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U.S. Accuses Iran in Saudi Oil Facility Attack; T-Shirt Sales After Viral Debate Line; New England Patriot's Antonio Brown Accused Of Rape; Antonio Brown Appears Likely to Play this Weekend; Parents Allege Clinic Impregnated Mom with Wrong Man's Sperm; Biden on Castro's Attack: He "Got His Facts Wrong"; Former A.G. Eric Holder: Democrats Have to Be "Prepared to Fight"; CNN Special "Friends Forever: 25 Years Of Laughter" Airs Sunday at 9:00 P.M. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 14, 2019 - 17:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Amid all the calls for de- escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.

CNN Analyst Bob Baer is joining us now to talk more about this. Bob, we have just learned President Trump spoke with Saudi Arabia's crown prince. Meanwhile, we have this tweet from Secretary Pompeo just moments ago, blaming the attack directly on Iran. But can the U.S. make that determination so quickly?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's very unlikely that Yemen has the technology to launch 10 drones, evade radar and the rest of it. And, you know, we're pretty well settled on the idea that the Houthis, who've claimed responsibility for this, are backed by Iran. Well, Ana, which tells me we are inching toward a conflict with Iran.

There's simply no way this administration or Europe can let this go. Because, you know, Abqaiq is a stabilization facility that provides up to 8 million barrels a day. And if you take that thing out and continue these attacks, we're talking about the energy supplies for most of the world.

CABRERA: What action do you anticipate the U.S. will take against Iran?

BAER: Well, we could retaliate against Iran. And that problem with that is there could be, very quickly, an escalation which would put the entire Gulf in jeopardy. Which, you know, I'm sorry for running these figures by you, but 55 percent of the world's oil reserves sit around the Persian Gulf.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about another big story we're following, because, just last month, Israel accused Iran of preparing an attack with explosive Laden (ph) killer drones. How difficult is to stop this type of warfare?

BAER: With drones, very difficult. You can do contour flying right off the ground. It's very hard to detect them. Larger drones, yes, flying at a high altitude, you can track them with radar. But, as a guerrilla weapon, they are really scary. You can even make drones with 3D explosives so the entire drone is explosives.

I mean, the technology is advancing very, very fast. And these oil facilities, and whether Saudi Arabia or the UAE or the rest of it, are all vulnerable to drone attacks.

CABRERA: Quickly on the confirmation we got on the death of Osama Bin Laden's son, Hamza. He obviously carried out the last name or he had the last name we all recognize. But how much weight did he actually hold in Al Qaeda?

BAER: Not much. You know, it was, sort of, a legacy, the name. He, certainly, was unable to carry out any attacks against the west or the United States. The last Al Qaeda attack, important one, was 2005. This organization, with Hamza's death, is definitely on its last legs. You know, whether it's being picked up, the support, by the Islamic state or not is a different question. But I think Al Qaeda is finished.

CABRERA: OK. Bob Baer, good to have you with us. Thank you.

BAER: Thank you.

CABRERA: Now to the Beto backlash. Beto O'Rourke's comments on a mandatory buyback of assault-style weapons is triggering a major response from Republicans in his home state.

The Texas GOP is now offering this shirt in exchange for $30 donations. On it, you can see a confrontational slogan, "Beto, come and take it." That's in response to O'Rourke's rousing response, when he was asked at the Democratic debate this week, if he was a supporter of a mandatory buyback.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), 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 to death on a battlefield, hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.


CABRERA: The statement also led to this tweet, which then led to O'Rourke and his campaign reporting it to the FBI. It's from sitting Texas lawmaker Briscoe Cain. And it says, quote, "My AR is ready for you, Robert Francis." That's O'Rourke's first and middle name. Cain says that O'Rourke is spinning his online comment into a death threat.

O'Rourke is from El Paso which just went through a mass shooting that left 22 people dead in an attack against Hispanics. He, himself, is fund raising off his rallying cry, selling t-shirts with his quote, "Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15. Let's turn, now, to CNN White House Reporter Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, after the multiple mass shootings nationwide recently, what is the status of gun reform talks? Has the president given any indication what he would actually support?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Ana, over the past six weeks, since that pair of mass shootings that happened in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, we've heard the president express varying degrees of supporting opposition for various gun-control measures, including, potentially, red flag laws or background checks.


But six weeks later, it appears we're no closer to knowing exactly what the president would support. And that's despite the fact that White House officials and Capitol Hill aides have been hard at work, looking at potential gun reform proposals.

The president held a series of meetings last week with key lawmakers and staff on the issue who briefed them on potential options. But here's what the president had to say, at the conclusion of those meetings.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Had a big meeting today on guns. A lot of progress was made, I believe, on the background checks. But we're always protecting our Second Amendment.


DIAMOND: So, as you can see there, we're hearing still more boiler plate comments from the president about what exactly he would support. No closer to knowing what it is. But we do know, according to one source, that in high-level calls with Capitol Hill, the attorney general, Bill Barr, signaled that there has been little movement on this issue. And that the chances of the president supporting a background check expansion are diminishing.

What is clear, though, Ana, is that Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are waiting. Waiting to see exactly what the president would be willing to support, before they, indeed, take any action towards any gun reform proposals -- Ana.

CABRERA: Jeremy, we're also hearing the White House is considering a phone app for background checks as part of the gun control proposals. What can you tell us about that?

DIAMOND: That's right. That is one of the of the options that White House officials have been brainstorming over these last several weeks. And this would be a phone app that would, essentially, connect to the National Instant Criminal background check service, allowing users to, essentially, conduct background checks, in terms of private sales. Those are the sales between individuals that are, currently, not mandated to have background checks. Now, it's unclear whether that proposal would be in conjunction with expanding background checks, closing that so-called gun show loophole which allows private sale background checks to take place without any background checks.

So, that will certainly be a question, but that is one thing that the White House is now looking at -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Jeremy Diamond for us at the White House. Thank you.

One Democratic senator is now warning that Beto O'Rourke's pledge to confiscate AR-15 rifles and other assault-style weapons could, potentially, haunt the Democratic Party for years to come.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: And I, frankly, think that that clip will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying Democrats are coming for your guns. I respect what is motivating Congressman O'Rourke, but I don't think, as a policy position, that's going to stand muster. I don't think a majority of the Senate or the country is going to embrace mandatory buybacks. We need to focus on what we can get done.


CABRERA: S.E. Cupp is the host of "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED" at the top of the hour. And Joe Lockhart is a former Clinton White House press secretary. Good to have both of you with us. S.E., we saw those shirts by the Texas GOP --


CABRERA: -- that they're now fundraising. Is Coons right? Are Republicans going to spin this as, see, Dems want your guns?

CUPP: I don't think it is spin. I mean, they're taking him at his word. And Beto is always very proud of himself when he has, you know, a T.V. moment and very quick to fundraise off it and slap it on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. We saw the same when he swore on television twice. And so, I'm not surprised that he really thinks this is a big seller for him.

But everything that he said before, hell, yes, we'll take your AR-15s was good. And less quotable, right? Harder to put on a -- on a t- shirt. And harder for Republicans to cut into an attack ad. That was, literally, handing Republicans an advertisement that they can use against him. And it was just unnecessary.

As Chris Coons said, we understand his frustration. Whatever side of this issue you're on, you know, you can -- you can admire his passion on this issue.


CUPP: But to say stuff like that, that he thinks is cute and clever and quotable, is probably going to hurt him and the party.

CABRERA: I wonder if it will, though, Joe. Passion came through. Authenticity came through. A lot of people have said this was Beto O'Rourke's best debate. And he has been in need of a moment to, kind of, reset or reenergize his campaign. Is that what could, potentially, happen here or will it backfire? How do you see this playing out?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think you have to understand it from where he was when he said it which was nowhere. He was at two percent, three percent in the polls. And this has given him a boost of energy and excitement and attention. So, that make -- maybe gets him to seven percent or eight percent or nine percent, which makes him a viable candidate. You get to that level and lightning can strike.

So, I don't think that he's worried about, you know, what happens next. He's worried about --

CUPP: To him.



CUPP: Right. Right.

CABRERA: Do you think he speaks for the Democratic Party?

LOCKHART: No, he doesn't. He speaks for Beto O'Rourke, just like Joe Biden speaks for Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren speaks for Elizabeth Warren. There is -- I think if they went up there, again, and asked all 10 of them, do you -- do you agree with him? Eight or nine of them would have said, no. It is not the Demo -- but I'm a little cynical about the idea that somehow this is something terrible for the Democratic Party, that Republicans are going to cut ads on it. They were going to cut them anyway. They don't need facts to charge the Democrats with some, you know -- to demagogue on this issue.

So, --

CUPP: But until, other than Eric Swallow, until Beto, they really didn't have a major candidate coming out and saying, yes, coming for your guns.

LOCKHART: Yes, they --

CABRERA: Now that it -- although we planned for Joe Biden who said, essentially, that to --

LOCKHART: -- and the fact of the matter is --

CABRERA: -- us or our (INAUDIBLE.)

LOCKHART: -- Hillary Clinton's position never was confiscating guns. And they ran $15 million of those ads saying, I'm coming for your guns. So, I don't think it has that big of an impact.

If the nominee of the Democratic Party is for confiscating guns, then we're really going to test where the public is.

CABRERA: That's interesting. What I sense, though, is that you don't think it's going to be Beto O'Rourke.

LOCKHART: I don't think the nominee of the Democratic Party is going to have that position.

CABRERA: The climate crisis, obviously, another huge issue confronting these candidates as well as lawmakers. And not just here in the U.S., but, actually, around the world. It's a global issue. And, later this month, will be a U.N. climate action summit. Here is how the president addressed this you this week.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Then, they talk about plastic straws. I said, what about the plate? What about the wrapper that's made out of a much tougher plastic? The bulb that we're being forced to use, number one, to me, most importantly, the light's no good. I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst.

Over 100 Democrats have signed up to support the $100 trillion green new deal. That's a beauty. No more cows, no more planes. I guess no more people, right?


CABRERA: S.E., what is he talking about?

CUPP: Well, there's not a whole lot of science or policy in what he's talking about. But let me tell you, that message works with a lot of people who think -- even people who think that the climate crisis is serious enough that we should be doing something about it. That some of this stuff, like banning straws, and banning air travel, is not serious. And so, --

CABRERA: He wasn't banning air travel.

CUPP: Well, under the green new deal, there is a long-term attempt to greatly reduce, and maybe potentially ban, trains and air travel. That's in there.

But I think he is doing the Joe Schmo barstool argument that, again, is not scientific. It's not -- there's no heft there. It's not about policy. And, for a lot of people in his base, it doesn't need to be.

CABRERA: Joe, do you think it would be smart, for Democrats, to really hyper focus on issues like climate change and the climate crisis or guns, for example? Sort of like the president did with immigration back in 2016?

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I -- what I said before, that there didn't have to be facts involved on guns, well, when it comes to climate, the president doesn't need them either. He is going to talk about how I want to take your hamburger away. In a simple phrase, it's embarrassing. That the president of the United States is representing our country as leader of the free world making comments like that.

The Democratic -- this really -- it's -- one things that really struck me about the debate was when Pete Buttigieg talked about trusting the voters.

CUPP: Yes.

LOCKHART: And that -- and those two things really stand in contrast. I think the Democrats, for better or worse, are going to trust the voters to be smarter than they were last time. Politically, is that going to work? I don't know. But I think when you're taking on Trump, you have to. Because if you get into a fight over who can demagogue more, who can lie more, or who can take things down to the lowest level, you're going to lose every time with Trump. And I -- that's why it stuck in my mind that -- the Buttigieg comments.

CUPP: Yes.

LOCKHART: Because I think -- I think we have to. And I think we have to educate as well as advocate, you know, and activate our voters.

CABRERA: Well, Joe Lockhart and S.E. Cupp, thank you, both.

CUPP: Thank you.

CABRERA: I always appreciate it. And, remember, you can catch S.E. on her show, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," at the top of the hour right here on CNN.

Another story we are watching closely today, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee issuing a subpoena to the acting director of National Intelligence. Congressman Adam Schiff is accusing Director Joseph McGuire of refusing to share an urgent whistle-blower complaint, and claims it might be to protect the president or another administration official. We don't know the nature of the complaint, but Schiff says that if McGuire refuses to comply, he will require him to testify in an open hearing on Thursday, September 19th.

Coming up, the Monday trail. New allegations against the family that owns Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin. Were they trying to hide a whole lot of money overseas as victims seek compensation in the opioid epidemic?



CABRERA: Wire transfers and offshore accounts adding up to approximately $1 billion. That's what New York officials say they've uncovered, after digging into the finances of the family that owns Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin. The discovery comes two days after Purdue Pharma proposed a settlement in an ongoing lawsuit that accuses the company of fueling the nation's opioid epidemic. The New York attorney general's office says, while the Sacklers continue to low-ball victims and skirt a responsible settlement, we refuse to allow the family to misuse the courts in an effort to shield their financial misconduct.

CNN's Polo Sandoval's with us and following this. Polo, this is a stunning development, shell companies, Swiss Bank accounts. What more do we know about the Sackler family, what they are, allegedly doing?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Especially because Purdue Pharma was in the headlines just a few days ago, when they reached, or at least they proposed, a settlement, part of this ongoing litigation in which they are accused of being a major driving factor here, when it comes to the opioid epidemic. And, now, as you mentioned, the New York state attorney general now coming forward with this Friday filing, where they allege that the Sackler family attempted to hide at least a billion dollars' worth of their wealth in various ways.


And one of the allegations specifically made against a certain member of the family, Mortimer Sackler, I want to read you more of what was contained in that filing that was just filed by Letitia James just yesterday. The A.G. writing, because defendant Mortimer Sackler placed these New York real estate holdings in the name of shell companies, their ownership would have been impossible to detect from publicly available records and without access to financial records. Just one of their examples that's laid out in there, Sackler allegedly received money that was transferred through various Swiss Bank accounts, Ana. So, what is the attorney general doing right now? Following the money trail. They are trying to find out exactly how much wealth the Sackler family has and where it is.

CABRERA: Quickly, if you will. What's the Sackler family saying about this?

SANDOVAL: Well, they're saying that these transfers are legitimate. In fact, they're old and they're evening questioning the news -- where the value of this here in the statement to CNN, Mortimer Sackler, that former board member of Purdue, saying that there is nothing newsworthy about these decade-old transfers which are perfectly legal. And they specifically write, this is a cynical attempt by a hostile A.G.'s office to generate defamatory headlines to try to torpedo a mutually beneficial settlement that is supported by so many other states and would result in billions of dollars going to communities and individuals across the country that need help.

The Sackler family also says that, look, they are cooperating with the discovery process. They claim that they've already handed over, like, 51 million pages of financial documents. However, when you actually read between the lines here, you can certainly understand that the attorney general in New York state is trying to put a little bit more pressure on Sackler family, to further comply with their subpoenas so that they can get to the bottom of it. As we said, the key question, exactly how much wealth do they have? And is it potential fair game, as part of this litigation? CABRERA: Polo Sandoval, thank you.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up, all eyes on a New England Patriots' player expected to take the field Sunday, despite allegations of rape. Stay right there.



CABRERA: New England Patriots' wide receiver, Antonio Brown, appears more and more likely to play Sunday, amid a sexual assault lawsuit filed by his former trainer. The NFL has opened an investigation into Brown's behavior, but, so far, his new team is staying mum.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any comment at all on the Antonio Brown allegations that are out there?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a word to say?

BRADY: Didn't I just answer that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bill, were you aware of the lawsuit when you signed Antonio Brown?

BILL BELICHICK, HEAD COACH, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I'm not going to be expanding on the statements that have already been given.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you think the fans deserve to hear a little more from you on --

BELICHICK: When we know more, we'll say more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- such a major development that, you know, could impact the team?

BELICHICK: Yes, I just said that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we know more, we'll say more.


CABRERA: Brown's former trainer and college classmate, Britney Taylor, filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday, accusing Brown of multiple sexual assaults and even rape between 2017 and 2018. So far, he's been practicing with the Pats all week. He is not expected to be placed on the commissioner's exempt list, as this is not a criminal investigation, meaning he is eligible to play.

Joining us now is former New England Patriots' wide receiver, Dante Stallworth. Dante, when you think of the Pats, all the scandals they've weathered, the Aaron Hernandez murder case, the Robert Kraft solicitation scandal, spygate, deflategate, I mean, is this team just so used to playing through controversy nothing phases them, at this point?

DANTE STALLWORTH, FORMER WIDE RECEIVER, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Yes, I mean, it's easy to say that. And I think it's something that the coach there, the head coach, Bill Belichick, has preached for a couple of decades that he's been there, is they try to -- they try to or do a great job of blocking out distractions, no matter what they are, that has nothing to do with the actual on-field game. And that's what Belichick preaches.

And he compartmentalizes a lot of the information there and doesn't allow, honestly, guys to speak about anything that's not towards playing in the game and definitely doesn't allow players to speak with other players' business.

CABRERA: I mean, what is happening behind the scenes, though? Take me into the locker room. Are players able to just block this out or is there a discussion about things like this?

STALLWORTH: I'm sure there are some discussions. Guys are, you know, open minded about everything and understand that these issues, unfortunately, will arise in the NFL, just as they will in any workplace around the -- around the country.

But as far as, you know, delving into it too much to let it affect the game, that's the thing that the coach preaches, that he doesn't allow to happen. And, again, he bans players from talking about anything that doesn't have to do about football on the field. He bans -- literally, bans them from speaking about it.

So, that's why they've been tight mouthed as a -- as a clam over there, because that's what the coach preaches. But, you know, there is, obviously, a labor issue with this, from the NFL standpoint, where he is not on the exempt list, going down to Miami now to play against the Dolphins.

And he, possibly, will play. I expect him -- personally, I don't know any inside information on this. I haven't asked anyone. But I expect him to play about 20-15 plays. He just got there so he's not, really, that comfortable with the offense. But, like I said, the head coach preaches -- at the end of the day, he'll preach to the whole team that, you know, his main thing is speak for yourself. And that's what he always tells the players.

CABRERA: Now, the Pats, reportedly, signed Brown to a $15 million contract with $9 million guaranteed. But reports have also surfaced that the team has a clause, where they can avoid paying him, if he embarrasses their team with their conduct -- with his conduct. What is the team's incentive to stand by him, at this point?

STALLWORTH: I think it's -- I think, from the NFL -- well, the NFL and the New England Patriots' point of view, I think it's more about, you know, on the field right now, because of the coaches or the commissioner has not put him on the NFL exempt list because it would be an unprecedented move for him to do that. They have this -- they have this rule, basically, that says that players have not been put on exempt lists absent a criminal investigation or being formally charged and-or the NFL meeting with people that are close to the investigation or that are close to the situation. And getting the evidence for them and gathering the facts and trying to discuss it after that.


So they are meeting with Ms. Taylor next week and I expect something to come out of that, not sure what. But they will want to speak to Antonio Brown as well. So it could drag on the next couple of weeks or a decision come next week. So we'll find out soon enough.

And it will be interesting to see what New England does on the field if they allow him to play.


STALLWORTH: Like i said, i expect him to play.


STALLWORTH: If he is practicing, i expect him to play. That's just the way Belichick rolls.


STALLWORTH: But I don't expect him to play too much. And that's mostly not because of off-the-field issues. It's because of him just getting there and having to learn the whole offense.

CABRERA: So let's talk about the off-the-field issues. Even before the rape allegations, Brown faced a number of legal issues.

April of 2018, he was sued for allegedly throwing furniture from a balcony that nearly hit a 22-month-old child. In November of 2018, he was cited for reckless driving in Pennsylvania. January of this year, the mother of one of his children accuses him of pushing her.

In july, a claim alleging that he owes more than $7,000 in unpaid therapy and training sessions. Then, just last month, a chef filed a $38,000 lawsuit claiming Brown wrongly terminated his contract.

As talented as he may be, were you surprised the Pats took him on in the first place?

STALLWORTH: No. There have been certain issues with players prior to coming to New England. People want to say it is the Patriot way, buts it is the Bill Belichick way. Everyone in that organization is expendable and he understands that and that is how he coaches the team and that's how he runs the organization.

So, it doesn't matter if you are Antonio Brown, it doesn't matter if you are first-round pick, he doesn't care who you are and what your position is. If you are not helping the team and you are in a position where you are actually making things worse for the team, no matter who you are, you won't be there long.

CABRERA: OK. Donte Stallworth, thanks for the insight. Good to have you with us.

STALLWORTH: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

CABRERA: A couple makes a shocking discovery after welcoming a baby daughter by IVF and now there's a lawsuit.

Stay with us. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: Devastating, unthinkable, a nightmare, that is how one New Jersey family describes learning that their daughter conceived through IVF contained none of her father's DNA.

CNN's Erica Hill has their story.


HILL (voice-over): Six years ago, Kristina Koedderich and Drew Wasilewski welcomed a baby girl. Conceived via IVF using what they thought was Drew's sperm and Kristina's egg.

KRISTINA KOEDDERICH, MOTHER: When she was born, all my friends said, oh, she looks Asian, she looks Asian. But you just figure every baby like looks different when they're born.

HILL: As she got older, the physical differences were clear.

KOEDDERICH: I would go to a restaurant and they're like, oh, did you adopt her?

HILL: Shortly after their daughter's 2nd birthday, they say DNA tests confirmed Drew had a zero percent chance of being her biological father.

DREW WASLEWSKI, ALLEGED FATHER: It shook my world. That was like the final thing that destroyed everything around me.

HILL: Now divorced, the former couple is united in their fight to learn the identity of her biological father, suing the clinic where she was conceived.

A director with the facility in a March deposition maintains there was no mix-up.

In a statement to CNN, that facility, the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science, said it cannot comment on individual patients but says they're taking this very seriously and are thoroughly examining the alleged incident.

DAVID MAZIE, ATTORNEY FOR THE FAMILY: They have known about this since 2015. And they haven't provided any information, any clarity. The only thing they say is we did everything right.

HILL: Then last month, a judge ordered the clinic to turn over records on all the men, both donors and those hoping to be parents, like Drew, who gave specimens around the same time, and all the women whose eggs were fertilized when Christina's were. They have until September 27th.

WASLEWSKI: It hurts every time. It just gets to the heart. Just stabbing and stabbing and stabbing.

Every day, you can't run from this. You can't run.

Hi, daddy. Hi, sweetie. How are you?

And, you know, you see that and she's adorable and it breaks your heart, but the whole scenario is just -- it sucks.

HILL (on camera): Did it change in any way how you feel about her?

WASLEWSKI: No. Everybody is wondering, what are you going to do? What do you mean I'm going to do? I'm going to take her and throw her like a piece of garbage and throw away? You go, she didn't do anything.

She's my daughter. I watched her born.


WASLEWSKI: She's the most adorable little kid. I want to be there as long as I can, but still, it doesn't make it right.

HILL: Erica Hill, CNN, Livingston, New Jersey.



CABRERA: Former Attorney General Eric Holder has blunt advice for the 2020 Democrats vying to take on Trump. That is next. Stay right there.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your campaign has called what Secretary Castro said was a low blow, a cheap shot. He said it wasn't personal. How do you view what he said in your exchange?



CABRERA: That was Joe Biden telling reporters julian Castro got the facts wrong when he accused the former vice president of forgetting the details of his own health care plan during this week's debate. The Biden camp is now fundraising off of that attack, telling supporters in an e-mail that it was a cheap shot.

Despite the backlash and accusations of ageism, Castro is standing by his comments, saying this to CNN's Don Lemon.


JULIAN CASTRO, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER HUD SECRETARY: The other candidates in this race have been asked that question specifically from reporters of whether we think that the vice president is up in years or not -- shouldn't be in this campaign. And i have consistently said that that is not the case.

And i say the same thing now, voters will decide which one among us is best fit to take on Donald Trump.


CABRERA: Joining us now, CNN senior political commentator and host of "THE AXE FILES," david axelrod.

David, good to see you.


CABRERA: So much has already been said about that moment between Castro and Biden on the debate stage. And i'm sure there have been voters who have asked themselves, how old is too old to run for president. But seeing all the backlash, do you think it settled it that if you are going to take down Biden, this is not the way to do it?

AXELROD: I don't think that it clears Biden of the burden of approaching that he is up to the job. He would be eight years older than anyone who ever took office as president. So there are questions that he has to resolve and he has to resolve it by vigorously contesting for the nomination and going through this whole process.


I think that what we saw though is that gesture that Castro engaged in is not going to be well received. People will make their own conclusions as to whether Biden is too old or doesn't have the stamina to come the job. But they didn't particularly like -- particularly since he was wrong about the reference that he was making, they didn't like Castro sort of putting his hand in the small of Biden's back and sort of push him off the stage or something.

CABRERA: Leaning into that argument, we saw what happened with eric swalwell.

AXELROD: Yes. Yes.

CABRERA: He went after the whole pass-the-torch comment. And kirsten Gillibrand did a lot more of that --


CABRERA: -- when she was on the second debate stage.

AXELROD: Joe Biden is a very well-liked figure in the Democratic Party. Even if people don't support him for president, there's a great deal of affection and respect for him. He has very high favorable ratings among Democrats.

And so that was a very risky maneuver on Castro's part and i think he came out on the short end of it.

CABRERA: You know who had a good debate night? President Obama.

AXELROD: No doubt.

CABRERA: Here's what I mean. Let's watch.


BIDEN: I think that- -- i know the Senator says she is for bernie. I'm for about a Barack.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): We owe a huge debt to President Obama.

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

JULIAN CASTRO, (D), FORMER HOUSING SECRETARY: We owe a debt of gratitude to President Obama. Of course, i also worked for President Obama.

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


CABRERA: You hear a lot of the candidates, except for Biden, who were praising Obama and then trying to attack Biden.


CABRERA: Did anyone do that effectively or are the two men tied in voters' minds?

AXELROD: I think that Biden will make sure that they are. One of the reasons why he is the frontrunner in this race right now is that he has very strong support, particularly among African-American voters, and that has a do with his relationship with Barack Obama.

Barack Obama is a toweringly popular figure among Democrats. And that association is a great credential for Vice President Biden.

CABRERA: You spoke with former Attorney General Eric Holder --

AXELROD: Yes, I did.

CABRERA: -- this week for "AXE FILES." And part of your discussion talked about how he sees Democrats' best strategy going forward in taking down Trump.

Here is what he said.


AXELROD: You kind of amended michelle Obama's signature statement. She said, "When they go low, we go i high." You had a different interpretation.

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: When they go low, we kick --


AXELROD: And media had a field day with that.

HOLDER: Yes. Snowflakes on the right were all concerned, you know? Give me a break. Give me a break.

AXELROD: What did you mean by it?

HOLDER: It meant simply this. Democrats need to be tough. And 2008 is about 100 years ago. You are not running against John McCain who will stop the woman saying all negative things about then Senator, then Candidate Obama.

Democrats have to be tough. We have to be prepared to fight for our democracy. It doesn't mean we have to get into the dirt with Donald Trump on a daily basis. We have to be strategic in how we use that.

But we have got to be prepared to fight, to be tough. And that is what i was trying to say in using that phrase.


CABRERA: David, how can a candidate be tough but still have more of a positive campaign?

AXELROD: Well, i think part of it is not chasing the rabbit down the hole. The president is masterful at sort of, as i said, hijacking the day with a tweet or a comment and then forcing people to react to him.

And my point is sometimes jujitsu, the art of using your opponent's force against them, rather than meeting it with equal force, is an effective strategy.

If the president is as phrenetic as he has been, it is just more, it will be more and more evidence that the next four year will be just like these four. And i think it will feed into the exhaustion factor.

So I'm not saying that Democrats should turn a blind eye to every outrageous act but they have to be judicious about not allowing Donald Trump to determine the terms of the debate and to lead them into kind of, as he said, a mud-wrestling match.

CABRERA: Our thanks to david axelrod. A brand-new episode of "THE AXE FILES" airs tonight at 7:00 right here on CNN.

Detroit's economic struggles are well-known. It remains the poorest big city in America. And the U.S. Census Bureau says more than one third of detroit's residents and nearly half of the city's children live in poverty. This week's "CNN Hero" is working to change that.



NAJAH BAZZY, CNN HERO: Working as a nurse, I went to visit this Iraqi refugee family, and an infant that was dying. And there at the house, they absolutely had nothing. There was no refrigerator, no stove, no crib. The baby was in a laundry basket.

I decided this wasn't going to happen on my watch.

How is your apprenticeship going?


BAZZY: Nurses are supposed to fix things, we are healers. This is a place that heals the world.


CABRERA: See how she is providing basic needs, education and hope for thousands every year, go to


CABRERA: It's been 25 years since the show "Friends" became must-see TV thursday nights. And what began as this young sitcom has turned into one of the most-popular shows of all time. "Friends" was produced by Warner Brother which is part of CNN's parent company Warner Media.

And now a new CNN special "FRIENDS FOREVER: 25 YEARS OF LAUGHTER" looks at how it all began.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Shut up. The camera adds 10 pounds.

MATTHEW PERRY, ACTOR: So how many cameras are actually on you?


DAVID CLAIRE, CO-CREATOR, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: It was all about getting the joke right. Can this be funnier? SAUL AUSTRALITZ, AUTHOR: These are incredibly funny people all

gathered in a room together. All doing their utmost to kind of win the game. Right? To tell the funniest joke, come up with the funniest line to win over fellow writers.


I think the challenging part is that the hours and the intensity were so brutal.

CLAIRE: Very often we would stay all night trying to get it right because our feeling was, you know what? This is good to shoot end of the week. Better get it right now.

If it's not funny.

They would be there after midnight, 2:00, 3:00, and sometimes that's when the best punch lines emerge.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What was it like in the writers' room? What were those hours like?

MARTA KAUFFMAN, CO-CREATOR, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Those were some rough hours. I had nights where I'd be driving home, sun coming up. Get my kids ready for school and have to go back to work.

KEVIN BRIGHT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I would say three years I didn't sit down to one meal with my children.

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Give me the modus operandi. Take me through the week, David.

DAVID SCHWIMMER, ACTOR: We would have table meetings with the whole writing staff, the heads of productions, the executive producers.

LISA KUDROW, ACTRESS: If it gets a laugh, then it's worth keeping.

You know what, if we were in prison, you guys would be like my bitches.


BILL CATER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: It was an absolutely insane experience, because Marta and David were never satisfied.


CABRERA: The CNN special report "FRIENDS FOREVER: 25 YEARS OF LAUGHTER" premieres tomorrow night at 9:00 right here on CNN.

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. I'll see you back here two hours from now.

My colleague, S.E. Cupp, continues our coverage of today's news right after a quick break.