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Trump Stops by U.N. Climate Summit, Leaves for Religious Freedom Meeting; New CNN Poll: Warren Surges Among Iowa Democrats; Biden Faces New Questions on Awkward Moment with Columnist at Iowa LGBTQ Forum; American in One Room: Voters Clash in Search of Common Ground. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 11:30   ET





ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: This is a climate action summit. From the beginning --


GUTERRES: From the beginning, I said the ticket to enter is not the beautiful speech but concrete action. And you are here with commitments. It is my obligation, our obligation, to do everything to stop the climate crisis before it stops us.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That is the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres talking about the urgency of the world climate conference, one of the major themes of this week's gathering of world leaders at the United Nation's headquarters here in New York.

Ahead of this summit, Guterres made waves, telling leaders to not even come on stage if they don't come with concrete plans on the action on the climate crisis.

President Trump just now stopped by the meeting briefly. He definitely did not take the stage before leaving to chair his own meeting not on the climate crisis but religious freedom.

Joining me now with more is CNN chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir.

Bill, President Trump surprised a lot of folks even by stopping by this session. What are you learning about it?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: That's really interesting. I'm sure any of the four million protesters who took to the streets on Friday, the biggest environmental one-day protest in history, they'd probably like to think they had something to do with nudging him into that room today.

It's more likely he wanted to show a bit of support for the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, who had one of the first opening addresses here for world leaders.

He gave a message really at the other end of Trump's spectrum on this topic, preaching that need, not greed is there defining the North Star these days and that an ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of preaching.

Of course, the Trump administration has been neither preaching nor practicing when it comes to the environment, instead going the other way, dismantling all of the environmental regulations of the last couple generations, taking the teeth out of the Environmental Protection Agency.

President Trump's disdain for the General Assembly in general and for the IPCC and the Paris Accord climate section of the United Nations, in particular is no secret, Kate, but it is really interesting that he put in an appearance along with Vice President Mike Pence today.

BOLDUAN: Sure is.

Great to see you, Bill. Thanks for being there.

Coming up for us still, Senator Elizabeth Warren closing the gap in one key state, now polling neck and neck with Joe Biden in Iowa. We're going to dig into these new poll numbers next.



BOLDUAN: We're just over three weeks until the next Democratic debate and five months to the Iowa caucuses. And right now one candidate is surging with Iowa voters, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Iowa Democratic voters of course.

The CNN "Des Moines Register" polls shows Warren neck and neck with Joe Biden among likely caucus goers. The first time Warren has overtaken Biden. But it is, importantly to note, within the margin of error. What is Warren's reaction to gains like these? Listen.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I don't do polls. We are still months away from the Iowa caucuses and the first primary elections. What it is about, it's about the message that we are sick and tired of Americans working for a thinner and thinner slice at the top and isn't working for anyone else.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is CNN political correspondent, M.J. Lee. She has more on this poll.

M.J., what is standing out to you in this poll? What's behind, what's driving Warren's rise?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we have seen Elizabeth Warren steadily gain momentum nationally over the past few months and, over the weekend, we saw this new poll in Iowa showing that Warren is slightly ahead of Biden.

Now this is just one poll. And we are several months away from the Iowa caucuses. But there are some details in this poll that are worth digging into.


First of all, take a look at these favorability numbers. Elizabeth Warren having a strong lead on favorability at 75 percent, followed by Buttigieg at 69, and Biden at 66, Harris at 63, and Sanders at 58.

And then another key data point is which candidate is being considered overall, whether as the first choice of second choice, or otherwise.

Take a look at this. Warren leading there as well at 71 percent. And notably this is up from 61 percent back in June, again, followed by Biden, Buttigieg, Harris and Sanders.

On the question of where Warren is drawing support from, there's some signs in this poll that she could be eating into Bernie Sanders' support a little bit.

Among likely caucus goers in Iowa who consider themselves very liberals, Warren has a strong lead at 48 percent.

And the question of the question of voters who are 35 years and younger, so the younger crowd, Warren leading at 27 percent followed closely by Sanders and others.

We do have still a ways to go until voting begins in Iowa, but it is hard to overstate the importance of doing well in Iowa. And it's why we're seeing the top Democratic candidates pouring so much money, resources and time into that state right now -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Great break down.

Thanks so much. M.J. Really appreciate it. Good to see you.

Also this morning, Joe Biden facing some new questions after this awkward moment at an LGBTQ forum in Iowa. Watch.


LYZ LENZ, COLUMNIST, CEDAR RAPIDS GAZETTE & LGBTQ FORUM MODERATOR: In 1994, you did vote for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And in 1996, you voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. You did vote to repeal those. But you've also praised Vice President Mike Pence as a decent guy.





LENZ: Just asking the questions that people want to know.




BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is the moderator of that forum, a columnist for the "Cedar Rapids Gazette," Lyz Lenz.

Lyz, thank you for being here.

LENZ: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

The moment on stage was awkward and you tweeted afterward that walking off the stage was awkward as well. What happened?

LENZ: So Vice President Biden passed me and he said, "You're a real sweetheart."

BOLDUAN: And what did you think of it?

LENZ: Well, I think I'm a professional woman and I'm nobody's sweetheart.

BOLDUAN: Did you -- did you say something to him at the time? I mean, how did that end up going off stage?

LENZ: I just turned and smiled and shook his hand. And he walked off and began to speak with other people. So that was the extent of the interaction.

BOLDUAN: You know, as I was watching the interview, the interview on stage, you know, we all know that politicians don't always like to answer the questions. Lord knows, many have made that very clear to me during various interviews. Did you, though, see something more in that moment on stage or off?

LENZ: I think you're right. Often, politicians come in with the sound bytes that they want to say and they don't want to address the direct questions. But on that stage, especially being part of such an historic forum, I felt that we had the responsibility to hold the candidates' feet to the fire and make them answer the questions.

And what I saw in that moment was a complete inability to face his history, to answer for it, to put it in a context for the audience. I think there's a fair case to be made for the context of some of his votes. But instead of doing that, he chose to be condescending to me, the question asker.

BOLDUAN: I reached out to the Biden campaign. They said that they are won't be responding.

But supporters of the V.P. said your question that we saw, left out key context. If you look at "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he did vote for it but as part of a larger defense bill and Biden voted to remove it as an amendment before supporting its repeal.

And on the comment that Mike Pence is a decent guy, Biden tweeted afterward this, he said afterward in response to someone calling him out on it. He said, "I was making a point in a foreign policy context that, under normal circumstances, a vice president wouldn't be given a silent reaction on the world stage. But there's nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights and that includes the vice president."

Do folks have a point in pointing out that context was missing here?

LENZ: Nothing I asked about was factually inaccurate. My questions were correct. If context was needed, the vice president had ample time to give that context for people.


The reason I brought it up was so that he could give that context, explain to the crowd the history of his votes and his past. He chose not to do that. When he was done answering questions, he walked off with about two minutes left on his time.

So we gave him the opportunity and he chose not to do it.

BOLDUAN: Have you heard from the campaign since?

LENZ: I personally have not, no.

BOLDUAN: The question you were getting at was about the commitment to the LGBTQ community and issues. Where do you see Joe Biden's commitment standing today?

LENZ: I personally can't speak for any candidates. But I think it was very significant this was the first time we had a forum on LGBTQ issues since 2007. And so many of the candidates came out ready to go. They were speaking directly to the community.

And if you recall, back in 2007, the candidates on the stage weren't even pro same-sex marriage. And look at how far we've come. Ad I think that is truly, truly significant.

And what I hope we do going forward is that all journalists and all people in the media will continue to hold the candidates' feet to the fire on these very important issues.


Well, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. We're out of time with this one. Thank you so much, Lyz.

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: It was called "America in One Room." And here's the concept. Bring together hundreds of people from across the country and across the political spectrum to debate and discuss the major issues of the 2020 campaign. Sound like a recipe for success or disaster?

CNN's national correspondent, Kyung Lah, went to Texas to find out.


KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the heart of Texas --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last table on the left, they will check you in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit more serious. That's beautiful. Yes, that's great.

LAH: -- 526 Americans gathering --


Thank you so much.

LAH: -- upset about the partisan divide.



LAH: This is an experiment, a scientific sample. Democrat, Republican and Independent representing 47 states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are going to listen to other people whom you never ordinarily would encounter.

LAH: Reflecting who votes on Election Day.


LAH: It's a four-day in-person poll called "America in One Room."

Before arriving, this group took one poll on major issues in the 2020 election.


LAH: Here --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a great question.

LAH: -- they listened to candidates, to experts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is really a chance to have your voice heard.

LAH: And break into randomly selected small groups to talk.

(on camera) When is the last time you talked to a 70-year-old white Republican?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think I've ever talked to a 70-year-old white Republican until now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're being stormed at the southern border, and that's a problem, and it needs to be dealt with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The illegal immigrants that we have today, you can see it all the time, waving their country's flags, burning the American flag.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure, on TV you see the ones doing all this crazy stuff, but most of them work.

LAH (voice-over): Like the country, this group is deeply divided about immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like we should have a wall, a border wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And along comes ICE, deporting. How can we continue to do that in America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to learn your language. We don't want to follow your customs. We follow our own customs. And to me, it looks like they don't want to become Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, Gary, your family were illegal immigrants. The American Indians. This was their country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of us came here. And we didn't learn their language. We didn't learn their customs. We said, you take ours and you take it now. So we're all children of illegal immigrants. I don't know how we can be so choosy about the new ones.

LAH (on camera): That got to be a little heated in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It definitely did. But we all respected one another and got to hear each other's opinions. And I never thought I would relate to someone that was a Republican. And I have. More than once.

LAH: More than once.

(LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's been interesting to talk to Trump supporters because I don't meet many.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seeing all these people from all these other walks of life, exactly how my views have changed on it? I'm not so hard core.

LAH: What is your advice about political discourse in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to listen. Not yell. Not scream. You need to talk.

LAH (voice-over): At the end --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how your voice will be heard.

LAH: -- a closing poll to see if there's been any movement on the issues. They're already visible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's opened my mind to see that I need to listen to other people's views.

LAH: It's a recognition that there's a certain power.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really enjoyed your being here.

LAH: And bridging the divide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have enjoyed this beyond measure.



LAH: The poll results are scheduled to be published on October 2nd. The researchers don't know if there's going to be any digging out of

the partisan lanes that all of these participants started out with. They suspect, though, that they will, given what they saw.

And anecdotally, Kate, I want to leave you this. We saw people on the right hugging people on the left, crying, calling each other friends, even though they are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. There's a hunger among these people to try to solve the country's problems by working together to fix them.

BOLDUAN: It sounds simple. It starts with a conversation.

Kyung, thank you for doing this. Awesome. Love it.

LAH: You bet.

BOLDUAN: Right now, President Trump is speaking at the U.N. as the White House plans its response to the whistleblower complaint.


TRUMP: -- to the most horrifying anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish- Americans --