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CNN Poll Shows Biden Regains Double-Digit Lead Over Democratic Field; Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) Minnesota And Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D) Michigan Respond To Ban From Israel; FAA Panel To Issue Report On Airplane Certification Process; White House Officials Have Discussed Potential Payroll Tax Cut; Trump Says, We Do Have A Lot Of Background Checks Right Now. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired August 20, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:02]

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question is what happened to the students, we don't know, and why is this --why does this keep occurring, that is something to look at, Jim.

JIMSCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Just incredible in the year 2018. It is not funny. They had another history, shocking to see. Sara Sidner, thanks for telling us the story.

SIDNER: Sure.

SCIUTTO: A very good morning to you. I'm JimSciutto in New York. Poppy Harlow is off today.

His rivals have policy plans they are releasing this morning, but frontrunner Joe Biden has the polling. Today, a new CNN poll shows him blowing the other candidates out of the water, his lead nearly twice that of closest rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Democratic voters apparently agreeing with the Biden campaign that he has the best chance to beat Donald Trump. That message made clear in a new Biden ad targeting Iowa voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to beat Donald Trump and all the polls agree Joe Biden is the strongest Democrat to do the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: CNN Political Director David Chalian joins me now live from Washington. A consistent feature of the polls since he's been in the race, and even before then really is, he is a frontrunner with a big lead and now even a bigger lead.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, without a doubt, Jim. The durability of Biden's frontrunner status has been the overarching story of this nomination race thus far. You showed the horse race there, 29 percent, he's back up to a double-digit lead. We saw that lead narrow in our last poll immediately after that first debate, but this is the snapback poll to where things were. Sanders and Warren battling for second place at 15 percent and 14 percent, Buttigieg and Harris round out the top five at 5 percent, everyone else 3 percent or below.

Look at the movement since that last poll at the end of June in our CNN survey. The big movement here, you see Biden up seven from that immediately -- immediately taking that punch from Kamala Harris in Miami. That's what that 22 percent, now back to 29.

The other big movement in this poll down here, Kamala Harris taking a nose dive of 12 points from 17 percent back down to 5 percent in single digits around in the range where she was before that big moment. So what that shows us was that Miami debate did have an impact, but it wasn't long lasting and we're seeing the race return to Joe Biden being the frontrunner.

And take a look at this notion of ideological battle and divide going on inside the party. If you're a self-declared liberal in this poll, Biden, Sanders, Warren, they're all in a dead heat for the liberal voters. But look at Biden's advantage among moderate to conservative Democratic voters or Democratic-leaning independents in this poll, 34 percent are with Joe Biden, compared to 9 percent for Sanders, 7 percent for Warren. This is a big strength for him, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. So the Biden campaign, even Dr. Jill Biden, his wife making the point yesterday at an event that this is about electability and some of that is in the numbers, is it not? The Democratic voters not only prefer him but see him as the most likely to beat Trump?

CHALIAN: You are absolutely right. 54 percent in this poll, a clear majority of Democrats, say they want a candidate that has the best chance of beating Trump, versus 39 percent who say they want a candidate that shares their position on the issues. This is critical to a majority of Democrats and it is a Biden strength.

But take a look at how different demographic groups perceive this question. If you take the white non-college educated versus white college educated, non-college educated folks, it actually is a little bit of advantage to somebody that shares their positions, but splits evenly. If you've got a college education in this poll, my God, 65 percent want getting rid of Donald Trump as issue number one, 29 percent say shares a position on your issues.

The divide gets even starker when you look at age, Jim. Look at this. Among people 45 and older in this poll, among Democrats 45 and older, 66 percent want the candidate that is the Trump defeater. 25 percent, somebody they share positions with. Under 45, this is where the young vote comes into play, 56 percent, a majority of the younger voters want somebody who shares their position versus 41 percent say they want somebody who can defeat Donald Trump above all else.

SCIUTTO: And as those older voters, they tend to vote more though, so maybe they have more sway. David, thank you so much. CHALIAN: Sure.

SCIUTTO: Joining me to discuss what all this means, CNN Political Analyst Joshua Green, he's National Correspondent for Bloomberg Business Week, and CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein, he's Senior Editor at The Atlantic.

So, Ron, you look at this, it's been a consistent frontrunner status for Joe Biden since we've been doing the polls on this. Do you see this as nearly inevitable or we've got a long way to go?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, we do have a long way to go. But there is structure to this race. I mean, it is kind of extraordinary with over 20 candidates, how the voters have really tiered this off. And at the moment, you are looking at three candidates who are all white candidates, basically 70 or older, dominating the field at a time when the Democratic Party is more diverse and relying on millennials than ever.

[10:05:08]

That's kind of striking.

The structure of the race is that, basically, Joe Biden is very strong among voters who are essentially middle-aged, middle of the road, middle of the country. His advantage among older voters, his advantage among more moderate voters is very consistent, maybe the most consistent note in polling throughout this race. And I think there will be increasing notice on the left that if you add up the support of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, it takes you up to where Joe Biden is. And the fact that both of those candidates are the two other strongest ones at the moment is an advantage for him.

The last point worth noting is that the race is more competitive right now in those first two States of Iowa and New Hampshire in part because candidates are paying more attention to them, but also because Biden's advantage among non-white voters doesn't come into play in two States where about 90 percent of the electorate is white.

SCIUTTO: And those two early primaries, they can make a big difference in the way the national race looks. But you heard, Joshua Green, Ron Brownstein say middle-aged, middle of the road, middle of America voters driving the support. Those are the voters Democrats need to win, do they not?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they really are. And that, in a nutshell, is Joe Biden's case for why he should be the Democratic nominee. I think what's interesting to me in this poll is from the moment he got in, he's been the frontrunner in just about every poll we've seen but the lead has gradually eroded a little bit.

This is the first poll I have seen where Biden measurably jumps up. He was at 22 percent in the last CNN poll. He's at 29 percent in this poll. That says to me that his appeal is more enduring than a lot of political analysts believed even a month ago after that first debate in Miami. SCIUTTO: Imagine that, if the polls defy the political analysts, Ron Brownstein, that could never happen.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, can I just add what Joshua said? I mean, the one thing is -- I agree with you, because the one thing that's been consistent even when Biden's lead in the horse race has eroded in some of the national polls, his advantage over which Democratic is best suited to beat Trump really has not been challenged by anybody else at any point in this process, and that is a big safety net for him, especially when you look at those voters over 45 who, first of all, as you point out, they were 60 percent of all the primary voters in 2016 were over 45. They are more concerned about electability.

And if you look at some of these polls both nationally and in the states, Biden leads among those voters on who is the most electable against Trump by ten to one sometimes. So especially among that over 45 group, he has an overwhelming advantage. And I really believe that until Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris punctures that advantage, he is stronger than he may look at any given point in the horse race.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and those older voters, I mean, show up at the polling booth. They actually vote.

Let's talk about some of the other candidates, Josh. Kamala Harris had a great launch, she had a great first debate. She's fallen off a cliff in this poll.

GREEN: Really fallen off a cliff. And what that says to me is that these viral moments that drive Twitter attention, that drive fundraising attention, they're important but they don't necessarily translate to enduring support. You look at a different candidate, someone like Elizabeth Warren who has steadily gained voters throughout the primary process, she hasn't really done it with viral moments.

To me, that's the way to advance for Democrats. Harris needs to figure out a way to get back into the conversation to get voters excited about her, because, clearly, this poll shows that their interest level has fallen off.

SCIUTTO: Warren in these figures, she had, Ron Brownstein, something of a rise over the last few weeks, steady, playing a long game, you know, tortoise versus the hare, all these policies, I've got a plan for that. In this poll, it leveled off a bit, and as you noted, splitting that progressive vote, if you can call it that, between Bernie Sanders. Can she jump out of that?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, the challenge -- I think the challenge -- there's no question, as Josh said, she is building support, I think, more steadily and she is probably stronger in those first two states by all indications than this national poll suggests.

Her problem is the candidates with her profile, which is white liberals who depend mostly on college educated white liberals, have not won the nomination since George McGovern in '72. I mean, every other one, McCarthy, Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley, Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders, they all fall short unless they can across the racial divide and appeal more to African-American voters.

She really needs -- unless she can expand her appeal, Elizabeth Warren needs Kamala Harris to recover. Because the risk she faces is that even if she squeezes out Bernie Sanders and becomes the candidate of the white left in the Democratic Party, if Joe Biden is winning moderates and then black voters three to one, the math doesn't come close to adding up. If Elizabeth Warren cannot appeal to black voters better than her predecessors and kind of this one-track lane, she needs another African-American candidate to peel away some of those voters. And right now, it doesn't look like that's happening.

SCIUTTO: Well, right now, the one winning the lion's share of African-American voters is Joe Biden, not Kamala Harris, not Cory Booker, which is notable.

[10:10:01]

I want to switch gears from 2020 if I can. We heard from Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar yesterday about being banned from their planned trip to Israel. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us. So I call on all of you to go. The occupation is real. Barring members of Congress from seeing it does not make it go away. We must end it together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Joshua Green, where does this go from here? President Trump has relished this, using it as a way to paint Democrats as somehow across the board anti-Israel. Where does this go from here?

GREEN: Well, it's not clear. I mean, it's unprecedented for Israel to have banned two sitting members of Congress. And, clearly, this is a fight that Trump wants to stoke. He thinks that it benefits him when Democrats are having fights over racial issues, over Israel. But it's not clear that that's really going to help and it's not clear what is going to put a break on this process.

Some of the Democrats I've talked to have been very upset. They talked about maybe pulling back U.S. financial aid to Israel, something that hasn't been seriously discussed in years all of a sudden is on the table. So I don't think we know where this ends or where it goes next. It could be up to Trump and his decisions on whether or not he wants to exacerbate this fight.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And there are concerns in Israel about support for Israel. It traditionally has been a bipartisan issue and to have that kind of party, for sure (ph), concerns many on the ground there. Josh Green, Ron Brownstein, thanks very much to both of you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you. SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, in the wake of those two deadly Boeing crashes, a global panel is making new recommendations to the FAA, detailing ways that it can improve certification for planes. What will that involve? How will it make you and I safer? That's next.

The president says the U.S. has the strongest economy in the world, but a new report says the White House is discussing the possibility of a payroll tax cut. If everything is fine, why the concern?

And a disturbing new CNN story, huge amounts of plastic invading an entire ecosystem, destroying wildlife, all in a remote area in the middle of the ocean. How scientists are racing to stop the never- ending flow of garbage. It's a remarkable story. It's shocking. We're going to take you there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:15:00]

SCIUTTO: A global advisory panel is making its recommendations on ways the FAA can improve its certification process, this after the deadly crashes of two Boeing 737 Max jets. The jet liners were grounded after 346 people died aboard Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia.

CNN's Rene Marsh joins me now live. So, Rene, what do we know about this panel and its findings? I mean, the key here really is how to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim. And, you know, everyone is -- internationally, their trust was shaken with the FAA after these two crashes.

Let's talk about this panel. It's an international panel. We do know from sources it's in its final stages of its work. This advisory panel is made up of reps from nine countries, aviation experts, also reps from the FAA, and they are essentially tasked with scrutinizing how the FAA certifies aircraft as safe.

Now, the FAA certification process has faced a lot of scrutiny, international scrutiny, following those two deadly 737 Max crashes. In particular, I'm told that this panel has been looking into ways to prevent issues from slipping through the cracks. As it appears to have happened with that automated system on the 737 Max, we know as MCAS, which essentially automatically pushes the nose of the plane downward.

I'm also told that we can expect that the panel will suggest that the FAA address this reality and safety concerns that aircraft technology is becoming far more sophisticated than the regulations that govern it. So they will have to address that reality.

Now, the group's recommendations will essentially look at the deficiencies and here's why this all matters. The FAA certification process and its regulations are essentially the bedrock of aviation safety for aircraft. They don't just fly in the U.S., but they fly internationally. So improving the agency's process will certainly help ensure that this sort of fatal crash never happens again, Jim.

SCIUTTO: I mean, one of the most amazing things about this story is that the FAA lets the manufacturers certify most of the plane. The outsource it. You know, the question going forward, can they fix that. Rene Marsh, thanks very much.

Also this morning, CNN can confirm that the White House discussed the possibility of a payroll tax cut to head off a potential economic slowdown, this discussion in recent days. This is all despite the president and his advisers saying the economy is just fine. They have no concerns about a recession. All those concerns are fake news.

[10:20:01]

CNN White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez has more details. Does this reveal, Boris, genuine fears in the White House of a slowdown?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it certainly raises the question as to why the White House is having these private conversations about potential tax roll pay cuts to try to stave off an economic slowdown when they keep suggesting publicly that the economy is doing just fine. We understand that these conversations are still in the early stages. Publicly, the White House has said that a payroll tax cut is in under consideration at this time.

But as I said previously, all we've heard from the White House, from the president's Tweets and re-Tweets, from Kellyanne Conway, Larry Kudlow, Wilbur Ross, is that the economy is doing just fine. In fact, Larry Kudlow is scheduled a series of phone calls with business leaders just this week to try to gauge their feelings on the economy and the state of the -- the health of the economy. The White House says that was previously planned.

But, really, this shows that the White House is concerned about the economy. We know that President Trump has had conversations with aides recently about whether this trade war with China could impact his chances going into a 2020 re-election campaign.

Keep in mind, U.S. steel is losing jobs, R.V. sales are down, which is an indicator of the strength of the economy moving forward. Aside from that, there's volatility in the stock market.

So, of course, the president having touted his record on the economy as one of his strongest selling points for voters has to be concerned about a potential recession going into 2020.

Aside from that, we will hear from the president today. He's set to welcome to president of Romania into the White House at about 2:00 P.M. You can bet reporters will be asking him about these potential payroll tax cuts, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. Boris Sanchez, always good to have you at the White House. Thanks very much. Coming up, will Congress do anything when it comes to stronger background checks on gun sales once they return from recess? Remember all that talk about coming back early? Well, we're going to ask a Democratic congressman whether anything is going to get done this time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:25:00]

SCIUTTO: Can you believe it? It's been just over two weeks since the shooting massacres in El Paso and Dayton left 31 people dead. And in that time, President Trump has gone from supporting stronger background checks on gun sales, remember that, to backpedaling.

The president is now saying that the U.S. already has strong background check in place, and, of course, an NRA talking point. That has Democratic Senate Majority -- Minority Leader, rather, Chuck Schumer hitting Trump for pivoting so quickly, saying, quote, we've seen this before, President Trump feeling public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a horrible shooting, talks about doing something meaningful to address gun violence, but, inevitably, he backtracks in response to pressure from the NRA and the hard right. In fact, the president did do the same after the Parkland shooting.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

You know, Congressman, I went to El Paso and Dayton. People were asking me there repeatedly, will this time be different. It doesn't look like it will be, does it? Will anything get done?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): I don't think so. We're going to have a hearing on September 4 to deal with more extensive background checks than the bill we've already passed that's sitting in the Senate, also to deal with high capacity magazines and also the red flag laws, both status (ph) for state governments and a federal law. We'll pass them out of the committee and we'll have to argue with the Republicans. There won't be much support there. There may be some for background checks. I don't know. But the NRA is against it all and so Trump will be against it.

I think back up on the hearing he had on the Parkland shooting in the White House with all those victims, and he acted so concerned and so interested and how incredulous he was that 19 year olds could buy -- or 18 year olds could buy those weapons. This 21-year-old for pistols but not for those type of rifles and --

SCIUTTO: And magazines, right?

COHEN: And then he did nothing. Yes. Then he did nothing.

And so it's criminal to use those victims as a prop, to act like he cares, and then not to do it.

SCIUTTO: I had something of a frustrating exchange with Congressman Tom Reed in the last hour where I asked him. I think we still have a picture about the magazine that was used in the Dayton shooting. This magazine, that double drum barrel magazine, as you see, carries 100 rounds. It helped the shooter in Dayton kill nine people in 40 seconds, less than a minute. And the congressman wouldn't even say that should be illegal. I mean, is there any movement from your Republican colleagues on banning magazines like that? I've never seen that in the hands of a U.S. soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan, let alone on the streets of Dayton.

COHEN: No, there hasn't been any movement that I'm aware of. There are a couple of independent-thinking Republicans, but there are not many, and I don't think they exist on our committee. So it's just an unfortunate circumstance.

We need to ban assault weapons too, but that's a problem with defining the AR-15, the AK-47, exactly what it is. I think they did it in the Brady bill and eventually we'll get to that too.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, that's the thing. I mean, in the past, Congress has passed measures, in 1994, and the crime bill included assault weapons ban although as some said it (ph).

I want to ask you about the economy. You have the White House in public saying the economy is just fine, but in private, now discussing a payroll tax cut to help stave off even the possibility of a recession.

[10:30:08]