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New CNN Democratic Polls; Harris Falls in Polls; Warren's Criminal Justice Plan; ISIS Regains Strength in Iraq and Syria; Russia Blasts U.S. for Missile Test; U.S. Refuses Flu Vaccines at Border Camps. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 20, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: At this point they feel that way. We're getting closer to the voting. Things will change a little bit.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow.

A busy news day. Brianna Keilar starts "RIGHT NOW." Have a great afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, Jill Biden making an extremely blunt argument for the 2020 election, essentially telling Democrats on the fence to settle for her husband because he's the only one who can beat Trump.

ISIS is back just five months after the president declared the terrorist group 100 percent defeated. Hear where and why the militants are resurging.

Plus, the White House considers a new tax cut to juice the economy that would also balloon the deficit. And, yet again, another group of American high school students seen giving a Nazi salute to a Nazi marching song.

And we start with a new look at the Democratic presidential race, a look at where the candidates stand as we get closer to the third debate. As he has in previous polls, former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the way, but his lead had been shrinking since the first debate. So where does this race stand right now?

Our Mark Preston here with all of the numbers and in our new CNN poll.

Break this down for us.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Brianna, as you said, Joe Biden, who has now come out of two debates, has a commanding lead. Let's take a quick look right here. Look where he is right now, a double digit lead over Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And then the drop-off goes down to Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. But where is his strength right now? Let's take a look right now at

where we was and where he is right now. Where he is, 29 percent in June, he was at 22 percent. He is up 7 points. Where he's strength, though, is coming from all the voters, conservative voters, moderate voters and self-describes debates right now, Brianna.

At the same time, look at Kamala Harris right now. She has plummeted now 12 points since the last June poll. She is now at 5 percent. Where did she lose her support from? From liberal voters. She plummeted by 20 points amongst liberal voters. But, Brianna, as we make the turn into September right now, what are people looking for? They're looking at the next debate. And we do know that Julian Castro is the tenth candidate so far who has qualified for the debate that's going to take place next month.


KEILAR: All right, Mark Preston, thank you so much.

And in this new poll, Senator Kamala Harris has dropped lower than where she was even before the first debate. She was at 8 percent then. She had that post-debate bump to 17. And now she is down to five. So her campaign is watching all of this right now and trying to figure out how they can regain some of that momentum.

Let's talk now to our analysts here. We have A. Scott Bolden, he's an attorney and former chair of the D.C. Democratic Party. Rachael Bade is a CNN political analyst for us.

This is -- that's quite the fall. What do you think led to that?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I mean, this sort of shows that you can have these viral moments in a debate, like Kamala Harris did just a few weeks ago when she took on Vice President Joe Biden on the issue of busing and segregation. And, you know, that really shot her up in the polls. But that was a fleeting moment and you can't just sort of rely on those moments that take you viral to continue in the polls. As time goes on, you've got to really show more than that. And so I think that this is just a testament to how these moments in the debate, how they can really make a candidate stand out. And she certainly did that. But it wasn't enough to sort of keep that momentum. She needs more.

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, ATTORNEY: Well, you need sustainability, though. You really do. And this is a long race.

But let's remember, this is not even September yet. This is one of many polls that we're going to see. I don't think America is paying attention really the -- other than the political junkies or the news junkies like us or my buddies are really paying attention until after September. That's the first thing.

Second of all, each of these candidates has to create space. You work the 22. I think we're down to 10 now in September. That's significant. It's going to shrink even more. And her strategy is to run strong in South Carolina and California and put a gap between her and everyone else. But she's got to get there.

I was in Martha's Vineyard this past week on vacation and she had several fundraisers there before these polls came out. But the bottom line is, she could not continue raising money and continue to be at 5 percent and think she's going to get to California.

KEILAR: I mean it shows you why being an established quantity like Joe Biden is actually helping him at this point in time.

Listen to what Joe Biden's wife, Jill Biden, said. This was her message to voters. Basically, you may not like my husband more than other Democrats, but he's still the clear choice, and she said it was for this reason.


JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF JOE BIDEN: I know that not all of you are committed to my husband. And I respect that. Your candidates might be better on, I don't know, health care than Joe is. But you've got to look at who's going to win this election. And maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, OK, I sort of personally like so-and-so better. But your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.


[13:05:15] KEILAR: I mean, wow, right?

BADE: Not exactly a ringing endorsement of your man, right?

BOLDEN: Let's put this in context, though.

KEILAR: But she's -- but she's --

BADE: Right.

KEILAR: But she's being so -- I mean she's saying what she's thinking out loud.

BOLDEN: But, look, he's at 29 percent. And everyone else is at least 15 points behind him. That's the first thing.

Second of all, we know that the polling shows that the majority of people want to beat Trump, or rather Democrats want to beat Trump. And (INAUDIBLE) she's in a mixed audience, too, by the way.

KEILAR: Well, that's right. Look at --

BOLDEN: And so they're -- every -- as she said, everyone in this audience doesn't support my husband, but here's the differential. The value differential is, he can beat Trump and consider him.

KEILAR: Let's look at our poll here. Fifty-four percent say a strong chance of beating Trump is the most importance attribute for a candidate. That's actually down from 61 percent in June.

So how important is this electability argument, do you think? BADE: Yes, the fact that it's down is pretty significant. I mean clearly this is intentional. Joe Biden is trying to make this electability argument. And for a lot of Democrats, it's more important that the candidate can beat Trump than the candidates say endorse Medicare for all, if the person is a big supporter of Medicare for all. But with that number going down over time, the question is how long can they make that argument. And there's a couple of other things here. I mean Hillary Clinton tried to make this argument in 2016 and, sure, it helped her in the primary. She handily won. But then it didn't really turn people out. People never really fell in love with her. Democrats didn't. And so that was a big problem for her in the general election, right?

BOLDEN: Right. But that's not the reason she's making that argument right now. Because the other candidates who are 15 points or month behind, their biggest challenge, regardless of whether they're liberal or whether they like Medicare for all or not, is their electability. A real question for their support. So they've got true believers and the question is, are they electable? Can they beat Trump? One poll showed every one of them could beat Trump, but not like Joe Biden within the traditional Democratic base he has.

And, remember, the Democratic Party is a lot more conservative than the liberal wing, those who get all the media attention. And that's why he's back up to 29 percent. He can't maintain, he's got to fight for the future of the party and he's got to fight for this nomination, but he's in a really good spot right now.

KEILAR: A policy plan out today from Elizabeth Warren. She released her new law enforcement reform plan today and she wants to repeal the 1994 crime bill, decriminalize marijuana, including erasing past marijuana convictions, and then she would also change the way that police do their jobs, including setting a federal standard for the use of force, which is especially pertinent in the wake of the Eric Garner case now with the officer being fired in New York. She wants a full repeal, though, of the '94 crime bill, while also admitting that there are parts of it that she would want to reinstate. So why is she saying that, Rachael?

BADE: I mean just, first of all, this is one of the reasons why Elizabeth Warren has really taken off in the polls, that she gives these very specific policy proposals that voters really like and they want to see. And as she's grown in the polls, she's had still struggled to sort of win over African-American voters. And this is something that directly appeals to people who are minorities, who feel like law enforcement --

BOLDEN: Right.

BADE: You know, target them more for stop and frisk. And so this is somebody that could potentially win over support in that area where she is hurting right now.

BOLDEN: Well, and her competitors --

KEILAR: And everyone is struggling when it comes to support from African-American voters. With Joe Biden in this -- in this field of candidates. Is -- is something like this, if a candidate is struggling with black voters, they can put out a policy plan like this and really win over?

BOLDEN: Well, that -- it's not enough of a plan --

KEILAR: Is it about this or is it about electability?

BOLDEN: It's about talking to issues that are important to African- Americans. See, politics and elections are about whether you can touch or whether you're electable, but it's about whether the voters connect with you, whether you're talking about issues that are important to them. And, in this case, this is the beginning of her discussion because she's going to need African-American women and men and brown voters to support her. These families who -- of people who are part of the mass incarceration process, this is really practical politics, or at least practical plans on the criminal justice system that, you know, used to be tough on crime. Republicans would outdo Democratic, though on crime, and the Democratic candidates all wanted to be tough on crime no matter what.

Here the reality is, even the most conservative Republicans, like the Koch brothers, for example, are saying, this mass incarceration, privatization of prisons is just costing us way too much. And she may get some -- some ground game here by addressing this issue and making it part of the political dialogue going forward, not just for African- Americans, but also for all of us.

BADE: And a lot of African-American voters, they want candidates to talk about race. It is not always a topic that --

BOLDEN: Exactly. You cannot be afraid to talk about race --

BADE: Right.

BOLDEN: And want the black vote.

BADE: Right. And so putting out that proposal shows she's ready to have that conversation. She wants to hear everybody's stories. And she's ready to try to fix it at least.

KEILAR: Rachael Bade, Scott Bolden, thank you guys so much for that.

BOLDEN: Thank you.

BADE: Thank you.

[13:10:02] KEILAR: As ISIS resurges after the president declared them defeated, I'll be speaking with a man who wrote a book on the terrorist grip on power about where the group's elusive leader may be.

Plus, as fears grow over the U.S. economy, why every household in America could be losing $1,000.

And another group of high school students seen on video giving a Nazi salute. We'll have details on that ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:17] KEILAR: In the wake of a Pentagon report that says ISIS is resurging in Iraq and Syria, the secretary of state downplayed the risk posed by the terror group which asked about it this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Earlier this year you said ISIS was done and done.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes. What we -- what we've always said is the caliphate's been gone and that there's always a risk that there will be a resurgence, not just from ISIS, there's risk from al Qaeda, other radical Islamic terrorist groups.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it gaining strength in your opinion?

POMPEO: It's -- it's complicated. There are certainly places where ISIS is more powerful today than they were three or four years ago. But the caliphate is gone and their capacity to conduct external attacks has been made much more difficult.


KEILAR: The news of ISIS making gains comes less than five months after President Trump declared the terror group's self-declared caliphate in Syria had been 100 percent defeated.

Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby is with us now.

And you were actually -- you were a Pentagon spokesman and State Department spokesman all during the lead up to the rise, that assent of ISIS, and then the aftermath as this was something the U.S. confronted. How alarmed are you by this resurgence?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It's an alarming report. It's not surprising though. Because we have pulled back some of our forces from the region and because we also knew that ISIS was never just a caliphate, Brianna. It was also always a network. And that network survives. And they are looking for ways to propagate it further. So they're metastasizing to places like Afghanistan, Somalia, North Africa, and they are clearly trying to regain some of their influence in Iraq and in Syria.

KEILAR: Let's talk about China and Russia and their response to this U.S. missile test. This was a ground launch of a cruise missile and now China and Russia are saying that the U.S. has been escalating tensions through this. What was the message the U.S. was trying to send?

KIRBY: I think two things. First, that we're back in the game for intermediate range missile testing and development. But, number two, that -- that we have a long way to go. And this is a version of a tomahawk cruise missile that flew over 300 miles or so, which is just on the lower edge of that intermediate range by the treaty. So there's a long way to go. Even Secretary Esper says probably going be about 18 months or so before this missile can be deployed.

But, look, there's real questions. One, will it get funded? The money that's being set aside for testing and development of this capability is now between the House and Senate versions not the same. The House Democrats in particular are not in favor of funding this. And, number to, where are you going base these, because they have to be based ashore somewhere. There's been reticence in Europe and we've seen some reticence in the Asia Pacific theater for having them based there too.

KEILAR: On the topic of China, there is a report out of the University of Sidney that is getting a lot of attention. It's from the United States Study Center there. And it basically says that the U.S. is -- it's really no longer of prominent in Asia. It's saying China is. And it's saying that the U.S. is busy other places and because of this it just doesn't have really the potential force that it would have in Asia and that China could take over Japan, Taiwan, parts of southeast Asia and the U.S. basically could do nothing about it.

KIRBY: Yes, I think the report is overwritten and Pentagon officials I've talked to, as recently as today, say that they don't subscribe to the same conclusions that this report has come up with.

Now, clearly, everybody knows that China is developing a stronger, more capable, more sustainable military. And their whole strategy is to keep the United States out of what they consider to be their region of influence and what they want to be able to do there in the Pacific theater. But the United States military has been focused on this threat from China for a long, long time. Look at the national security strategy and the national defense strategy. A missile defense review and the nuclear posture review, all of them are focused very keenly on what China is doing and to make sure that we are able to thwart any efforts, you know, against our forces or our assets and allies.

KEILAR: All right, Admiral Kirby, thank you so much, as always.

Let's take a closer look now at this ominous warning out of the Pentagon that ISIS is making a comeback. The Department of Defense inspector general warning, quote, despite losing its territorial caliphate, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was re-surging in Syria.

Joby Warrick is joining us now. He is the national security reporter for "The Washington Post." He's also the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS."

Joby, thank you so much for being with us.


KEILAR: So you were surprised by this report. Why?

WARRICK: No. I mean this is -- you know, ISIS 3.0, 4.0, depends on how you keep track.

You know, we all saw that ISIS was not defeated, you know, back earlier this year, despite the claims. You know, thousands of ISIS members didn't just fade away. They went across the river to Iraq. Some of them just went into the countryside in Syria. But they're still there.

[13:20:01] I think what's surprising really in this report, and what surprised the people on the ground, is just how quickly they've come back in various places, particularly in parts of eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq and how organized and systemic they are. They're not just doing random attacks. It's very strategic. Going after leaders in local towns and provinces, trying to intimidate local populations. The Iraq's come in, they try to clear them out and they're back again that evening. So it's that kind of situation. It's pretty dangerous.

KEILAR: Let's look at the areas that ISIS controlled back in 2015. This was the height of their power. The caliphate was big. In red you can see these large swaths of land in Syria and Iraq.

Is it possible that ISIS could regain that territory?

WARRICK: It's possibly, probably not likely. And -- and the thing is, it's not that important to ISIS, this idea of owning or controlling territory was a bit controversial even within the organization. Some argued for more of an al Qaeda-like model where just in the shadows and you strike when you want to, you develop capabilities to do things perhaps overseas. But the thing is about holding territory, it's -- it's -- it's very manpower consuming, it's financially exhausting. Now they don't have those financial obligations anymore. They have a lot of money, by some estimates up to $400 million leftover from the hay day, and they've got no territory to administer, so they're free to plot and to be as ambitious as they want to be. And they're in a good position to do that.

KEILAR: How has it affected ISIS that President Trump withdrew about half of the 3,000 U.S. troops in Syria?

WARRICK: Well, in a way it was a gift. I mean we don't want to stay in Syria forever, that's for sure. But we only had about 2,000 troops in Syria. Their job mainly was to train and equip local Kurdish forces. People who were on our side, who helped defeat ISIS to begin with.

We've had to sharply curtain some of those training missions. They are having a really hard time holding and maintaining ground in places in Syria where they are. And if they have to fight Turkey, because, of course, Turkey is threatening to launch cross border invasions and try to claim some Kurdish cities, if that happened, then, you know, the -- their -- there's the Kurds ability to fight against ISIS is really minimal, if any. They might be any -- even, you know, releasing prisoners they've got corralled in various camps. So it's -- it is a difficult situation for the troops that are still there. If we lose even more of them, or there's a further drawn down, it gets more and more difficult for us.

KEILAR: All right, Joby Warrick, thank you so much. "Black Flag" is your book. Essential reading for folks who do want to understand more about ISIS. We certainly appreciate you being with us. WARRICK: Thank you.

KEILAR: A group of students at a California high school caught on camera giving a Nazi salute, even singing a Nazi marching song. So how are parents respond to this?

Plus, this just in to CNN. The U.S. government says that it won't be giving the flu vaccine to children in U.S. custody on the border. We'll have details ahead.


[13:27:37] KEILAR: We have some news just in. Despite cramped conditions and three deaths, doctors say are connected to the flu, the federal government will not be providing flu shots for children in U.S. custody at the border.

Let's bring in Elizabeth Cohen. She's CNN's senior medical correspondent.

Tell us about this. Is this -- is this a new policy?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's not necessarily a new policy, but it's coming to light because now we have more and more children crossing the boarders in ways that we never have before. And doctors are saying, why not give them flu shots? Three children died in this past flu season after contracting the flu. It's easy to give a flu shot. It doesn't take much time. Why not do it?

Now, Customs and Border Patrol say when we have these migrants for such a short period of time and this is complex. But doctors I've talked to said, you've got them for days at least and it's not complex to give someone a shot. They really don't understand the reasoning behind this, Brianna.

KEILAR: So, and tell us about the dangers here that -- I mean doctors are concerned about this. You have kids who are in close spaces, like these detention centers.

COHEN: Right. Doctors from Harvard and Johns Hopkins wrote a letter to CBP officials saying vaccinate these children. They're in close quarters and they're always coming and going. So there are new kids coming in all the time, and adults as well, and so that's even more chances for the flu to spread. It really is like infectious disease epidemiology 101. It is a perfect storm for getting the flu. So why not vaccinate them?

KEILAR: Yes, all right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for following this for us.

Despite the president and top aides downplaying the threat of a recession, new CNN reporting reveals the White House is more worried about the economy that it is letting on. 2020 candidate John Delaney will join me live. Plus, CNN reports underwater in a remote body of water in the North Atlantic that is on the brink of devastation, all because of plastic pollution. We'll have a CNN special report, ahead.