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Trump Says He Discussed Biden With Ukrainian President; Trump: "No Intention" To Meet Rouhani At United Nations; CDC Confirms Eighth Vaping-Related Death As Illnesses Surge; Prince Harry And Meghan Markle Will Be Starting A 10-Day Visit To South Africa Tomorrow; Late Night Television Is The Latest Battleground For Democratic Candidates Vying For The Chance To Beat Donald Trump. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 22, 2019 - 19:00   ET



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Alex Marquardt in for Ana Cabrera.

No quid pro quo. There was nothing. It was a perfect conversation. President Trump said all of that and more, including one other thing, saying he did discuss his political rival, Joe Biden, in a July 25th phone call with the President of Ukraine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you be OK with the Ukrainian government releasing their version of the transcript?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think their version would be the same as our version. I mean, it would be identical. But they did, they put out a major statement last night. And in the statement, they said it was a very, very fine conversation, and there was no pressure. No nothing.

There was no pressure. That was not pressure. I know when I give pressure, and that was not pressure.


MARQUARDT: The call was troubling enough for a member of the intelligence community who filed a whistleblower complaint. And the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is warning the White House, let Congress see it or risk entering a, quote, a grave new chapter of lawlessness, as other top Democrats also raise the prospect of impeachment.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: If, in particular, after having sought for an assistance and welcomed foreign assistance in the last presidential campaign as a candidate, he is now doing the same thing again but now using the power of the presidency, then he may force us to go down this road. I have spoken with a number of my colleagues over the last week, and

this seemed different in kind. And we may very well have crossed the Rubicon here.


MARQUARDT: It's not just Democrats sounding alarmed. There was also this tweet from Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, saying if the President asked or pressured Ukraine's President to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is traveling with the President in Ohio. Jeremy, to be clear, as we've been saying, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Biden or his son, but it is not -- the President is not letting up in these allegations against Joe Biden. In fact, he's defending this call with Ukraine's President.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Alex. I mean, it's fairly remarkable when you consider the fact that the President is currently facing a whistleblower complaint alleging, among other things, that he pressured the Ukrainian President to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, at the same time, of course, as the President was also withholding this military aid to Ukraine.

But that has not stopped the President from addressing this controversy or getting in the middle of that. And in fact, he's, instead, using it to really amplify his claims about Joe Biden. Listen to him just this morning.


TRUMP: What you have to do is look at the corruption on the Democrat side. Take a look at how the whole witch-hunt started. Now, they want to try and start another witch-hunt. But unfortunately, this one is reverting now to Joe Biden. Because he's done some very bad things.

And I'm not even looking to hurt him, to be honest. He needs all the help he can get. I'm not looking to hurt him. I'm not looking to hurt his family. But the corruption and what he said is a terrible thing.


DIAMOND: Now, as he muddies the waters there, of course, Alex, you can also hear the President referring to this as a witch-hunt, which, of course, echoes the President's comments about the Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation.

And just as the President then flung counter-allegations at Special Counsel or at other witnesses involved in the case, the President is doing the same thing here. He has attacked the whistleblower in this case as a partisan despite saying that he doesn't know the identity of that whistleblower.

And that is also despite the fact that these allegations have been deemed credible by the Inspector General for the intelligence community who, Alex, we should note, was appointed by President Trump.

MARQUARDT: And will be testifying to both the House and the Senate later this week. Lots of questions for him. Jeremy Diamond in Ohio with the President. Thanks very much.

And joining us now to dive into this, CNN Political Analyst and former Justice Department Spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur, and CNN Senior Political Analyst and Senior Editor for "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.

Thank you both for joining me.

Sarah, I want to start with you and that tweet from Senator Mitt Romney. He is saying that if the President asked or pressured the Ukrainian President to investigate a political rival, that would be, quote, troubling to the extreme. Didn't we just see the President acknowledge today that's exactly what he did?

SARAH ISGUR, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: I actually think that Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney are both doing something very smart here which didn't really happen during the Russia investigation and some other things that we've seen. They are actually waiting for some of the facts to come out.


There is a lot we don't know about what happened on these calls, who the whistleblower is. There was one anonymous source today that said the whistleblower, in fact, heard from someone else who heard, you know, what happened on the call.

Waiting, I think, actually strengthens the Democrats' hand here quite a bit. When they have the facts at their disposal, it's a far more powerful argument against the President than when, in the past, for instance, Adam Schiff, you know, overstepped the facts a little bit and then had to backtrack.

That's where the President always gets the upper hand, when he can say, look, they didn't get this right or they didn't get this right. So I think it's very smart what Nancy Pelosi is doing. I think Mitt Romney's tweet kind of encapsulates that as well. And I think, absolutely, we're about to find out a lot more about this before it's over.

MARQUARDT: But, Ron, the Inspector General of the intelligence community did call this of urgent concern.


MARQUARDT: So how do you see it?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, I mean, we have -- we have kind of several overlapping circles of kind incredible behavior. First, we have what has been reporter of the President himself, as

Jeremy alluded to, repeatedly asking -- and it's interesting that Romney included asking as well as pressuring -- the Ukrainian President to open this investigation into Joe Biden at the same time he was withholding military aid that have been appropriated for the country.

Then, we have the refusal of the administration to turn over the whistleblower complaint to the intelligence -- you know, to the intelligence committees as is specified in the law.

And then the third thing we have, I think, with the -- with the kind of very tepid exception of Mitt Romney, is the silence of the Republican Party since all of this has begun.

I mean, I look at this, the President feeling that he could make this kind of request to a foreign leader, which would have been unquestionably out of bounds in any earlier administration, as the direct outcome of, really, three years of Republicans kind of banding together around him and trying to protect him from any consequences from behavior that kind of shatters traditional democratic norms.

MARQUARDT: The President has said that the conversation that he had with President Zelensky was totally appropriate. He said that it was beautiful. He has weighed in -- he was asked about releasing these transcripts today. He said he would be open to it.

Sarah, do you think that's what the White House should do now that you have presidential candidates, Congress, and others calling for these transcripts? Should the White House release it?

ISGUR: I don't think they'll have much of a choice. And I think the sooner they do it, the better. What we've also seen through this administration is they drag these things out. It's a longer and longer news story, and in the end, they have to release it anyway.

So I think a very smart thing to do would be to get this over with, release it tomorrow, and let the chips fall where they may. Do I think that will happen? No, I think that's unlikely.

MARQUARDT: We have -- well, the big question when we start the week tomorrow, when we look at the House, is whether there will be more Democrats calling for impeachment in light of this. There are new calls that we've seen both in the House and from presidential candidates.

In the House, we have Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She's writing that, at this point, the bigger scandal isn't the President's law-breaking behavior. It's the Democrat -- Democratic Party's refusal to impeach him for it. Ron --


MARQUARDT: -- if this story continues, if these accusations do turn out to be true, do you think that a lot more Democrats, this week or later, are going to be jumping on this impeachment movement? And will Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, be able to hold them off?

BROWNSTEIN: Right, possibly more Democrats -- well, certainly, if this story crystallizes in the way that it's originally -- the original information that we have, there will be more Democrats calling for impeachment. But whether that's enough to change the fundamental dynamic is very unclear.

I mean, I think, to me, one of the overriding lessons of the past three years is that one party alone, even when in control of one chamber of Congress, cannot uphold democratic norms on -- by itself. And, you know, Nancy Pelosi has set a very clear standard.

Are there Republicans who are willing to look at accountability for this behavior of any sort? And, you know, if there are not, there are always going to be some Democrats in the most marginal districts who are going to be hesitant about doing this on a party-line basis, especially when they know that the Senate, again, for the same reasons, is -- you know, is extremely unlikely to convict.

So I think that, yes, more Democrats will likely come out for it, but it will not change the dynamic. What will change the dynamic is, is there a point where the Republican Party says this is behavior that is beyond the pale? And so for -- based on the past three years, you'd have to say there is no point that it will say that.

MARQUARDT: And one of the people calling this essentially beyond the pale, outrageous, in fact, is Joe Biden. Yesterday, he came out really in a -- in a fiery way, saying that he had actually never spoken to his son, Hunter Biden, about his role on the board of the Ukrainian energy company. Let's listen to what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice president, how many times have you ever spoken to your son about his overseas business dealings?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never spoken to my son about overseas business dealings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so how do you know -- how do you know --


BIDEN: Here's what I know. I know Trump deserves to be investigated. He is violating every basic norm of a president. You should be asking him the question, why is he on the phone with a foreign leader trying to intimidate the foreign leader?


MARQUARDT: But let's take a look at what Hunter said when asked about what he talked about with his father in "The New Yorker." They wrote, "As Hunter recalled, his father discussed Burisma" -- that was the name of the energy company -- "with him just once: 'Dad said, 'I hope you know what you're doing,' and I said, 'I do.'"

Ron, it's worth noting, again, that CNN has investigated, many others have investigated, there's no evidence of any wrongdoing by either Biden in this case. Do you think we should be calling out Joe Biden for this? You have Hunter saying they did talk about it, his father saying they didn't.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I mean, that is -- I mean, look, we're talking about kind of splitting hairs here. I mean, the real dynamic is that the -- is that the officials and the Ukraine and all independent investigations so far has not found any wrongdoing on the part of Joe Biden when he was Vice President in the sense of that he was trying to influence any investigation into that natural gas company.

By all indications, that was dormant at the time there were calls for removing the Prosecutor General in Ukraine. And again -- and you're even -- like, look at what we are talking about.

I mean, in essence, you have the President, you know, sprouting -- spouting a charge that has, so far, no basis -- in fact, potentially violating diplomatic and kind of democratic norms to an extraordinary extreme by pressuring a foreign leader openly to, you know, try to dig up dirt on a potential opponent in 2020 -- and we're asking Joe Biden what he talked about with his son?

I mean, that -- you're kind of like getting down into losing the forest for -- you know, not even the tree, a leaf on a tree, I think, at this point. So, you know, sure, I mean, Joe Biden has got to explain exactly what he did and didn't do. But so far, all investigations have found no basis for the charges the President is making. And we can lose sight of the enormity of what the President is doing if we try to push this story into the public eye.

MARQUARDT: And so often in this administration, as you both know, we ask ourselves, what will the reaction be among Republicans if Obama -- the Obama administration had done this? In fact, that's exactly the question that my colleague, Jake Tapper, asked this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION." Let's take a look.


JAKE TAPER, CNN ANCHOR: If, for instance, President Obama had pressured a foreign leader, Putin or the President of Ukraine or anyone, and said, I want you to look into Donald Trump, Jr. or I want you to look into Eric Trump, international businessmen, both of them. Would you not find that inappropriate?

STEVE MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Again, I'm not going to speculate on that.

TAPPER: Well, I don't understand. So it's OK for Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump to do business all over the world, it's OK for Ivanka Trump to have copyrights approved all over the world, while President Trump is president. But while Vice President Biden was vice president, his son shouldn't have been able to do business dealings?

MNUCHIN: Again, I don't -- I don't really want to go into more of these details.


MARQUARDT: Sarah, Mnuchin there, he didn't want to touch it.

ISGUR: And for good reason, because it's a rhetorical question, more or less. Of course, Republicans would have jumped on this if it had been President Obama doing it. And Democrats would have jumped on it if it had been President Bush. You know, everyone -- we've gotten to a more partisan place, a more tribalistic place. There is an 86 percent approval gap between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to President Trump.

I do think, however, that this can be a political gift to Joe Biden. He needs to not defend what he -- you know, anything about Ukraine. Instead, the number one issue for Democratic primary voters right now is electability, and this was a huge signal from the -- inside the Trump campaign and inside President Trump's mind that they see Joe Biden as the number one threat.

That's why this call, if it happened, would have happened that way. Joe Biden should be using this to make the electability case. Even President Trump thinks I'm the threat come 2020.

MARQUARDT: Yes, this is a fight that Joe Biden has wanted from day one against President Trump.

Ron Brownstein, Sarah Isgur, we have to leave it there. Thanks very much.

ISGUR: Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Now coming up, tough talk and heightened tensions. Negotiations between the U.S. and Iran stall after that devastating attack on a Saudi oil field.



MARQUARDT: More than 90 world leaders will descend on New York City this week for the United Nations General Assembly. All eyes, however, will be watching for a potential face-to-face between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The President is saying that he has no intention of meeting with him, although he added nothing is ever off the table.

Tensions have been heightened between the two countries after the United States slapped Iran with tough new sanctions over an attack on Saudi Arabia's largest oil facility. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued this warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Trump and I both want to

give diplomacy every opportunity to succeed, but I think the whole world knows that when that fails -- when it's the case that we no longer believe that we can convince the Iranian regime to behave in the way that we have asked them to behave, just to behave like a normal nation, I think the whole world knows, including the Iranian regime, of American military might.


MARQUARDT: Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also suggesting that the U.S. is closing the door on negotiations during an interview with our Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Foreign Minister, are you saying that there's a plan afoot to close the doors to negotiation by the U.S. President?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER OF IRAN: I think the only reason they would redesignate our Central Bank is to make it impossible or very difficult for this president or his successor to remove their name from the list. The bar is very high now. And I think those who proposed this to President Trump wanted to close the door to negotiations, not during his presidency but even after his presidency.

AMANPOUR: Some are saying that, actually, a hardline element, like the one you're describing here in the United States, in Iran also wants to see doors to diplomacy closed.

ZARIF: Yes, there may be people, but the leadership in Iran is more prudent than -- to fall in their trap.



MARQUARDT: That brings us to our "Weekend Presidential Brief" with CNN's National Security Analyst, Sam Vinograd. It's a segment that we bring to you every weekend with the most pressing national security issues that the President will face tomorrow. Sam actually helped prepare the daily presidential briefing and also went to the UNGA under President Obama.

Sam, we just heard Mohammad Javad Zarif right there. How should his comments or should his comments impact the strategy that the President uses to go into UNGA this week?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We have to take Zarif's comments with a very heavy grain of salt here. Zarif is a professional liar. He does it quite easily.

And historically, his logic, as outlined to Christiane Amanpour, doesn't hold water. Maximum pressure under President Obama is what actually brought Iran to the negotiating table the first time around, and that's what we're seeing this time.

Now, as President Trump arrives in New York, his strategy going into the UNGA, or unga (ph) as we like to call it, should be to stay focused on getting other countries to work with us on holding Iran accountable for its malign activity.

The administration laid out several steps that we're taking independently, including sanctions which Zarif referenced as well as sending defensive troops to the Middle East as well as military equipment.

Our sanctions would be a lot stronger if they're mirrored by other countries or if the U.N. Security Council takes similar action. Russia and China would probably push back on that, but it's worth trying.

President Trump runs the risk of getting into a war of words with Zarif or Rouhani if he doesn't stay focused on his core objective of trying to get other countries to join with us. He is not very good at being restrained when other countries insult him, so I hope Pompeo is speaking with him about that.

MARQUARDT: A major focus, particularly tomorrow, at the United Nations General Assembly is the climate crisis. And we have a new stark warning from leading scientists about the situation in the climate -- the climate change happening, proceeding apace. Meanwhile, the President and his steam continue to deny it and won't be going to this meeting tomorrow. How will the administration react?

VINOGRAD: Well, the report issues dire warnings as well as a call to action, human activities to try to mitigate the impact of climate change. But President Trump isn't just MIA or missing in action from climate fora. He is discounting the analysis of his own experts. Even the Director of National Intelligence in his worldwide prep briefing this year, Alex, included the effects of climate change as a national security risk.


VINOGRAD: President Trump isn't listening to that. At the same time, his actions speak just as loudly as his words. He's implemented policies here at home that will expedite climate change.


VINOGRAD: Most recently, tried to get California not to be able, at the state level, to limit very harmful auto emissions. So his absence at the U.N. climate summit is notable. What's even more noticeable is the actions that he's taking to actually accelerate climate change. That impacts all of us.

MARQUARDT: It really does. And you also wrote in your CNN column that was posted earlier today that there is going to be a dark cloud hanging over the UNGA here in New York this week, and that's the President and Giuliani's -- his personal lawyer's efforts in Ukraine to take steps to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son. How do you think that that's going to impact this massive meeting that's happening?

VINOGRAD: Well, the United States has historically tried to lead on world law and anti-corruption initiatives overseas, including through the U.N. When the President looks like the poster child for the very kinds of activities we've urged other countries not to engage in, that makes it harder for us to pursue those efforts.

It's not illogical to assume that other countries may have anti- corruption talking points on their agendas for their meetings with President Trump. We've traded places in --


VINOGRAD: -- in that respect. When President Trump sees Ukrainian President Zelensky, this issue is going to dominate.

We should all want Trump and Zelensky to be talking about Putin and Russian aggression against Ukraine and deterring that. Instead, they'll likely be focused on melding talking points in response to these latest complaints.

And finally, Alex, we've reached the danger zone in terms of the delusion of credibility on U.S. national security. I don't think any world leader really thinks at this point that President Trump puts American national security interests first. That impacts our ability to pursue any kind of actual national security work overseas.

MARQUARDT: So many interesting dynamics in place.

VINOGRAD: Happy UNGA! Buckle up.

MARQUARDT: So much happening this week, always a real circus here in New York.


MARQUARDT: Sam Vinograd, we know you'll be following all of it.


MARQUARDT: Thanks very much.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, coming up, growing alarm surrounding the vaping crisis as the CDC confirms an eighth death and more than 500 illnesses. That's coming up.



MARQUARDT: The CDC is confirming that an eighth person has died from a lung disease linked to vaping. Officials say that the latest victim is a Missouri man who had only been using e-cigarettes since May to treat chronic pain. Across the country, there have been more than 500 confirmed or

probable cases of vaping-related illnesses. CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has more.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jewels, vapes, pens -- they're all e-cigarettes. Electronic nicotine systems. Some say they are a safer alternative to smoking; others say they represent a new hazard. But what really is the difference between vaping and smoking?

Well, when you light up a cigarette, you're burning a mix of tobacco leaves and hundreds of other ingredients. At that moment, you create more than 7,000 chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer. Others are simply toxic.

E-cigarettes work by heating a solution, sometimes known as vape juice or e-liquid, into a vapor. It's usually nicotine or cannabis mixed with added flavorings, thickeners, and other chemicals. Now, some of those additives, like the flavorings, are considered to be generally safe to eat by the FDA, but we don't know if they're safe to inhale. And that's a critical point.

Breathing in these chemicals, instead of eating them, could have very different effects on the body that we still don't fully understand. Also, when inhaling this heated aerosol, these substances could cause irritation, and even inflammation, in your lungs.


Unlike cigarettes, vaping doesn't leave behind the same tarry tobacco residue that contributes to lung or throat cancer. But they do contain nicotine salts. That's a concentrated form of the highly addictive substance. In fact, just one small pot can deliver as much nicotine as pack of cigarettes. And the CDC says vapors may also be inhaling heavy medals like nickel or lead.

So just how dangerous are e-cigarettes? Well, it's difficult to say. That's because it's early days and there still isn't a lot of data. Scientists are now studying potential links between vaping and lung disease. Vaping and seizures and vaping's impact on addiction. But remember, it took decades of data on smoking before we knew the real dangers of cigarettes. And it may be decades more before we know what e-cigarettes do to the body.


MARQUARDT: Lots of questions about vaping.

Our thanks to Dr. Gupta.

Coming up, he proposed to his girlfriend under water and then never got to hear her say yes. How the dream engagement turned tragic for one couple.


[19:35:07] MARQUARDT: Now to a tragedy involving a Louisiana man who drowned while he was proposing to his girlfriend underwater. Steven Weber and his girlfriend were vacationing in Tanzania when Weber swim down to the window of their underwater hotel room to propose with a ring and handwritten note that read I can't hold my breath long enough to tell you everything I love about you, but everything I love about you I love more every day. Will you please be my wife?

But he drowned before he could ever hear her answer. His girlfriend later called his death the cruelest twist of fate imaginable. Also writing I will carry the blessing of the love we shared with me forever and saying that the answer to his proposal would have been yes, yes, a million times, yes.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be starting a ten-day visit to South Africa tomorrow. A royal tour that also includes them traveling to some of the most marginalized areas where non-whites were forced to live during apartheid and where gang violence and murder rates continue to rise.

CNN's David McKenzie reports.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just near miles separate this beach from her home. But listening to Chloe speak after an hour in the water and it might as well be a world away.


MCKENZIE: What happens in your neighborhood, Chloe?

CHLOE: They shoot. They rape people. They abuse people. (INAUDIBLE). No fighting, and they care about us here.

MCKENZIE: The Waves for Change charity gives Chloe and others a chance to feel like children. And this week, they will get a chance to meet a prince and princess from England. And then they will return home. Many to neighborhoods so bad that the military has been deployed in an attempt to stop the killings. So far, it hasn't helped.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We call it Iraq.

MCKENZIE: Abdula (INAUDIBLE) has named his patch after a war zone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There might be a gunshot in the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing that goes through my head most of the time is will we see tomorrow morning? (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

ABDUL WAHEEM MARTIN, PARAMEDIC: Are we going out to a guy that got stabbed in the chest. We don't know if he's bleeding. Unfortunately, we will have to wait for an escort.

MCKENZIE: These neighborhoods feel almost broken to me.

MARTIN: It does feel -- especially at this moment knowing that we are right around the corner and we can't do anything.

MCKENZIE: Can't do anything because Martin and his crew must weight for a police escort. He says 80 of the ambulance crews were targeted last year. Impatiently waiting so they, too, don't join a growing list of victims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is happening?

MCKENZIE: The mothers of this broken place live every day with the memories of their lost sons gathering together to gain strength.

MCKENZIE: What is violence doing to families here?

SHANNAZ THEUNISEM, VICTIM'S MOTHER: It's making families like, (INAUDIBLE) he was a child that used to do everything for me. He was my -- I can't go a day without him. In the morning, I must sacrifice him not here with me. Let me just get through this day. Let me just -- I have only one wish, just to say good-bye to him.

MCKENZIE: The security escort takes nearly an hour.

MARTIN: Escort received.

MCKENZIE: Martin doesn't blame the police, he knows that the police's resources are stretched as thin as theirs.

MARTIN: Good morning. Morning.

MCKENZIE: But as a paramedic, he also knows that the window for saving this life was just minutes, not hours.

MARTIN: We have grown -- we have grown to have a sense which is scary because the moment we start tolerating the way things are happening, we are actually saying that it now becomes a norm, which it shouldn't be.

MCKENZIE: David McKenzie, CNN, South Africa.


MARQUARDT: Terrific reporting there from David McKenzie in South Africa.

Now with the 2020 campaign season in full swing, the age-old issue that keeps being raised by a former President.




[19:40:05] MARQUARDT: Plus, find out the true stories of the agencies protecting us from terrorists, drug cartels, Russian spies and more when the CNN original series "Declassified" returns to CNN. That's next Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.


[19:44:13] MARQUARDT: Former president Jimmy Carter turns 95 on October 1st. And clearly, he doesn't think he is too old to swing a hammer. He is actually planning to be in Nashville just a few days after that birthday to help build another 21 homes for habitat for humanity. It's an activity he has been part of for decades. That said, Carter does believe there are certain places that age matters like the oval office.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I were just 80 years old, if I was 50 years younger, I don't believe I could under take the duties that I experienced when I was president. But one thing, you have to be very flexible with your mind.


[19:45:03] MARQUARDT: CNN Presidential Historian, Doug Brinkley joins me now to talk about age and the presidency.

Doug, generally, we don't ask someone, especially our elders how old they are. It is a little bit rude. But when we are talking about presidential candidates, in the highest office in the land, how relevant do you think that is?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You know what is relevant is the age but the health of a candidate that would be president. I mean, we had many presidents incapacitated by like Franklin Roosevelt for example four times, President or Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack and historians rank them both very high.

But if you are in your 80s and have some kind of de-habilitation, something like Alzheimer's disease or dementia, then I think it is a problem. But otherwise, I think anybody today could say 80 is the new 60.

MARQUARDT: I think a number of people would like to agree with you. But whether these candidates like it or not and whether the President frankly likes it or not, this is certainly something that's of concern to voters.

Let's look at a couple recent headlines. They all as you can see right there called Biden's age into question. We should also point out that he is not alone there. The top three polling Democrats would all be in their 70s on inauguration day should they be elected. That's Biden, Sanders and Warren. The current President Donald Trump was the oldest President to be sworn in for a first term. He was almost 71. He was 70 years and 220 days old.

Now Doug, those comments by former president Carter, he talked about flexibility of mind when he was cautioning against older presidents. So to what extent do you think, just a number, those two digits should be excluding someone or not?

BRINKLEY: I don't think they should be excluding somebody. In this case, we really are talking about Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. The fact Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump are in their 70s, also -- I mean, whether someone is 75 or 78 should not be a decisive factor.

What is true is often a need for a feel of generational change. You think of John f Kennedy in 1960 or Bill Clinton in 1952. You know, Barack Obama, there is this feeling of a turning of the page. You don't get that with Joe Biden. But there is something to be said about being an elder states person in American foreign policy and political dynamics. And Joe Biden has that calling card and he is in very good shape, so I don't think it hurts him as long as he doesn't ramble too much.

MARQUARDT: And there certainly have been a lot of competitors who have been calling that into question. You look at the voters, many of them are Democratic voters, they are looking to Biden as that elder statesman figures out, someone who can beat the President, Donald Trump.

But his younger competitors, in past debates, people like Julian Castro and Eric Swalwell, they haven't really shied away from making age an issue. Let's listen to that.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago. He is still right today. If we are going to solve the issues of automation, pass the torch. If we are going to solve the issues of climate chaos, pass the torch. If we are going to solve the issue of student loan debt, pass the torch. If we are going to end gun violence for families who are fearful of sending families to school, pass the torch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice President, would you like to sing a torch song?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would. I'm still holding on to that torch.

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

BIDEN: If you qualify --

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


MARQUARDT: Doug, as this race heats up, do you think we are going to keep seeing attacks on Biden and are they affective?

BRINKLEY: No, they are not effective. Castro and Swalwell were tanked. They got roundly criticized for that kind of behavior. Those are too awful clips. They didn't hurt Joe Biden. They hurt the people that are attacking Biden.

You have to deal with Biden if you are going to go against him. Treat him with certain amount of gravitas (ph), but just put your ideas and your policy ahead of you. I mean, ageism is not pretty. If you are somebody in your 50s and you are mocking somebody for being in their 70s, that's not going to go well. One of the most reliable voters for Democrats are seniors. And they don't feel like having Biden just simply because he is in his late 70s.

MARQUARDT: And Biden was doing the best among seniors in our latest CNN/Des Moines poll in Iowa.

Douglas Brinkley, CNN presidential historian. Thanks very much.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Now, coming up, before Iowa, before New Hampshire, it's all about the late night primary.


[19:50:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Follow-up question, are you going nuts?

BIDEN: Look, the reason I came on the Jimmy Kimmel show is because I'm not. I'm not.


[19:53:48] MARQUARDT: Late night television is the latest battleground for Democratic candidates vying for the chance to beat Donald Trump. But they are not doing it just for the laughs.

CNN's Brian Stelter explains.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The late night primary is well-underway. Witness Kamala Harris slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's why I'm committed to passing a green new deal creating clean jobs and finally putting an end to fracking once and for all.

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Mama Kamala just don't give a frac.

STELTER: And the next Night Cory Booker on Jimmy Kimmel.

Is it true that the primary reason you're running for president is to give you an excuse to move out of Newark?

STELTER: And Elizabeth warren on Stephen Colbert.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Why don't we quit now and do a selfie line?

STELTER: And the Thursday night visit from Andrew Yang on Seth Myers.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be the first president to use PowerPoint. Hopefully that's a good thing.

STELTER: Bill Clinton launched this modern day trend by playing the sax on the (INAUDIBLE) show. And both George W. Bush and Barack Obama delivered top ten lists on the campaign trail.

[19:55:04] GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just for fun issue executive order commanding my brother Jeb to wash my car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the number one Barack Obama campaign promise.


STELTER: Now more and more campaigning is happening here on the late night stage.

Donald Trump went this route before the 2016 election, though he hadn't been back on late night since. Democratic hopefuls have replaced him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going nuts?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, the reason I came on the Jimmy Kimmel show is because I'm not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got insulted by the president of the United States.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's how you know you've made it.

STELTER: Yes, a chance to show a more laid-back, human side. But comedians can pose tough questions, too.

HARRIS: We have got to talk about issues like choice for women and access to reproductive health care.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm proud to be the only one in the Senate who lives in a black and brown low income community below the poverty line.

STELTER: And launching your campaign on late night is far from a sure thing. Just ask Kirsten Gillibrand who announced on Colbert and is no longer running. Many others are still trying.

Late night has become about substance not just style.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you going to pay for it? Are you going to raise the middle class taxes?

WARREN: So here's how we're going to do it. Costs are going to go up for the wealthiest Americans, for big corporations.


WARREN: Yes. And hardworking middle class families are going to see their costs go down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But will their taxes go up?

WARREN: But here's the thing --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's the thing, I have listened to these answers a few times before.

STELTER: For presidential want to be, it's about finding a balance between keeping it real and keeping it light.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the one I think you should go with. Good enough for Rosario Dawson, good enough for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever since Barack left we have been off track but Kamala trying to get us back to black.

STELTER: Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.