Return to Transcripts main page


Biden Faces Attacks from Trump; Aides Told Old Emails were Retroactively Classified; Trail of Former Dallas Police Officer; Teen Takes His Own Life After Being Cyberbullied. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 08:30   ET





JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is not surprising that I've become the object of his attention.

It's not about me. We'll overcome this. This is -- this is fine. My family handled this.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's Democratic frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden talking about what's happening with his family and how Hunter Biden has come under attack. In fact, the former VP has taken repeated hits from President Trump and his allies over Ukraine. The Democratic race is showing Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren leading the pack at the moment.

So what is Biden's latest strategy?

Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have Kate Bedingfield, the deputy campaign manager and communications director for the Biden campaign.

Good morning, Kate.


CAMEROTA: Great to have you here to talk about all of this.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: OK, so let's stipulate at the top that neither CNN nor any legitimate news organization can find any truth to the claims that President Trump and his allies are making about former Vice President Biden having done anything wrong in calling for that Ukrainian prosecutors to be ousted. The entire international community felt that he was not dealing with corruption and should be ousted. So let's stipulate that at the top.

That said, behind the scenes, on the campaign, with all of this being dredged up over the past weeks, has this been a challenge for all of you to figure out how to address this?

BEDINGFIELD: No, absolutely not, for the reason that you just said, Alisyn, which is that there's absolutely no truth to any of this. And I think the most important thing is that we actually take a step back here and look at why Donald Trump is doing this. I mean he -- Joe Biden has been a preoccupation of his since before Biden even got in the race. I mean, you know, the day after we got in, the firefighters endorsed us and it sent Trump on a -- you know, a tweet tirade. He fired his pollster after internal polling leaked that showed that their data confirms what all the public data shows, which is that Biden would handily beat Trump.

And now we're seeing that Donald Trump is willing to violate his oath of office in order to not have to face Joe Biden at the ballot box. So I think that's -- I think that's incredibly important not to lose sight of here is why Trump is focused on Biden. And -- and that's something that, you know, we're going to -- we are going to not lose sight of our campaign. We're going to keep focused on the issues that matter to people in their lives. We are out, you know, talking about health care, talking about climate. Like, we're not just going to play on Donald Trump's playing field here. So, you know, so I think -- I think let's not lose sight of the fact that Donald Trump does not want to face Joe Biden at the ballot box so desperately that he's willing to violate his oath of office to not have to do it.

CAMEROTA: And as an ancillary issue to everything that we just talked about in terms of the getting rid of the prosecutor, is, of course, Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, his work for that gas company. Does former VP Biden now have any regret that he didn't tell Hunter Biden, you know what, I just don't need the headache, don't work there?

BEDINGFIELD: No, because he didn't do anything wrong. And, you know, the White House said in 2014 that there was no issue with Hunter having that job.

But, you know, and I think that asking this question is exactly, Alisyn, what Donald Trump wants, right? There's no evidence, as you stipulated at the top, which is important, there's no evidence that he did anything wrong, and yet he still hopes that you guys will ask questions like that, that you will try to insinuate that there was an optical issue, that there was some kind of, you know, that there's some kind of issue there that wasn't there.

This is exactly the playbook that he ran in 2016. We're not going to let him do it this time. We are taking on directly any suggestion that there was anything improper here. There was not. And every independent outlet, as you stated, that's looked into it has said that there wasn't.

But what is improper is that Donald Trump is reaching out to a foreign country trying to manufacture dirt on the opponent that he most fears facing at home. That's what Americans should be outraged by. And that should be the focus of our discussion here.

CAMEROTA: I know that what the vice president hopes is to be able to deal with the issues that affect so many of us. And I know that one of the things -- you know, he's trying to keep his campaign stops focused on the issues, despite the fact that I -- I have to imagine that this is a headache, at least, but I hear you, that you're trying to stay laser focused on the issues.

And one of the things, of course, that has coming up, and I know that you all want to talk about is guns, and that's very important to so many Americans. And it's interesting that you have gotten the endorsement of someone we know well, Fred Guttenberg, who is one of the fathers of one of the Parkland kids, students, who was gunned down in that massacre.

And so I just want to play a little portion because I think this is really important about what Fred says about Joe Biden. So listen to this.


FRED GUTTENBERG: Vice President Biden has taken them on. He was part of that assault weapons ban that was once in place.


That was a big fight. It took fortitude. It took guts.

There is nobody that has given me advice or a path since my daughter died that has meant more than Vice President Biden.


CAMEROTA: So what is VP Biden's plan for how to fix this?

BEDINGFIELD: So, you know, he is only -- he's the only national Democrat in this race who's taken on the NRA and won. You know, there was a period of time in this country when assault weapons and high capacity magazines were -- were not legal. And that was in part because of Joe Biden.

And -- and so what he wants to do as president is, you know, strengthen universal -- bring about universal background checks, take assault weapons and high-capacity magazines off the streets. You know, he is somebody for whom it's personal. I mean you saw the video there. You know, he met with the Parkland families. He met with the families after Sandy Hook. He knows what it's like to have that gaping hole torn in your family.

And so for him it's incredibly personal and it's something that he was an advocate for in the White House, you know, in the White House he and President Obama, passed a number of executive orders strengthening -- limiting -- excuse me, narrowing the gun show loophole, strengthening background checks. It's something he has a record of achievement on. It's something that will be a priority for him if he's president. You know, I think another sort of important thing here is, you know,

on Friday, we had a report out that the president of the NRA met with Donald Trump, offering their support and political protection to battle on impeachment here, in exchange for a lack of action on gun reform. I mean that's -- that's appalling. It's unconscionable. It's what we're up against. And -- and it's exactly why we need Joe Biden in the White House and not Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Kate Bedingfield, we really appreciate you can coming on. Thanks so much for all of the information from your camp. We'll talk again.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: And NEW DAY will be right back.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

While the president's communications with Ukraine and other foreign leaders are coming under scrutiny, President Trump is dredging up a familiar attack on Hillary Clinton's private e-mail use. Dozens of former State Department officials getting word, in very official letters, that their e-mails are still under investigation.

CNN's Kristen Holmes, she's live in Washington with more.

And what's interesting here is that they are retroactively classifying some things in those e-mails as classified now. And that's the real issue here.


This is raising a lot of confusion at the State Department among current and former State Department employees that I've talked to who really thought that this investigation was over, but instead it seems to be ramping up recently. "The Washington Post" reporting that as many as 130 people have been contacted by the State Department investigators in recent weeks, some of them with a letter, which we've obtained here. We'll pull up for you, that reads in part, it has been determined that at the time they were sent, a number of these e-mails contained classified information which were not properly marked as such.

Jim, as you said, what does this mean? It means that they are retroactively classifying these e-mails. But I want to note one thing of interest here. I spoke to a former U.S. official, hasn't been at the State Department for roughly eight years, who told me this is actually the second time he's received this letter. He thought he cleared this up a month and a half ago. And, according to him, it appears as though these investigators had gone back through his e- mails and found more e-mails to retroactively classify. So, again, this is timing here is causing a lot of people to wonder

whether or not this is political. It is raising a lot of antennas. You know, President Trump likes to talk about these e-mails. He raised it as recently as a week ago. We have yet to hear back from the State Department or from Hillary Clinton's representatives, Alisyn, but we will let you know when we do.

CAMEROTA: Please do. We can imagine they will not be pleased with this.

Thank you very much, Kristen.

All right, closing arguments could come today in the trial of a former Dallas police officer charged with shooting and killing her neighbor inside his apartment. Amber Guyger broke down on the witness stand last week telling jurors that she accidentally entered the wrong apartment and thought her unarmed neighbor was a burglar.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has been covering this. He's live at the courthouse in Dallas with more.

What's the latest, Ed?


Well, this is day seven of this trial for former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger. It's not exactly clear when this case will reach closing arguments and be handed over to the jury, but we anticipate that it will be -- could be very soon. You definitely get the sense here that defense attorneys are wrapping up their case and as soon as prosecutors, if they don't counter with any more witnesses, then those closing arguments will begin.

But this jury has heard directly from the most important figure in this case, Amber Guyger. She testified for about three hours at the end of last week. It was at times emotional, but she also received scathing questions from prosecutors.


But at one point Amber Guyger said she wished that Botham Jean, the 26-year-old accountant she killed in his own apartment, she wishes that he had been the one with the gun that night and had killed her.


AMBER GUYGER, DEFENDANT/FORMER DALLAS POLICE OFFICER: I was scared whoever was inside my apartment was going to kill me. And I'm sorry. And I have to live with that every single day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you imagine Mr. Jean's perspective, an intruder barging into his apartment, somebody on the other side of that door being you, going in with the purpose of finding the threat and taking care of it? Can't you imagine that being a little bit scarier than you just being alone (INAUDIBLE)?

GUYGER: Yes, sir, I can.


LAVANDERA: So this case could very well be in the hands of the jury here very soon, Alisyn.

And one of the questions that they will have to focus on is whether or not they believe that the judgments and the choices that Amber Guyger made that night were reasonable. Was this something that could have happened to anybody or were there -- were they unreasonable choices. And one of the things that prosecutors pointed to is that she could have simply called for police backup and had, in the words of the prosecutors, the cavalry show up within two minutes. And had she waited for that Botham Jean would still be alive today.

So those are some of the intense questions facing this jury here pretty soon.


AC Oh, my gosh, what a tragedy.

Thank you, Ed.

SCIUTTO: No question.

Ed Lavandera there on this story.

Coming up, listen to this story, really it's disturbing. An account of cyber bullying, a teenager taking his own life just hours after being outed on social media as gay. His family speaks out. That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: This next one is a tough story to tell. A 16-year-old in Tennessee named Channing Smith died just last week by suicide. This after a fellow student outed him as bisexual. Channing's private messages with another boy were posted for all to see on social media.

Joining us now is Josh Smith, he's Channing's older brother.

And, Josh, as a parent, I just want to say, my heart goes out to you as a parent and a sibling.

Tell us about your brother. Just tell us what folks should know about -- about him? He seems like a remarkable kid.

JOSH SMITH, CHANNING SMITH'S BROTHER: Channing was the sweetest kid on earth. He was 6'3", 230 pounds. He was a big kid. And music was his passion. He loved cars like Corvettes and motorcycles. He loved his job that he recently got at Burger King. He wanted to be able to make his own money. A very sociable guy. He never met a stranger.

SCIUTTO: You know, something your mother said following this, your mother Crystal Smith, posting one little picture can destroy someone's life. And that's really the story here, isn't it? Weaponizing social media, right, with enormously damaging effects.

SMITH: Yes, absolutely. The -- in this day and time, and especially in this incident, the social media telephone, computer, is as lethal as any other weapon.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean particularly, you know, with adolescents. I mean those years are tough enough as it is. Imagine this.

I want to ask you, if I can, about the school's reaction here. Because there was some things they did. They sent out a note to parents about these kinds of risks, et cetera, but they did not call an assembly, they did not get the students and parents together to talk about this, how to move forward. Are you disappointed with how the school responded here?

SMITH: I am beyond disappointed to say the least. They did not put an update on their FaceBook page, their website. Really didn't reach out to me and the family. My father -- as a matter of fact, the kids organized a rally -- or a memorial service in Channing's honor for Thursday night and with the art teacher's permission they had made all these signs that said "justice for Channing" because to this point no one's been criminally charged or even -- I'll get to that in a little bit. I'm sure you'll ask.

But, anyway, so the principal confiscated the signs that said "justice for Channing" and some of the kids I think may have managed to get the signs back, but they had to cut off the "justice for Channing" part. And -- but the large majority of the kids did not get their signs back. The principal claimed that the school day was over with and didn't get a chance to return the signs.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The school has a statement, I should note here, and I'm going to read from it here. It says that a legal investigation is being conducted that involves some of our students. The school district is not at liberty to make any statements concerning the matter at this time. Counseling was provided at the school for students and staff who were struggling with what occurred. The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network has reached out to provide resources for those that are dealing with this difficult situation.

Listen, you know, you're not a lawyer here, but, of course, you're -- you're a victim of this as well. You lost your young brother. Do you believe that at least the question should be asked as to whether there are criminal or legal consequences for those involved?

SMITH: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. OK.

Now, the school's statement there it says that they are passing on what they can, a legal investigation is being conducted. Is that sufficient in your view?

SMITH: The school -- first off, I seriously doubt any of the students read that e-mail. To my knowledge it was addressed to the parents. And the school is actually being more proactive in trying to confiscate anything that says "justice for Channing" and anything that the kids are doing to organize, to bring awareness to this situation. So that's pretty much the culture of what's happening with the school.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because, listen, a lot of folks out there have experienced the damaging effects of social media, not to the degree that your family, sadly, has gone through here. But I wonder, for parents watching, for young people watching, who might not have considered the explosive potential of being insensitive like this on social media, can you just give some words here, some words of advice for people at home listening as to what the dangers are here?


SMITH: Absolutely.

On the memorial service that we had on Thursday that was organized by Channing's classmates, I gave a short little speech and I more or less outlined that we live in the day and time where you can assassinate someone's character in one instant by posting something on social media and then just -- you need to give it more thought. I know when you're young a lot of times you don't think through the chain of events all the way to the very end and know what the consequences will be, but things need to be taken very seriously and we can humiliate someone to the point to where they commit suicide. And that's never good. Every man, woman and child on this earth deserves to live their life with dignity.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And the least you could say about a 16-year-old, well, we've been looking at pictures of his smiling face there and he looked like a very special brother and boy.

Josh, please accept our thoughts from the whole team here at CNN.

SMITH: Yes, thank you.

SCIUTTO: We want to share this. This is important. It's the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number, write it down, 800-273-8255. If you or someone you know is going through something like this, reach out for help.

And we'll be right back.