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Ten Democratic Presidential Frontrunners to Debate; House Judiciary Committee to Begin Proceedings which May Lead to Impeachment Investigation of President Trump; Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) is Interviewed About His Landmark Order On Gun Safety. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 12, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: -- had won the Kentucky Derby, an according to the Times the board did not follow normal protocol. And then in August after Justified won the Triple Crown, decided in private to drop the case and lighten the penalty for any horse that tests positive for that banned performance-enhancing drug.

In a state to CNN, the executive director of the California Horse Racing Board says "We take seriously the integrity of horse racing in California and are committed to implementing the highest standards of safety and accountability for all horses, jockeys, and participants." The director also says they'll have a further response today.

Interesting to note, guys, is the fact that multiple members on that California Horse Racing Board also employ trainers and jockeys that they regulate, so clearly that could present a conflict of interest.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Now we know.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Raising a whole ton of questions. All right, Andy, thank you very much.

Let's continue. Good morning. If you're just joining us now, welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, September 12th, 8:00 in the east. So they say it best in "Dreamgirls."

CAMEROTA: Sing it.

BERMAN: I'm not going to, one night only.

CAMEROTA: One night only.

BERMAN: Thank you. You can sing it. The 10 leading Democratic candidates on stage for one night in a debate. This is the first time that this has happened. This means that for the first time, former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren will face off against each other. This is something a lot of people have been watching for. Biden is still the frontrunner in the race, that's according to a new CNN poll, though the margin has somewhat narrowed of late. CAMEROTA: And something else big is happening today. Moments from

now, the House Judiciary Committee will vote for the first time on defining the rules of their investigation into President Trump. Is this the beginning of an impeachment process? Well, there are mixed messages about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the House launching an impeachment inquiry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it an impeachment investigation?

REP. STENY HOYER, (D-MD): No. This is the same thing we've been doing.

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

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, we're going to begin, though, with tonight's big debate. Joining me now, CNN political commentators Joe Lockhart, he was White House Press Secretary for President Clinton, and Karen Finney, former senior spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Both of you have been in the room planning for debates. So let's strategize tonight as to what these candidates need to do. Let's start at the top and work our way down. So Joe Lockhart, start with Joe Biden. What does he need to do on that stage tonight?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he has to show energy, he has to show resolve, he has to show why he's the person who can take it to Donald Trump and defeat him. He's got to define what this race is all about, which is taking on Trump.

BERMAN: How does he do that?

LOCKHART: He's got to be better for the whole debate. He was terrible in the first debate, everyone agrees. The second debate, he had a good first half and then sort of trailed off. People are talking about whether he's lost a step. He needs to come out tonight and from the beginning to the end show energy, resolve. And the other candidates don't exist for him. It's about what's at stake for this country and how he can beat Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Karen, you agree?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. I think at this point neither Warren or Biden because they're the frontrunners, they should not worry about the others, because I think the others will certainly try to attack them because they're going to be looking to make a moment, right. So for the two of them, it is all about, I'm the one who can take on Trump.

That is particularly given that our poll just showed that Biden continues, even though the field is evening out a little bit in terms of ups and downs in the numbers, people still really want somebody who can beat Trump and they still really believe that Biden is the one to do that. So what that says to Elizabeth Warren and the rest of the candidates is you better get in there and show why you are actually the better choice to take on Trump.

BERMAN: Karen, how does Elizabeth Warren take on Joe Biden?

FINNEY: Well, firm. Similar to what Joe was saying, I think she has to be resolute. I think to some degree, she doesn't need to attack him, although I suspect we may hear -- have an economic conversation about taking on the big banks and taking on Wall Street. But I think for her, it's a matter of doing what she's been doing, and that has worked for her very well, which is be firm, be smart, be resolute. Talk about your plans, talk about how you will get them done, because this new attack from Biden saying it's not just plans, it's about how you're going to get it done. I think she's got to also reassure people that she's also -- she doesn't just have a plan, she has a plan to get them done.

BERMAN: What about that Biden line right there that the campaign has previewed that it's not just about plans. It's about more than that. Does the former vice president really want to draw specific contrasts with Warren, and, Joe, I've been noting during the show that Ed Rendell, a big supporter of Joe Biden, former governor of Pennsylvania, he wrote an op-ed calling Elizabeth Warren a hypocrite today. Does that signify a new phase?

LOCKHART: I hope not. And I don't think we should pay that much attention to Ed Rendell. He is famous for being all over the map. He was the DNC chairman when I was the White House press secretary, and I swear I spent half my day cleaning up messes that Ed Rendell created at the DNC. And Karen is laughing because she knows what I'm talking about.

[08:05:10]

FINNEY: Yes.

LOCKHART: I think Biden, part of his pitch is not only can he have a plan, he's got a way to get it done, because demonizing Republicans only goes so far. If you can -- if you say I'm going to do this, I'm going to eliminate student debt, and you have no way of showing how you'd get that through, that's a strength for Biden.

The other point I'm make following up on Karen is what we've seen in the first debates is going after Joe Biden might hurt Biden a little bit, but it doesn't help the person who has gone after him. Kamala Harris had a great moment in that first debate and has gone down in the polls. Cory Booker took him on and landed a haymaker, and he's moved nowhere. So I think the rest of the field has to make a moment that's about themselves, and really just hang around and hope that as people drop out, they get a moment. But it's not going to come at the expense of another candidate, I don't think.

BERMAN: All right, the others. And I don't mean to diminish them because Bernie Sanders is running a close second in the polls and has been consistently. But Bernie Sanders always seems to be Bernie Sanders in these debates, to his credit. Correct?

FINNEY: Absolutely. But here's the thing that we're seeing. It looks like from certainly from the last debate to this one that Senator Warren is taking support away from Senator Sanders. So if you're Bernie Sanders, you have got to figure out a way on the stage to stop that movement and either try to bring people back or hold on -- show that you can expand in some fashion. And it's unclear to me how he'll do that, because I think one of the things I thought last at our debate in Detroit was Senator Sanders actually tends to make Senator Warren sound more -- not moderate isn't quite the right word. But tone --

BERMAN: Mainstream, mainstream.

LOCKHART: Mainstream, yes. But tone-wise, the way Warren lays out her plans and talks about it, it just -- even though some of what they say is similar, she just sounds more mainstream and it sounds more doable. A revolution is -- maybe not everybody wants a revolution following up on Trump, right? I think people want steady, calm leadership, which again, is part of why Joe Biden continues to do so well. So if I'm Bernie Sanders, I think I want to show that I can be a little bit more presidential.

BERMAN: And Kamala Harris in 30 seconds?

LOCKHART: She's got to make it more about Kamala Harris than about contrasting with other candidates. She has an interesting story, and she just hasn't in these debates been able to tell that. She's done it, for instance, in a CNN town hall. But this is a really, really important night for her because if she comes out not having made a mark, it's hard to see what the rationale for her being seen as a top tier candidate.

BERMAN: Joe Lockhart, Karen Finney, thank you for giving us the preview of what we will see in just a few hours, appreciate it.

FINNEY: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, these are live pictures that we're looking at right now. This is the House Judiciary Committee. They have just begun to convene. And they will vote in just minutes on a resolution to define the rules of their investigation into President Trump. Are we seeing an impeachment begin right there? CNN's Manu Raju is live outside the hearing room with the details. What's happening in there?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this will be the first time that this committee has taken formal steps to make it clear that what they're doing is actively considering articles of impeachment against the president of the United States. What Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, will say in just a matter of moments is that essentially what they are doing is just that, determining whether or not to impeach this president, and what people could refer to as an impeachment inquiry. That is something that Jerry Nadler has been saying for days now. They are conducting formal impeachment proceedings, they are conducting an impeachment inquiry, and they're calling this a clear escalation of their ongoing investigation.

But there aren't all Democrats on the same page, namely from Democratic leaders who are simply saying this is a continuation of their ongoing investigation into potential obstruction of justice, Russian interference in the elections, and they could pursue articles of impeachment potentially at a later time. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, I have asked her directly whether or not this is an impeachment inquiry that this committee is now conducting. She has not said that.

Also, the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, no, this is not an impeachment inquiry yesterday before he was forced to issue a statement to clean this up. This comes amid a debate within this party about whether this is the best course of action to move to impeach this president. A growing number of Democrats do believe it is time for formal impeachment proceedings. More than half of the Democratic caucus supports doing so. But there are moderates, particularly freshmen from districts that President Trump carried who are wary about going that route. Ultimately that decision, though, will be made in the coming months.

[08:10:03]

But it's clear from the Democrats on this committee, they are prepared to impeach the president. The question, guys, though, is where will the leadership ultimately come down. Guys?

CAMEROTA: OK, Manu, thank you very much for setting all of that up for us. Joining us now is Rachael Bade. She's our -- congressional reporter for "The Washington Post" and CNN's political analyst. So Rachael, as we watch the external optics of what's unfolding there with Chairman Jerry Nadler taking his seat at the Judiciary Committee, you have the inside, behind the curtain reporting of what they're really doing. What changes today?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Today they'll be making this -- they're calling it a formal first vote on the impeachment proceedings. And they haven't voted to open an impeachment proceeding, but they're taking these new vote to have these authorities that will give them new power. And so they're trying to frame it as a big first step for impeachment.

Behind the scenes, I am hearing from people that even though the committee says this is just an investigation to see whether or not they'll draft articles of impeachment, my sources, at least half-a- dozen of them, are telling me that they've already mapped out potential articles of impeachment.

Now, the Judiciary Committee told me in a statement that there is no draft of articles of impeachment, nothing is written down on paper, but the committee, some of the Democrats and some of the staff have privately been talking about what that would look like. And they've been framing this up, looking at the impeachment articles against Nixon, using that as a guide, and going beyond that. And I think what that says is just how serious this committee is about drafting articles at some point in the next few months. There's been a lot of questions amongst Democrats even in the House, are they going to do this or are they not? Well, the committee increasingly thinks they're on a path to do it.

CAMEROTA: Here are the range of allegations as you are reporting lays out. They're looking at obstruction of justice, abuse of power, defiance of subpoenas, violation of campaign finance laws, and allegations of self-enrichment. I guess that's where the emoluments fall in.

And I think what's interesting, Rachael, is that I think this will require from their constituents, from these lawmakers' constituents, a reframing in their own heads of the investigation whereby the Mueller investigation was not the end, as so many people in the country felt and talked about. It was the beginning.

BADE: Yes, and the committee has definitely tried to make that case. But, of course, they've stumbled over their own footing here, the Democrats in the house. And that is because the leadership is not saying this is an official impeachment procedure, as Manu was laying out right there. Pelosi isn't calling it an impeachment proceeding, she's not calling it an impeachment inquiry. She's just saying it's a continuation of an investigation that's been ongoing. The panel, obviously, is making this other argument.

And then, obviously, you have this other division in the House about whether they should do this or not at all. There was actually a private meeting just yesterday morning where a bunch of moderate Democrats from Trump districts confronted the chairman of the committee, Jerry Nadler, and they said, look, we don't want to be talking about impeaching the president over the next six months. We want to be talking about prescription drugs and health care. We don't want to be the party of impeachment. We want to be the party of substance. And so there are a lot of Democrats who are really concerned about political blowback should they go down this path without having voters on board. And if you look at the polling, they don't have that right now.

CAMEROTA: Will all of this play out in public like we're seeing right now? Will all of the investigation and all the interviews that they want to do. You have reported the former Trump campaign official Corey Lewandowski is finally going to be appearing and interviewed, I believe, on Tuesday.

BADE: Yes, so my understanding is the next couple of months, what the committee is going to do is going to be trying to change that public sentiment. And what they're going to be doing is having a whole bunch of hearings, most of them in public. I think they need to do all this stuff in public if they're going to try to move public sentiment on impeachment to bolster these would-be articles. So when it comes to obstruction of justice, Corey Lewandowski is coming in next week. They're going to be asking about an episode in which the president tried to get him to tell Sessions that he needed to un-recuse himself or try to in any way limit the Special Counsel's investigation.

In October they're going to be doing hearings on hush payments and laying out Trump's potential role or alleged role in paying off these women to keep them silent before the 2016 election. We're hearing about other people who may also be coming in on emoluments. So this is their task, and it's a big one over the next couple of weeks. If they're going to do this, they really have got to make the case to the public. And once again, it's not -- they haven't done that yet.

CAMEROTA: Well, we'll see if this is the beginning of all of that case. Rachael Bade, thank you very much for sharing your inside reporting with us.

BADE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: John?

BERMAN: NFL star Antonio Brown, practiced with the New England Patriots. The big question now, will he play in Sunday's game? And what message does that send from the NFL? We'll discuss, next.

[08:15:02].

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. There's brand-new reporting this morning that President Trump himself is the one who pushed his advisers to get involved in this bizarre controversy last week when he gave a weather report that wasn't, in fact, accurate. This is actually serious. It's about science and admitting truth is truth.

John Avlon with a reality check -- John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know something is wrong when they are politicizing the weather. But that's what we learned yesterday when "The Washington Post" reported that how Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney responded to a presidential tantrum over a contradiction of his claim that Alabama was in danger of being hit by a hurricane.

Because problems run downhill, Mulvaney then reportedly called Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross who, according to "The New York Times," promptly called the acting head of NOAA and said that his folks would be fired unless they stopped using science to contradict the president.

[08:20:08]

President Trump has denied these reports, but it's part of a pattern of high-ranking Trump officials acting like apparatchiks, eroding democratic norms in the hope of currying some favor with the boss.

This is called normalization and it's not just creepy and cowardly. It's a dereliction of duty. It's far from the only example of the suck-upery we've seen in recent days.

Just watch House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy bake some pretzel logic to defend the government's spending at Trump's properties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president's resorts, hotels that he owns if people are traveling, it's like any other hotel. Is it different that if I go and stay or eat at a Marriott here or eat at the Trump?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: It's a little different because it's ridiculous if for no other reason there's no President Marriott. For generations, presidents have tried to fight the appearance of a conflict of interest. Jimmy Carter even put his peanut farm in a blind trust. Now, lawmakers buy the bushels, spending campaign funds at Trump properties.

The attorney general himself saw no problem hosting a $30,000 holiday party at the Trump hotel. And Vice President Pence stayed nearly 200 miles away from his meetings in Ireland, apparently so he could get a good night's sleep at a hotel with Trump's name on it.

Meanwhile, the president denied that he pushed his properties on anyone, while simultaneously pushing his properties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a lot of hotels all over the place and people use them because they're the best. I mean, you know, people like my product. What can I tell you? Can't help it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Hey, can't help it.

But it's important to remember, folks, that none of this is normal. Threatening to fire experts for telling the truth instead of backing up the president? Not normal.

Defending government officials for putting money in the president's pockets? Not normal. And the test as always is to try to imagine the Republican response if a Democratic president did it.

Bad faith arguments and other excuses seem to be proliferating from the highest levels of government because of one word -- fear. These folks appear to be afraid of standing up to the president. And so, they communicate their fear down the chain of command where it's read as an order or totally acceptable behavior.

The small scandals pile up providing new evidence of how every day we're defining deviancy down, because when politicians line the president's pockets and shrug like there's nothing to see here, when career meteorologists can almost lose their jobs for putting accuracy over a president's ego, when our politics extend not only from sea to shining sea but into the very storm clouds themselves, something is going very wrong in our democracy. And we, the people, can't be afraid to say so.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: Thanks so much, John. Remember, this is about the weather. People's lives are at stake here.

So, New Jersey doing what President Trump and Congress have not, setting new rules for gunmakers and sellers. And once again, corporate America, this time, this morning, stepping up to fill the gap. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:26:57]

CAMEROTA: More than 100 CEOs of America's largest companies are urging the Senate to stop gun violence now. They write in a letter, saying doing nothing about America's gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it's time to stand with the American public on gun safety.

This as New Jersey's Governor Phil Murphy is putting gunmakers and dealers on notice in an unusual way.

So, joining us is Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey.

Governor, thanks so much for being here. We'll get to that letter from the CEOs in a minute.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: But first of all, I just want to hear your rather unusual tactic that you are taking to try to fight gun violence. What have you decided to do?

MURPHY: So we have been at this since day one. I've been in office about 20 months. I'll spare the long list of executive orders and legislation and other coalitions with other like-minded states.

A couple of days ago I signed an executive order which essentially puts our money where our mouth is. It has three parts.

Number one, if you are a vendor and selling guns or ammunition or related equipment to New Jersey, you've got to abide by a set of principles as it relates to gun safety.

Secondly, if you are a financial institution, and you are lending or investing in those vendors, manufacturers, retailers, you also will have to abide by a set of principles as it relates to gun safety.

And thirdly, we're going to review and ultimately ban certain types of insurance that leads to irresponsible gun behavior.

And these are big numbers for us. We buy over the past period of time about $70 million of equipment. And more importantly, we spend about a billion dollars a year in fees to financial institutions. So we're going to use that muscle to further this cause.

CAMEROTA: Just explain how this works. So you're going after these banks. You're going after insurance policies.

And you're putting your money where your mouth is. Obviously, you spend so much money that you'll get their attention. And you're going after vendors. You say if they don't comply with safety practices.

But just explain in layman's terms what changes. What do you need these vendors to do that will make a difference starting today?

MURPHY: So, Alisyn, we would go into this and we are now in the process of sending out these requests with a spirit of goodwill, in hopes that we will -- we will be doing business with like-minded vendors and financial institutions. So, this is not necessarily adversarial, but a vendor, whether it's a manufacturer or retailer, for instance, that we do business with. How serious do they take background universal checks? How seriously do they take training and communication?

How seriously do they prevent a straw purchaser or someone who shouldn't have a gun in their hands to get one?

So what principles do they abide by? Are they consistent with our principles? If they are, we'll do more business with them. If they're not, we'll go elsewhere.

CAMEROTA: You're saying if they don't do those things, if they sell to a straw purchaser or whatever, your state police will no longer buy guns from them?

MURPHY: That is a potential outcome here, yes. We'll do business with vendors who we trust and who share the same gun safety principles as we do. And there's enough latitude for us to be able to do that.

[08:30:00]