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Felicity Huffman Arrives For Sentencing In College Scandal; Centrists Strike Back As Healthcare Division Crystallizes; Texas Lawmaker Threatens Beto O'Rourke After AR-15 Pledge. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 14:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You're watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. It is great to be with you. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Just a short time from now, actress Felicity Huffman will learn if she will go to prison for her role in that massive college admissions scam. She just arrived there at the Boston courthouse alongside her husband, actor William H. Macy, where she will be sentenced after pleading guilty to paying $15,000.00 to a fake charity to rig her daughter's SAT scores.

The "Desperate Housewives" star is hoping a judge will allow her to avoid serving any time behind bars. Her attorneys are asking for probation, community service and a fine. The judge is ruling could be a precedent setting decision for others facing similar bribery allegations in this historic case.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is staking out that courtroom forest there in Boston. And so Brynn, the key question, will she serve time?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is the big question. And it's going to be answered very soon by that judge, Brooke. I want to let you know that my colleague, Mark Morales, he is inside the courtroom right now giving us some details. And he said that Felicity Huffman had about a dozen family members and friends. And of course, as you mentioned, her husband, William H. Macy alongside her inside that courtroom showing their support.

And we kind of suspected that would happen, since we know that before this hearing, 27 people wrote letters to the judge in support of Felicity Huffman essentially saying that she should not go to prison for this. That she shows remorse, she did the wrong thing and she admitted to it.

Now, as you pointed out for your viewers, the government in this case is asking for one month in prison and also a $20,000.00 fine. They essentially said there needs to be an even playing field and just a slap on the wrist is not going to be enough of a deterrent for people in the future to do this same thing.

But Felicity Huffman's lawyers have been arguing all over long that she was one of the first people who took a plea deal, admitted to this, apologized multiple times if you remember back in May, in which she pled guilty, she cried in court. And they essentially said that she didn't seek out this mastermind William Singer for this purpose. That she actually used his services for a year for her daughter before actually agreeing to the cheating part of his entire scam.

So there's a number of factors that we're probably going to be hearing from both the government and her attorneys again in the courtroom, and that judge is going to decide how this is all going to turn out for Felicity Huffman.

BALDWIN: We will all be standing by for that decision. And we will talk again, Brynn Gingras in Boston. Thank you very much, Brynn. Let's go to the race for the White House now.

The third Democratic primary debate in Houston laid bare the internal rift over the number one issue for Democrats -- healthcare. That's what poll after poll shows including our latest CNN poll taken just a couple days ago. They found 89 percent consider the issue extremely or very important.

Now on that debate stage last night, the tides became clear fast -- either build on Obamacare, right, or replace it with a taxpayer-funded government run National Health Program, something that Bernie Sanders is pushing known as Medicare-for-All.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My plan for healthcare costs a lot of money, it costs $740 billion. It doesn't cost $30 trillion.

The Senator has in fact come forward and said, "Now, he's going to pay for it. But he gets him about halfway there."

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every study done shows that Medicare-for-All is the most cost effective approach to providing healthcare to every man, woman and child in this country. I wrote the damn Bill, if I may say so.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While Bernie wrote the Bill, I read the Bill. And on Page 8, on Page 8 of the Bill, it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it. I don't think that's a bold idea. I think it's a bad idea.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D-IN), MAYOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem, Senator Sanders with that damn Bill that you wrote and that Senator Warren backs is that it doesn't trust the American people. I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we just need to be clear about what Medicare-for-All is all about. Instead of paying premiums into insurance companies, and then having insurance companies build their profits by saying no to coverage, we're going to do this by saying everyone is covered by Medicare-for-All, every healthcare provider is covered.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Okay, let's cut through all of this, CNN Senior Writer Tami

Luhby has been covering Medicare-for-All extensively. So here's the question. If you're a middle class family in this country, Medicare- for-All happens. What do you pay?

TAMI LUHBY, CNN SENIOR WRITER: So Medicare-for-All is a very expensive proposal that would cost $32 trillion over 10 years. Those are the estimates that two think tanks have come up with, one on the right and one on the left.


LUHBY: Now, Senator Sanders has acknowledged that middle class taxes would go up. In fact, one of his proposals would be to levy a four percent tax on employees. But what he argues is that because private insurance would go away, the middle class would actually end up coming out ahead, because they wouldn't be paying those expensive premiums, deductibles, or copays when they go to the doctor.


BALDWIN: So watching last night was this huge, you know, progressive feel this way and moderates feel this way. How do Americans feel? Do most Americans want a choice keeping their own insurance or -- what?

LUHBY: Sure. Well, the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been polling people on healthcare for years, just came out with a poll that found that among Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters that 55% of them actually want to build on the ACA, which is what Vice President Joe Biden is talking about. But we do have 40 percent who want Medicare-for-All. So you can see that --

BALDWIN: It is not this overwhelming majority.

LUHBY: No. Americans are divided. The candidates on the stage are divided, and that's going to mean that healthcare is still going to be one of the top issues for the next 14 months until the election.

BALDWIN: Keep writing about it. We'll keep talking about it. Tami Luhby, thank you very much.

And as some candidates are getting praised for their performances, nearly everyone is panning Julian Castro for what critics call a mean attack on former Vice President Joe Biden.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL: But the difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in, and I would not require them to opt in.

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.

CASTRO: You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago, you just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.

BIDEN: You do not have to buy in if you can't afford it.

CASTRO: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?

BIDEN: It's automatic --

CASTRO: Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you're saying they don't have to buy in. You're forgetting that.

His health care plan would not automatically enroll you, you would have to opt in. My health care plan would, that's a big difference. I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you're not.

BIDEN: That will be a surprise to him.


BALDWIN: And just for the record, Joe Biden did not contradict himself the way Castro thought he did. When the former Vice President said they do not have to buy in, he meant that for those on Medicaid, they would already be enrolled, and thus, no need to buy in.

And as Castro slammed Biden's memory on stage, take a look at what fellow competitor Cory Booker had to say about Joe Biden off the debate stage.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that we are at a tough point right now, because there's a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling. And I think that Castro has some really legitimate concerns about, can he be someone in a long, grueling campaign that can get the ball over the line and he has every right to call that out?


BALDWIN: Mark Preston is our CNN Senior Political Analyst and will analyze all things Houston in just a second, but you have some big news about the next debate. Hit me.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I do, Brooke. You know, we're talking, of course, about last night's debate. But what about the next debate? Well, the next debate is going to be CNN and "The New York Times." They're going to co-host -- we're going to co-host with "The New York Times" the next Democratic presidential debate in Westerville, Ohio.

Now, Westerville is right outside of Columbus. Mark the date for October 15th. Now it's a possibility that there could be a second night that's added. Moderating the debate will be Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett from CNN, along with "The New York Times" National Editor, Marc Lacey. Now the CNN-"New York Times" Democratic presidential debate is going

to air live from the campus of Otterbein University. And again, mark the date, October 15th.

BALDWIN: Okay, got it. About last night, and we played Julian Castro and Cory Booker, and how they really took on Joe Biden, do you think those comments backfired for them?

PRESTON: Well, so a couple of things. One is the immediate reaction when Julian Castro attacked the Vice President, but then carried it further and brought in the whole Obama legacy portion of it. Media reaction was not good.

I guess, I was surprised to see Cory Booker come out afterwards, and to follow up on that as well. I just don't think that in this day and age right now that the Democratic Party wants to see that real intense fighting almost personal attacks on one another.

So I don't think they necessarily want to see that. But we're at a point in the campaign where Julian Castro has to try to make a move. Some of these other campaigns have to try to make the move. He tried to make a move last night.

BALDWIN: What about -- I was just sitting here talking to Tami Luhby about, you know, healthcare and Medicare-for-All, and I know Elizabeth Warren, people love her because she has a plan for just about everything, but it's just about everything, meaning she actually doesn't have her own healthcare plan. So she has adopted Bernie Sanders' plan, but nothing is actually in concrete on her website. Do you think that that's a smart strategy?

PRESTON: Well, I don't think it necessarily hurts her because when you look at the whole field right now, let's say it is 11 or 12 at this point. She is known as the policy wonk. She is known as somebody who understands the intricate details. I don't think it's necessarily going to hurt her and she is certainly not the only one that has endorsed the Bernie Sanders plan for healthcare.


PRESTON: But at some point, she will have to be a little bit more specific about it. And to your point as well, she is going to have to put it out there and putting it on the website means that you own it.

So I don't think that she's not, not owning it right now. But I do believe that, as we get a little bit further down to this campaign, that things could get a little bit trickier, especially if she gets attacked by Bernie Sanders for adopting her plan -- his plan.

BALDWIN: Mark Preston. Thank you.

PRESTON: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, a state lawmaker tweets a threat to presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke, and today how the Republican is trying to explain himself. Also ahead, President Trump meets with his team on guns and we have learned what his Attorney General, Bill Barr is actually working to push him to do.

And we are watching that Boston courthouse. It is sentencing day for actress Felicity Huffman. And she arrived moments ago walking hand- in-hand with her husband, actor, William H. Macy. Stay with me. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. And now when those candidates turned the debate over guns, it was Beto O'Rourke who delivered one of the most definitive responses last night.

In the wake of two mass shootings in Texas last month, including of course, one in his hometown of El Paso, O'Rourke said this about assault style weapons.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15, and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland. There weren't enough ambulances to get to them in time. Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We are not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.


BALDWIN: It is not shocking that that angered a lot of Second Amendment advocates, but a sitting Texas state lawmaker went as far as threatening the candidate. His name is Briscoe Cain, and he tweeted, "My AR is ready for you, Robert Francis." Robert Francis, Beto O'Rourke's middle names.

The O'Rourke campaign said it reported the 34-year-old's tweet to the F.B.I. Twitter took down the tweet saying it violates its terms of service and with me now, CNN's Ed Lavandera who actually talked to this Texas state lawmaker. What did he say to you, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, in the wake of these two mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, some of those staunchest conservative areas of the state, there has been real serious pushback against any kind of gun control reform and that sort of thing.

So it comes as no surprise that there would be a state lawmaker here in Texas who would fire back these tweets. And we spoke with Briscoe Cain a short while ago, who told us that the idea that this should be seen as a threat was ludicrous that he thought it was Beto O'Rourke trying to use this and twisting it and spinning it in a way that would be used to take away people's Second Amendment rights.

He said he was simply trying to carry out a modern take on the old Texas revolutionary battle cry of, "Come and take it." That's the way he described it to us, that it was not a threat, that this is speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Of course, Twitter disagreed, taking down that as well.

And then after Beto O'Rourke tweeted the response to the state lawmaker, he basically turned around and tweeted back at Beto O'Rourke saying that he was a child for acting this way and reacting the way he has to his initial tweet.

And then, Brooke, as is typical of 2019 politics, the state lawmaker told us that this would play out well for both of their political bases.

BALDWIN: Wow. On Twitter, Ed Lavandera, thank you for that. I'm glad you talked to him. President Trump still hasn't offered any more clarity on which gun policies he would support, but he has taken action on one thing this week. We will talk to a writer who agrees our children are under attack, but not from vaping.

And in moments, actress Felicity Huffman becomes the first parent sentenced to that massive college admissions scandal. Standby for news there.



BALDWIN: President Trump is meeting with advisers today to help him decide whether he will support a gun violence package, but sources close to that conversation tell CNN and that a key figure is advocating for stronger background checks and that person is Attorney General Bill Barr.

And while Republican lawmakers say that they won't put anything on paper until they know his preference, I can tell you that today, the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy essentially says this waiting game will be worth it.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The President is getting all the information from law enforcement, from the legal community, from Barr and others. He is meeting with members on both sides of the aisle. I'd expect he'll come forward with a package quite soon. But he wants to gather all the information first and make sure whatever we move forward solves the problem that none of this happens again.


BALDWIN: But this week, we saw the President take remarkably quick and sweeping action on another problem across this country -- vaping.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a problem in our country. It's a new problem. It's a problem nobody really thought about too much a few years ago and it's called vaping, especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children.

People are dying with vaping.



BALDWIN: The President is now calling for an outright ban on most flavored e-cigarettes and while the six deaths from vaping related lung illness is certainly six too many, my next guest asks the President a worthy question.

In "The Washington Post," she writes, "Every day, an average of a hundred Americans are killed by guns. What about the youths affected by that? Columnist Christine Emba, thank you so much for being with me. I read your piece this morning and wanted to talk to you, you know, and not to take away from his robust response on vaping. But you say that this is a message the White House refuses to receive? Why do you think that is?

CHRISTINE EMBA, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": YeS, absolutely. I find it fascinating and almost funny. That, you know, there have been six deaths from vaping. And yes, that's six deaths too many. And the White House is able to jump to attention to push new policy immediately faced with that threat.

But then there is an ongoing threat, one that affects hundreds of thousands of people across the country. They're mass shootings. There are back-to-school kids practicing hiding in closets from active shooters, and there, the President says, "Well, I can't do anything about that."

It's remarkable that one of these messages, the far more important one seems to not get through to him at all.

BALDWIN: It sounds like he is working behind the scenes with some senators to do something about that. And the interesting piece today ass we just reported that Bill Barr -- Bill Barr, is the guy actually nudging him, you know, behind the Background Check Bill, what did you think of that?

EMBA: Right. There is reporting saying that Bill Barr is working with Justice Department officials to try and put forward legislation to close at least one loophole, the private gun sale background check loophole, which one of the shooters in Texas managed to sneak through and buy his gun with?

That said, the President has said he is working on solutions for gun control, basically, since his election, and obviously, none of them have come to fruition. It's not likely that these ones will either, frankly.

BALDWIN: Believe it -- when you talk to parents who've lost, you know, young people, or just you know, anyone, they say, "Believe it when you see it." I know you watched that debate last night, Christine, Beto O'Rourke had the whole standout moment where he was talking about gun violence. Of course, we know 22 people were killed in his hometown of El Paso. And he said this, "We're going to take your AR-15 and your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against a fellow American anymore."

And so we have new reporting on that today that -- it is frustrating Democrats on Capitol Hill who are working on some sort of progress on gun legislation, and I'm wondering from you, do you think he just handed Republicans the NRA like the perfect sound bite?

EMBA: Unfortunately, I do think that this will be one of the number one sound bites that's used in GOP ads for the next, you know, year and a half. But that said, I think that Beto was extremely energetic and passionate in saying that on the debate stage yesterday, because he has become one of those people who was personally affected.

And I think that line did get a lot of applause because he is speaking for a number of Americans who have to. You know, public opinion in polling says that most Americans are in favor of at least some increased gun control measures, whether it's background checks, or even potentially gun buyback programs.

And the problem with the White House is, President Trump is not asking the majority of Americans what to do and he is not listening for those either. The polling that he does to make decisions on gun control and what measures to support or say he is going to support and then ignore is polling based on his base, based on independence, and naturally his donors and supporters in the NRA, who have a stranglehold on the policy that's coming out of the White House.

BALDWIN: Christine Emba, we await to see what does come out of the White House here, if anything. I appreciate you very much and for your opinion piece in "The Post."

We move on, new details and a case against a fertility clinic. Listen to this. Parents sue after their daughter is born a different race than either of them. Hear the clinic's -- shall we say -- interesting defense.

Plus actress, Felicity Huffman learning her sentencing any moment now. We are live in Boston, next.