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THE SITUATION ROOM

Housewives to Big House; Cheap Shot; The Coming Storm; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-NY, Interviewed; Kim Jong-un's Cybersecrets; Actress Felicity Huffman First to Be Sentenced in College Admissions Cheating Scandal; Biden Campaign Accuses Castro of "Cheap Shot" and "Low Blow"; Trump Campaign, V.P. Pence Highlight Beto O'Rourke's Debate Promise, Dems Praise Mayor Buttigieg's Answer to Setbacks Question; U.S. Slaps New Sanctions on North Korean Hacking Groups. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:15]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.

From housewives to big house. Actress Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days for her role in the college admissions cheating scandal after making an emotional appeal to the judge. Will other parents including actress Lori Loughlin also serve time?

Cheap shot. Joe Biden's campaign bites back after Democratic rivals take swipes at the former vice president's memory and question his fitness for office. Will Biden himself stay above the fray?

The coming storm. New warnings tonight as a tropical depression threatens to bring more wind and rain to the same islands devastated by Hurricane Dorian. We have a new forecast just out.

And Kim's cybersecrets. The U.S. slaps new sanctions on North Korean hackers who made billions of dollars for Kim Jong-un's regime. There are some of the most notorious cyberattacks ever.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KEILAR: We're following breaking news.

The sentence for actress Felicity Huffman has just been handed down. She's being ordered to serve 14 days in prison for her role in the college admissions cheating scandal. She's the first of more than two dozen people charged in the scheme including actress Lori Loughlin to be sentenced.

Also breaking, former Vice President Joe Biden just conceding he thinks he could have done better in last night's presidential debate. In which one -- in which one of the standout moments was a thinly veiled swipe at his memory. We're going to talk about that and more with Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and our correspondents and our analysts who are also standing by.

We'll get more on Felicity Huffman's sentencing here in just a moment. But first, the new fallout from the latest Democratic debate. CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz is here with details. And Arlette, Joe Biden came under attack from his rivals. And he just told a group of donors that he thinks he could have done better.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That is right, Brianna. Joe Biden attended a fundraiser in Houston where he said last night's debate was a good night but said he could have done better and will do better in the future. But Biden's campaign tonight is seizing on that moment. That clash he had with Julian Castro saying that the former HUD secretary's comments are a low blow and a cheap shot.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ (voice-over): Tonight Joe Biden pushing back on rival Julian Castro. After some heated clashes at Thursday night's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you're not.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That will be a surprise to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Castro launching this attack on Biden during an exchange on healthcare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

(CROSSTALK)

Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? 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 -- you're forgetting that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Biden responding just a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: (INAUDIBLE) I think he got his facts wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: In fact, Biden did say earlier in the debate some people would not be required to opt in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Anyone who can't afford, it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Off the debate stage, Cory Booker saved his harshest criticism of Biden for an interview with CNN after the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- because there are people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Then this morning a walk-back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOOKER: Forgive me if my football metaphor about fumbling the ball is being taken out of context.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So to use the football metaphor, you wouldn't throw a flag on questioning Joe Biden's memory?

BOOKER: Look, I definitely was not saying that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: The third Democratic primary debate also highlighting a divide on health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I know that the senator said she's for Bernie, well I'm for Barack. I think the Obamacare worked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: As the moderate and progressive wings of the party battled it out on the best approach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wrote the damn bill, if I may say so. And tends to eliminate all out-of-pocket expenses, all deductibles, all co-payments. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And while Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-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. Not my way or the highway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Beto O'Rourke's big moment came on gun control, defending his call for mandatory buybacks of assault-style rifles in the wake of two mass shootings in his home state.

[17:05:04]

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 any more.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: That comment prompting a Texas state lawmaker to respond on Twitter. "My AR Is ready for you Robert Francis." The posting was later removed by Twitter. And unlike the previous debate where parts of President Obama's legacy came under fire, the candidates in this round lavished praise on the former president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-OK), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all owe a huge debt to President Obama who fundamentally transformed health care in America.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to give credit first to Barack Obama for really bringing us this far.

BIDEN: I stand with Barack Obama all eight years. Good, bad and indifferent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: Now a short while ago Joe Biden was asked by reporters if he'll release his medical records. He said he will release those records before the first vote. The Biden campaign confirming to me that that will be before the Iowa caucus, Brianna, he had previously said he would do that before the general election.

KEILAR: Very interesting change there. Arlette thank you so much for that report. The debate is feeling President Trump's fire as he digs into his Democratic rivals. CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta has more. And Jim, the president appears eager to take them on.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly does, Brianna. President Trump and his team are blasting Democrats after last night's debate. Today Vice President Pence went after both his predecessor Joe Biden and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke. That followed the president who was lashing out at the Democratic contenders with some personal attacks as they were debating the issues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Brushing off talk of impeachment coming from the House tweeting, "You don't impeach presidents for doing a good (great) job." President Trump is spoiling for a fight with the Democratic contenders for 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More than 130 Democrats in Congress have signed up for the Bernie Sanders total government takeover of health care. Crazy Bernie. He's a crazy guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Slamming his Democratic rivals in a speech in Baltimore as they were holding their debate in Houston, the president once again resorted to racially loaded attacks as he blasted Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and raised questions about former Vice President Joe Biden's mental fitness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I hit Pocahontas way too early. I thought she was gone. She's emerged from the ashes. And now it looks like she could beat sleepy Joe. He's fallen asleep. He has no idea what the hell he's doing or saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: As the president mocked Biden's occasional gaffes, Mr. Trump had one of his own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Sat around and Chuck Grassley was there and Joni Ernst and John Thune and Mike Pounds -- just a whole group of great people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: The White House later said the president meant to refer to Senator Mike Browns and the president also mocked environmentalist taking a dim view on energy efficient light bulbs because of how they make him look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The bulb that we're being forced to use, number one, to me, most importantly, the lights no good. I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst. But number two, it's many times more expensive than that old incandescent bulb that worked very well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: In his own speech to GOP lawmakers Vice President Mike Pence poked fun at Biden too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said, I'm the vice president of the United States. So, let me be clear. I am the vice president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Pence then pounced on former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: When they were talking about hire taxes, they were talking about gun control. And not just gun control, you had leading candidates for the highest office in the land talking about taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: That was in reference to this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'ROURKE: Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15 and your AK-47.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Moderate Democrats are not on board with that idea and worry O'Rourke may have just jeopardized efforts in Congress to find a compromise on new gun control laws.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I don't think the majority of the Senate or the country is going to embrace mandatory buybacks. We need to focus on what we could get done and we need to focus on the challenge here which is that majority leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate and our president are refusing to listen to the 93 percent of Americans who want us to do something on background checks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Now one other important thing to note, the president promised to unveil a proposal for a middle class tax cut at some point during the next year but the president is not talking about how he plans on paying for that. Keep in mind, just this week the Treasury Department said the nation's deficit passed the $1 trillion - that's with a "t" dollar mark for this year and as a candidate. Mr. Trump vowed to eliminate the national debt. The truth is, Brianna, he is expanding it rapidly. Brianna?

KEILAR: Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you.

Let's get more now on all of this with Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York. Sir, thanks for joining us.

[17:10:00]

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): My pleasure.

KEILAR: You have endorsed Beto O'Rourke for president here in the 2020 race. And during the debate last night you heard what he said that he would enforce mandatory buybacks of assault-style weapons. Do you support mandatory buybacks of assault-style weapons?

MALONEY: No. I make it voluntary. But I'm so proud of my friend Beto for just letting it fly on an issue that Americans want action on. And they don't want the same old political calculations and they don't want people telling them what can't happen because we are this close to falling into despair that nothing could change with this epidemic of gun violence and that is the most dangerous thing when we stop believing that we could shape our own future and what Beto was talking about last night was making -- making it real. And getting serious about getting AR-15s out of circulation because we have 10 million of them in the country and they are slaughtering kids and church-goers and people showing up at concerts. And enough. Some of us want to do something. Not talk about it. Not -- not fine tune the politics. Get something done that will save lives. And that is what he was talking about and I'm very proud of him.

KEILAR: Would you support a ban on those weapons?

MALONEY: Yes.

KEILAR: OK. So you would support a ban but on a buyback you would want to see that voluntary. It is just an important distinction to make. I'm glad that you could explain that to us.

MALONEY: I want to be crystal clear. We should ban them, but we should -- I would go with the voluntary program first. The point is there are too many AR-15s. They destroy the human body. High- capacity magazine should not be --

KEILAR: Sure but if you ban them, and then you just have a voluntary buyback, I mean, how would that work considering you have Republicans who already are fundraising off of these concepts. Politically and realistically, how would that work? MALONEY: Right, right. And if you want to get dragged into like who is going to benefit red team, blue team and how it's going to work. That is great. What I'm telling you is, when you meet with the Parkland kids, they want a real solution. They want real action. So if you want to pilot -- or do it voluntary or if you want to be smart about it that is I think the right approach and I'll do it. But the big thing is the big thing.

We need to do something differently. We have been kicking around on this issue for 20 years and the body count keeps going up. And some of us really want to act. The House of Representatives, by the way, the Democratic-led House has acted, back in February. We're going to act again in a couple of days, and the Senate is sitting on the sidelines and it is disgraceful. So we need action. And the number one thing is to reduce the number of weapons that are in the hands of the wrong people that are unbelievably lethal and that are creating so much damage.

KEILAR: What did you make of that moment during the debate last night when Secretary Julian Castro took aim at former president Joe Biden because of his memory? Do you think that crossed a line?

MALONEY: It was a mess. I think he probably regrets it and I think he's going to pay a price for it. But look, it is harder than it looks up there. I think he's a good man and he's done good work for his country. We have a good field of candidates up there. But I think he probably wish he had it back.

KEILAR: Why does that cross a line to you?

MALONEY: I think it is pretty obvious, isn't it. I mean it was an ill-conceived attack and he got the substance of it wrong. Look, it is harder than it looks up there. You know Secretary Castro has done some things he should be very proud of. He had a bad night.

KEILAR: I want to talk to you about impeachment. Because this is clearly on the president's mind today. He said Democrats know they can't beat him in 2020 so they are turning to impeachment instead. What is your response to that?

MALONEY: My response to that is we just won 40 seats in the House. And this president is whistling past the graveyard. And he is -- he is separating himself from the voters he needs to be re-elected and he deserves to lose because he is doing nothing to stop the epidemic of gun violence, to really respond to the cost of health care that are hurting so many families, to really build infrastructure that we need in this country, things that really matter. And his foreign policy is a mess and his personal conduct is disgraceful and he traffics in racism and white supremacy. Those are the reasons he's going to lose, that he deserves to lose and he can say all he wants and he can spin plates and juggle flaming chainsaws and try to distract the voters as best he can. But I think the ground is eroding underneath him and we're going to win when we focus on what matters to people in their families and in their daily lives and I'm proud the Democratic Party and candidates are doing that. KEILAR: When we listen to what you've said in the past about impeachment it really seems like you want to see this happen by vote, by voters deciding what to do, not necessarily by Congress deciding what to do. The House Judiciary Committee just voted yesterday to set ground rules for an impeachment investigation. Are you still holding back on thinking that that is something that should move forward?

MALONEY: What I believe is that Congress has a real responsibility to do aggressive oversight and what we're seeing in the Judiciary Committee is the Congress asserting that Article One oversight authority in the context of possible impeachment inquiry where it is on the strongest legal ground.

[17:15:07]

So that is kind of inside baseball. If you tell me or ask me whether we should spend the next year full blown trial in the Senate only doing that partisan exercise, I have real tactical concerns with that and I don't think it is - what most the people I want - excuse me - I represent want us only doing. And so we have an election coming up and there is no better way to make your feelings known and to hold the president accountable than to throw him out of office. And I think he deserves it and that I think is what is going to end up happening.

KEILAR: All right. Congressman Maloney, thank you so much for joining us.

MALONEY: Hey, it is my pleasure.

KEILAR: We do have more breaking news ahead. Actress Felicity Huffman is sentenced to prison in the college admissions cheating scandal but she'll spend only two weeks behind bars.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:40]

KEILAR: We're following multiple breaking stories including actress Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in prison for her role in what authorities say is the largest college admissions cheating scam ever prosecuted.

Let's go to CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez. Tell us what happens in court today, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 14 days in prison. One year supervised release, a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service. All of that will send an unmistakable message to others charged in this scandal whose cases will be heard in the same courthouse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Felicity Huffman hand-in-hand with her husband actor William H. Macy entering a federal courthouse in Boston to learn her fate. Huffman addressing the court through tears. She apologized to the judge, her daughters and husband. Saying she's ashamed of her behavior, recounting how one of her daughters told her, "I don't know who you are anymore, mom." She also said she was driving her daughter to the testing center, she thought to herself, "turn around, just turn around." And to my eternal shame, she says, "I didn't."

Huffman concluded by saying she takes full responsibility. Prosecutors wanted her to spend a month in prison. Her lawyers wanted probation for a year. In sentencing Huffman to 14 days in prison and a $30,000 fine, the judge saying despite Huffman taking responsibility, the outrage isn't the harm to the colleges. The outrage is a system that is already so distorted by money and privilege in the first place.

In May, the "Desperate Housewives" star pleaded guilty to one count of fraud for paying $15,000 to Rick Singer, who got her daughter extra time on a college entrance exam and bribed the administrator at the location where she took it.

In a three-page letter to the judge explaining herself, Huffman wrote, "In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot. I see the irony in that statement now because what I've done is the opposite of fair."

Huffman is the first parent sentenced in the sprawling federal investigation into college admissions cheating dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues." Dozens of wealthy prominent and connected parents, coaches and administrators have been charged in the scam, masterminded by Rick Singer. His front charity Key Worldwide Foundation purported to help disadvantaged kids in the U.S. and abroad. Singer who is cooperating with investigators has since confessed to taking tens of million dollars for helping kids of wealthy parents cheat on college entrance exams and bribing coaches to falsely designate students as athletes paving the way for their admissions.

Also, caught up in the scandal, "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin whose two daughters were admitted to the University of Southern California as competitive rowers, even though they never participated in the sport. Prosecutors say she and her husband fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli paid Singer a half million dollars and even sent photos of both their daughters on rowing machines to bolster their false claims.

Loughlin and Giannulli have both pleaded not guilty to fraud and money laundering. The charges carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now Huffman has been ordered to report to prison on October 25th. It is not yet clear where she will do that that time. The judge saying in this case I think this is the right sentence here. You can rebuild your life after this. You've paid your dues. Brianna?

KEILAR: Miguel Marquez, thank you for that report. And coming up, Joe Biden sounding up beat in letting his campaign do the counterattacking in the wake of last night's debate. Did the attacks on Biden's age changing any minds?

Also breaking, a newly formed tropical depression posing a threat to the Bahamas, stand by for the updated forecast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:29:35]

KEILAR: Breaking news. "Desperate Housewives" actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced a short while ago to 14 days in prison for taking part in the college admissions cheating scandal. Huffman also will have to serve one year of probation, perform 250 hours of community service and pay a $30,000 fine.

Let's talk to our panel about this and a number of other stories. And before we dissect last night's debate which we all want to do, I want to ask you about this story, Jeffrey, because we've all been watching it.

[17:30:02]

She's the first one to be sentenced. Were you surprised by the judge's decision?

[17:30:00]

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No, and I thought it was just about right. You know, Felicity Huffman, from the day this story broke, has admitted her misconduct. She hasn't tried to blame anybody. She, you know, was completely contrite about what she did.

The government wanted 30 days. Her lawyers wanted no time. Fourteen days seemed about right to capture the seriousness of the offense but also not to punish her unduly.

KEILAR: Yes. And she's been so forthright about kind of -- finding her own fault in the situation, I think, was very helpful to her, personally as well.

TOOBIN: That matters.

KEILAR: Yes.

TOOBIN: That matters. You know, the judges pay attention to whether you accept responsibility and don't try to blame others.

KEILAR: Yes, we'll have to see how that happens in other cases where folks have not done that.

All right. I want to turn back to the presidential debate, which we all watched last night, the first time all of these candidates were -- the top 10 anyways, who were on just one stage. And I thought it made for a really interesting debate. I wonder when you look at Joe Biden, David Chalian, the front-runner, how you rated his performance overall.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I thought it was his best debate performance to date. But I'm grading on a curve there because I thought he had two pretty poor performances earlier, and he himself admitted today and said he needs to do better and he will do better.

And he does. He will need to progress. That's this whole process as you get to make the case before the voters. But what I thought was a compelling moment for him was -- you know, health care is the most important issue to Democratic voters, and it is still the animating issue in this race. And Biden came in with a plan to execute an offensive attack.

It's sort of like the -- the center strikes back is what I thought was happening last night because the Warren -- the Sanders/Warren proposal of Medicare for All was the driving force of the health care debate in the previous two debates.

Here, I felt it was more the Biden pushback against Medicare for All that was the driving energy in the health care debate, with an assist from Klobuchar and Buttigieg. And that, I think, was a different kind of Joe Biden than we have seen before and probably works well for him.

KEILAR: Elizabeth Warren had asked in a previous debate, why are we here to talk about what we can't do? So what -- he was coming with a more compelling argument than just, I don't want to do these big bold things that you have in mind. It was really interesting.

CHALIAN: Yes.

KEILAR: OK. Arlette, there was this exchange last night that was -- I mean, it was just wow, right? Julian Castro accusing Biden of forgetting something that he had said moments before. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You said they would have to buy in.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Her family, they would not have to buy in. If she qualified for Medicaid --

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

BIDEN: -- it's automatic they'll be informed.

(BOOING)

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 --

BIDEN: They don't have to.

CASTRO: You're forgetting that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: I mean, he said forgetting, he said memory. I mean, it was very clear, over and over, what he was doing. And it may have backfired on Secretary Castro, but I also wonder, from your reporting, covering the Biden campaign, are they worried at all about this kind of argument hurting Joe Biden?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think, in this situation, they are hoping and believe that this is going to backfire on him. They're pointing to other moments in the debates where candidates like Eric Swalwell and Kirsten Gillibrand both went after Vice -- former Vice President Biden in personal terms, and they say they're no longer in the race.

But the Biden campaign is aware that there are questions about his age and performance out there in the Democratic primary field. You've had Biden himself say, yes, voters should consider this. If they have a problem with it, then don't vote for me.

But I think, now, you have three Democratic presidential contenders who are out there questioning his stamina and his mental ability. And so, the question is, now, is this actually going to sit and affect voters as they're considering whether or not to vote for him.

KEILAR: Because Cory Booker --

TOOBIN: But isn't also the point that Castro was simply wrong about what Biden said, that he had not actually contradicted himself? I mean, I thought that's what made this a cheap shot, not the -- I mean, it would be one thing if Biden actually forgot what he said, but he didn't forget what he said.

KEILAR: I think there was an issue kind of over the concept of opt-in and buying in.

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: Right. And I think Castro was cherry-picking Joe Biden's comments.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

CHALIAN: Yes.

PHILLIP: It's kind of focusing on -- I think it was clear to people on the stage what Biden's meaning was, but then Castro seemed to be focusing in on individual words in order to make this broader point. But as our --

CHALIAN: Which he seemed prepared to make, right? Like --

SAENZ: Yes.

PHILLIP: Which he seemed prepared to make. Although it does -- watching the exchange, it makes you wonder if he -- when he was going as far as he did, did he actually plan to really go in as repetitively and as aggressively as it came across?

And while a lot of people -- there is a lot of conversation on Twitter about whether or not people like Castro and Booker are getting too much heat for being too aggressive with Joe Biden when Donald Trump is going to do this and more if they are face-to-face.

But I will say that one thing Democrat -- Democratic candidates need to be -- watch out for is when you're talking about the Democratic electorate, we're talking about a lot of voters who are moderate, a lot of olders -- voters who are older and may not react well to these kinds of arguments.

[17:35:03]

You can make the case that Joe Biden, maybe, is past the time that he should be in the political sphere, but you got to be really careful because there are some voters who will hear this and it's not about civility. It's just about respect, and they think that Joe Biden should be treated with more respect. That's the -- the really -- that's the problem that they need to be careful about going too far.

CHALIAN: I don't think it's an out of bounds conversation, right? It is -- Cory Booker is right, there is a question. As you were saying, this is a conversation.

But I think, Abby, spot-on in the sense of how that conversation is conducted will dictate how voters perceive these candidates who are making these points. I mean, Castro was booed in that audience last night. So I do think how it's presented mattered almost as much as the conversation itself.

KEILAR: All right, all of you stand by for me. We're going to talk about Beto O'Rourke next as he said at the debate, hell yes, we are going to take your A.R.-15, your A.K.-47. How is that flying today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:33]

KEILAR: And we're back now with our political and our legal experts. And let's talk about Beto O'Rourke and something he said during the debate last night. He drew praise from his fellow candidates for his response to the mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. But let's listen to his response when he was asked if he plans to take away guns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am if it's a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield.

(APPLAUSE)

O'ROURKE: 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 to death on a battlefield, not to be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.

When we see that being used against children, hell, yes, we're going to take your A.R.-15, your A.K.-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: All right, I just had Congressman Maloney on, one of his -- who is someone who is behind him. This is the candidate he has picked. And I asked him if he would go for a mandatory buy-back and he said no, that it would be voluntary. So what does that tell you about the feasibility of this?

CHALIAN: Well, listen, I think whether it's constitutional, whether it is politically viable are two huge questions here, going forward. That is not Beto O'Rourke's concern here, right? Beto O'Rourke, I think, found his whole sort of rationale and reason for being in this contest still in the aftermath of that shooting in El Paso. And so, this has grounded him to find this.

But I think there's a larger point about the gun debate. It is not that long ago, Brianna, that Democrats would run away from this entirely. They would be so concerned that mentioning any -- any gun control measure would somehow turn off so much of the electorate.

That has changed. The calculus on this issue has changed. It may not be what Beto O'Rourke is proposing, but it is still astonishing to see how far this debate has moved for Democrats to feel comfortable talking about it, yes.

PHILLIP: And it has moved in part because the polling is there. For a lot of things, except not for that.

CHALIAN: Right.

PHILLIP: The polling is not there for a mandatory buy-back. A majority of Americans do not support that. What they do support are assault weapons bans, universal background checks, and other measures like that.

So he's going a little farther than where the overall electorate is, but he's doing it to make a point that, obviously, this is what he is standing for, just like Warren and Bernie are standing for health care and, you know, fighting back against the corporate elites.

And so, this is becoming his thing, but I think he's going a little farther than where the people are right now in this country.

TOOBIN: But, you know, polls change and politicians move polls. You know, they don't entirely respond to them. And I think what we are seeing is the Democratic Party, being a suburban and urban party almost exclusively -- you look at what happened in North Carolina in the special election. Democrats get no votes anywhere in rural places anymore, but they are

doing very well in the suburbs where Republicans used to do well. And part of that is because they have decided that they're not afraid of gun control as an issue anymore.

KEILAR: Last night, watching -- just having 10 candidates, there was more time for candidates to talk about themselves. And there was -- one of the more powerful moments that we saw was South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg talking about his biggest professional setback. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was was going to be the ultimate career-ending professional setback. I came from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life. And I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out.

What I learned what that trust can be reciprocated and that part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what's worth more to you than winning. And I think that's what we need in the presidency right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: What did you think about that moment, Arlette, when you were watching this?

SAENZ: I mean, it's -- wow. You have an openly gay presidential candidate talking about these moments, these decisions that so many people in the country are also dealing with.

And I think being able to offer that personal story can offer some type of connection to these voters, but it's also highlighting the diversity of this field. You have more women, more people of color running in the Democratic primary than before, and the Democratic Party is better for it.

[17:45:01]

PHILLIP: A lot of these candidates, it feels like, they do better when they are able to look in and then tell voters what that should tell them about how they might lead. It's an important skill to be able to do. Pete Buttigieg does it very well. And a lot of the candidates probably ought to practice it a lot more because this is -- this is a major thing. This is how you persuade people to stand by you and to have the kind of energy that they need in order for you to win.

CHALIAN: Connecting --

TOOBIN: And this is also --

CHALIAN: Sorry, Jeffrey, go ahead. TOOBIN: No, go ahead.

CHALIAN: I was just saying, connecting your biography to your message is one of the most powerful things you can do in politics. And so, for him to tell this story but connect it to how his conservative community then re-elected him, I mean, it harkens back a little bit to the 2004 Barack Obama DNC speech in Boston about, you know, and you have some gay neighbors in red states, you know, lines like that.

Buttigieg's vision of America and wanting to unify the country ties directly to the story he was telling, which was extraordinarily personal, obviously.

KEILAR: It certainly was. Thank you all of you for your insights on this tonight. And coming up, new U.S. sanctions on North Korean hackers who have made billions of dollars for Kim Jong-un.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:08]

KEILAR: New U.S. sanctions tonight on three North Korean hacking groups behind some of the most notorious cyberattacks ever. CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us. And, Brian, these hackers have made billions of dollars for the Kim regime.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have made billions, Brianna, and these hackers are growing more sophisticated and dangerous. The U.S. government is going after them, but experts are telling us tonight Kim Jong-un's army of cyber-predators will likely be undeterred.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Armed only with laptops and Internet access, Kim Jong-un's legion of North Korean hackers have opened up a covert war, wreaking havoc and raking in cash. Tonight, the U.S. government is fighting back.

The Treasury Department says it is sanctioning three North Korean hacking groups responsible for some of the most notorious cyberattacks in history, freezing their U.S. assets, denying them access to banks around the world, and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.

BRAD BOWMAN, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER ON MILITARY AND POLITICAL POWER, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: It's important to call them out, name them and shame them, and apply as much pressure as possible.

TODD (voice-over): The main target of sanctions tonight is called the Lazarus Group. U.S. officials say it's made up of North Korean hackers who mounted the biggest ransomware attack ever, WannaCry 2.0, in 2017.

Hundreds of thousands of computers around the world were hit, even putting lives at risk when parts of Britain's National Health Service were crippled. Part of a larger army of thousands of hackers, many of whom work for an elite unit called Bureau 121, tied to North Korea's top intelligence agency.

JASON HEALEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR FOR CYBER INFRASTRUCTURE PROTECTION: The North Koreans have really come a long way, a very, very dangerous way in the last two decades. Continuing to put resources into this, realizing that this is a relatively easy way to disrupt South Korea and the United States and others, an easy way to get hard currency.

TODD (voice-over): A new U.N. report says North Korea has brought in as much as $2 billion from cyberattacks on financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges. Kim's hackers once stole $81 million in a single heist from the Central Bank of Bangladesh.

DANIEL RUSSEL, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: North Korea is in the extortion business. It's in the intimidation business. And frankly, it's in the larceny business.

TODD (voice-over): North Korean hackers have hit banks in more than a dozen countries, the U.N. report says, including one hack that forced ATMs in 20 countries to spit out cash 10,000 times in five hours.

BOWMAN: It demonstrates the breadth of their human network because they actually had to have people on location to go and gather the money from these ATMs.

TODD (voice-over): Much of the cash, analysts say, goes straight to Kim Jong-un's missile and nuclear weapons programs. And they worry about what Kim's hackers will target in the future, especially if relations between the U.S. and North Korea become hostile again.

HEALEY: They would want to try and disrupt American command and control, especially as the U.S. military tries to bring in additional military forces into the Pacific. They would certainly be trying to -- could they disrupt ports?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: North Korea has repeatedly denied taking part in any major hacks and calls the U.N. report that it earned as much as $2 billion in cyberattacks a, quote, sheer lie to justify sanctions.

But analysts say there's no way Kim's regime is going to stop these attacks anytime soon. It's simply a method of bringing in desperately needed cash that is too quick, easy, and effective for them to ever give up, Brianna.

KEILAR: And, Brian, you've got some disturbing information on how the diplomacy between President Trump and Kim Jong-un is not stopping these hackers from targeting the West.

TODD: Right, Brianna. One analyst who's been tracking North Korean cyber operations tells us that, at the very moment when President Trump and Kim Jong-un were meeting at their summit in Hanoi in February of this year, North Korean hackers were trying to infiltrate more than 100 companies. They don't care who they're doing diplomacy with. They're going to go after people.

BLITZER: All right. CNN's Brian Todd, thank you so much.

And we have breaking news next. Actress Felicity Huffman is sentenced for her role in the college admissions cheating scandal.

[17:55:06]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:00:00]

KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news. From celebrity to jail cell. A judge orders actress Felicity Huffman to serve two weeks behind bars for her role in the college admissions scandal. We'll break down the --