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Warren Tells NYT She Thinks Trump Is A White Supremacist; Biden: Trump Has "Fanned The Flames of White Supremacy"; Customers Threaten to Boycott Equinox Fitness Over Trump Fundraiser; Trump May Commute Rod Blagojevich's Sentence; AOC Calls Former Staffer's Controversial Post "Divisive". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 8, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:31:43] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: After the shootings in Texas and Ohio, Democratic presidential candidates are seizing on President Trump's rhetoric and criticizing him in increasingly harsh terms. The latest to do so, Senator Elizabeth Warren, was in Iowa at this hour holding a series of town halls. Warren says in no uncertain terms that she agrees with former Congressman Beto O'Rourke that the sitting president of the United States is a white supremacist.

Asked by the New York Times if she thinks Trump is a white supremacist, Warren responded without hesitation. "Yes. He has given aid and comfort to white supremacists. He's done the wink and a nod. He's talked about white supremacists as fine people. He's done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country."

Here's what she said to reporters about her comments just moments ago in Iowa.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's a man who cozies up to the white supremacists. He calls them fine fellows. He's talked about trying to get brown people and black people out of this country. He's talked about shit hole countries.

This is what he's done, the wink and a nod. And he can't have it both ways. He can't keep trying to stir this up, give aid and comfort, be embraced by the white supremacists and then say, oh, but not me. No. He's responsible. He's the president of the United States.


HENDERSON: And Mike, you were talking about this in the previous segment here. Is this a new moment? If you recall in 2015 or 2016, you had Hillary Clinton give a similar, you know, rhetoric and speech basically saying that Donald Trump was encouraging sort of the baser elements of society, but this feels very different from what we heard from Hillary Clinton. MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, it feels sharper for sure. It feels like candidates are willing to go further in not couching the kind of accusations that you just, you know, heard Elizabeth Warren make. I also think that in some ways the Democratic primary is a -- you know, one of the many kind of contests within the Democratic primary is to see who can push Trump's buttons the best.

I mean, you know, yesterday was undeniably I think a bad day for President Trump in terms of the optics and what happened. And part of the reason that it was a bad day was that the sort of Democratic -- his Democratic rivals understood how to get him to, you know, act poorly. That doesn't sometimes take a lot. But whoever ends up sort of emerging as the best able to kind of figure out what those pressure points are and get him to sort of react in ways that then sort of, you know, ricochet back on him I think will -- I think that will help them convince the voters that they're the one to take on the president on.

HENDERSON: Particularly these suburban voters, right, who could be the difference in this campaign. Joe Biden yesterday, he gave a speech, similar language to what we heard from Elizabeth Warren. Here is Joe Biden.


JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation. His low energy, vacant- eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists this week I don't believe fooled anyone.

[12:35:04] He seems more concerned about losing their votes than beating back this hateful ideology. We can't and I will not let this man be re-elected president of the United States of America.


HENDERSON: And Biden got good reviews from this speech including from folks who've been somewhat critical of him. David Axelrod among them. What did you make of what he said, also echoes of why he says he got into this race, right. He said he initially got into it because of Charlottesville.

ELANA SCHOR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. So this proved a nice moment for Biden. And, you know, I like that low energy dig at Trump which recalls what he did to a Republican opponent in 2016. So yes, it was a great moment for Biden, and it also, you know, fanned the flames of white supremacy comes pretty close to what Elizabeth Warren who is much further left than Joe Biden had to say about the president.

And to me the overarching theme here is, you know, in contrast to the Newtown shootings that Mike brought out earlier in this show, the Democratic base doesn't really want unity. They want somebody who can fight.

HENDERSON: And particularly on these issues that they care about, voters have moved left not only on all these issues that we talk about like healthcare but certainly on race as well.

SCHOR: Yes. So the difference that you see I think in the tone here has to do with that more than anything else.

HENDERSON: Cory Booker also weighing in from Charleston yesterday.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You reap what you sow. The act of anti-Latino, anti-immigrant hatred we witnessed this past weekend did not start with the hand that pulled the trigger. It was sowed from the highest office in our land where we see in tweets and rhetoric. Hateful words that ultimately endanger the lives of people in our country.


HENDERSON: And Heather, Cory Booker had a great debate many people thought, and here he is. Could this be a breakthrough moment for him in this campaign?

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think he's certainly hoping so. And this is an area, gun control, where Booker is very comfortable and has been ahead of the curve in some ways. In early May he released his own gun control policy plan which many other candidates hadn't done and weren't doing. And also, he and Joe Biden, this is an area where they both feel and hope that they can continue to shine.

For instance, Joe Biden, where he has been to the right of the base on many issues and at times struggled to explain his moderate positions, he's been pushing for gun control for decades and assault weapons ban. He helped led that in the 1990s. And so I think this is something that he can point to and say, look, I've been with you guys for a very long time, I'm still here. So I think they're both hoping they can use this.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And to that point, Democrats have a lot of division on policy issues from healthcare to immigration but when it comes to the issue of denouncing white supremacy, when it even comes to gun control, they seem to be much more unified. And seems that even the moderates and the more progressive members find the common ground on this issue. And the fact that both of those issues are in the news this week because of these mass shootings and at least in one case inspired by racism, they feel that they have the platform to talk with a unified voice to the American people.

HENDERSON: I'm sure the Iowa state fair goers are going to hear from these candidates on this issue this week.

Coming up, after a huge ICE raid across Mississippi, children who are preparing for their first day of school are now wondering what will happen to their parents.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:42:40] HENDERSON: Topping our political radar, Acting Homeland Security Circuit Kevin McAleenan is getting a first hand look at the situation on the southern border. He's in Arizona touring border facilities and meeting with National Guard and DHS personnel as well as state and local officials including Senator Martha McSally. His focus is the effect of the border crisis on local communities.

And a new U.N. climate report warns we need to eat less meat and change our food production practices or the ability to grow food will become increasingly difficult. The report says humans have damaged around a quarter of the ice-free land on earth leading to a vicious cycle that's causing deserts to expand and making forests more vulnerable to fire, drought, and pests.

After 680 undocumented immigrants were rounded up in a series of raids across Mississippi, a senior administration official tells CNN that ICE is working to quickly reunite detained parents with their families. In most cases, it was the first day of school for some of the children whose parents were detained yesterday. These students had to spend the night in the school gym, unsure when they'd see their parents again.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Government, please put your heart, let my parents see me. Anybody else, please don't leave the child with (INAUDIBLE) and everything.


HENDERSON: And we'll be right back.


[12:48:51] HENDERSON: Equinox Fitness and SoulCycle are facing cultural boycott because billionaire owner Stephen Ross is holding a high-dollar fundraiser for President Trump tomorrow. People who frequent the gyms say that President Trump's policies are out of sync with their progressive clients. Ross, he released this statement saying, "I have known Donald Trump from 40 years and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions. I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle."

And joining me now, we've got CNN Politics and Business Correspondent Cristina Alesci. Cristina, what has been the reaction to this?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: It's been fast and furious at least on social media. Look, we don't know exactly how this is going to impact the company's bottom line but what I can tell you is that SoulCycle and Equinox consumers and gym goers feel betrayed by this. Remember, these are two brands that incorporate diversity, inclusion, LGBTQ rights into their marketing. For example, in June they did a series -- SoulCycle did a series of pride rides to celebrate LGBTQ rights. [12:50:00] So, this is a customer-base that's very passionate about this, and they don't want to indirectly support President Trump by helping Stephen Ross make a profit by going to his gyms. Now, we spoke to some of those gym goers today. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we're outraged that the owner of this company is running a fundraiser for him. We're outraged. We may leave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really bummed to hear that the owner of Equinox is involved in Trump's campaign. It really bums me out.

ALESCI: Are you at all considering cancelling your membership and joining the boycott or?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I am. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I knew that, I wouldn't have come. I'd rather have plantar fasciitis without treatment than having to support in any way anything affiliated with Trump supporters.


ALESCI: Now the company is trying to distance itself from Stephen Ross issuing a statement saying, "Neither Equinox nor SoulCycle have anything to do with the event later this week and do not support it. As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians."

But this is -- I just want to call the statement out a little bit because it's a little bit disingenuous, these people, again, don't even want to indirectly support President Trump by frequenting and going to Ross' gyms because they see that as indirect support. And whether or not the direct profits from the company go to President Trump or into hosting this fundraiser is irrelevant to them.

And I've asked the company to -- I've asked the company whether or not gym memberships have declined. We have yet to hear back from them on that point.

HENDERSON: Cristina, thank you for that report.

Elana, I'll go to you on this. We've seen this before. We don't know how this ends. We don't know if people are actually going to quit going to these gyms. What's your sense of this?

SCHOR: I mean, certainly this is bad publicity for these brands because they're so closely associated with blue states and very, you know, anti-Trump progressives. I wouldn't be surprised if you see, you know, Flywheel Sports, the competitor of SoulCycle on social media sort of like kind of going hey, guys, we're over here. So I wouldn't be surprised if you see the bump for the competition emerge first. But as you pointed out this happens on both sides, conservatives have done similar things. HENDERSON: Yes. So we'll see where this goes but this is the era we live in, right? We talked about the sort of highly politicized time we live in and folks sort of wanting to have their values expressed in where they go to the gym. So we'll see where this goes.

Up next, President Trump says a former Democratic governor has been in prison long enough.

And we've just learned lemonade in Iowa is very expensive and that's going to be in our lightning round.


[12:57:18] HENDERSON: Leading today's lightning round, deja vu for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. President Trump repeating that he may commute the Democrat's 14-year sentence on corruption charges including attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. The president told reporters yesterday on Air Force One, "He's been in jail for seven years over a phone call where nothing happens. He shouldn't have said what he said. I would think that there have been many politicians, I'm not one of them by the way that have said a lot worse."

President Trump first mentioned a possible commutation over a year ago. You may remember that the two aren't exactly strangers.


TRUMP: Your Harry Potter facts were not accurate. Who did the research?

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: I was the one who said houses and classes interchangeable because I was trying to be more explicit so people can get a concept of it. But it's Slytherin and it's Hufflepuff and it's Ravenclaw.

TRUMP: But Rod, you're fired.


HENDERSON: Harry Potter facts not accurate there. Tolu, why bring this up now?

OLORUNNIPA: It's a little bit bizarre but it's the everybody does it defense that we've heard from the president so many times. He talk about it --

HENDERSON: But not him, of course.

OLORUNNIPA: Not him, not him but everybody else. He defended his son over the Trump Tower meeting saying everyone takes opposition research. He's defended Paul Manafort saying, you know, everyone is guilty of the same kinds of corruption that he does. So, this is the defense the president is using, and we may see a pardon come out of it. HENDERSON: And you had, Heather, Representative Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez talking about an aide and basically saying that -- she's basically distancing herself from this aide saying I think it was divisive. She said adding, "I believe in criticizing stances but I don't believe in specifically targeting members." This after the aide did target certain members. Why is she bringing this up now?

CAYGLE: I think she was asked about it because he's her chief of staff and he's leaving and she's trying to say, well, he's not leaving because of these tweets, we already had this, you know, in motion. And so she's distancing herself from the comments but defending him as a person. But this is a guy who had not made many friends on Capitol Hill. He was tweeting months ago about Democratic incumbents that he thought outside group should take down. So a lot of lawmakers on the Democratic side were happy to see him go.

HENDERSON: And finally, lemonade, here's a tweet we just got. Just happened to come across Elizabeth Warren buying lemonade for some girls in Harlan. It was $7. She gave them $10. This is Iowa and some really expensive lemonade.

SCHOR: Well -- I mean, I know one person who would kind of be happy to pay any price for lemonade, right?

SHEAR: Beyonce.

SCHOR: Yes. He was a Beyonce (INAUDIBLE).

HENDERSON: Does this come with a Beyonce album?

SHEAR: I don't think but the album was called that, right?

SCHOR: There again, I mean, it's a culturally significant beverage.

HENDERSON: Yes, he's with Queen B.


HENDERSON: Thanks, guys. Thanks for joining us on the INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar starts right now.