the party's reach. CROWD CHANTS: Send her back. Send her back.

HURD: I think those tweets are racist and xenophobic. They're also inaccurate. I go into communities that most republicans don't show up in order to take a conservative message and when you have this being the debate, that activity becomes even harder.

MATTINGLY: But GOP officials note retirements are part of every election cycle and point to a concerted recruiting effort particularly among women candidates as they look to retake the House in 2020. Asked last week if the current atmosphere would lead to more retirements, House republican leader Keven McCarthy, a close ally of Hurds, said this.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) MINORITY LEADER: I think the reason people retire is their own personal decision and the time and place of where they are.


MATTINGLY: But from a near term political perspective, democrats are almost giddy saying that this is a clear pickup opportunity for their current majority. Republicans on the other hand say they are going to fight tooth and nail to keep the seat in republican hands. From a longer term perspective it's worth pointing out, Will Hurd is not leaving the Republican Party. In fact he's doing the exact opposite of it. He says he's going to remain involved in politics; he's going to remain involved in the party even if he's not going to be in elected office.

He says in his time outside of office, he will work to grow the Republican Party so that it looks more like America. Phil Mattingly, CNN, Capitol Hill.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk further now. I want to bring in Karoun Demirjian a CNN Political Analyst and Congressional Reporter for the "Washington Post" and Elena Schneider, national political reporter for "Politico." Good to see you both ladies. So Karoun, you first. We know that lawmakers, especially those in the minority party often leave. It's bound to happen with each term but this is quite remarkable. What is this signaling?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND "WASHINGTON POST" REPORTER: This signals that the party is moving towards -- the party that looks more like what President Trump's wing of the party is going to look like. The GOP does not have a lot of women. It does not have a lot of people of color and those it has it's been trying to hold on to and promote and use as the examples of, "Look, we can expand. We can grow our tent. We can be more diverse looking and we can have a broader range of perspectives as well. When you have people like Will Hurd leaving and you have others - other women leaving, you have other members of the Texas delegation leaving.

This suggests that first of all, the party is not actually speaking as widely as people were hoping that it could and also some of these seats, because we're talking about people who have won districts that are not necessarily firmly republican could now be in play and that means the democrats have an opportunity to seize additional seats which puts them even further back in terms of being in the minority.

WHITFIELD: And so Elena, you know Congressman Will Hurd, getting particular attention in part because he is the only black republican in the House of Representatives. But the party also appears to be struggling with women as well. In the mid terms democrats elected a record number of women while republicans fell to just 13 and two of those 13 women are now retiring. So can this also be directly related to this administration?

ELENA SCHNEIDER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER FOR "POLITICO": Look, republicans are really facing a serious challenge as they head into 2020 because there are actually more "jims" running for reelection in the House than there are republican women. So that really gives you a picture of just how deeply these republicans are in trouble in terms of appealing to those suburban women who were so critical in 2018 giving democrats the majority that republicans need to win back in order to regain a foothold in some of these key suburban seats, many of them in Texas, including Will Hurd's district, which sort of bleeds from the San Antonio suburbs out into the rural parts of the state.

But Pete Olsen is another district where democrats really feel like they now have an edge. So this certainly speaks to the problem that republicans continue to face in terms of appealing to women and seeing those numbers dwindle is really concerning not only for party leaders but also for people who want to see a more diverse party coming out of the republican - coming out of republicans.

WHITFIELD: And Karoun, I wonder what kind of impact it could potentially make once Congressman Will Hurd perhaps elaborates further with what he was struggling with, what brought him to this point when it wasn't that long ago that he talked about him being really kind of the face, representing a make up of the new Republican Party. And now, you know, he drops this bomb so to speak.

DEMIRJIAN: Right. It depends on what he chooses to say and it depends on what platform he has when he says it. Will Hurd has been a critic of many things that President Trump has said and done and he's been able to actually speak openly. You played a clip how he criticized Trump's most recent tweets; called them flat out racist. He's been able to do that because people basically look to him as the voice he is speaking for a certain wing of the GOP but also he's got a seat that's very, very important for them to keep. If they can keep republicans like Will Hurd in these seats that otherwise were trending democratic, that means that they can hold on to parts of the country that maybe were in jeopardy.

You have a little more latitude when you're an elected member of Congress that's going to be making those statements coming from the seat which you occupy. If Will Hurd has got some sort of a different political position or if he chooses to have elected office at some point in the future or is speaking from a campaign berth, he may have more latitude to be able to speak very openly but if he takes a step outside the fold of the GOP and there's no longer something for the party to protect there and he speaks more emphatically and more pointedly about the president than he has to this point. I mean you know that allegiances in Washington can flip on a dime and yes, Will Hurd is very, very much the symbol of what people want the GOP to became in the future and yet we've seen many times the party has acted against maybe its long-term future benefit for the short term political gain given that we're in an election cycle.


WHITFIELD: Elena, you know meantime, while the republicans are grappling with this within the family, democrats who are trying to be president are out in battleground Nevada courting a key consistency and that would be unions. They are trying to appeal to blue collar workers we saw some trying to do that at the Detroit debates, but how do they need to either modify their strategy from what we saw on the debate stage now before this forum, which is now under way?

SCHNEIDER: Well, look, I think that they all have different theories of the case. You have people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who are saying, "Look, we need to throw out the structure that we have right now around either health care or government writ large and start from scratch with things like Medicare for All." That may appeal to some labor unions and to people who are interested who feel like the system has been working against them. And in fact, that's sort of the same language and rhetoric that President Trump so successfully used in 2016. At the same time, there's going to be a huge population of Hispanic people in this crowd as well as Asian Pacific Islanders. Those are two of the biggest growing populations in Nevada, this critical battleground state.

And so I think people like Cory Booker or Kamala Harris, people who are really speaking to and addressing communities of color that they...

WHITFIELD: And right now Julian Castro is speaking.

SCHNEIDER: And of course, and Julian Castro as well. Andrew Yang in addition. So look, I think that they've all got different theories of the case that they're going to be trying to put forward and some may be more interested in sort of throwing out the rule book that something like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders represents but still others are maybe really like the health care that their labor union provides and may be are drawn to a more centrist message from somebody like Joe Biden who says, "Let's work within the system and improve what we already have."

WHITFIELD: And now Karoun, you've got what 118 members -- democratic members of Congress who are pushing for impeachment. Many of those candidates will be pressed on, you know, the momentum; does the House of Representatives have it? However, you still have a very cautious House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Do you see, you know, Karoun, the road ahead that Nancy Pelosi is going to receive a lot of pressure when they now have reached a milestone, meaning the democrats in the House, a milestone of the majority who are in support of some type of inquiry. DEMIRJIAN: Right. I don't think the 50 percent plus one mark

necessarily is going to make Speaker Pelosi change her mind overnight especially since the polls of the general public show that most people aren't for impeachment and she's trying to make sure her party is well positioned to win in a general election season. That means both keeping its majority in the House and trying to make inroads in the majority in the Senate and of course the big prize, that being the Oval Office and the White House.

But, certainly if this trend continues and we've really seen a deluge of democrats come out saying they're for impeachment since Mueller's hearing, which I believe was about ten days ago. We've seen numbers of democrats come out and actually take it up over the halfway point. If that momentum continues, if democrats continue to score wins in court, which is of course what Pelosi has said is her primary objective, each of those wins could bring more democrats on board if we start to see people like Don McGahn testify in front of Congress or parts of the redacted report come out. Each of these steps is potential fuel to this momentum of democrats pushing toward impeachment. If we start to take up to the point where three quarters of the party is for it, then Pelosi will be in a tight spot to say no.

WHITFIELD: Right, and of course Pelosi also trying to gauge while you have more members of Congress, democrats who are pushing for it still among American voters who have been polled, the numbers are still fairly low against impeachment proceedings. All right, Karoun Demirjian, Elena Schneider, thanks so much to you both. We appreciate it.

All right, still ahead, President Trump's top pick for Director of National Intelligence removes his name from consideration so who will President Trump pick next? Plus more heart ache for one of the most famous families in American politics. What we're learning about the sudden death of the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy.


[12: 15:00]

WHITFIELD: All right welcome back. Just days after nominating a new Director of Intelligence, President Trump is now looking for a new candidate less than a week ago, the president picked Congressman John Ratcliffe for the top intelligence post but now, the Texas republican has withdrawn his name from consideration. Ratcliffe had very little national security experience and his nomination has been in serious trouble from the outset.

A republican Senate source told CNN there was very little enthusiasm for his confirmation. The president blaming the press for Ratcliffe's downfall after questions surfaced over his qualifications or lack thereof.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I felt that Congressman Ratcliffe was being traeated very unfairly. I was reading the press and I think I am a student of the press and I could see that the press was treating him I thought very unfairly. He's an outstanding man and I asked him. I said, "You want to go through this for two or three months or would you want me to maybe do something else?"

And he thought about it. I said, "It's going to be rough. I can see exactly where the press is going."


WHITFIELD: CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood joining us now New Jersey where the president is spending the weekend. So Sarah, what happens now?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, President Trump is considering a hand full of names as his new nominee for the office of Director of National Intelligence. But President Trump withdrawing that nomination on Friday is a stark reversal from as recently as Thursday when he was defending his selection of Ratcliffe, describing him as a great pick, a great man amid pressure from Senators from both parties. Even GOP senators who were calling the White House raising concerns about the fact that there was very little in the way of national security or intelligence experience that Ratcliffe had.

There were concerns about his independence in that role, a very nonpartisan role and also amid Reports that Ratcliffe had embellished parts of his national security

record. And sources also told CNN that President Trump had privately expressed concerns about the confirmation process with Ratcliffe over the past few days leading up to his decision to withdraw that nomination. Officials also tell CNN that there was very little vetting done to Ratcliffe before the president nominated him or called that Trump only decided to pull the trigger on picking Ratcliffe after he watched the Congressman grill Mueller during those hearings just a week ago and that's just the latest in a long string of nominations that did not get proper scrutiny before the president announced them. But nonetheless, the president when he was leaving the White House to come here to New Jersey yesterday, defended the White House's process and said there's a role for the media in it. Take a listen.


TRUMP: Well no, you vet for me. I like when you vet. No, no, you vet. I think the White House has a great vetting process. You vet for me. When I give a name, I give it out to the press and you vet for me. A lot of times you do a very good job. Not always. I think the -- if you look at it, if you take a look at it, the vetting process for the White House is very good but you're part of the vetting process, you know? I give out a name to the press and they vet for me. We save a lot of money that way.


WESTWOOD: Now President Trump says he has a short list of names that he's considering. He said he hopes to have an announcement on a new pick as soon as Monday. Keep in mind that DNI Coats has said he will be leaving the job by August 15 so not a lot of time there for the president to choose a successor and to chose an acting Director of National Intelligence. He has said, officials have told CNN that he's not particularly in installing ODNI's number two Sue Gordon in the acting position or the permit position although he did praise Gordon on his way to New Jersey yesterday, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right coming up, another young member of the Kennedy family gone far too soon. The granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy found dead at just 22 years old. Details on an investigation straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: The Kennedy family is once again facing unimaginable loss. The granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy was found dead at the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod. Saoirse Kennedy Hill was just 22 years old. Authorities have not released a cause of death but an autopsy has revealed no trauma. CNN's Rosa Flores has more.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of America's prominent political families struck again by tragedy. Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter, 22-year-old Saoirse Kennedy Hill died Thursday after she was found unresponsive at the family home in Massachusetts. Her mother, Courtney Kennedy Hill was one of the 11 children of the late presidential candidate and his human rights activist wife, Ethel Kennedy. Police say they responded to a call about an unresponsive female at the Kennedy family compound, a place which captured the nation's attention during the presidency of John F. Kennedy in the 1960s.

Saoirse was transferred to a Cape Cod hospital say police where she was pronounced dead. The cause of death wasn't immediately released but authorities say an autopsy revealed no trauma. They are now awaiting results of a toxicology report.

The Robert F. Kennedy family issued a statement saying their hearts are shattered by the loss and sharing details about the difference the young Kennedy has made during her short life. Saoirse was passionately moved by the causes of human rights and women's empowerment and found great joy in volunteer work, working alongside indigenous communities to build schools in Mexico. Her death is the latest in a series of tragedies in the Kennedy family. President John F. Kennedy, and his brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated. David Kennedy, one of Ethel and Robert F. Kennedy's children died in a Florida hotel after a drug overdose. The couple's other son Michael Kennedy, died in 1997 during a ski accident in Colorado on New Year's Eve. And two decades ago, a small plane crash killed John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn Kennedy, and his sister-in-law Lauren Bassette. As for Saoirse Kennedy, her death remains under investigation according to police. Rosa Flores, CNN, Atlanta.

WHITFIELD: And up next, another jobs report. This one very positive in the books but as President Trump celebrates, he's also ramping up the trade war with China. More after this.


[12:32:09] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, welcome back. The U.S. economy added 164,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent. This marks the 17th straight month that it's been at or below four percent.

CNN's Christine Romans explains why these numbers could actually be showing some rougher times ahead for the U.S. economy.


An OK jobs report, exactly what economists have been expecting, 164,000 net new jobs in the month, that's right in line with the average for the year. Although I'll point out and you can see here in this chart, it is lower than the average job creation of previous years. So this is a job market that has been pretty strong for a long time and it's starting to show some signs of maybe petering out here a little bit.

Where were the jobs? They were in business and information systems. These are jobs that highly skilled, highly technically-oriented jobs that pay better. In health care, this has been years now of strong health care jobs creation, a really important part of the American economy.

And in manufacturing, we saw some faltering there. About 16,000 net new jobs there. The Bureau of Labor Statistic says that's essentially unchanged given the size of that part of the labor market. And for the year basically flat.

So you're seeing some stalling in this part of the economy in manufacturing. Really a lot of the jobs growth this year almost all of it has been in services not in sort of factory work. So that's something that could be reflective of the president's trade war. We'll be closely watching this. It's been the consumer and services that have been super strong for so much of this year.

The president's tariffs, of course, we don't know how that's going to play out in months ahead. The newest tariffs announce this week will hit things that consumers actually touch and buy, they go right into their shopping carts, shoes and computers and iPhones and all kinds of things that are consumer goods that have been protected from tariffs until now. So that could change the story for consumers and for jobs later this year.


WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much, Christine Romans. Hey, guess what? John Hope Bryant is here with me now. He is the CEO of Operation Hope which is the president's advisory council on financial capability. You have previously worked with this administration. Not as much now?

JOHN HOPE BRYANT, CEO, OPERATION HOPE: I've worked with the last five administrations and been an adviser last three, not this one. I am talking with them but I'm not advising.

WHITFIELD: Yes. What do you want the president to hear, particularly when you look at, you know, the DOW and where it closed on Friday? It was down 98 points but earlier in the day it was down 300 points. Why weren't investors happier with that jobs report which is hopeful?

BRYANT: I mean, if you're in an aspirational economy, you'll love the jobs report. If you have a college education, you'll love the jobs report. Each of you are aspirational, all your friends are doing well. But anything around nine broke people you'd be the tenth. So the average American has too much month at the end of their money.

[12:35:00] I just read -- what the president's needs to know is that the average American is borrowing $10,000 to get married. Consumer debt is going through the roof. So if you're going to have this situation where you're going to hit the tariff with China and costs to average consumers will go up at Walmart as a result of that, then it's nice to have lower interest rates in the midst of that. So that's what I call the political economy. By the way, we need to deal with China. So I'm not -- I think that we -- I'm glad that somebody's dealing with it. How you deal with it is important.

WHITFIELD: Yes, there's two things there. You know, yes, you have the tariffs on Chinese products, it means everyone, consumers, American consumers are going to pay more for things, that's one issue. But then even on that lowering of the interest rates, and you talk about how, you know, people are paycheck to paycheck.


WHITFIELD: That sounds hopeful, that sounds like a good idea --

BRYANT: It could be a real problem.

WHITFIELD: -- but usually you do that when you have the signs of a weak economy. Why is this in your view dangerous now?

BRYANT: It's dangerous because people are not financially literate. I start up by folks are borrowing $10,000 to get married. The consumer debt for auto loans through the roof, consumer debt for student loans, there's a new sub-prime crisis that we don't imagine well, $1.5 trillion. So we need -- everybody needs a massive financial literacy course, everybody not just poor people.

I mean, the new color is green. And that's what I think our political leaders should be focusing on. If you can't pay people more, we haven't had a pay hike really since the 70s for middle class, then treat them better which is financial well-being at the workplace., financial coaching -- Americans doesn't have a private banker. That's what Operation Hope is trying to do.

WHITFIELD: So who is the lowering of interest rates helping in your view?

BRYANT: Oh it's helping investors, it's helping builders. It's helping anybody -- it's helping people like me who's in my other efforts are investing it in things. It's really helping us. If you don't embed financial literacy in the least of these God's children, it can actually hurt those who can now get cheaper credit but don't know how to pay that off when it comes due.

WHITFIELD: Same question then, where are the gains for these, you know, tariffs on Chinese products if it's going to impact American consumers the most, what's the best argument for this administration as to why it wants to do this?

BRYANT: Well, I think you got to deal with China, as I said earlier. I mean, I'd really like them to deal with intellectual property rights stealing. Hello. They copy everything really well.

So you can't just let a bully get away with popping you in the nose. You got to deal with him. How you deal with them is everything. And I don't think we're doing this in an elegant way. I don't think it's very thoughtful, I think it's very sort of gunslinger approach.

I do commend them for dealing with them. I do commend this jobs report. It's a good jobs report on balance. But you look underneath that you have massive unemployment still in black and brown neighborhoods. Massive unemployment for those who don't have a high school education, who don't have a four-year degree.

WHITFIELD: Even though the president likes to tout, you know, the lowest ever unemployment rate particularly among African-Americans.

BRYANT: It's almost like when Chris Rock said I've never been to jail. You're not supposed to go to jail. OK, but when you get 30 percent unemployment in Detroit you're going to say but it's better than 35 was the unemployment in Detroit.

I mean, I get it but it is a great political sound bite but there is a crisis in of every inner-city I go into as recently as last week. And these folks are hard-working, they're well-meaning but it's what they don't know that they don't know that's killing them. But they think they know because they never got, again, financial literacy training. They never got the memo.

WHITFIELD: What do you like coming from any of the candidates, you know, who want to be president? Are you hearing a message that addresses any of this from these candidates?

BRYANT: I think it's all short term. I'm hearing -- I don't want the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, I want the get it done party. I want somebody to get it done. And I want somebody to give me real solutions and not something that makes me feel good. We're getting a lot of feel-good, we're getting a lot of not capitalism or socialism but idealism which you can't pay for.

I really want two plus two equals four, and give America a dream they can actually bank on upon intended. So I'm -- what I want is a political cease-fire on poor people. A political cease-fire economically in the middle class. Like play these games but carve the struggling Americans living from paycheck to paycheck out of it so that they can rely on some salient facts and some infrastructure like financial literacy, like some kind of savings vehicle.

Two of your workers -- two of your producers here got their jobs through internships. Let's have some cogent tax policy that rewards capitalists and builders, right, for massive internships. That will juice the economy on a sustainable basis. Massive apprenticeships.

WHITFIELD: Training availability of training helps shrink the gap.

BRYANT: Sustainably and permanently. Once you were educated, you're never going to be uneducated, right? People need as much education as they can shove down their throats, right?

[12:40:01] That is -- that plus capital access and access opportunity is the new social justice movement. And so we have all got to get on the same page.

And we -- you know, I keep joking to folks, everybody wants to be an American except Americans. We keep arguing with each other and throwing rocks at each other. And is the color is not a red or blue political party or black or white, it's green. And China is trying to eat our lunch, Russia is trying to eat our lunch, the whole world wants to be us. But we've got to get our storyline back and begin rallying for each other.

And I just feel that once a political leader becomes a public servant again and not just about me but about we, they will find America rushes to them, not just in the short term, not just for one quarter, not just for one sound bite but for a lifetime. That's what our real leaders in over 200 years have done.

WHITFIELD: All right, John Hope Bryant, always good to see you. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thanks so much.

WHITFIELD: All right, still to come, a tense standoff in Hong Kong. Police and protesters clashing in the streets for a ninth straight week. We're live on the ground next.


[12:45:05] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're watching the situation in Hong Kong where clashes are erupting between riot police and protesters for a ninth week in a row now.

Riot police fired more tear gas at protesters ordering them to disperse. Riot police appearing for a time to be surrounded by the protesters in fact. And these demonstrations have centered around protesters' demands for government reforms and free elections.

I want to bring in CNN's Ivan Watson who is in the thick of things there in Hong Kong. So what is the situation right now, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have seen clashes and confrontation in different neighborhoods around Hong Kong. Here, the demonstrators have taken control. If you take a look over here, you've got protesters for the most part in the streets here. Somebody has been hurling things down from this high rise and they're kind of firing their laser pointers at that.

And then moments ago, Fredricka, about 20 minutes ago, we saw a very dramatic scene as I come around this ambulance here of about 30, 40 riot police who retreated, clearly outnumbered into this police station here where they've move back as people were throwing things, things like water bottles and rocks here.

And I somebody smashed the light at the entrance of the police station and put some spray paint on the sign at the entrance. So in other areas where the police are in larger numbers, they've been able to push back these demonstrators. Here, it's the riot police who themselves have been forced to hide inside their police station.

This has been going on and it's been increasingly violent for nine straight weeks. It's the worst political crisis that Hong Kong has seen since it went from a hand over from British rule to Chinese rule more than 20 years ago. And we have demonstrators who've grown as well as the police increasingly violent with vandalism and arrests, scores of people arrested.

And what is perhaps most disturbing, there's no end in sight here. The government does not seem to be willing to make concessions to the demonstrators, and the demonstrators who initially were protesting against a law that would allow extradition to Mainland China, now there is just outright anger and hatred of the government here which is appointed by the Communist Party in Beijing, not through Democratic elections.

That is the gorilla in the room, young people who feel angry that they can't have a say in the future of their city.


Ivan Watson in Hong Kong, we'll check back with you. Thank you so much.

All right, meantime, this has been a particularly tough week and a half or so, in America, largely because of the president of the United States targeting a sitting member of Congress, Congressman Elijah Cummings who is also the chairman of Oversight Committee. The president unleashing racist rants targeting the congressman and then, of course, so many people, including other Baltimoreans who came to his aid. And now today, Elijah Cummings in Baltimore addressing all that he's been experienced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- remarks that instead of criticizing --

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): Yes, come and help, that's right. It can bring resources -- again, you need to read the Sun paper. I got to give it to them. They showed where Baltimore is not getting all the money that the president claims we're getting. And that a huge percentage -- I mean, I think we got eight million -- eight billion over two years and three and a half of that go to our hospitals. Three and a half. And then when you see the breakdown, and I beg you to go and read, OK, what we have done in this city.

And while you're here, (INAUDIBLE) to say, you need to -- almost anywhere you go anywhere near here including downtown is my district. And so we work with our business people and they work with us. Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland had been phenomenal.

And so, again, I'm meeting people every day, young people who came up in difficult and challenging circumstances and now they're doing great things. And I'll tell you it feeds my soul. This is what feeds my soul. So I don't have time for -- my mother used to say you concentrate on the things that are most important to you and these kinds of things are most important to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, have the House Democrats come out in favor of impeachment, is it time to proceed to an inquiry or formal proceedings?

[12:50:01] CUMMINGS: That's a very good question. You know, I've said -- first of all, I'm very clued in to what is going on with regard to impeachment, and I agree with Nancy Pelosi. You have to keep in mind that I am one of the investigating -- head of one of the investigating committees. So I think her course is the proper one.

We are doing our research. We are trying to do our jobs. And there may very well come a time when impeachment is appropriate. I've said many times that one of the lines for me would be when and if the administration disobeys court orders because I think then we have no choice. So we'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think your committee's work ignited the president's criticism?

CUMMINGS: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did your committee's work you think ignite the president's criticism?

CUMMINGS: What do you mean, I don't understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hearing with McAleenan.

CUMMINGS: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. And that's another great question. I do not know. But arms -- and by the way, to the last -- to your question, you know, a lot of people question -- may question our decision -- remember, I'm not -- I haven't called for his impeachment. And I'm trying to be fair to him, too. I want to be fair. That's why we need to do our research.

And, you know, -- and that's the way it is. One of the things that I want is to preserve our democracy. I worry that the democracy that we have will not be if we do not do something. And we'll do it. And we'll do what we have to do to address these issues.

But I'm not doing this for myself. At 68-years-old and a black man in America, I realize my life is short. I'm doing it for generations yet unborn. And that's what's so important. We want to send people into the future -- I often say our children are the living messengers we send to a future we will never see. And I want to send them strong, right, healthy, bold, and full of hope.

And so I think, you know, when I hear criticism by anybody about my city, I think the thing that bothers me most is that we have a situation where there are folks who are stepping on the foot, on the hope of our children. If I had the -- I don't know what I would have done if I had people in high places when I was a little boy telling me what I couldn't do. Instead, I had people telling me what I could do.

And the other thing, when somebody asked a question about what do I want to say to the community, to the Baltimore community. I want to thank you. I want to thank the Johns Hopkins of the world. I want to thank the Under Armour of the world. They give -- we get programs like this on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis.

I want to thank the Weinberg Foundation, so many foundations, and all of those people who have helped us to make sure that our children grow up to be all that they can be. All right? That's it.

All right, I hope I gave you enough you can work with.

All right, excuse me.

WHITFIELD: All right, you see there Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland of seventh district there, responding to the week and a half that it has been particularly for him, starting with more than a week ago whereas the president of the United States, you know, tweeting out criticism of Congressman Cummings, calling his district, I'm quoting now, the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States, no human being would want to live there. Insulting a host of people, not just the congressmen but then so many coming out in defense from, you know, actress Jada Pinkett to our own Victor Blackwell, talking about how hurtful seeing those comments from a president of the United States about Congressman Cummings and how those comments impact individuals from Baltimore and beyond.

The congressman coming out today at a grand opening of a play area in his district, and today being compelled to respond to how so much support has come his way.

[12:55:09] And of course thanking those who have supported him. You know Congressman Cummings had responded via tweet and otherwise about he goes to his district every day and how his commitment remains strong to his district and, of course, to all Americans.

I'm joined now by former Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez and former Florida governor candidate Andrew Gillum, former mayor of Tallahassee. Both political analysts. Thanks so much for being with me.

So, you know, the congressman has received so much support across the board, you know, for his commitment as a public servant for decades and being an eloquent leader in so many ways. Andrew, you first, you know, and for him to also be targeted not just by the president of the United States but for his home to be targeted with, you know, a burglary attempt, a robbery attempt and the president still, you know, being very cold, you know, about that response, I mean, others coming out. His former ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley saying, you know, that is so unnecessary talking about the president of the United States.

Just talk to me about how Elijah Cummings is handling this and how the support for him only continues to grow in the handling of this. And how so much disappointment continues to grow for the president of the United States in this manner.

Yes. Yes, Fred. I mean, I would also say that the president has not just been cold and cold-hearted, he's been outright irresponsible. I mean, the gloating tweet that he sent out yesterday almost celebrating, in my opinion, potentially inciting potential incidences against the congressman in the future, to me was obviously beneath the office of the presidency. Even maybe for Donald Trump, although there seems to be no low for him, there's no bottom for his antics and his tactics, but as for Congressman Cummings, he has been a true statesman in this process. He has stood up, he stood tall, he has quite frankly followed the advice of my grandmother where she said never ever wrestle with pigs because you both get dirty but the pig actually likes it.

He's doing better than I can because I'm finding it very, very difficult these days to provide intellectual and thoughtful analysis of the actions of this president when they are so subterranean, so beneath the surface, so beneath the office of the presidency, it's absolutely embarrassing. And quite frankly, the folks around him need to get him in check.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And Luis, you know -- I mean, the president actually seems to look at this as real capital, you know, this kind of criticism. He's not at all backing down, you know, by gloating about this, you know, experience that the congressman had at his own home there in Baltimore. But we know reportedly that many people in the White House wish the president or expressed that they're uncomfortable with the way in which the president has handled this or, you know, has instigated it. However, the president continues.

LUIS GUTIERREZ, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Fredricka, just roll the tape again of the congressman speaking to us. Just moments ago, look at how dignified he was. Look at how statesman he was and that's the Elijah Cummings that I know when I served with him in the House of Representatives, right. A true patriot and a true statesman.

And how sad it is that this president attacks him in this way but we know what the president is up to. The president is doing the same thing as when he came down the escalators when he said that Mexicans are murderers, rapists, and bad people and we need to get rid of them all. And that's why he's attacking.

How sad it is that in this country I have seen poverty and it is white and it is brown and it is black and you know what, it is all deplorable and we want to eliminate it all. But he wants to go back to I guess the George Bush years and say, well, you know, it's only black people that are poor. There's only black people that live in these conditions. The fact is that in America, unfortunately, millions go to sleep hungry and 40 percent of those that live in poverty are white. But the president only wants to focus and that shows us how untruthful he is. But you know what, America is watching. And this is why, Fredricka, 51 percent of the American public in the latest poll believes the president is a racist, right?

And that is why we'll hear, right, there are young rising stars, black stars in the House of Representatives in the Democratic Party has chosen not to run for re-election. That is why Mia Love, a contributor here too at CNN --