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Top 10 Democratic Hopefuls to Take Debate Stage Tonight; Supreme Court Gives Trump Victory on Asylum Restrictions; House Panel to Vote on Impeachment Probe. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 12, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, September 12. It's 6 a.m. here in New York and a big day of firsts.

[05:59:39] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A lot's happening today.

BERMAN: Right? It's like the first day back at school but bigger.

For the first time, all ten leading Democratic candidates will be on the same debate stage, which means that, for the first time, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren will face each other directly.

Now, this is a matchup that a lot of voters have been waiting for. And we have new reporting this morning about how Biden and Warren plan to handle the situation, including a new attack on Warren from a key Biden supporter this morning, calling her a hypocrite. We're waiting to see if Warren responds.

A new CNN poll shows Biden still leading the pack by a smaller margin than before. His lead is largely fueled by support from black voters.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Meanwhile, in other news, the Trump administration announcing plans to ban the sale of most flavored e- cigarettes in an effort to curb the teen vaping epidemic in the United States. The move comes as several people have died and hundreds are sick from vaping-related lung illnesses.

So there's a lot to cover this morning. Let's begin with CNN's Athena Jones. She is live in Houston with a preview of tonight's debate -- Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, it's debate night once again. And this time it's one night only. All top ten candidates appearing for the first time onstage together.

So who's on that stage? Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, Beto O'Rourke and Julian Castro.

As for what to watch, we know that Biden is still going to be a top target as the clear frontrunner. He could find himself on defense over his gaffes, his misstatements, his record.

But Elizabeth Warren is also going to be a target. We haven't really seen anyone land any punches on her in the last two debates. But she's on the rise in polls. She seems to have some momentum. We're seeing big crowds at some of her recent events.

So how much will she be attacked? How will she handle it? Will she be able to explain how she'll pay for some of her big ideas?

And, of course, we're going to be watching that matchup between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, appearing together onstage for the first time. We can see a clash between the progressive vision that Warren and also Bernie Sanders are selling and the more practical return to normalcy vision that Joe Biden is pushing.

We expect Biden to argue that Democrats need more than plans to win. They need someone who's proven they can get things done and can point to accomplishments. That "more than plans" line, of course, seen as a swipe at Elizabeth Warren, who's made a name for herself as having a plan for everything. She has T-shirts that say, "I have a plan for that."

We'll also look to see if the two progressives onstage begin to try to differentiate themselves from one another. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have had a pretty amicable relationship on the stage. Will that change at all?

And of course, what's going to happen to the -- with the other candidates on the stage, those in the mid-single digits? Folks like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro? What will they do to have a breakout moment? Will Harris, for instance, be more prepared to defend her prosecutorial record and try to use it to her advantage?

So a lot to watch tonight on this first time we're going to see all of these folks onstage together.

BERMAN: All right. Athena Jones for us in Houston. Athena, Stand by. We'll come back to you in a little bit.

Joining us now, Jess McIntosh, CNN political commentator and former director of communications outreach for the Hillary Clinton campaign; and Laura Coates, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Jess, why will tonight be different than other nights? What are you looking for?

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You actually can't overstate how exciting tonight is. I am very excited about today. It's everybody on one stage, which we know is not going to happen in October again. So we'll go back to having two nights then. This is the big chance to see all of the top-tier candidates right next to each other in conversation with each other, which we haven't seen before.

So Biden has been parked at first this whole time. And Elizabeth Warren is the only candidate who is consistently rising in the polls. She won both debates she participated in pretty decisively. He hasn't had the best nights when he's gotten out on that big stage. So I think she needs to keep proving that she can hold her own on any stage including the one, ultimately, next to Trump. And he needs to make sure that he really stands out and he doesn't wither against her energy, which is pretty formidable. So that's what I think we're looking at mostly tonight.

CAMEROTA: Such a great point. They have very different styles, obviously, Laura. And I mean, you'll see it, I think, in stark relief tonight. And what we've been calling is the progressive versus pragmatic ideologies that you'll also see against each other.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The last time you had a big matchup, you had Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, when she confronted him about his past choices. This one is now about the future of the Democratic Party and which way it's going.

Is it going in the direction of an overall restructuring? Is it going towards the way of ideological change, or is it going to the tried and true? And that will be as much of a battle onstage as anything else tonight. Not just the energy. We already know there'll be a red jacket worn by Elizabeth Warren. We already know that's going to be happening, that Joe Biden will be center stage. But he will literally be between a rock and a hard place of two progressives who are battling for the soul of the Democratic Party and what happens next.

CAMEROTA: How do we know there will be a red jacket? Because she always wears one?

COATES: I'm just going by the red jacket. I mean, I wore a green one.

CAMEROTA: I see that. You've mixed it up today.

COATES: I did.

CAMEROTA: So anything's possible.

COATES: I was trying to go with Jessica, because she had a little bit of yellow and green vibe.

BERMAN: Can I tell you something?

COATES: I wanted to do it.

BERMAN: If Joe Biden wore a red jacket tonight, that would change everything.

CAMEROTA: That would mix it up.

MCINTOSH: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Jess, I think we saw something this morning in "The Washington Post" that I think might be a sign. Ed Rendell, former mayor of Philadelphia, governor of Pennsylvania, wrote an op-Ed in "The Washington Post" criticizing Elizabeth Warren for what he calls hypocrisy. You can see the headline there: "Too bad she's a hypocrite." He's talking about all the fundraising.

I don't want to go into the substance of the argument here. It's the fact of it that interests me, because you note that Elizabeth Warren has performed very well in these debates, won them in the eyes of many analysts.

[06:05:07]

But she's done so without being confronted directly on any number of things. Really, whether it be her policy or other things in her record. If she's going to keep rising in the polls, she is going to face head-on criticism.

MCINTOSH: Well, I would argue while she maybe hasn't faced head-on criticism from the other candidates, she has certainly been taking incoming from those campaigns. Her -- her opening bid was a pretty rocky start. She's not had a -- you know, the carpet rolled out for her in the press, for sure. And of course, the Republicans are not treating her with kid gloves.

So I think that she's -- she's taken a little more heat than I think people are thinking of now, because she's had such a good summer. You know, I've worked on campaigns that Ed Rendell has been a part of.

I wouldn't necessarily assume that what had said was reflective of the actual campaign strategy. I think the -- both candidates are well- positioned tonight to make the case on the substance of the policies that they're promoting. And I think that's probably what we're going to see.

It's -- it's about an idea that politics used to work that Biden has. That he wants to return to that time when politics worked. He wants to work with Republicans. I don't know if that's going to hold up against really big generational transformational change and the acknowledgment that our political system hasn't worked for the majority of Americans for a really long time. So we get to see those two debates, those two ideas debated next to each other tonight. I think that's probably where the focus is going to be.

CAMEROTA: By the way, there are eight other candidates.

MCINTOSH: Oh, are there?

COATES: No, no. There's only just three in the center. What do you mean?

CAMEROTA: They're hoping that they'll have a breakout moment. And anything's possible. I mean, these are early days. Anything's possible.

COATES: It is. And of course, what we're looking at, what I'm looking for as a voter is the idea of remember when we had the first series of debates that kept saying don't criticize one another. They're going to feed into the hands of the Republicans. You're going to provide for them Republican talking points that will

be used against them in the end. But if you're a voter looking ahead to the primaries, you need to see that they're actually all these people on the stage. And what are they going to present to the American people? It doesn't mean you have to be uncivil, but it does require them to evaluate and assess and at times probably disparage one another.

If they don't do that, it's going to be, essentially, an equilibrium that will last forever, that will be exploited eventually. And as a voter, what are you going to do? Who are you going to look to if they don't do this tonight?

BERMAN: I am curious how much Donald Trump will be a factor on the debate stage tonight. Because in Detroit, he wasn't.

MCINTOSH: Yes. I mean, I think that it's -- I find debate days really fun, because you get to see a bunch of smart people who understand that our country is in a bit of a mess, and they have actual plans to fix it. Those plans differ.

But you can have that conversation without even talking about Donald Trump. I especially enjoy when a candidate understands that Trump is a symptom of a problem that was in this country before he got elected. You don't elect a president like Donald Trump unless you have pretty deep-seated issues that you've got to work through.

So I think there are some candidates on stage who get that, who know that this is about more than just getting rid of Donald Trump. This is about healing our country and some that don't. And we'll see that difference.

CAMEROTA: Should we look at where everybody is going into the debates so that we can compare afterwards. Here is a CNN poll, top choice for the Democratic nominee among registered voters at the moment. Biden is at 24 percent. Warren, 18. Sanders, 17. Harris, 8. Buttigieg, 6. O'Rourke, 5. But, you know, obviously, debates change things. I mean, that --

BERMAN: Although they haven't. Yes, they haven't.

CAMEROTA: But again, it's early days. But -- but sometimes, look, they did for a minute with Kamala Harris. OK. So because of the debate with Kamala Harris when she had that breakout moment, then there was that spike, and then everything sort of returned to the mean. But who knows?

COATES: I mean, there was a heck of a breakout moment for Kamala Harris. And if she can repeat that in a way that furthers her campaign. It's going to be remarkable. If you're Buttigieg, if you're O'Rourke, if you're Harris, if you're Klobuchar, if you're Julian Castro, if you're Andrew Yang, I mean, this must be so frustrating to know that it has essentially been unyielding, no matter what momentum you have.

You're getting on this debate stage. You're one of ten people. You've whittled it down. And here you are, still on the outskirts of the stage, hoping to have that one moment to talk to you. I hope that's going to translate to people seeing them as either powerless or they'll be able to have the electability questions finally answered, which is constantly --

CAMEROTA: Or maybe people just want something familiar right now. Maybe people -- voters are playing it safe.

COATES: The mac and cheese of voting? The comfort food?

BERMAN: That's the -- that's the Biden argument. That's the subtext of the Biden campaign.

CAMEROTA: That's what the polls seem to suggest at the moment.

BERMAN: A couple things, Jess. Two great articles today. One, there's one about Amy Klobuchar where she talks about how frustrated she's been, that she comes to these debates and she's asked to criticize Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders instead of talking about Amy Klobuchar. I suspect you will see her try to force her way into the discussion on her own terms.

And then Sid Herndon (ph) at "The Time" has got a great piece on Kamala Harris. We were just talking about what she needs to do and the idea that she needs to be clear what her positions are.

MCINTOSH: Yes. I think honestly both of those women have a similar goal tonight. And that is to clearly articulate the rationale for their candidacies. I think they're both incredibly compelling, incredibly popular senators.

There's a reason why there was so much media attention around them when they decided they were going to run for president. I think neither one of them has truly truly crystallized this is who I am as a candidate. This is where I believe the country ought to be heading. This is -- this is the sole of my candidacy in a single sentence. We don't necessarily know that from either of them yet.

But every time we get on the debate stage, people Google Kamala Harris. They want to know who she is. They want to know more about her. She has a real opportunity. There are people who are waiting for her to just make her move and stick there. So if she's able to do it, I think there's a pretty big well of support there waiting for her.

CAMEROTA: Your enthusiasm is infectious for your Super Bowl tonight. Thank you, Jess.

Laura, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. We have brand-new reporting this morning about who President Trump is considering as his new national security adviser. This would be an historic pick. So historic it has only been tried once before, ever, in America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:15:50]

CAMEROTA: It's a big legal victory for President Trump. The Supreme Court allowing the president to drastically limit the ability of Central American migrants to claim asylum in the United States.

Back with us to discuss this and more we have Laura Coates. Also joining us CNN political analyst John Avlon. This is a big win. This is what President Trump had wanted.

He wanted them -- if you're -- if you're transiting through a different country, say, Mexico, then not to be able to apply for asylum once you get to the U.S. This is what he was referring to many months ago when he said, basically, why do we have to take migrants from blank-hole countries? El Salvador was one of those he was referring to. And the Supreme Court has, it sounds like the Supreme Court has agreed.

COATES: So essentially, what's happened here is the administration wanted to say, if you've tried to pass through any other country to get to the United States of America, clearly, you weren't in dire enough straits. You could have settled someplace else. You could have stopped off there. You saw almost like a forum shop in the U.S., and we're not going to have that. We want to have asylum for only those people who say, "This is the only place I could be. Otherwise I'd be unsafe."

So they had made this case through the courts, and it's supposed to continue through the courts. It's supposed to keep going up through the appellate process before it ever reaches the Supreme Court.

But as a matter of what Sonia Sotomayor talks about, a reflexive action by the administration, they have sidestepped that and said, it could wait for the appellate process to go through where you told us we couldn't actually implement that. Or we can go straight to the Supreme Court.

And in doing so, the Supreme Court essentially said, "Look, we think the administration should not have to wait until it makes its way up through the court."

Instead Sotomayor had a great dissent. And I know you talked about this in the green room, John, about this. The notion that she's saying, hold on a second. Are we really not going to have a judicial process? You're going to be able to come to us whenever you don't get decisions you like. How can that be?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And the answer is yes, right? And some places, the administration wants to slow-roll decisions through the courts. And other places they want to hit the gas.

And the thing is the five-court -- five-court conservative majority seems very amenable to arguments about executive privilege. And that's basically what this was. He said, look, this is going to work its way through, but for the time being, you can do what you want. In the process, they reverse around four decades of U.S. policy, as well as the spirit of America's opening to refugees.

BERMAN: Look, we talk about the legal implications here. This is a huge policy change. This will affect tens of thousands of people. This will fundamentally -- you know, you talk about a wall. A wall will do nothing compared to what this change will do legally. It means tens of thousands of people who have been coming to the border seeking asylum will not be allowed in the United States. Now, you can argue whether it's good or bad, but this is a huge shift that will take place immediately.

AVLON: Yes. And it's designed to really stop the caravans that he's been, you know, fear mongering about in cohort with folks in the conservative media.

BERMAN: And his counter, by the way, to 200 years of U.S. history, how it's been treated in the past.

AVLON: That's my point. This is the Statue of Liberty and the Lazarus poem.

You know, that's got a sticker slapped on it.

CAMEROTA: And just very quickly, legally, before we move on, are other people or just the administration allowed to leapfrog right to the Supreme Court? Is this unusual to not work your way up to the appellate -- through the appellate system? Or are they doing this because it's an urgent matter?

COATES: It's highly unusual, which is what Sonia Sotomayor talked about. This is not the precedent that should be set, nor should it be. We have appellate courts for a reason. So every case, every claim when somebody is unhappy temporarily -- and mind you, what happened in California in the Ninth Circuit, it wasn't fully decided yet. They simply put a pin through an injunction and said, you know what? We'll come back to it after we've been fully briefed.

The Supreme Court now takes cases that haven't been fully briefed, and no one decided below? Well, that's more than novel. That's ridiculous. And the Ninth Circuit already said, "We hear you, Mr. President. We're going to limit our injunction to just the Ninth Circuit," which wouldn't have included Texas. It wouldn't include another state. And so this is ridiculous, and she pointed it out.

BERMAN: All right. In just a few hours, a big development or not inside the House Judiciary Committee. They're going to take a vote --

CAMEROTA: Way to sell it.

BERMAN: -- to formalize it. Well, no, but this is the controversy. You'll see where I'm going.

CAMEROTA: I see it from a mile away.

BERMAN: They're going to formalize some of the procedures in their impeachment discussion. Now --

CAMEROTA: You're right. That is scintillating.

BERMAN: What they decide to do or not do may not be important. What's important here is there's clear disagreement inside the Democratic Party, whether this is, in fact, an impeachment inquiry.

Just listen to this. Listen to different Democrats saying different things about exactly what's happening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the House launching an impeachment inquiry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they are.

MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is it an impeachment investigation?

STENY HOYER (D-MD): No. It's the same thing we've been doing.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): What matters most to me is do we meet the definition required to get grand jury material in court.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): We're in the midst of a Judiciary Committee investigation. I don't want to get caught in semantics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: It's too late. Too late. Who's going to tell the congressman?

Look, they are officially announcing an embarkment on an impeachment investigation. That is not the same thing as impeachment. But it is going to be designed to define the rules of the road, help satisfy some Democrats who say, "Guys, what are you doing? He's committed impeachable offenses. How come you're not doing the right thing by their definition?"

CAMEROTA: Why is it not the same as an impeachment? You're stuck in the same semantics.

AVLON: That's just a matter of saying what's actually happening. An impeachment -- an impeachment investigation is different from actually impeaching the president.

CAMEROTA: Well, obviously, yes.

BERMAN: He's intentionally vague.

CAMEROTA: This is the start. You believe this is officially the start.

AVLON: A hundred thirty-four Democrats who want to impeach the president. We'll believe, and their supporters will believe this is a start. But they're going to have to make a decision by probably the end of the year. BERMAN: The thing is -- is those Democrats have already said there's

an official impeachment investigation inquiry underway. This is just another --

AVLON: This is back to school.

BERMAN: Liberals want to say, "We're doing it." Moderates want to be able to say, "We're not." Nancy Pelosi wants to give all of them the ability to say whatever they want to say.

COATES: I mean, this is like the Democrats being the most non- committal boyfriend on the planet. Like, what are we? Are we boyfriend/girlfriend? Have we broken up? Are we just friends? What's happening right now? And the American voters want to actually know what's happening. And the reason is because it looks and walks and talks like a duck.

Remember, this vote is largely procedural. I'm not bitter. That came across differently. I am married.

AVLON: The technical term is dating but not committed.

COATES: I see. Well, I didn't know that. It's fine. But the issue for me and why I think people are looking at the impeachment inquiry is that it is a tomato/toe-mah-toe scenario.

But just this is a very procedural vote. Impeachment is very symbolic, as well. And the notion of what their biggest hurdle is, not just the semantics but it's about convincing the American people that they are transforming this from away from the election interference of Russia and more into the notion of emoluments and the Oval Office as a cash cow. That's a harder thing. If you think semantics is a problem, wait until they convince the American people that that's really the inquiry.

BERMAN: I just want to say, what you're calling for is an impeachment investigation with benefits.

CAMEROTA: Yes. That's exactly right.

BERMAN: We have to talk about Mike Pompeo.

CAMEROTA: Mike Pompeo is getting busier. So -- so the last time this was tried was Nixon with Henry Kissinger. And that was that he will reportedly have this dual role.

BERMAN: Considering, the president is considering bringing on the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to be the national security adviser. The only time this has ever happened in U.S. history was with Henry Kissinger. He was national security advisor first then became secretary of state. Good idea?

AVLON: Look, I think as folks look back at Kissinger having that, they said that was probably too much power for one man, which of course was Henry Kissinger's ultimate aphrodisiac. Mike Pompeo would probably love that. There are five other candidates

the president is allegedly looking at. I'd be careful, frankly, for what you wish for if you're Mike Pompeo. Because there's no way you get, quote unquote, "double tapped" for those two positions. And you don't rise to a level Donald Trump says, maybe he's getting too much more attention, more, quote unquote, "famous" than me.

CAMEROTA: All right. Thank you, guys, very much for this spirited conversation.

All right. Now to this update. There are thousands of people still missing in the Bahamas this morning. And now the islands are dealing with another major problem. We have all the details for you in a live report next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:28:16]

CAMEROTA: OK. We have some breaking news. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is denying that he lied to Queen Elizabeth about the need to suspend Parliament. Scotland's high court ruling that suspension is unlawful.

CNN's Max Foster is live in London with the breaking details. What's happening, Max?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary. We're literally in a situation where the question of whether or not the prime minister lied to the queen is going to end up in court. Not only any court either. The highest court in the land.

Just explain how we got here. There's been this debate about whether or not Boris Johnson misled the queen when she agreed to suspend Parliament. We're currently in that suspension.

Now, the high court for England in Wales decided that he was in his legal rights to do that. But the highest court in Scotland has gone against that and actually said he did mislead the queen, and he did so with the intention of stymieing Parliament, basically cutting Parliamentary time so they couldn't discuss Brexit options.

So did he lie to the queen or not? This is the big question in the British media today. And in the last hour, he was confronted about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you lie to the queen when you advised her to suspend Parliament?

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely not. And that -- and indeed, as I say, the high court in England plainly agrees with us. But the Supreme Court will have to decide.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOSTER: The judges will decide. This is about the deadlock. A battle, really, between Parliament and government. And it's going to be a big case next week.

BERMAN: All right, Max. Please keep us posted on that.

This morning an alarming development out of the Bahamas. The government there now says the number of people reported missing after Hurricane Dorian has grown to 2,500. There's also new major environmental concerns, as well.

CNN's Paula Newton live in Nassau with the very latest.

[06:30:00]