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Centrists Strike Back As Health Care Division Crystallizes; Beto O'Rourke (D), Presidential Candidate, Says, Hell Yes, We're Taking Your Assault Weapons; Rivals Question Biden's Mental Fitness In Personal Jabs; Biden On Afghanistan, We Don't Need Those Troops There; Biden's Answer On Segregation Included Record Player Line; Felicity Huffman Sentenced in College Admissions Scam; Same Sex Couple Sues State Over Denial Of Daughter's Citizenship. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: We will see you back here Sunday morning as well, (INAUDIBLE) show up early, 8:00 A.M. Eastern. Brianna Keilar starts Right Now. Have a great afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington Headquarters.

Underway right now, in the 2020 race, the center strikes back, the divide over healthcare crystallizes, and rivals question frontrunner's memory and his tendency to, quote, meander in his speech.

Plus, Beto O'Rourke gets a death threat after saying, hell, yes, he would take away assault weapons from Americans.

Plus, just a short time from now, Felicity Huffman will learn whether she spends Emmy Sunday on the red carpet or behind bars.

And as hundreds are still missing, another storm takes aim at the Bahamas.

It was a huge night in the Democratic president race. For the first time, all of the top polling contenders stood side by side on a debate stage. And their deep divides, especially when it comes to healthcare, were on full display.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My plan for healthcare costs a lot of money. It costs $740 billion. It doesn't $30 trillion.

The senator has, in fact, come forward and said how he's going to pay for it but it gets him about halfway there.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every study done shows that Medicare for all is the most cost-effective approach to providing healthcare for every man, woman and child in this country.

I who 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 eight 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.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND, IN), 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.


KEILAR: Ryan Nobles is here with us now. And, Ryan, the public option versus Medicare for all was certainly a hot topic last night. Tell us what each of these candidates really stand on this.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Brianna, obviously, healthcare, a big issue in this Democratic primary, poll after poll tells us that voters care about it in a big way.

So let's map out where everybody stands. And we need to start with the premise that all of these Democratic candidates are in favor of the goal of universal healthcare in some capacity with the government helping us get to that point. But we really need to start at the damn bill, right, because Bernie Sanders started that conversation when he introduced the idea of Medicare for all. And he had a lot of Senate co-sponsors jump on board, many of them now candidates for president.

And so that's really where we are in the middle of this, people that, at one point, said that they support Medicare for all as a concept, Kamala Harris co-sponsored the bill, so did Cory Booker. But both of them, to a certain extent, have backed away from the bill in its totality. The only two that are running for president that are still behind it from chapter and verse, from start to finish, are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Booker has talked about getting an easier process, getting the implementation started right away. Harris has talked about a role for private insurance, which Medicare for all, in its totality, does not include.

Now, here's where the big divide comes in, and this is this group. You've got Yang, Buttigieg, of course, Vice President Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O'Rourke, who have said that Medicare for all just goes too far. The idea of just handing the keys over to government and allowing them to do everything is just a bridge that they don't want to cross. Instead they want to build on Obamacare, and that would be a public option, offering people the opportunity to either keep their private health insurance or instead buy in to some sort of a government-backed insurance program.

And, basically, the basis of these two when you look at this side of this spectrum versus that side of the spectrum is whether or not you want the government to be in control of it or if you still believe the basis of the healthcare industry belongs in the hands of health insurance companies in the private sector through an employer- sponsored program. That's where the argument is right now.

And, of course, a big part of this, Brianna, is a general election argument. Yes, this may play well in the Democratic primary. But when you get into a race against Donald Trump, this side of the option believes that maybe that the general American public isn't comfortable with moving that far that fast. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

And gun control was another hot topic. And with President Trump dragging his feet on any major initiatives to address this, it was fertile ground for the Democratic candidates.

Democratic hopeful Beto O'Rourke has made it a centerpiece [13:05:00] of his campaign after three horrific shootings in August alone, one of them taking place in his home town of El Paso, where 22 people were killed after a gunman targeted Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart.

Here is what O'Rourke said when asked if he was proposing to take away people's guns.


FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am if it's a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield. If the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed on a battlefield, not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.

When we see that being used against children, and 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're not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.


KEILAR: You can see just the positive response there from the crowd that O'Rourke received. But shortly after the debate, O'Rourke received what he called a death threat from a fellow Texas politician.

I want to bring in Leyla Santiago with us here. She's been covering Beto O'Rourke. Tell us what happened and also just tell us about his plan for gun control.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. So let's back up a little bit and figure out how exactly we got here. Let's take a look at his gun plan that he released not too long ago. This is what he wants to put out there. And I want to draw your attention to a nationwide gun licensing system, because I think that speaks to what would be his evolution on gun violence.

You see, in May, when he was in New Hampshire, he was asked about that because that's when Booker proposed it, and he said, and I quote, this may go too far. Look at it now. It's on his plan. So what happened? To your point, Brianna, that mass shooting in El Paso.

Now, this is something that is very, very personal to him and this is his top priority. I was with him in El Paso after he took a break to be with friends, family, the community, to be there for that tragedy and the recovery of it. And he said to me that these were his top priorities now. He definitely showed that on the stage last night.

But what happened off stage? Let's go to Twitter. That is where we saw that O'Rourke tweeted about what he saw was a death threat, this right here coming from State Representative, Briscoe Cain. He said, my AR is ready for you, Robert Francis. I should point out, Robert Francis, that's his full name. Beto is the nickname in Spanish for Robert. That was since taken down. What is still on Twitter right now is your child, Robert Francis.

Now, O'Rourke campaign has said that they have reported that Tweet to the FBI. They wouldn't talk about whether or not he will have security from now on for, well, security purposes. But they will continue to now use that as an example of why he says it's so important to push the envelope when it comes to his plans for guns.

KEILAR: All right. Leyla, thank you so much for that.

And the sparks did not stop there. Several candidates going on the attack, aiming at the frontrunner and raising questions about former Vice President's Joe Biden's mental fitness.


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

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

Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: After the debate, Senator Cory Booker seemed to play off of that exchange. Here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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 had some really legitimate concerns about can he be someone in a long, grueling campaign that he'd get the ball over the line, and he has every right to call that out.


KEILAR: Symone Sanders is a senior adviser to the Biden campaign. She is here with us.

What's your reaction to this?

SYMONE SANDERS, SENIOR ADVISER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Well, Brianna, I'm so surprised by Senator Booker because he said none of that on the debate stage.

Look, last night, there were nine candidates on the actual debate stage that came to have a substantive (ph) debate about policy about the most pressing issues facing Americans, like healthcare, like what to do about the gun violence epidemic in America. We talked about climate change. Again, there was one candidate that decided he would like to take personal, cheap and, frankly, factually incorrect shots at Vice President Biden.

And I think if you look at the history of folks deploying these tactics in a debate [13:10:00] and it hasn't bode well. It didn't bode well for Eric Swalwell, it did not bode well for Senator Gillibrand and I don't think it boded well for Secretary Castro last night.

But we came to have a such good debate about policy, Brianna, and I think that's what we have.

KEILAR: After the debate though, there is a chance for candidates to say things that are impactful. We see but we are not seeing Biden do that. He's the one candidate who is not -- you know, Cory Booker said that after the debate, people were paying attention to that. There are things Biden could be saying after that debate. Why isn't he taking that opportunity?

SANDERS: Why isn't Vice President Biden going into the spin room to pundit on his debate performance, I don't know. Look --

KEILAR: Why is -- no, but I'm -- you're laughing at my -- I'm asking seriously. So will you let me know why?

SANDERS: I'm not laughing at the question, Brianna, because after every single debate, every single debate that we have had thus far, Vice President Biden makes it a point to, one, go to a local sat out there in the community and we were in Detroit, we went to Detroit, on Coney Island, he spoke with voters, he sat and talked to people. And then he went outside and did a press gaggle, we regularly gaggle on the campaign trail. And so to assert that there's not an opportunity to hear from Vice President Biden today or even while he could be in a campaign trail this weekend I just think isn't true.

But what I will say is, again, it's so interesting that folks had so much to say in the spin room and not the same energy on the debate stage. But you know what, I guess that's politics.

KEILAR: Okay. So I want to ask you about healthcare because the vice president seemed to be doing well when he was raising questions about the cost of Medicare for all, which Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, of course, are proponents of. He also took some incoming from Senator Booker and Secretary Castro for his plan not having full universal coverage. You're putting it at 97 percent. That is high, that's not 100 percent. What do you say to Democratic primary voters who want something more ambitious than that?

SANDERS: Look, I think this is a very ambitious proposal. I don't know. I guess --

KEILAR: The public and Democratic Primary voters who want every -- what do you say to Democratic primary voters who want everyone to have coverage?

SANDERS: So we want to be clear, Brianna, and I think Vice President Biden was clear on the debate stage. So everyone will have the opportunity to be covered under our healthcare plan.

When we go to a substantive policy debate about healthcare, what I think is very important is that folks are being straight (ph) with the American people about their plans. We are being very clear and straight with them. Frankly, Senator Sanders has been clear and straight. He says that your taxes will go up. Middle class American's taxes will go up with his Medicare for all plan. But who has not been straight and who dodged about three times in that debate stage was Senator Warren.

And I think it's a fair question to ask, one, how are you going to pay for it, are your costs clear, and two, our taxes are going to go up. And taxes are going to go up under that Medicare for all plan. You cannot beat Donald Trump with double talk on healthcare and this is something very personal for Vice President Biden and it's personal for folks all across this country.

Look, under Senator Sanders' Medicare for all plan, Brianna, a family making $60,000 a year, a family of four making $60,000 a year, their costs are going up. They'll be paying an extra $6,000 a year.

KEILAR: I just -- in fairness, I have to say, they say taxes go up, premiums go down. The premiums go down. But I want to talk what the former vice president said about Afghanistan. Let's listen.


BIDEN: We can prevent to United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases, and since the Pakistan has provided bases for us to -- air lift from and to move against what we know. We don't need those troops there. I will bring them home. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: So when you have people who are experts on this region, they say, that doesn't make sense, because Pakistan, the military, the intelligence services there actually support the Taliban. Why would you be looking to them as an ally to have bases?

SANDERS: Well, look, in the Obama/Biden administration, as you know, this was a key issue, getting -- bringing our troops home, getting our folks out of. Afghanistan. And President Obama turned to then Vice President Biden and said, I'm going to give this to Joe. I want him to bring our troops home.

And so Vice President Biden has been in Afghanistan, had been to the region over more than -- he's made more than 30 trips.

KEILAR: Why is he proposing bases in Pakistan?

SANDERS: Look, he's very familiar with this issue. Look, I think what we've currently --

KEILAR: But I'm telling you people who are familiar with this issue say this doesn't make sense. So how do you make sense of this?

SANDERS: Well, Brianna, I think it does make sense.

KEILAR: How does it make sense?

SANDERS: There's a lot going on in the region right now and we have to be willing to do some innovative things, we have to be willing to be creative, but we also have to be practical. And I think that's what Vice President Biden was talking about.

KEILAR: (INAUDIBLE) say that's not practical. They say that's not pragmatic.

SANDERS: (INAUDIBLE) to have this conversation. I think we had a number of substantive conversations last night.

KEILAR: Then tell me about U.S. bases in Pakistan.

SANDERS: Brianna, I think you don't agree with U.S. bases in Pakistan. And if that's your position, that's absolutely fine.

KEILAR: Symone, don't turn this on me. I'm telling you what experts on this issue say, that this is not -- this is just not a realistic approach. Pakistan supported the Taliban as it fights the U.S. in Afghanistan.

SANDERS: Do you know what is not a realistic approach, Brianna, [13:15:00] dealing with what we currently have in terms of foreign policy coming out of the White House right now under the Trump administration. And Vice President Biden, on day one, will put a plan together to lead not just at home but on abroad. He's proven he can do this time and time again. He knows these world leaders. KEILAR: I don't hear you making -- I do not hear you actually making -- to get to the heart of this. I don't hear you making sense and even explaining U.S. bases in Pakistan.

SANDERS: Vice President Biden has said that's a part of the plan that he will put together, that it's -- I hear you saying that there are folks who don't agree with this plan.

KEILAR: No, no, not folks. I'm not saying experts.

SANDERS: Folks, experts, I hear you saying the experts that don't agree. And I think you're asking me to backup a position that he has started on the debate stage and I'm not going to do that.

KEILAR: All right, fair enough. Okay. Record player, Symone, the vice president was talking about how, as young children, poor kids don't hear as many words as rich kids and that this is very bad obviously for their development. I think a lot of people look at that point and they say, that's a good point to be made, what he was saying that they need to have verbal stimulation essentially, and he was saying, you need to keep your record player on at night.

So I want to ask you, because this is something that -- it sounds kind of old fashioned, especially as he's trying to ward off these attacks that you're hearing from some of the other people who were on the stage who were saying, look, this is about the future, not about the past.

SANDERS: Well, Brianna, first, you obviously don't know about the vinyl vote, okay? The vinyl vote is out there?

KEILAR: So is this Joe Biden's hipster defense?

SANDERS: You don't know about the vinyl vote, but let's get serious, because the question had to do with systemic racism, and we were talking about education. And the fact of the matter is that systemic racism is real. And we feel the effects of systemic racism in this country through many different threads, whether we're talking about healthcare, whether we're talking about our criminal justice system, but especially also when we're talking about education.

And so on the Vice President Biden's 0 through 12 plan, it is a very aggressive plan that addresses things that he alluded to in the debate stage, also such as the wealth gap. We've got three different piece in our education plan that speaks to that. But it also addresses injecting a serious amount of fending into title one schools.

So we have proposed tripling the amount funding that goes to title one schools to make sure that they are good schools and every (INAUDIBLE), but also providing for universal pre-K,. Because in terms of if you talk about the word gap, if we talk about that there are, in fact, some kids that go to school in places -- that come to school in places all over this country who are not at the same readiness as some of their counterparts. And that goes for black kids, that goes for white kids, Latin, Mexican kids, Asian-American-Pacific islander, you know, poor, as many people know, Brianna, I mean, it doesn't -- the poor across the board.

And so what our plan has said and what we are often on the campaign trail saying is that we have to invest in kids from the start, and that's what Vice President Biden was saying on that stage (ph).

KEILAR: All right. Symone, thank you so much for coming. We really appreciate it.

SANDERS: Absolutely.

KEILAR: And Andrew Yang saying that he'll randomly select ten families to try out his $1,000 a month plan, but is that even legal?

Plus, just a short time from now, Felicity Huffman learns her fate in that massive college scandal.

And the same sex couple's daughter is denied citizenship. And now, her parents are taking that fight straight through the State Department and the courts.



KEILAR: Soon, actress Felicity Huffman will be the first parent to be sentenced in the nation's largest college admission scam. Huffman has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud after she paid $15,000 to boost her daughter's SAT scores.

CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero is here with me now to discuss this. And prosecutors are suggesting that Huffman get one month in prison and that she pay a $25,000 fine. Her lawyers want no jail time, whatsoever. What do you think this judge is going to decide?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's always hard to predict what the judge is going to do. The government is asking for one month, as you said, which is actually a pretty small amount and it's a small fine.

She has admitted that she did this. She pled guilty. She has issued a letter to the court asking for leniency and no jail time. In her letter, it's very detailed, it's very remorseful. She really goes into a lot of detail regarding her decision-making process and how she got wrapped up in the scheme, how she trusted the individual who was really at the center of the scheme, who was bilking these parents and getting these parents involved in this conspiracy.

So it's a very detailed letter. It's a very remorseful letter, and the question is to whether or not the judge will look at that, believe that that it's genuine and looking at the fact that she took responsibility very promptly when this case was brought.

KEILAR: And you would think that would help perhaps persuade the judge not to make an example out of her. So we'll see if that's the case. I do want to switch gears with you to talk about another legal battle. This is a same sex couple, Adiel and Roee Kiviti, and they had filed a lawsuit against the State Department after their daughter, Kessem, was denied citizenship because of a policy that says, children born abroad with the help of surrogacy or an egg donor are considered, quote, born out of wedlock, right? That's the terminology.

I spoke with this couple recently and here's how they described this to me.



ADIEL KIVITI, SUING STATE DEPARTMENT OVER DAUGHTER'S CITIZENSHIP: We are both American citizens. We have been married for six years now. Our son is an American citizen and we have a two months old baby girl that is -- application is not approved.

Basically, what we were told is that, effectively, our marriage means nothing, saying that our daughter was born out of wedlock just means that she's not our daughter, it's not a real marriage, it's not a real family. That's basically what the State Department is saying.


KEILAR: Do you think that the Kivitis will prevail in court? Is it hard to say?

CORDERO: This is a really -- you know, it's an open area of law when it comes to this specific issue that they're dealing with, which is a same sex marriage, a surrogacy and a State Department that now is challenging, which in the past might not have been challenged under prior administrations.

To be clear, the Supreme Court since 2015 says that same sex marriage is legal. And so what is happening is that the State Department is interpreting an older version of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and now saying that various provisions, because it's very, very detailed in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the INA. It's very detailed with respect to a father, whether a father is the biological link to the child or whether the mother is the biological link to the child and how long the parents have been in the United States, if one is a citizen or one is not. There's all sorts of different variations is the point.

And so they're going to challenge this. It might be it will work its way through the courts. It potentially could end up in the Supreme Court or it also is an area where Congress could clarify the law.

KEILAR: I almost laugh at that one to think of a divided Congress and if they would take this up. Carrie, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Andrew Yang promises to give ten families $1,000 a month as an experiment. But was his debate stunt even legal? Plus, new CNN reporting that Beto O'Rourke's promise to take away assault weapons is sending shockwaves through Capitol Hill.