Return to Transcripts main page


2020 Democrats in Fiery Debate on Health Care and More; Benjamin Netanyahu Travels to Russia to Meet with Vladimir Putin. Aired 3:30-4a ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 03:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- Democrats, one stage, health care at the center of the fight for the future of the party.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A major tropical system will hit the already battered Bahamas. Now a tropical storm watch for parts of Florida.

ROMANS: Sentencing day for Felicity Huffman. How much time will the actress get for her role in the college admission scam?

BRIGGS: And he got bullied for showing school spirit. Now, the University of Tennessee has major reward for that young man. We'll tell you what it is later on.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Yes. Take that, the mean girls who were making fun of him. If he qualifies, he gets a free ride.

I'm Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

BRIGGS: We'll start with the big debate. Now at a fiery third debate last night, 10 Democrats tangling over a host of issues, notably health care, of course guns, race and how far left the party should go. Joe Biden gave a more lively performance than in the first two debates. He and other moderate Democrats defended their ideas for upgrading Obamacare against more aggressive proposals.


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

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Medicare-for- All. Costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals and costs are going to go up for giant corporations.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wrote the damn bill, if I may say so.


SANDERS: Intend to eliminate all out-of-pocket expenses. BIDEN: Well, if you noticed. He hadn't answered the question. This

is about candor, honesty, big ideas. Let's have a big idea. The tax of 2 percent that the senator is talking about, that raises about $3 billion. Guess what? That leaves you about $28 billion short.

WARREN: 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.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And while Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill. And on page eight --


KLOBUCHAR: 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-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem, Senator Sanders, with that damn bill that you wrote, and that Senator Warren backs, is it doesn't trust the American people.

I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you. Not my way or the highway.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to give credit to Bernie. Take credit, Bernie. You know, you brought us this far on Medicare-for-All. I wanted to make the plan better which I did, which is about offering people choice, not taking that from them.

BIDEN: Nobody has yet said how much it's going to cost the taxpayer. I hear this large savings. The president think -- my friend from Vermont thinks that the employers is going to give you back if you negotiate as union all these years, you got a cut in wages because you got insurance. They're going to give back that money to the employee?

SANDERS: As a matter of fact they will.

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you something. For a socialist, you've got a -- for a socialist, you've got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.


BRIGGS: Did the debate move the needle for any of the candidates.

More now from Jeff Zeleny in Houston.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the big takeaways from last night's debate here in Houston simply are that this field will continue. Not a lot of clarity in terms of any big winners potentially one big loser. We'll get to him in a minute. But Joe Biden, no question, came in with a stronger performance than he has had in previous debates. Of course, he has been uneven, at times, unprepared. But last night, he seemed to be sharper in his answers, particularly on health care.

He framed the discussion of the debate on continuing Obamacare versus creating an entirely new system. Of course, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on that side. Joe Biden, also getting Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg with him. So certainly no clarity on that health care debate. But Joe Biden holding his own here and raising some serious questions about the cost of that program of Medicare-for-All.

Overall, no question that Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and certainly Beto O'Rourke also had key moments in the debate. They of course are trying to get more attention, trying to break out of the field. And they did, indeed, have strong moments.

I think the biggest takeaway overall, the fact that all candidates on one stage for one night. Ten, strong candidates. Really gives Democratic voters a lot to choose from. By and large, as we head into the next debate, which is only a month from now, pretty much status quo here. Still Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, leading this field. Other candidates, still of course will be trying to fund raise off of this with now some seven days left in this fundraising period.


That's certainly an exciting night in Houston -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny for us. Thanks.

One cringeworthy exchange on health care receiving some attention this morning. A heated back and forth between Joe Biden and Julian Castro who badly needed a breakout moment. Here's Biden describing the public option part of his plan.


BIDEN: The longest out-of-pocket payment you'll pay is $1,000. You'll be able to get into a -- anyone who can't afford it gets automatically enrolled in a Medicare-type option. When you lose the job from your employer you automatically can buy into this. You don't have -- no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in. You get covered. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: You heard Biden used the word "automatically." People can be automatically enrolled and they can automatically buy in. Now listen to Castro's response.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You require them to opt in. And I would not require them to opt in. They would automatically be enrolled. They wouldn't have to buy in. That's a big difference because Barack Obama's vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered. He wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan would do that. Your plan would not.

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


CASTRO: You just said that.


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

BIDEN: Your grandmother wouldn't have to buy in. If she qualifies for Medicare --

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


CASTRO: Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago this 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.


BRIGGS: Castro clearly making an issue of Biden's age, memory and his propensity for gaffes. But it's important to note Castro was completely wrong here on the substance. Biden explained his plan allows people to choose Medicare but those who qualify for it financially will automatically be enrolled.

ROMANS: All right. Beto O'Rourke did something new for a major Democratic presidential candidate last night. He said very clearly and directly he would take what he called weapons of war and certain kinds of guns away from law-abiding Americans. O'Rourke temporarily left the campaign trail you'll recall after the mass shooting that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas. That's his hometown. The other candidates on stage gave him credit for his work on the gun issue. And said -- he said this about another shooting in Texas later in August.


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. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

O'ROURKE: We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.


BRIGGS: After the debate, Texas state representative, Briscoe Cain, tweeting he had his AR waiting for O'Rourke. That tweet has been removed by Twitter for violating rules about violence. O'Rourke, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker support a mandatory buy-back program for certain guns. Other Democrats would ban them but not require owners to sell them back to the government.

ROMANS: All right, 38 minutes past the hour. The trade war with China is taking a toll on the U.S. economy. Democratic candidates weighed in on America's relationship with China, President Trump's trade policy and tariffs.


ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump has pursued an arbitrary and haphazard trade policy that has had victims on both sides.

BUTTIGIEG: When I first got into this race, I remember President Trump scoffed and said he'd like to see me making a deal with Xi Jinping. I'd like to see him making a deal with Xi Jinping.


BUTTIGIEG: Is it just me or was that supposed to happen in like April?

KLOBUCHAR: He has assessed these tariffs on our allies. He has put us in the middle of this trade war and he is treating our farmers and our workers like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos.

CASTRO: I would immediately begin ratcheting that trade war down. We have leverage in that discussion.

WARREN: Everybody wants access to the American market. That means that we have the capacity to say right here in America, you want to come sell goods to American consumers? Then you got to raise your standards.

HARRIS: China, it's a complicated relationship. We have to hold China accountable. They steal our products, including our intellectual property. They dump substandard products into our economy.

WARREN: If a company shuts down in America and goes abroad and then thinks they're going to get online to get a lucrative federal contract on the Bernie Sanders, they have another guess coming.

BIDEN: If we don't set the rules, we in fact are going to find ourselves with China setting the rules. And that's why you need to organize the world to take on China to stop the corrupt practices that are under way.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump's America-first policy is actually an America isolated, an America alone policy. From trade to battling China, he's deciding to take on China while at the same time taking on tariff battles with all of our allies.


ROMANS: There's no question, a year of tariffs is hurting both economies. But the White House maintains the trade war is not affecting the U.S. economy. Another round of face-to-face talks is scheduled for next month.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, two parents demanding answers from a fertility clinic after finding out their daughter had a different father.



BRIGGS: One last photo-op for Benjamin Netanyahu before next week's critical snap election in Israel. The prime minister met Thursday with Vladimir Putin and picked up some pre-election support from the Russian president. Netanyahu's visit is widely seen as an appeal to Israel's large Russian community which widely supports the prime minister's chief political rival.

Oren Liebermann has more from Sochi, Russia.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, one of Donald Trump's closest allies is cozying up to one of America's biggest enemies. Just days before he's up for reelection, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is playing both sides internationally, making a lightning fast trip to Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tout their relationship.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Tightening the relations between us, Mr. President, is also the result of two other things -- our mutual rational policy and the direct connection between us.

LIEBERMANN: While Iran and security topped the official agenda, analysts say there's another reason for a quick trip out of the country just days before ballots are cast.

Netanyahu was pushing for the Russian vote in Israel. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union make up some 15 percent of Israel's population, a vote that's generally in the hands of this man, Avigdor Lieberman. Originally from the Soviet Union, Lieberman once worked for Netanyahu before launching his own party. Now, the former defense minister is the secular right-wing thorn in Netanyahu's side, having quit the Israeli leader's government, saying he was too soft on terror and caved to the religious.

AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN, LEADER, YISRAEL BEITEINU: And hopes that we will establish really, national white Liberal government without orthodox and without radical members of our Knesset.

LIEBERMANN: Polls show Lieberman with enough seats to prevent Netanyahu from getting the right-wing religious government he wants. And while Lieberman's strength begins with his Russian base, his appeal is growing across the political spectrum.

ANNA RAYVA-BARKSY, ISRAEL CHANNEL 9 (through translator): The joint interest is secularism. They feel that the country is changing, and they feel the religious population is becoming a majority and more and more dominant, and it scares them. And Lieberman tells them, I am holding your flag.

LIEBERMANN: Roni Milo is the former mayor of Tel Aviv. He once belonged to Netanyahu's Likud Party. Now, he says he's voting Lieberman.

RONI MILO, LIEBERMAN SUPPORTER: He is a right-wing, but not extreme right-wing, but moderate right-wing on one hand, and on the other hand, he is not connected to all kind of corruption.

LIEBERMANN: Lieberman refused to join with Netanyahu in April's elections, forcing new elections. With the renewed popularity, he is one more obstacle standing between Netanyahu and an election-like victory.

Netanyahu heads home after this quick trip to try to take control of the headlines. Once again, his big announcements this week did not go as he had planned. After he said Israel had discovered a secret nuclear base in Iran, President Donald Trump said he'd still be willing to meet the Iranian president. Then when he said he'd annex parts of the West Bank, well, that was condemned by the Russians, and then, Trump fired John Bolton, one of Netanyahu's closest allies in Iran in another blow to Netanyahu.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Sochi.


ROMANS: Oren has done some great work covering that election for us.

BRIGGS: Sure has.

ROMANS: All right, 48 minutes past the hour. Popeyes has a quick fix to the chicken sandwich shortage that has rocked America. Bring your own bun. BYOB. CNN Business has the details next.



BRIGGS: 3:53 Eastern Time. A tropical storm watch now covering parts of east Central Florida. The system expected to strengthen into a tropical depression or a storm within the next day or so. Today will bring heavy rain and high winds to the already battered Bahamas and then to Florida through the weekend.

ROMANS: So officials have significantly lowered the number of missing in the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian. The official count is now 1300. It's just over half the previous estimate of 2500. Aid is still trickling in. The U.S. just announcing an additional $4 million in humanitarian assistance. One in five Bahamians are now homeless. More than 2100 people remain in shelters.

BRIGGS: It's sentencing day for Felicity Huffman in the college admission scandal. The "Desperate Housewives" star pleaded guilty for paying $15,000 to a fake charity so a proctor would correct her daughter's answers to SAT questions. Prosecutors have asked for a month in prison and a $20,000 fine. Huffman's lawyers are asking for probation. She says the prosecution's sentencing argument cites previous cases which are very different from hers.

ROMANS: The Centers for Disease Control revising its criteria for vaping illnesses in the number of cases it is counting nationwide. The CDC announced last night there are 380 confirmed in probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarette use in 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The CDC says it will no longer report possible cases or cases under investigation. This week, President Trump announced plans to ban flavored e-cigarettes.

BRIGGS: Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert firing back at "The New York Times" after they reported Baffert's 2018 Triple Crown winning horse Justify should have been disqualified because of a failed drug test.


Baffert in a statement through his attorney says he unequivocally rejects the he would give Justify or any other horse a banned substance. He blames trace amounts of the drug found in test results on the horse's contaminated feed. Baffert says Justify was drug tested during the Triple Crown run and is calling on those agencies to release the test results.

ROMANS: California lawmakers voting to ban state and local law enforcement from using facial recognition software in body cameras. Opponents claim the technology raises privacy and accuracy concerns. It also prevents police from taking body camera footage and running it through facial recognition software at a later time. The ban does not apply to federal agencies like the FBI. Governor Gavin Newsom must now decide whether to sign that ban into law by October 13th.

BRIGGS: Two New Jersey parents are speaking out to CNN after claiming a mix-up at a fertility clinic left them with a baby with a different father. Kristina and Drew Wasilewski are now divorced and suing the fertility clinic. They say by the time their daughter was 2, they noticed she was developing Asian features. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTINA KOEDDERICH, SUING THE INSTITUTE FOR REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE AND SCIENCE: When she was born, all my friends said, oh, she looks Asian. She looks Asian. So, you know, we were cracking jokes. You know, but, you just figure, every baby like looks different when they're born.

DREW WASILEWSKI, SUING THE INSTITUTE FOR REPRODUCTIVE MEDICINE AND SCIENCE: It's hard. I mean, it hurts every time. It just -- gets to the heart. Just keeps stabbing and stabbing and stabbing. And every day you can't run from this. You can't run.


BRIGGS: According to court records, the defendants claim the invitro procedure was done correctly and suggested an extramarital affair may have led to the birth. A spokesman for the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science says, quote, "The integrity of our treatment processes are paramount and we are taking this matter very seriously."

The University of Tennessee offering a free ride to the class of 2032, for an elementary school student bullied for creating his homemade "Tennessee Volunteers" t-shirt. The university says it will cover the cost in scholarship for the Florida fourth grader if he chooses to attend the school and meets admission requirements. The boy's story drew national attention earlier this week when a Facebook post by his teacher went viral. She says he was bullied after clipping a piece of paper with a "UT" design to an orange t-shirt and wearing it to College Colors Day. ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning.

Taking a look at global markets right now. Stocks around the world in Asia were up, opening mixed in Europe, in the last hour or so. On Wall Street, futures leaning a little bit higher here. The Dow logged its seventh day of gains here, closing up 42 points, the longest winning streak since early May. The S&P 500, the Nasdaq, also finished higher, as well.

Eye-popping numbers from the Treasury Department. The U.S. deficit -- budget deficit has topped a trillion dollars and the year is not even over yet. A number of factors are driving the deficit increase, including the tax cuts signed into law by the president in 2017 and a huge spending package passed by Congress. The last time the gap was this big was in 2012 in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Walmart is expanding its grocery delivery program, going head-to-head with Amazon and Target. Delivery Unlimited will cost 98 bucks a year. It will be offered in 1400 stores over the next few months. Customers can either order the groceries to their home or pick them up at a participating location. The service will compete with Amazon Prime and Target's shipped service. Walmart says the service will cover more than half the country, the hope is, by tend of the year.

All right. Couldn't get your hands on a Popeyes chicken sandwich? Popeyes is suggesting a quick fix. BYOB, bring your own bun.

BRIGGS: All right.

ROMANS: Popeyes is allowing customers to bring in their own buns, order its three-piece tenders and make their own sandwiches. Popeyes sold out of the sandwich in just two weeks after incredible demand and a heated chicken sandwich war.

I don't know if they're making light of their shortage or making fun of themselves or if that's even smart. I'm not sure.

BRIGGS: By the way, I'm not bringing my own bun. You?



BRIGGS: No way, man.

All right. While you were sleeping, late-night hosts gave their take on the third Democratic debate.


SANDERS: We must and will defeat Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country.

STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE-NIGHT HOST: Almost as dangerous as the Bumblebee that I swallowed before this debate. I am going into anaphylactic shock, which would be covered under Medicare-for-All.

JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE-NIGHT HOST: Andrew Yang who is an interesting guy. Yesterday his campaign manager said he would be doing something no presidential candidate has ever done before.

YANG: My campaign will now give a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month for an entire year to 10 American families. Someone watching this at home right now. If you believe that you can solve your own problems better than any politician, go to and tell us how $1,000 a month --