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Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) On Second Whistleblower Coming Forward On Trump's Actions With Ukraine; NBA General Manager's Hong Kong Tweet Ignites Firestorm In China; Union Says Talks To End GM Strike Take Turn For The Worse. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 7, 2019 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00]

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CO-HOST, "SIGNAL BOOST ON SIRIUS XM PROGRESS": -- that is not something that gets carried into the next White House.

But I think Joe Biden should be on stronger footing here. It's foreign policy, which is 100 percent where he is the strongest in the field. Like I said, he's in a better position than Trump is and the facts have been on his side from day one.

This is the head-to-head, like Jeff said, that he has been looking for since he got into this race. So, I'm waiting for him to seize this moment. It seems like it was crafted for him to do it.

MARK MCKINNON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: THE GEORGE W. BUSH AND JOHN MCCAIN CAMPAIGNS, CREATOR, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, HOST, "THE CIRCUS ON SHOWTIME": I asked Pete Buttigieg about this and he had a very good sort of typical Buttigieg response, which is -- you know, he said, listen, don't be distracted by the dangling obvious. But he addressed my question.

I pushed back and I said what if you -- what if you were vice president or president. And he said I would hold my family to a very high standard. And that was kind of a subtle like we're going to do things -- new generation message.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well look, we'll see how this plays out on the debate stage -- the CNN-New York Times debate a little more than a week from now. I think that will be very interesting -- how they answer the questions.

But you brought up the polls. There the Wisconsin poll. There's also a new poll out of South Carolina which, of course, is a very important early primary state.

Biden is more than just holding up there -- he's at 41 percent. Elizabeth Warren's at 12 percent, Bernie Sanders at 10 percent. And when you dig inside the numbers here, the number that's been super important for Biden in South Carolina and nationally is his support among the black vote, which is still at 50 percent in South Carolina. That tells me, Jess, that among the people who might very well decide who the Democratic nominee is, Biden still seems in fairly solid ground.

MCINTOSH: Yes, Biden's still the front-runner. Biden has been the front-runner, he remains the front-runner. He is the front-runner at a moment where it is not often that the front-runner who is currently here in the off-year becomes the eventual nominee. So obviously, things can move and change.

We're going to see this field narrow significantly. Candidates are going to drop out before anybody every gets to cast a vote. So I think we're going to see momentum shift.

We've seen Elizabeth Warren rise during a critical moment. But right now, we've got a pretty solid top tier which is, I think, by next week's debate is even more important.

MCKINNON: But, John, I'll tell you -- I know from personal experience how fast those firewalls melt. We were up 18 points in South Carolina before New Hampshire. We lost New Hampshire and the next day we were behind 18 points.

BERMAN: Yes, but you won South Carolina.

MCKINNON: Barely.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: But the African -- the African American vote is crucial for --

MCKINNON: No question.

GOLODRYGA: -- Elizabeth Warren. She's run a seamless campaign --

MCKINNON: She's got to prove -- yes.

GOLODRYGA: -- other than this.

MCKINNON: That's true.

GOLODRYGA: She's introducing new policies directly aimed at the African American vote.

What can she do, and can she turn that around to her favor?

MCKINNON: Yes, she can. You know what it is? Win. Win Iowa, win New Hampshire, they'll come aboard.

GOLODRYGA: Yes.

BERMAN: And then, Bernie Sanders --

MCINTOSH: Yes.

BERMAN: -- obviously in Burlington, Vermont, recovering from what we now know was a heart attack -- MCINTOSH: Yes.

BERMAN: -- pure and simple. It took them three days to tell us it was a heart attack, but it was a heart attack.

You know, Sen. Sanders, one of the most vigorous campaigners I've ever seen.

MCINTOSH: Right.

BERMAN: He says he's going to be back out on the trail. I've got no doubt he's going to be back out on the trail.

But what impact does this have on the race for the senator and also the idea of older candidates, because there are a few?

MCINTOSH: Yes. I mean, I think the possible health of every possible presidential nominee is something that needs to be discussed. There are plenty of people who have heart attacks and go on to live to be 100. Bernie Sanders is clearly -- he's got the drive. I'm not concerned about that.

But I do want to take a moment and point out how respectful and proportional the coverage of this story has been for Bernie Sanders while it's going on and mention what happened in 2016 when Hillary Clinton's health was used as a manufactured and sexist cudgel. So I just want to remember this moment and the next time that a woman candidate seizes or overheats, I would like to treat it with the same respect that we are treating one currently.

GOLODRYGA: We will play this exact clip if that ever does happen.

Thank you, Jess -- thank you.

BERMAN: That's a great point, Jess.

GOLODRYGA: Great to have you.

MCKINNON: The proof will be in the performance, of course, but there's a reason that the phrase "as serious as a heart attack" -- heart attacks are serious.

GOLODRYGA: They are --

BERMAN: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: -- and we wish him all the best.

Well, a single tweet turning into an international firestorm for an NBA team -- my hometown team, the Houston Rockets. How they're responding and how the NBA is responding as well. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:38:00] BERMAN: A second whistleblower has come forward with firsthand

knowledge of President Trump's dealings with Ukraine. This comes as two more diplomats will be deposed this week by Congress in the impeachment inquiry.

Joining me now is Democratic Sen. Chris Coons. He is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, among other things, and he is a supporter of Joe Biden -- the 2020 campaign. Senator Coons, thank you very much for being with us right now.

Help us understand what the existence of this second whistleblower does to the case. Why is another person -- what does he or she add given the mountain of evidence that already exists?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, John, I think this is partly why you hear nothing from my Republican colleagues about President Trump's jarring conduct in Ukraine and his recent action inviting, on the South Lawn, an investigation of his chief political rival Joe Biden by China and Ukraine, is that with additional facts coming out with an additional whistleblower, that's frozen a lot of Republicans in place out of fear that they don't know what's going to drop next.

And I think it gives added urgency to the House impeachment inquiry as they try to get to the bottom of this, get the facts out, and get their inquiry moving forward quickly.

BERMAN: But what more information do you need at this point?

COONS: That's a fair question.

Look, as the last week has unrolled it's clearer that more and more senior members of this administration were either on the phone call or briefed about the phone call or actively engaged in efforts to try and persuade the newly-elected president of Ukraine, Zelensky, to participate in what was an abuse of power by President Trump. He is alleged to have put pressure on Ukraine by withholding military aid that's badly needed by Ukraine.

And so, I think there is some more evidence that could be gathered here that would be directly relevant about the role the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of State, and the White House acting chief of staff played in this matter.

[07:40:05]

So that's some of the things that I think this second whistleblower may lend some light to.

BERMAN: You just noted the Republican response to this and you brought up the president's comments on the South Lawn, inviting China to investigate the president (sic).

Well, some Republicans haven't been silent. They just say the whole thing is --

COONS: That's right. BERMAN: a joke -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I don't think it's a real -- I think -- again, I think he did it to get you guys.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I doubt if the China comment was serious, to tell you the truth.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You really think he was serious about thinking that China's going to investigate the Biden family?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: What do you say to these Republicans, Senator?

COONS: I say that they're forgetting a very important recent chapter in history when in the middle of the 2016 campaign, President Trump openly said Russia, if you're listening, it would be great if you'd get to the bottom of Hillary's e-mails.

As we know from the Mueller report, Russian military intelligence, the next day, began an effort to try and infiltrate Hillary Clinton's campaign e-mail system.

So to think that this is a joke at a time when we've heard from the director of the FBI, from the director of National Intelligence that our adversaries are going to interfere in our 2020 election, I think this is deadly serious and I think it's no laughing matter to suggest --

BERMAN: Well --

COONS: -- that a president who openly abuses the office of president should be allowed to just laugh this off. That is a stunningly, I think, inappropriate defense.

BERMAN: Well, you brought up the director of National Intelligence and the intelligence services here. And if we have the sound, I'd like to play Sen. Ron Johnson, who is the chair of the Senate Homeland Relations Committee -- Homeland Security Committee -- who now says he just doesn't believe the Intelligence Community, period, full-stop.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I just want the truth. The American people want the truth.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, NBC "MEET THE PRESS": So do you not trust the American -- not trust the FBI, you don't trust the CIA?

JOHNSON: No, no, I don't.

TODD: I'm just very confused here. You don't trust either of those agencies?

JOHNSON: Absolutely not after Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

TODD: OK.

JOHNSON: After James Comey or Peter Strzok, John Brennan -- no, I don't trust --

TODD: You believe the FBI and the CIA and these government agencies?

JOHNSON: -- any of these guys in the Obama --

TODD: OK.

JOHNSON: -- administration. I don't trust any of them.

TODD: You don't trust them now? Do you trust them now?

JOHNSON: No, I didn't trust them back then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Talk to me about the impact here given that the goal, I thought, was to protect the United States in the next election. What does that mean if the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee doesn't believe the findings from the Intelligence Community in the last election?

COONS: Well, that's part of the ways in which President Trump's unconventional leadership has now infected the most senior levels of the Republican leadership in the Senate.

Senator Johnson, of Wisconsin, is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. And President Trump, from his times as a candidate, has said things that disrespect or undermine our Intelligence Community, publicly taking the word of Vladimir Putin over our own Intelligence Community, over our own FBI back in 2016- 2017.

I watched that interview this weekend live and my jaw was on the floor as Sen. Johnson said I don't believe the FBI, I don't believe the Intelligence Community.

And I, frankly, think this should give all of us pause because folks who are in leadership in the Congress who are entrusted with protecting our national security, our homeland security, and our next election are openly challenging and questioning the credibility of these important institutions in our life.

BERMAN: If I could talk about campaign politics for a moment, there is no bigger supporter --

COONS: Sure.

BERMAN: -- on earth to the presidential campaign of Joe Biden than you, as far as I could tell. Maybe Dr. Jill Biden. But you were quoted in "The New York Times" this weekend in an article that I read, saying, I can't believe that Joe Biden, the former vice president, told you of the attacks coming from President Trump. You said he told you, "I can't believe this guy is going after my family like this."

How could he not believe that Donald Trump would go after his family like this? Isn't that something --

COONS: Well --

BERMAN: -- that should have been assumed going into this race?

COONS: Look, it's one thing to know that Donald Trump is the kind of person who is going to just make things up about his opponents. I'll remind you famously that he accused Sen. Ted Cruz, his opponent in the 2016 election, of having a father who assassinated JFK.

And before Joe decided to run for the presidency, we had a heart-to- heart talk about what it might look like if he continued his pattern of just making up baseless smears. But it's another thing to actually have it happen. To have the President of the United States making up lies about your own family.

And so, yes, when we were in Iowa together, former Vice President Biden expressed some agitation, some disappointment about this.

But if you read his editorial in "The Washington Post," you hear a clear-eyed, forceful Joe Biden who is both pushing back on the president's abuse of power and making it clear what he's focused on.

[07:45:00]

Joe is focused on the ways in which Donald Trump has turned his back on America's families and that he's focused on delivering proposals that will make the change that Donald Trump promised but hasn't delivered, reducing prescription drug prices, ending gun violence on the streets of America, strengthening our schools, combating climate change.

Joe Biden, yes, is upset and disappointed about the ways in which Donald Trump is attacking his family, but his focus is on advancing the interests of America's families.

And I think that contrast is an important one and a sharp one, especially on a day like today where Donald Trump has made a decision to abandon the Kurds who fought alongside us in Syria in a move that will only advantage Russia and Iran, and that is exactly the ill- considered decision that made Jim Mattis resign in protest.

So, if you want to know who's going to be the best person to lead this country for our position of security and strength overseas or for America's families here at home, I think it's Joe Biden. And I think the developments of today have demonstrated that more clearly than ever.

BERMAN: We've been talking about the developments in Syria all morning long. We will keep on covering them --

COONS: Yes.

BERMAN: -- throughout the morning. The president just weighed in and we'll get to that in a second.

Senator Chris Coons, thank you for being with us this morning.

COONS: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Bianna --

GOLODRYGA: All right.

Well, China is now cutting ties with an NBA team all because of one tweet. We'll tell you about the political firestorm with billions of dollars and people on the line. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:51:10]

BERMAN: All right.

The U.S. economy off to a slow start this month with signs pointing to a lasting slowdown.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans here with this new survey, Romans, that's raising concern among some economists.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Yes -- hi, guys.

You know, this is the National Association for Business Economics. These are the economists who work for companies, who work for business. Their forecasts, their warnings go straight to the boss who decides whether to expand or hire, so it's really important.

They expect GDP to grow less than two percent next year, the weakest growth since 2016. They blame protectionism, trade uncertainty, and slowing global growth. And they say the risks to the American economy are only growing.

Now, they stopped short of forecasting a recession. Instead, a slowdown -- a stall. That's not the only warning sign.

Add that to the evidence the trade war with China is crushing manufacturing. The manufacturing sector is shrinking, the weakest since June 2009 at the end of a recession. And, manufacturing job creation has stalled. Two thousand jobs lost in September.

You guys, over the past year, Pennsylvania has lost more than 7,700 factory jobs and 5,200 manufacturing jobs gone in Wisconsin.

Now, the big question -- will the trade war stay confined to manufacturing or spread? The bigger services sector grew at the slowest pace in three years.

The president blames what he sees as a weak Fed and a strong dollar. The Federal Reserve could cut rates again this month to try to contain the damage, but business leaders want something else. They want resolution of the trade dispute and quickly.

Tariffs are expected to rise to 30 percent on $250 billion in Chinese- made goods next week. And, Chinese negotiators come to D.C. this week for talks. A critical time, John.

BERMAN: All right, Romans. Thank you very much. We'll watch that very, very closely.

This morning, a shocking retreat by the National Basketball Association -- the NBA. It came after a tweet by the general manager of the Houston Rockets, which has created this international relations dispute. It all had to do with the protests in Hong Kong and it outraged the Chinese.

CNN's David Culver is live in Beijing with the latest on this -- David.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, all of this, as you point out, started with that one tweet and it has lit up state- sponsored media here and social media here as well.

Government-backed newspapers are slamming the NBA for not taking immediate harsh punishment against the Rockets general manager. And online, you've got folks who are saying they will never watch another Rockets game again.

The fans that we caught up with -- I can tell you, some of them are taking this in stride and they certainly knew about the tweet and they knew about the fallout.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CULVER (voice-over): China's passion for basketball can be seen in a neighborly game of pick-up. When he's not shooting hoops with his friends in Beijing, 15-year-old Eric Drew (ph) is closely following the NBA.

ERIC DREW, NBA FAN: Toronto Raptors.

CULVER (on camera): The Toronto Raptors?

DREW: Yes.

CULVER (on camera): They're your favorite?

DREW: Yes, they win the championship.

CULVER (voice-over): But a team that's no longer on his preferred watch list, the Houston Rockets because of a now-deleted tweet sent out Friday by team general manager Daryl Morey. The Rockets GM tweeting a photo that read, "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," referring to the months' long democracy protests underway in Hong Kong -- protests that have both embarrassed and angered China's government.

Over the weekend, Morey's tweet unleashed a strong response in Mainland China. The Chinese Basketball Association severing ties with the Rockets. CCTV, the Chinese state-run broadcaster, no longer planning to air upcoming games. And the Chinese tech giant, Tencent, suspending its deal to livestream Rockets games.

The reaction led to an apology by Morey, tweeting in part, "I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention."

[07:55:04]

CNN was in Tokyo as the Rockets hit the court Monday, practicing ahead of their preseason game against the Lakers.

Rockets guard James Harden echoing his GM's apology.

JAMES HARDEN, HOUSTON ROCKETS: You know, we love China, we love playing here. I know for both of us, individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most support and love, so we appreciate them as a fan base.

CULVER (voice-over): The NBA acknowledging Morey's tweet deeply offended many in China and called it regrettable, but that has U.S. lawmakers on both sides upset.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz tweeting, "Human rights shouldn't be for sale and the NBA shouldn't be assisting Chinese communist censorship."

Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski called the NBA's response shameful.

Back on the streets of Beijing, Eric and his friends try to see past the off-court drama.

CULVER (on camera): Does it make you think differently about the Rockets?

DREW: Just OK. It didn't change my opinion on them. I still like Harden and -- but maybe I won't watch them too often.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CULVER: You can see they're just starting to turn off the lights here on the court behind me, wrapping up the evening pick-up games here.

John, basketball has a pretty long history here in China -- it goes back decades. But really, the love for the game intensified in 2002 when Yao Ming, one of their own, was signed by an NBA team, the Houston Rockets.

Now, Yao is actually the president of the Chinese Basketball Association here, the same group that has severed ties with his former team -- John.

GOLODRYGA: Well, he may have also -- I'm going to take this, David. He may have also faced some pressure from the Chinese government as well --

CULVER: Right.

GOLODRYGA: -- because one may say that he could help smooth out the situation given his close connection with the Rockets. And, you know, he's beloved in Houston.

BERMAN: Look, again, the NBA retreat here after all Daryl Morey did was support democratic protests --

GOLODRYGA: Right.

BERMAN: -- really, really is astonishing.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. It says a lot about how much money is involved in the game, too.

BERMAN: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: All right.

Well, no deal is in sight as the General Motors strike enters its fourth week. The United Autoworkers Union says talks and the GM strike taking a turn for the worse with the livelihood of 50,000 workers hanging on the balance.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich has the latest from Detroit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER (voice-over): -- for the American dream.

Jessie Kelly's life is in boxes.

JESSIE KELLY, GM WORKER: We use this as a toy room, so --

YURKEVICH (on camera): Now it's a box.

KELLY: -- now it's a box-holding room, yes.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): These boxes packed and ready for the dream home she's saved for. Then, she went on strike.

KELLY: It's devastating. It's very hard. You just see your savings depleting every single day a little bit more and more.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Kelly is a single mom, raising her 6-year-old son, Colton, and living at her mom's house until she can close on her new home. She's one of 50,000 autoworkers on strike against GM, surviving on $250 a week. KELLY: The other day I had to go get a new rim on my car and I remember just that sinking feeling of this is my whole strike check for this week is the cost of this rim.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): She also lives in Macomb County, Michigan, critical to President Trump's win in 2016 and helping him flip the state red.

PATRICK ANDERSON, PRINCIPAL AND CEO, ANDERSON ECONOMIC GROUP: A lot of the people in the auto industry are very sensitive about where the economy is and they are very careful to look at which leader is going to help them maintain their jobs.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): The auto industry is the anchor of Michigan's economy. For every one auto job, seven others are created. And they're hit harder, losing an estimated $400 million in wages since the strike began.

Amicci's Pizza, down the street from GM's Hamtramck plant, says sales are down 25 percent.

JOHN GROSSI, OWNER, AMICCI'S PIZZA: We don't like having to give employees and drivers bad news that they can't work because we don't have enough business to support all the paychecks. I'm hopeful that they'll find a solution to the problem before it becomes a bigger problem for us than it already is.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Michigan has the highest risk of recession in the nation and this strike could push the Rust Belt state over the edge.

ANDERSON: There's no way to look at the strike now and not say somehow this is going to play into how people feel about the economy when they start thinking seriously about the presidential election in 2020.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): In the 2016 election, Trump campaigned in Michigan more than Hillary Clinton and won, which is why nearly every 2020 candidate has walked the picket line.

John Hatline has taken notice.

JOHN HATLINE, GM WORKER: Anytime I can get presidential support here behind the union to help us in our cause, you know, it's fantastic.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Hatline, a Democrat, knows many of his fellow picketers are Trump supporters.

HATLINE: I'm sure after the strike some of them may change their position when they're going without a house payment or without eating that week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YURKEVICH: Now, talks between GM and the union broke down over the weekend because of the union's insistence that GM bring product lines back from Mexico. And this is especially important, Bianna, because GM is slating to close four plants by 2020, including this one right behind me.

END