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Democratic Presidential Race; Amazon's Fires; Lori Loughlin Appears In Court Over College Cheating Scam; Trump-Supporting Farmers Say Trade War May Affect 2020 Vote. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 27, 2019 - 16:30   ET



AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know that it's going to cut it with young people who actually care about Medicare for All.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Well, in terms of caring, too, what strikes me is, so this most recent polling from "The Washington Post" and ABC, 89 percent of Democrats, when talking about their 2020 vote, say health care is either important or very important to them.

The question is, S.E., whether you see the candidates are listening beyond, yes, it is important to, so we need to talk about it, but are we listening to what they actually mean when they say health care is important and what they want that to look like?


And I think this is the sort of existential divide between someone like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth Warren is saying, I'm listening, and I'm running way over here with it, because I'm thinking bold, and we need big structural changes.

Joe Biden's pitch, I think, is to say, I'm listening. And I understand you don't actually want to completely disrupt the current system. You still might like your private health insurance.

I think going personal for Joe Biden on this is a great idea, actually, because while we might know him, because we have either been covering him for a long time, or we're old, there's a whole generation of people that don't know him and don't know his personal story.

And I think, for them, hearing this from his own mouth might be really impactful.

HILL: What's interesting is, there's so much focus on Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that, she's got a plan for everything, which became a little bit of a punchline.

But a recent op-ed in "The Washington Post" from Jennifer Rubin, she writes, in terms of her success, that Warren -- quote -- "weaves her personal story into her policy objectives. The ease with which she can explain a complex problem in simple and direct language and her skill in presenting lots of individual ideas under a big theme."

She is getting more personal. I would say she doesn't ignore the personal when she's doing it. And we have seen her really connecting on the trail with voters.

How does Joe Biden do, Caitlin, when you're listening to him in terms of not just doing the personal, but explaining the policy?

CAITLIN DICKERSON, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think when he starts to talk about policy is when he's gotten into trouble in the last couple of rounds of debates.

And so he's going to have to work on that quite a lot. He's going to have to go up against -- he has a very long history of messing up, of making gaffes, of either misspeaking or invoking something that he thinks is going to work out, calling back to his past in a way that he thinks is going to make him look good, but it totally backfires.

But I don't think, until we see all of the Democratic candidates debating each other at once, we really know. And I also think you have a lot of people just hanging back right now, a lot of voters thinking there are too many people to choose from right now. This is confusing to me.

It's like doing a taste test. You go to Popeyes and have the chicken sandwich one day, and then the next day you go to Chick-fil-A.


HILL: This is Harry's wheelhouse, by the way. Anything involving Popeyes Harry's wheelhouse.


DICKERSON: It's got to be back to back, so that you can know that Popeyes is the unequivocal winner.


HILL: Harry?


HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICAL SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: All I heard was spicy chicken sandwich, and I moved to a different universe. So I honestly didn't hear the last 10 seconds of it, because I was just thinking of that wonderful sandwich.


ENTEN: Look, I think that the idea of Joe Biden talking about health care is a great idea for him.

Look, I don't have much of a life beyond Popeyes, but I look at the polling data a lot. And what I see in that polling data is that Democrats, even Democrats, when they are asked whether or not they want a Medicare for All option or whether they want a public option, they want that public option.

When asked whether or not they want to get rid of Obamacare, or whether they want to build on Obamacare, they say they want to build on Obamacare. And, to me, this is the message that allows Joe Biden to play right in that center of the Democratic electorate that so far has been powering him to that lead.

HILL: Here's the other thing is interesting about trying to be in the middle of things.

"The New York Times" reporting Warren is quietly courting, right, top Democratic officials to try to convince them that, despite the liberal agenda, she is -- and I quote here -- "a team player who's seeking to lead the party, not stage a hostile takeover."


CUPP: That's damning, I think.

I mean, that was great reporting by Jonathan Martin at "The New York Times." That's fairly damning, I think. I'm not sure it's the best look for an ultra-progressive candidate to say one thing publicly to progressive voters and then quietly say another thing to donors and the DNC about not being all that serious about the revolution.


MOODIE-MILLS: That's not what the story is at all.

And I think that what this is coming down to is, whose retail politics are better? So you see Joe Biden, who's the establishment guy, who's like, I have been with you since whenever, and that is kind of transactional retail politics.

What Elizabeth Warren is doing is she's actually making calls directly to party leaders. She's having direct conversations with constituents that aren't promising them one thing in private and something different in public.


CUPP: She is saying, don't worry, I'm not going to blow up the DNC. I'm here to revive it, which is not something I think most progressive voters care about at all, reviving the DNC. That's politics.

And if you want to compare that to Joe Biden, Joe Biden says the same thing to donors as he says to voters, I can beat Trump, and these other candidates can't.

If someone's saying one thing to donors and one thing to voters., I think that's a problem.

MOODIE-MILLS: I think it's very on brand, because Elizabeth Warren is constantly talking...

(CROSSTALK) [16:35:02]

CUPP: I agree it's on brand. Her lack of authenticity is on brand.

MOODIE-MILLS: She's constantly talking about, we need to have structural change, we need to shore up our infrastructure, right?

She's talking the same way about the party when she's talking to party leaders. What are we going to be doing about the Democratic Party? I think that it's on brand for her. And I think the retail politics are smart, very smart.

HILL: We're going to have to leave it there for this conversation, but it will come back. Don't worry.

Looking at the firefight. Brazil potentially turning down $20 million of help for the Amazon, unless, that is, Brazil's president gets a personal apology.




Brazil's president didn't reject the $5 million offered by Leonardo DiCaprio to save the Amazon. His government is suggesting, however, he could turn down $20 million from the G7, telling French President Emmanuel Macron to take care of his own home first.

And President Trump also taking sides, tweeting that Bolsonaro and his country have the full and complete support of the USA.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh caught up with the firefighters dealing with this crisis firsthand.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vanity before humanity in the Earth's most urgent environmental crisis.

Brazil's leader demanding an apology from French President Emmanuel Macron today, threatening to reject $20 million to fight the Amazon rain forest fires, the very ones burning in his own backyard and destroying a vital habitat, all because President Jair Bolsonaro says Macron crossed a line by calling him a liar on his commitment to the environment.

JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Mr. Macron should think, two, three times before he attempts to get out of the complicated situation he is in.

WALSH: The Brazilian government initially turning down the offer of aid from the G7 alliance. Bolsonaro adding he didn't trust the motivation behind the money, telling reporters early this week: "Why do they have their eye on the Amazon. What do they want there?"

And then accusing France of treating them "as if we were a colony or a no-man's-land."

The Brazilian president touts himself as a protector and ally of the Amazon. But critics say, since he came into office, he's just hurt it. Deforestation has risen 80 percent since 2018, and there are 85 percent more fires than this time last year.

This fire brigade has seen the spike firsthand. Most of the fires they fight, often by hand, are deliberately lit by people, they say. It is a tiring uphill struggle.

CARMEN CRISTINA DA SILVA, FIRE BRIGADE COORDINATOR (through translator): Nowadays, we feel sometimes even a bit powerless because we work so hard to get some reduction, and thus far it has only increased even more.

WALSH (on camera): The team of 35 fighters cover an enormous area in one of the worst affected states in the Amazon, but the $20 million that the world's seven richest nations have pledged to fight this climate emergency and that Brazil may not even accept would only pay for 70 units of this size for one year across the whole of the Amazon.

(voice-over): Bolsonaro responded to the intense pressure this weekend, vowing to send 43,000 troops to fight the fires. But it is a race against time and, when it comes to world leaders, against their pride too.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Porto Belo, Brazil.


HILL: Breaking news: actress Lori Loughlin back in court over that college admissions scandal.

What happened inside the courtroom today -- next.


[16:45:00] HILL: Breaking News. Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband leaving court just moments ago after a hearing related to the college admissions scandal. The celebrity couple accused of paying half a million dollars to a fake charity to get their daughters into USC. Let's bring in CNN's Scott McClean who's live outside the courthouse in Boston.

So what happened during this hearing today, Scott?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Erica. So Loughlin and her husband fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli spent about 40 minutes inside the courtroom. As you saw there, they were somber and sober walking in and out of the building. That is in stark contrast to the last time Lori Loughlin was here in Boston in April when she was smiling and waving to her fans. There's not a whole lot for her to smile about. She's pleaded not guilty to fraud and money laundering charges. Each of them though carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. As you mentioned, she's accused of spending half a million dollars to bribe her daughters into USC as crew recruits even though the government alleges that neither had ever taken part in rowing.

Now, today's hearing was largely procedural issue dealing with potential conflict of interest. Loughlin and Giannulli share the same law firm as another defendant in the college admissions scandal, one who is cooperating with the government. They also share a law firm with it with a firm that once represented USC.

The judge explained to them why that was problematic. They said they understood the risks involved with the arrangement but they wanted to proceed with the same legal team, Erica.

HILL: All right, we'll continue to watch for more on that. Scott McClain live there in Boston for us. Scott, thank you.

So Elie Honig, as we look at this, you and I have talked a number of times about this case. And what we're seeing -- and I just want to pick up on what Scott mentioned. So just the public display today versus April, when we first saw Lori Loughlin arrive at court, they could not be more different even in terms of what she was wearing, the cardigan very demure. Is that sending a message?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So somebody gave Lori Loughlin some good advice here which is that judges and prosecutors do not like it when a defendant turns the courthouse steps into a red carpet event. This is a serious procedure. The only reason Lori Loughlin is there is because she's been charged with serious federal crimes. It is not a photo op.

And look, that's just human nature, but even just keeping it within the law, one of the things that judges look at when they sentence is acceptance of responsibility. Did you take this seriously? Did you admit what you did? Did you sort of accept responsibility for your actions? And waving around and having fun outside the courthouse is not consistent with that. So I think today was a much smarter approach.

HILL: So when we look at -- look at the difference too, it's fair to say Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman in many ways became the faces of the story because they were well known prior to being implicated here with this.

Well, Felicity Huffman pled guilty as we know, early on. She was very contrite from what we heard in court, apologize. She will be sentenced in a couple of weeks. Could that help her then as much as Lori Loughlin's behavior may not have helped her in the beginning? And again, she's pleaded not guilty. She hasn't gone to trial yet.

[16:50:21] HONIG: Right?

HILL: Could this -- could the way that policy have been handled it help her when it comes to sentencing?

HONIG: It could whatever Felicity Huffman gets sentenced to. And I think it's a coin toss as to whether she gets jail or not. She's right in that range. Her sentencing ranges four to 10 months. Now that's advisory. The judge can go below or above that. And that's right in that gray area where sometimes defendants get jail, sometimes they don't.

Whatever Felicity Huffman gets is going to be the floor for Lori Loughlin because Felicity Huffman paid and way lower amount of money.

HILL: The involvement and the charges that they're both alleged were far different.

HONIG: Yes, different types of charges. And look, the deal when you're in a federal case is your first plea offer is almost always going to be your best plea offer. And Lori Laughlin is going down a very dangerous path now and her husband where they've said no to the first offer. And pretty soon, they're going to have only two choices, take a much harsher offer and go to trial.

And boy, everyone is entitled to go to trial, but it is often a fool's errand in federal courts. 80, 90 percent of federal cases end up in trials, end up in conviction.

HILL: We should -- we should say too that from the beginning they have also said -- prosecutors have said, we believe we have a very strong case. We have a lot of evidence. And we haven't put everything out on the table that we have.

HONIG: Yes. It's a scary thing to take on the U.S. Department of Justice. And it does look like prosecutors have a really strong case. It looks like Loughlin's defense is going to be we didn't know these were bribes.

We thought these were just sort of we're paying a consultant. But how do you square that with the fact that they faked, that their daughters were on crew team, and they've never wrote a boat in their lives? They're going to have a real problem that trial.

HILL: That will certainly be a question that comes up on the trial. Elie, always good to see you, my friend. Thank you. Trade war troubles in the heart of Trump country. We are live in Wisconsin where farmers say there is one thing they will need to see to vote for President Trump in 2020.


[16:55:00] HILL: In our "NATIONAL LEAD," Vice President Pence today trying to reassure concerned farmers while pushing the president signature trade deal. The U.S., Mexico, Canada agreement is a deal that President claims just last month would help dairy farmers especially those in Wisconsin where nearly to dairy farms are closing every day. It's also a state that President narrowly carried in 2016.

So CNN's Martin Savidge met with some Trump-supporting farmers to see if their struggles will impact their vote in 2020.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm halfway between Green Bay and Milwaukee deep in dairyland where the cows are black and white, the field is green, and the boaters red as their barns.

DAN NATZKE, DAIRY FARMER: The dairy farming business is a challenge.

HANK WAGNER, DAIRY FARMER: Dairy farming has its challenges.

SHELLY MAYER, DAIRY FARMER: More of a challenge than what we expected in our careers.

STEVEN ORTH, DAIRY FARMER: It's challenging.

SAVIDGE: The average price for milk to run $16 per 100 pounds. For most farmers, that is less than the cost for them to produce it, and way down from $24 per 100 pounds they were getting five years ago.

ORTH: It means there's not as much money to go around at the end of the month.

SAVIDGE: Last year, some 700 farms in Wisconsin closed, nearly two a day.

JANET CLARK, DAIRY FARMER: And some of those farmers I call my friends.

SAVIDGE: To ensure that didn't happen to her, Janet Clark quit and insurance job and move back to the farm that's been in their family five generations. Like a lot of dairy farmers, she voted for President Trump.

CLARK: I don't have second thoughts of my decision in 2016. I'm on the fence of what my decision is going to be in 2020.

SAVIDGE: Trump's trade disputes have hurt dairy prices and dairy exports. To diversify, dairy farms started growing crops, corn, soy, whose prices have also been hurt by trade tariffs.

So your backup business is also suffering at the same time your main business is suffering.

CLARK: You're correct.

SAVIDGE: There are concerns that oppressed milk prices and trade disputes will drag in the next year.

Do you think that's going to have an impact on how dairy farmers vote?

ORTH: Yes, I think it will have an effect. Yes.

SAVIDGE: But the President still has fans here. Do you blame this administration for any kind of financial difficulty you may face? NATZKE: No. No, I don't, because things happen. And just because it's this president in the situation he is doesn't mean it's all on his shoulders.

SAVIDGE: Despite their suffering, some still see the trade disputes as necessary to even the trade playing field.

WAGNER: I'm still confident that we're going to come out of this better, not just as us in agriculture, but as a country.

SAVIDGE: Janet Clark says if she's going to vote for Trump, again, she needs something from him.

CLARK: I need some hope. I need to see some light at the end of the tunnel which I haven't seen in four years.

SAVIDGE: Without that, it'll be harder for Wisconsin farmers to hang on which could make the President's reelection hopes here, in a word, challenging.


SAVIDGE: It is hard to overstate just how much these cows mean to this state's economy, about $45 billion every single year. So it's really not a cow you're looking at, that's kindergarten teacher salary, or it's part of the paving of a road.

In fact, they could change the outcome of the whole precedential election in this thing. It kind of gives you a whole different respect for these young ladies, doesn't it, Erica?

HILL: Indeed it does. Martin Savidge for us in Wisconsin today. Martin, thank you.

Thanks all of you for joining us today on THE LEAD. Follow me @EricaRHill and tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues right now.