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Poll Shows Sanders and Warren Rise, Biden Drops in Volatile Race; Warren Draws Estimated 15,000 People, Her Biggest Crowd Yet; Analysis Poses the Very Real Possibility of President Elizabeth Warren; NFL Star Abruptly Quits, Citing Mental and Physical Toll of Injuries; Fans Blasted for Booing Andrew Luck; House Committee Subpoenaing Ex-White House Staffer Rob Porter. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 26, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: This just in. The 2020 race appears to be tightening. A new poll shows the Democratic Presidential race is now a virtual three-way tie. That means a major drop for the front- runner. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are on the rise. They are now neck and neck for first place, both polling at 20 percent each in the latest Monmouth University Poll. Longtime front-runner Joe Biden has dropped to 19 percent in this poll.

Yes, I know, it's just one poll, but, back in June, he polled at 32 percent in this same survey. Both Sanders and Warren have notably closed the gap in recent months. Warren's rise in the polls mirrors the growing enthusiasm she's seeing out on the campaign trail. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:35:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next President of the United States of America, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Warren received a rock star welcome in Seattle yesterday. And as the camera pulls away, you see more of the size of the crowd. An estimated 15,000 people came out to hear the Massachusetts Senator explain why she should be President in 2020. That's Warren's biggest crowd yet, follows a crowd that was big in Minnesota of some 12,000 was the estimate last week.

Jamil Smith is here with us, he's a senior writer for "Rolling Stone" and has recently spent time following Warren on the campaign trail. And he also wrote an article for "Rolling Stone" with the headline, the very real possibility of President Elizabeth Warren. Jamil, thanks for joining me.

JAMIL SMITH, SENIOR WRITER, ROLLING STONE: Thank you.

CABRERA: Her biggest crowd yet this past weekend, an estimated 15,000 showing up in Seattle. You've been inside one of these big events. Describe for us what that's like. What seems to be working for Warren in these events?

SMITH: Well, I think what's working for her is that she's actually making an affirmative case for her electability rather than simply telling voters that she is, in fact, electable. I think that what she has in contrast with, say, Joe Biden, is that, you know, she's trying to say to voters that these are the reasons why I should be President. I can actually beat Trump for these particular reasons.

Not simply stating that, in fact, you know that I can beat Trump and this is why you should vote for me. I think she is stating very openly and very specifically, you know, sort of using her training as a public schoolteacher and as a law professor to, you know, to very, very effective means on the campaign trail.

She uses the same kind of cadence that you might see in a classroom to, you know, not talk down to voters, but simply explain to them, very effectively, why, in fact, she should be President of the United States.

CABRERA: I love the description in your article, that really paints a picture. You're talking about, giddiness among the attendees and how she communicates, you say, as much with her body language as with her words.

SMITH: Yes, yes. I think that there's a moment where she definitely gets serious when she gets to her point. I mean there's an energy to her. She's, you know, 70 years old. You would think that, you know, at a certain point that folks might slow down. But this is a woman with incredible energy. She is standing in line at the very end for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of selfies.

She's, you know -- she's got an amazing energy about her. She's got really capacity -- you know, few candidates I've ever seen on the trail have. And I think it's something that is going to be really, really fascinating to see play out should she advance to the general election.

CABRERA: What do you think she needs to do to win the electability argument?

SMITH: Well, I think, frankly, she needs to make, I think, a case for beating Donald Trump. But I think it doesn't have to be the same kind of case that Joe Biden is making, per se. I think it's actually a case to advance, that the argument against what Trump is going to do in the general election.

Trump is very, very skilled at distracting, frankly, us in the press. You know, he's very, very skilled at simply saying, this is what's important. This kind of nonsense that I think is important or that you think is -- this kind of nonsense that is -- it's actually nothing to do with anything that's actually important to the American voters, is what you should be concentrating on.

And Elizabeth Warren is saying, I have a plan for this, this, this and this. It's actually going to improve your lives. You should be paying attention to this. She has had -- she's got to come up with a strategy to help people understand that you need to be focused on what's actually important. She's got to come up with a plan for beating Donald Trump that's going to supersede what he's going to actually present this reality show programming every day. Frankly, he made it work in 2016.

CABRERA: So you're saying she should be able to present a plan that convinces people that she can take Trump on, head-to-head?

SMITH: Yes, I think she needs to present a plan that's going to make sure that people understand that she's going to be able to defeat his reality show nonsense. I think she's going to make Democrats believe that she is going to be able to, essentially, you know, be able to, you know, defeat his reality show machine, I think, that's probably the best way to put it.

CABRERA: Playing his game the way he plays the game.

SMITH: Exactly.

CABRERA: There is the reality, though, recent polls show that she still has just single digit support among black voters, which we know is a key Democratic voting bloc. How big of a hurdle is that for her and what do you think she need to do about that?

[15:40:00] SMITH: Well, I think that that is something that she's going to, you know, certainly have to work on a little bit more conservatively. I think she's going to -- definitely, that black support is going to consolidate around whoever becomes the nominee. I think that we need to be realistic about that. The black support is not going to consolidate -- the black folks are not going to simply come down to the Democratic nominee in Donald Trump and say, hmm, I think we have a choice to make here. They're going to consolidate around the Democratic nominee. They're not going to pick the white nationalist President.

So we need to understand that Elizabeth Warren also needs to say, I'm not -- I can't afford to take these people for granted. They are going to, you know, you know, really have a choice to make in the primary. So I think what she's got to help them understand is she has their priorities in mind as a constituency, and really start pitching them policies that are going to address their needs specifically.

CABRERA: Do you think the 2020 Democratic candidates are doing enough to differentiate themselves from each other? Because, for example, I know Bernie Sanders has been asked frequently how his plans differ from Elizabeth Warren because they talk about similar ideas. And he continues to deflect those questions in saying, you know, she can talk about her plan, let me tell you about my plan. Do they need to differentiate themselves and make it very clear to voters?

SMITH: I think that would definitely help. I think that certainly, I think they've been a little bit afraid to mix it up with one another. I think they've been a little bit hesitant to say that I have a problem with my fellow candidates' plans because of this, this, and this. I think that Democrats need to be unafraid to essentially vet one another. I think that, you know, there's been a little bit of hesitancy on the part of the left to say, we need to figure out who the strongest candidate is going to be.

We need to figure out who is going to be the person who is going to be the strongest candidate to go against Donald Trump. We need to not just worry about who really has on their, you know, priority list beating Donald Trump, they all want to beat Donald Trump. We understand that. OK? We understand that that's their top priority. We need to figure out who is going to be the best candidate?

And they need to draw distinctions between one another in order to help us figure that out, then they need to start doing it right now. We've got a little bit less than 160 days before Iowa. That is -- that may seem like a long time, but it's actually not as long as we think it is.

CABRERA: I believe it. Time flies. Jamil Smith, thank you. Good to have you.

SMITH: Thank you very much.

CABRERA: A stunning announcement in the NFL. And potentially an ominous sign for the league. A young star abruptly retires because he can't take the injuries any longer. And also, the backlash against fans who booed Andrew Luck. We'll have that conversation when we come back.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Now to football's big shocker. Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Andrew Luck is retiring from the NFL at age 29. The QB confirmed it after a reporter broke the news during Saturday's pregame season. Now Luck went first overall in the 2012 draft. This season, his team was deemed a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but he spent the first seven years on the field battling all sorts of injuries. Including a lacerated kidney, a torn abdomen, a torn cartilage, a concussion, more recently, calf and ankle problems.

Despite being last year's comeback player of the year, Luck said enough is enough. With us now, Ephraim Salaam. He's a retired NFL player and Fox Sports Radio host. Ephraim, what went through your head when you heard Luck was calling it quits?

EPHRAIM SALAAM, RETIRED NFL PLAYER: First off, I was live on-air on Fox Sports Radio and the news broke and I was shocked. I was shocked because Indianapolis was one of the teams, if Andrew Luck was healthy, they were one of the favorites in the AFC, to win the AFC. So it really threw he back. But then when I listened to him and heard his words and I know his history and things he's gone through, missing all of 2017.

Just the compiling of injuries, I commend him. I commend him. This had to be a tough situation, to play, to walk away from a sport that we all love, growing up and he's, you know, one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He's been that guy since he's been in the league and for him to come to the decision to walk away the way he did, I commend that because it had to be tough. It had to be tough and once that love for football and that desire to

play isn't there, I would recommend anybody walk away from it. Because football is not the sport you can just go through the motions in.

CABRERA: No kidding. I want you to listen to fans reacting as Luck walked off the field following this news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Fans clearly devastated. Now, here's Luck's reaction to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW LUCK, RETIRED AS INDIANAPOLIS COLTS QUARTERBACK: I would be lying if I didn't say I heard the reaction. Yes, it hurt. I'll be honest, it hurt. It's very difficult. I love this team. I love my teammates. The folks in our building, the fans, the game of football.

[15:50:00] And as part of this team, as a member of this team and because of how I feel, I know that I am unable to pour my heart and soul into this position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Ephraim, you hear those boos as he's walking off. What does that tell you about the culture of the game? It's as if fandom is more important than the players wellbeing.

SALAAM: Well, it's not so much the culture of the game. The way the fans found out is the way I found out. I was in the middle of, you know, talking about something else. It broke. So just imagine being in a stadium and the high hopes you had for the team once Andrew Luck came back from injury and them dropping a bomb on your lap as you are actually watching the pre-season football game.

It is a -- it's a gut-wrenching reaction. I don't agree with it because I do understand as a former player what this young man has put his body through physically and emotionally and his family. But I think once fans have the opportunity to process what's happened and all that Andrew Luck has done for the city and the team they'll understand.

If he can't put his all -- if he can't be 100 percent in this, then he shouldn't be out there. And you have to respect that, no matter if you are upset that it's going to ruin your season or not. You have to be able to respect that. A lot of people wouldn't do that.

CABRERA: Among the criticism is a tweet from sports talk show host -- this is Doug Gottlieb who wrote this, retiring because rehabbing is too hard is the most millennial thing ever, #AndrewLuck. Do you think that's fair?

SALAAM: No, it's not fair and I know Doug. Doug and I are really good friends. We've worked together for many years and Doug is a basketball player. Right, Doug played college basketball, played a little overseas basketball. It's different, right. You can hang on in basketball. You could be the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth guy on the bench. And go just go through the motions and all of that.

But football is a little bit different. Football, if you are not in it 100 percent. And I tell parents this all of the time, hey, can you -- they ask me, can you train my son, can you work with him. And I talk to the kid, I say, do you love the sport? They're like, ahh, it's OK. My dad really wants me to play.

If you are not invested, if you're not 100 percent invested in the sport, especially at the highest level on the planet, then this is not the sport for you. Because, number one, it is too physically taxing. It's mentally draining and when you are dealing with injury after injury after injury. And in some cases being misdiagnosed with injuries, it wears on you mentally. And if you are not mentally prepared to step up and give your all, then all you're doing is you're going to let your team down in that aspect. Not walking away from the game. You're clear, you're precise, you exactly what you need to do. You know, Doug, he just doesn't understand that aspect of it. Because, like I said, he's a basketball guy.

CABRERA: All right. We'll leave it there. Ephraim Salaam, great talking with you. Thanks.

SALAAM: Thank you.

CABRERA: Democrats on the House Judiciary have subpoenaed former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter. The sixth subpoena issued to former White House staffers but will he comply when others haven't?

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: The House Judiciary Committee is subpoenaing former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter. Now Porter was a key witness in Robert Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction by the President. And he is now the sixth former Trump aide to be subpoenaed by the Democrat-run committee.

Joining us now, CNN's Vicky Ward who's been following the details. You broke this story before it was made official by the House Democrats. But now here we are. They have issued the subpoena. How likely is it to go anywhere in?

VICKY WARD, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, you know, there is a pattern, right, of resistance from people who've worked in the White House. But in the end with the exception of Don McGahn, the White House Chief Counsel they have complied to varying degrees. I think Rob Porter is of particular interest to House Democrats not least because he was one of the most cited sources in the second part of the Mueller Report after Don McGahn. He was known to be a contemporaneous note-taker and his loyalty is a

little bit questionable. He's the only person to be subpoenaed so far who was not a member of the Trump campaign. And when he was interviewed for the job, he said he was loyal to the office of the presidency.

Now, as we know, as I wrote in my piece for CNN.com, Anna, he was in the room, he did grow very close to the President and he was in the room at very critical moments. Most notably when the President had his big fallout with Don McGahn, asked Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller. Don McGahn, according to a report in "The New York Times," refused, threatened to resign.

President Trump asked Rob Porter to get into the middle of all of that. Asked him to ask McGahn to write a note to the file saying that this never happened. So Rob Porter has potentially got a lot to say.

CABRERA: OK. Well, we'll see where it goes. Thank you, Vicky Ward, for bringing us that reporting. That does it for me this hour. Thank you for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera. "THE LEAD" starts right now.

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