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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) On The Death Of Rep. Elijah Cummings; A Tentative Deal Reached To End The General Motors Strike; President Trump Ambushed Grieving Parents During White House Visit. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 17, 2019 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: His office said he died due to complications from longstanding health challenges.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us.

I know he was your chairman but he was also your friend.


BERMAN: So just tell us what his loss means to you this morning.

SCHULTZ: I mean, I -- my heart is broken for his family, for his community, for our country.

Elijah Cummings had unmatched integrity, wisdom. You couldn't -- you couldn't spend five minutes with Elijah Cummings without feeling impacted deeply by his guidance, by his values. I -- he was a mentor and someone who in every situation you -- would do the right thing. Would put his community and the cause above everything else, including himself.

And to have watched him struggle with the health problems that he had and still lead the Oversight Committee and push to make sure that the Constitution and our nation's principles were upheld was a privilege that I will -- that I don't know that I'll ever experience again.

But I know that we'll walk -- we'll walk in his -- in his shadow, in his shoes that will never be filled. And each of us on the committee and as we press forward with this impeachment inquiry will have to -- will have to try to draw strength from the wisdom that we benefited from for so many years.

BERMAN: He wore his passion on his sleeve. There's no question about that -- his passion --

SCHULTZ: He really did.

BERMAN: -- his love, his work ethic. I was with him on the streets of Baltimore where he was on the streets --


BERMAN: -- literally on the streets trying to keep his constituents and the people of Baltimore safe during the demonstrations and the protests --

SCHULTZ: Which he did.

BERMAN: -- after the death of Freddie Gray.

SCHULTZ: Singlehandedly, almost.

BERMAN: And we've seen his passion as he runs the hearings.

Will testimony today -- is that going to go on as scheduled?

SCHULTZ: My expectation is that it will. That's certainly something that I know the chairman would want.

BERMAN: And again, just one point before I move on to talk about that hearing. He had dear friends on both sides of the aisle --


BERMAN: -- so people have seen him being a Democratic chair but that didn't mean that he wasn't beloved by many Republicans.

SCHULTZ: Absolutely -- fierce partisans on both sides had respect and admiration for Elijah Cummings. I watched it, whether it was Jim Jordan or Mark Meadows or Jason Chaffetz, Trey Gowdy. This was a man who earned respect, deservedly so.

Who just -- who just -- no one could -- no one could get away with pulling a fast one on Elijah Cummings. He called out -- he had a big B.S. detector and he called it out whenever he saw it fit, but also made sure that he stayed focused on and task. And his task was standing up and doing the right thing for his people.

BERMAN: You say he called it out. I was smiling only because he didn't just call out. Sometimes he yelled it out or screamed it out --


BERMAN: -- inside a hearing so everyone in the room --

SCHULTZ: But clear --

BERMAN: -- could hear.

SCHULTZ: -- and focused.

BERMAN: Congresswoman, today you are part of one of the committees that will hear from Ambassador Gordon Sondland. He was scheduled to testify last week. He did not after pressure from the White House. Now he is coming to testify --


BERMAN: -- part of this group of people who is coming despite efforts from the White House to stop that testimony.

What do you want to hear from him?

We know he spoke to the president during those text messages and during those explicit concerns among some of the diplomatic core that foreign policy was being conducted for the president's personal benefit.

What do you want to hear from him?

SCHULTZ: Well, I want to hear from Ambassador Sondland about the depth of his involvement in pushing the president of Ukraine and the Ukrainian government to do President Trump's bidding in order to influence the 2020 election.

What has been stitched together by the evidence that has been uncovered throughout our impeachment inquiry is that this appears to have been a well-orchestrated effort over a long period of time to get -- to threaten a foreign country and its leadership in order to be able to influence the outcome -- influence the 2020 election and go after one of the president's chief political rivals.

And this is a man who appears to have been the lynchpin in the center of it all and certainly, with those text messages.


You know, the only time that you see someone saying let -- call me after they get a text message that they're uncomfortable about is because they don't want a -- you know, a track record or a trail of evidence to follow them.

BERMAN: He's been pressured by friends. CNN has been reporting he's been pressured by friends to come and tell the truth no matter what.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that he will testify something to the effect of yes, there may have been a quid pro quo but it wasn't a corrupt quid pro quo.

Do you feel -- what kind of a distinction do you see there?

SCHULTZ: Well, I serve on the Appropriations Committee and part of the committee that builds the foreign -- our foreign aid budget. And I was in Ukraine in March on a Senate codel and had an opportunity to speak with a number of different members of the Ukrainian governmental leadership.

They need the funding that appears to have been withheld to hold over the head of the new Ukrainian president in order to get them to investigate one of the president's rivals for personal and political benefits, and that's illegal and unacceptable.

And this inquiry is going to continue to stitch together the evidence that more and more, to me, is demonstrating that the president's intention was to use a -- to pressure a foreign country and its leadership to help him in his own personal and political ambitions.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, we look forward to speaking to you again after these hearings.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: And once again, we are sorry for your loss -- for America's loss. I know the chairman --

SCHULTZ: Thank you. It's a devastating loss for all of us. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Thanks, Congresswoman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What a touching interview there with her.

BERMAN: You know, and I think it's important to note I think we could talk to dozens if not hundreds of members of Congress who would feel exactly the same way.

CAMEROTA: Certainly, Mark Meadows. I mean, he and Congressman Cummings had that very emotional exchange of affection that we all were privy to and I'm sure we'll be hearing from him very soon.

Workers at General Motors could get good news this morning. Word of a deal to end a week's long strike there. So we're going to head to Detroit for details, next.



BERMAN: All right.

New this morning, the week's long strike between 50,000 workers -- of 50,000 workers at General Motors appears to be over. The two sides reached a tentative 4-year deal. Specifics of the agreement not exactly clear yet but we do know union members are meeting today and are expected to approve it.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich, who has been following this from the very beginning, live this morning in Detroit. What do you know, Vanessa?


Well, today is critical for the nearly 50,000 workers who have been on strike for nearly five weeks now. The union's council will be voting on this tentative agreement a little bit later this morning at GM headquarters just behind me. If they vote yes, it will then be taken to members across the country and they will get their chance to vote.

So what is in this deal? We know that temporary workers will now be able to become full-time employees after three years of service.

GM has also committed to investing $9 billion in the United States and that's including bringing an electric truck to the Hamtramck plant here in Detroit, which was slated to close. Another plant that was slated to close, however, Lordstown, will not receive a new product line.

We spoke to a couple of workers just after this tentative agreement was announced yesterday to get their reaction.


SCOTT FERGUSON, GM EMPLOYEE: Yippee! I was very happy. Kind of elated, you might say. It gets a little emotional for me --


FERGUSON: -- because -- I mean, I -- you know, before, it seemed like we'll be on strike -- like I say, we are fighting, like, for us. This seems more like a we. Like we're fighting for Middle America.

KATHY FAITH, GM WORKER: Some of us are still living paycheck to paycheck. Like, you know, I'm single. It's just my income.

And so I was actually going out and looking for a part-time job. But hopefully, now I won't have to. I mean, I may have to because Christmas is coming up and I've got go back a little bit and help -- you know, catch up on the bills.


YURKEVICH: You hear from that woman there. This has been a struggle for many of the workers who have been out here for nearly five weeks making $275 dollars a week. We know about $800 million in lost wages to workers.

But the workers I've been speaking to, John and Alisyn, over the past five weeks have been committed to this cause. But as we know, they are very eager to get back to work, hoping this vote today is a yes -- John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh. I mean, Vanessa, we talked to some of the workers on the picket line weeks ago. They were hoping that day it would be resolved. I mean, they have had, obviously --


CAMEROTA: -- monetary issues, childcare issues that they prayed it wasn't going to extend this long. So let's hope that they get some good news today.

Thank you very much.

OK, so the energy in the Democratic Party feels like it is lurching to the left. Is that true?

John Avlon has our reality check. Hi, John.


So look, President Trump has a lot of problems when it comes to his reelection. He's the only president in the history of Gallup never to have hit 50 percent approval.

Six out of 10 Americans say he doesn't deserve a second term. Fifty- three percent say they'll definitely vote against him. And all of those stats were before a majority of Americans said he should be impeached.

But, Democrats are still more than capable of screwing up the 2020 election by lurching too far to the left and playing right into Republican hands.

Look, it's no secret Trump has been calling Democrats socialists, radical, extreme, and anti-American, but there's definitely a method to his madness.

Check out this poll from mid-summer. It shows Joe Biden Trump by 10 points with the rest of the top tier candidates either beating him by a few points or tied. But when Trump is pitted against a, quote, "Democratic candidate who you regard as socialist" he wins by six.

And here's the thing. Beyond the fearmongering of the phrase and even the fact that six percent of Democrats think it means being social, there are policies being advanced by major candidates that can credibly be called socialist.


I'm talking in particular about single-payer health care now rebranded as Medicare for All. Now, it would eliminate all private insurance and put everyone on a free government plan at an astronomical cost of more than $30 trillion over 10 years. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are its most outspoken advocates.

And look, 64 percent of Democrats say Medicare for All is a good idea. But, 90 percent of Democrats like the public option now called Medicare for All that want it and backed by folks like Biden and Buttigieg.

Check this out. Among Independent voters, support for Medicare for All falls to 39 percent while support for the public option rockets up to 70 percent. Even 46 percent of Republicans think it's a good idea.

It's not hard to see what's the better policy when it comes to winning a general election -- public option, hands down.

Even the populist Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown told CNN that, quote, "I think it's a terrible mistake if the Democratic nominee would publicly support Medicare for All." That danger of alienating swing state voters is also why things like Beto O'Rourke's call to seize AR-15s or Julian Castro's calls to decriminalize illegal border crossings may draw cheers in Democratic debates, but they can also be used to validate conservative fears about Democrats doing things like seizing guns or being in favor of open borders.

There's no question Democrats are becoming more liberal as a party. But as our Harry Enten points out, Democratic voters are older, more moderate, and more blue-collar than you might.

And it might surprise you to know that Democrats who call themselves very liberal only make up 19 percent of the party's voters. That's a small but loud sliver of the electorate.

Look, these are polarized times. A new Pew survey found that both parties are perceived as being too extreme in their positions, but nearly six in 10 Democrats say they want a candidate who can work to find common ground.

And maybe that's why we've seen Joe Biden beating Donald Trump in states like Ohio, by eight points, while Trump edges Sanders or Warren by single digit. We see the same dynamic in Wisconsin where Biden leads Trump by nine points.

A logical purity test may play well in town halls and on Twitter but it could make Democrats lose to a deeply popular incumbent.

And that's your reality check.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, John. You've rendered us speechless. Thank you.

All right, now to this story. You'll remember the case of Harry Dunn, a British teenager who was killed by the wife of a U.S. diplomat in a hit-and-run accident.

His parents have been asking President Trump for help getting justice. But on Tuesday, something very different happened at the White House and his parents are here to tell us about that, next.



CAMEROTA: The parents of a British teenager killed in a hit-and-run accident by the wife of an American diplomat say they were taken advantage of during their meeting with President Trump this week.

While visiting the White House, Harry Dunn's parents say they were ambushed by an offer to meet with the woman responsible for their son's death.

President Trump describes this meeting very differently.

So joining us now are Harry's parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, along with their family spokesperson, Radd Sieger. Great to have all of you here in-studio.


CAMEROTA: Can you just rewind the tape and explain? You came here this week to the United States from Britain hoping for justice. Hoping that Americans or the American justice system or the State Department or President Trump could help you get justice for your son, Harry's, death.

And you were invited to the White House. What were you hoping for when you went there?

CHARLOTTE CHARLES, MOTHER OF HARRY DUNN: We were just hoping -- well, we didn't know what we were hoping for. And we called at such short notice and we were doing an interview one minute and then at the next minute, Radd had a phone call asking us to go to the White House as soon as possible. So we jumped on the train and didn't know who we were seeing. We were just told it was a senior official.

CAMEROTA: And then what happened once you got in that room with President Trump?

CHARLES: He was very welcoming. I wouldn't say anyone else in the room were particularly welcoming, but he was. He was very calm.

And it wasn't long into the conversation, probably just a minute or two, when he told us that Anne Sacoolas was in the building.

CAMEROTA: Anne Sacoolas is the woman who is responsible -- as far as authorities have said, as far as you understand -- nobody has really disputed this -- for the hit-and-run accident that killed your son, Harry.

And so, you were told while you were there with the president that she was in the next room over --


CAMEROTA: -- and wanted to meet with you or willing to meet with you?

CHARLES: Willing to meet, I think was the way he put it.

CAMEROTA: Why do you think President Trump sprung that on you in that way?

CHARLES: Probably to try to intimidate us into meeting her on U.S. soil. You know, we've been saying all along that it needs to be on U.K. soil and it needs to be in a controlled environment not just for us but for her as well.

She's clearly traumatized. She is a mom. She doesn't know how we feel because she still has her children, and she's robbed us of one of ours and she's robbed our twin of his twinship.

But we are still willing to meet her, but with therapists and mediators like we've been saying all along. We all need to be prepared for that.

CAMEROTA: You had very specific conditions under which you would meet her because you wanted it to be a controlled situation.


And so, how did you feel, Tim, when President Trump sprung that on you?

DUNN: Well, very surprised. Obviously, we talked on the train to Washington on different scenarios because we -- as Charlotte said, we didn't know who we were meeting. It was just a senior official as far as we knew.

So -- but we did talk about it might have been the president and it might have been Anne, as well. So we talked and we said as a family we still stick to our guns and our principles that we were going to insist that it was back in the U.K.

CAMEROTA: Now, Brad, as you watched all that play out, just describe the mood in the room and what you left feeling after that -- after that surprise.

RADD SIEGER, DUNN FAMILY SPOKESMAN: Oh, it was just incredible because again, don't forget, we didn't ask for this meeting. We would have happily engaged in a -- in a -- in a discussion to go to the White House eventually but with a plan who we were meeting.

Literally, of the blue, my phone rang and I was asked to -- you know, whether we would be prepared to come down to the White House. So that context is important because we were busy doing our thing. We weren't prepared for it.

So literally, four hours later, to be sat in the Oval Office, imagine how intimidating. It's intimidating for me, let alone my good friends here.

And then very quickly, the atmosphere changed. And, you know, he's a very forceful character.

I've got her here. She's in the next room. You're going to meet her.

And there was no sort of thought about what these people were going through. I mean, I presume if there had been a psychiatrist there he would have said no way. I'm not a psychiatrist but I'm protecting these people from harm.

And, you know, you do that in a controlled environment, not in the Oval Office with the cameras and henchmen snarling at us, and big Secret Service people. I mean, it was terrifying.

CAMEROTA: I mean, it's what we call in T.V., a reveal.


CAMEROTA: But that's not normally how grief-stricken parents have -- SIEGER: But you wouldn't have been --

CAMEROTA: -- to deal with the meeting someone responsible --

SIEGER: I'd suggest that that's not a good way to help people recover from the loss of their son. And I would have thought that that would have been the priority when President Trump met these good people yesterday, not to have a photo op.

Which having now had 48 hours to process it, it's clear to me now what he was trying to do, which is --

CAMEROTA: And then, I know that it was complicated also after you left the White House by watching the president's press availability with the Italian president in which he tried to explain what happened. And he also, I think, tried to explain the accident in which your son was killed.

So let us just play this moment of what the president said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She lost -- and they lost their son.

I believe it was going down the wrong way because that happens in Europe. You go to Europe and the roads are opposite and it's very tough if you're from the United States. You do make that decision to make a right turn where you're supposed to make a left turn. The roads are opposite.

And she said that's what happened. That happens to a lot of people, by the way.


CAMEROTA: What did that statement mean to you?

CHARLES: Just stating the obvious, you know. That he just still doesn't really understand, although it is an accident, how much it's broken us -- the family -- and she still needs to face the justice system and come back to the U.K. and see us on our soil.

CAMEROTA: You have been, I think, incredibly, remarkably generous of spirit about Anne Sacoolas. You have both said you recognize that you've learned that she's a mom.


CAMEROTA: You weren't looking for jail time --


CAMEROTA: -- for her. You want answers and you want justice.

CHARLES: Yes. CAMEROTA: And then what did this NSA chief, Robert O'Brien, say to you when you were at the White House about her ever returning.

RIEGER: So what happened was I -- when I -- I think I found -- somehow found the courage to say to the president -- I said, no, Mr. President, this meeting is not happening today in these circumstances. If it happens, it'll be back in England when she's going through the legal process. And, Robert O'Brien was sitting right next to him and he snarled at me. She is never going back -- never.

Straight -- you know, I thought we were going down there to maybe find a solution to this horrible problem and they weren't interested in finding a solution to anything. They were interested in -- I mean, making -- in compounding the situation.

I mean, I just -- I am lost for words this morning. I don't really know how to process it. I can't comprehend it that, you know.

I used to look up to that institution and think that they were all doing good for us. They're just a bunch of henchmen trying to make him look good is the impression that I got. It may be unfair but that was the impression that I got, and I think that's how the family feel today, too.

CAMEROTA: What's next? What will you do now?

CHARLES: Just keep trying to get that justice, you know.

President Trump mentioned it two more times during the meeting with him. He tried his best to get us to back down. And I spoke to him directly for four or five minutes and said it just wasn't happening.

CAMEROTA: He tried to, again, get you to meet --


CAMEROTA: -- with her yesterday --


CAMEROTA: -- when you were unprepared emotionally --


CAMEROTA: -- unprepared with having -