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Four White House Officials Refusing To Testify Today; Democratic Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg Interviewed on Campaigning in Iowa and South Carolina; President Trump Polling Closely with Democratic Presidential Candidates in Six Battleground States. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 4, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- series of brand-new polls from the six battleground states that determine the outcome of the election in 2016 and could very well decide it again in 2020 -- Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. We have these new match-ups between the leading Democrats and the president, and there are two big headlines here. First, it is tight. The president is outperforming his national poll numbers by a lot. And second, Joe Biden fares better against the president than his Democratic rivals pretty much in these states across the board. Harry Enten will dig into this in just a moment.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, there are several big developments in the impeachment inquiry to tell you about this week. The witness list for today appears to have gone from four people to zero. CNN has learned all four White House officials who were scheduled to testify today will not be showing up. In fact, most of the witnesses scheduled to testify this week plan to stonewall investigators. It is not clear whether former National Security Advisor John Bolton will appear.

BERMAN: Joining me now is Democratic presidential candidate, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. He is live from Iowa where voters will be casting the first ballots in exactly three months. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us. We just put up those new poll numbers from "The New York Times" which shows head-to- head match-ups between three of the other Democratic candidates and the president. They didn't test you. But I think one of the headlines here is that the president is outperforming his national poll numbers in these key battleground states, either leading or basically tied or very close. Why? Why is the president so resilient in those battlegrounds?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D-IN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, for better or for worse, and I think we could have a better system, it's not about the national popularity of the president. It goes state by state in our system here in America. And it really matters what's going on in these states.

Now, we are a year away from the general election, but I think the lesson we get from these numbers is just how much depends on making sure that we can invite every American into our vision of the future. It's not enough to only talk to people who agree with us. And one of the things that I'm doing right now in Iowa as we visit rural and more conservative areas, and through this campaign, is to make sure that we're reaching out to independents, reaching out to Republicans who are, frankly, disgusted with at lot of what's going on with this White House, but that doesn't mean they're going to vote for a Democrat just because. We have got to make the case about how lives will be better for people, whether it's in these states or in any state, when we have a Democratic president versus the president that we've got.

And if we can drill down on everyday life, on whether your pay has gotten better, on whether your community has gotten better, on whether your roads and bridges have gotten better, on whether your school has gotten better, on whether your health care is getting the attention it needs, we're going to win, because this the president has no good answers and he's broken every promise he's made. But that's not going to happen on its own. We have got to be out there making the case.

BERMAN: What does it tell you in this poll that it is Vice President Biden who is leading Donald Trump in the battleground states and not, by and large, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I'll say this, I'll let the analysts analyze the polls, but I'll say it's incredibly important that we reach out to as many people as possible. We have a moment right now where there's actually a strong American majority to undertake big reforms. We got to make sure we do it in a way that holds that majority together. I'm thinking about health care, for example. I'm proposing Medicare for all who want it. In other words, we take a version of Medicare, everybody can get it, but we're not going to kick you off your private plan. And it's an example of a way to make a big change that also is in line with what most Americans want.

If we shut out too many Americans, if we tell them they don't have a place in our vision, it's not only going to be harder to win, it's going to be harder to govern because the biggest task of the next president is going to be to pick up the pieces. As divided and torn up as this country is going to be, that first day the sun comes up and Donald Trump is no longer the president, you can't govern if you can't bring people together.

BERMAN: Are you suggesting Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders aren't sending that message right now?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, we certainly have seen some very polarizing proposals from them. And if there's a better way to solve a policy problem that can draw people together, that should be our focus. That's my focus on health care, that's my focus on a number of policy issues. How do we actually solve the problem for the American people, and do it in a way that invites more people in instead of a my-way-or the-highway approach? I'm really concerned about what we're hearing from Senator Warren and some of the others saying that you're either for her way or you're for business as usual. That's just not true. There are other ways to solve these problems, including what I'm putting forward on health care that gets the job done for a lot less money and respects the wishes of the American people who want to have a choice.

BERMAN: You've made ripples over the weekend by suggesting in an interview that you saw this coming down to a two-person race between you and Senator Warren.

[08:05:00]

You backed off that a little bit. Senator Harris, Kamala Harris, was upset about it, but to me the person who I think it was most directed at or should be the most upset about it is Joe Biden, because it suggests that you think that you will be in the race longer than him. So why not Joe Biden? Why you? What do you see happening with the Biden campaign?

BUTTIGIEG: Look I'm not going to weigh in on the other campaigns. What I will say is, my campaign is getting a lot of momentum. We're taking nothing for granted, we're leaving nothing for chance, and we're going to work for earn every vote in the three months leading up to the caucuses here in Iowa and in the months to follow in all the early states. But what I will say is, I think the reason that the momentum is with my campaign is because we're speaking to how to solve the problems that people actually face in their everyday lives. And we can be bold and do it in a way that brings people together. That's what we need, not just in order to win, but to lead.

BERMAN: You are in Iowa where you are doing very well in the polls, clearly in the top tier in the polls in Iowa, and now you're on this bus tour. In other early states, or as you move down the calendar, for instance, in South Carolina, it's a little bit of a different story. And Jim Clyburn, who is the senior member of Congress from South Carolina and is the number three in the House of Representatives did an interview with Dana Bash yesterday where he suggested that one of the problems you might be having in South Carolina is with older African-American voters who aren't comfortable with you being gay. So listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you saying for older African-Americans, it is an issue?

JAMES CLYBURN, (D-SC) HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Yes, it is. There's no question about that. I'm not going to sit here and tell you otherwise because I think everybody knows that's an issue. But I'm saying it's an issue, not the way it used to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: First of all, are you surprised by his comments?

BUTTIGIEG: Some of what we're hearing in South Carolina reminds me of South Bend, a place where there are a lot of Democrats but a lot of socially conservative Democrats. And at the end of the day, I think the reason why people in my community moved past that and reelected me and the reason why we're going to be able to earn votes in every part of the country is that elections are about this. they're about voters asking the question, how will my life be different if you get elected president versus somebody else? I think we have the best answer to that question. If I can do my job and get that answer in front of as many voters as possible, it is remarkable how Americans are capable of moving past old habits, moving past old prejudices, making history, and getting the president who will serve them best regardless of some of the other noise that's circling around the race.

BERMAN: In South Carolina, though, and nationally, with African- American voters, that message doesn't seem to be connecting yet, correct? So why haven't your numbers moved substantially, in your mind, with African-American voters?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, here's what I will say. In order to get somebody's vote you have to earn it, and you have to deserve it, and you have to put forward the answers that are going to make sense. Now, our response to those who ask what our agenda for black America is, is the Douglas plan. It is the most comprehensive vision put forward by a 2020 candidate on the question of how we're going to tackle systemic racism in this country. And we've got to recognize that it affects every aspect of American life. It's not just criminal justice, although we certainly need major criminal justice reform. It's in areas like economic empowerment, which is why I have a proposal to support black-owned businesses and make sure that we are co-investing to unlock the potential of minority-owned businesses to create economic opportunity.

It's why I'm insisting that the federal government do a better job, in fact I propose a 25 percent target, of purchasing and doing businesses with those that are owned by people who have been historically excluded from housing to health. And, of course, the need for a 21st century voting rights act. We put forward a comprehensive vision that gets people on their feet. When I am talking to audiences about this subject, including the majority African-American audiences, the response to what I have to offer has been phenomenal. But I certainly have a lot more work to do going around the country, making sure that there can be no confusion, no question on the part of any voter where I stand. And that's what campaigns are for.

BERMAN: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, thanks for joining us this morning on NEW DAY. Great to have you on.

BUTTIGIEG: Good to be with you, thanks.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, John, now to our big breaking political news. New polls just out in key battleground states show a tough road ahead for most of the Democratic candidates. CNN's senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten joins us with the fresh off the press poll numbers. Harry?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Fresh, fresh, fresh, as the old saying goes. Look at this. OK, so I think this is rather key, right. Let's set the stage here. In the 2016 presidential election, what do we see? We saw Hillary Clinton winning that popular vote by two, 48 to 46. But in the six closest states Trump won, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, he won by a point.

[08:10:00]

So let's flip forward to 2020 at the polls that have recently come out. So if you look at in October, an average of polls nationally, you see all the leading Democrats, Biden, Sanders, Warren, leading by anywhere from five to eight points, but look at the six closest states that Trump won in 2016. According to new polling from "The New York Times" and Siena College, what do we see? We see Biden up by one, but we see Sanders down by one, and we see Warren down by three. Those are pretty much within the margin of error, especially the Biden numbers. But we do see that Biden is doing better than either Sanders or Warren.

Break it down by particular states. So take a look at these northern battleground states, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. What do we see? We see Biden leading within the margin of error across the board by one in Michigan, one in Pennsylvania, two in Wisconsin. Warren doing the worst of all the Democrats, down by four in Michigan, down by two in Pennsylvania, down by two in Wisconsin, and Sanders somewhere in between.

Here, take a look here. The southern battleground states. These are Arizona, Florida, North Carolina. What do we see there? We see Biden up in Arizona by two, up in Florida, a very important swing state, up by two, North Carolina, all the Democrats are trailing Trump from anywhere from two to four. But again, Warren doing the worst out of any of the Democrats, tied in Arizona, down by four in Florida. Look at that difference. Biden up by two, but Warren down by four in Florida. And in North Carolina again, all trailing.

Now, you might be asking yourself, is this just name recognition? Joe Biden being so well known versus Elizabeth Warren, and Iowa, keep this in mind, this is a state that's been trending to the right, Biden is trailing by one, Warren is trailing by six. But look at this Buttigieg number. He is the one that is the least well known, and he's actually doing slightly better than Warren. So it's not just about name recognition.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting stuff, Harry. And I know that you dive in even beyond just the top line numbers. And so are you looking at particular demographics where either Joe Biden handily beats Donald Trump or vice versus?

ENTEN: I think it's rather key. One of the key groups that changed from 2012 to 2016, white voters with a college degree, what we see is that's been the biggest movement away from the president of the United States versus Republicans before him. And Joe Biden's performing the best among white voters with the college degree. Among the opposite group, white voters without a college degree, what these polls indicate is the president's numbers are holding with that group, and it's part of the reason why in these swing states he's competitive.

BERMAN: But I thought Pete Buttigieg's answers to these questions, he wasn't tested, but he seemed to be glomming on to the fact that Biden was leading and the others weren't, suggesting a non-progressive approach might be better to get elected.

CAMEROTA: Yes. He did seem -- and is that accurate?

ENTEN: It does seem to be the case that Joe Biden seems to be reaching out to these voters who do believe that Elizabeth Warren is too far to the left, particularly well-educated voters who voted for Romney in 2012. That's the group that Joe Biden seems to be capitalizing on.

CAMEROTA: Harry, thank you very much for all of the new poll numbers.

ENTEN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: It's really fascinating.

So the new line of defense from Republicans in the impeachment probe seems to acknowledge that there was a quid pro quo of holding up military aid to Ukraine, but so what?

BERMAN: So what?

CAMEROTA: Is that an effective argument today?

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[08:17:13]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, four top White House officials were scheduled to testify today before house impeachment investigators. But CNN has learned that all four will not show up as the White House and Republican senators has tried a different tact on the no quid pro quo defense.

Joining us to talk about all of this, we have CNN political commentary Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's Press Secretary. CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash; and CNN political commentator, Van Jones, host of the "Van Jones Show."

So what we're hearing from Republicans, Van is that they are not saying necessarily anymore, they don't plan to say no, that they didn't hear evidence of a quid pro quo. Now, it sounds like and I think we've got a little preview of this with Matt Schlapp, who is one of the President's big supporters last week, which is, yes, I read the transcript of the call. Yes, he is asking for some help to investigate Joe Biden. So what?

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Yes, I mean, and that's -- listen, part of the problem, I think that we're having now is that there's a complete collapse of any kind of standards within the Republican Party. To be able to look the American people in the eye and say, we just don't think it's that big a deal when you see this kind of behavior is extraordinary.

I mean, we have to sometimes -- everything goes so fast, we're so punched drunk, we're so spread around, we get used to stuff, you know, Matt Schlapp is a guy who has some principles in his background, he is somebody --

CAMEROTA: One of the conservative leaders. I mean, he holds conferences.

JONES: So, you know, dignity, honor, integrity. These are conservative values that apparently are being flushed down the toilet in broad daylight. This is not a so what. This is not a no big deal. And it's unfortunate to see this coming from people actually, we sometimes think well of.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Dana Bash, who is the owner of one of the key interview moments of the last 24 hours with Kellyanne Conway, which gets to this larger point, I want to play that so people can see it, Dana.

No? Not so much. Okay.

CAMEROTA: We'll reenact.

BERMAN: So in this interview with Kellyanne Conway, Dana pressed Kellyanne to basically say, are you sure there was no quid pro quo? Do you know for a fact that aid to Ukraine wasn't held up to interview the Bidens? And in a dramatic reenactment, Kellyanne Conway basically said, no, I don't know for sure. I can't tell you that for sure. There's no clear answer to that.

And my question, Dana is based on what Kellyanne was saying, based on what we're hearing from other Republicans. What does it tell you that they've retreated to this position before the public hearings have even begun?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: See, I'm not so sure. I'm not totally buying into that retreat theory, and it's for two reasons. One is, that's what Mick Mulvaney did, and that's what got him a very comfortable place in the doghouse, and that's what he tried to do in that press conference by saying so what. Yes, he asked for it. This is the way it happened. It works. So what?

[08:20:05]

BASH: And that is why I was pressing Kellyanne Conway on that question, because I did see the reporting and saw some quotes from senators on the GOP side, kind of trying to revive that argument, but she didn't go there.

And that tells you something that -- a couple of things -- one is, the President himself, so calls it a beautiful call and says there's no quid pro quo. So it's, you know, hard for the White House to contradict the President. That's a fundamental.

And two, it's unclear if that's a consensus. I spoke over the weekend before that interview to a senior Republican aide who said that they are not so sure that that is the way that their argument is going to go because it's so hard.

Like Van was saying, it's so hard to say, yes, he did it, so what? You know, it's not that they can't do that and vote no on impeachment if they are from red states where they have a whole lot of support of Donald Trump behind them, but it's a much more difficult argument to make when it comes to the question of what is right and wrong and taking the oath as a senator to fulfill that.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's it because I think we get caught up in the quid pro quo much like the no collusion of Robert Mueller. Whatever happened on that call, and we've all read it now with our own eyes of the mostly partial transcript, but it seems to reflect pretty much what happened on that call.

And it was so disturbing to enough people that were on the call that they went to lawyers and went to their superiors and raise red flags about it. So that's what somehow Republicans are going to have to answer why they're okay with that.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes and I don't think it's -- that it happened and so what. I think they'll modify that. I think they'll say, it happened. The President is not experienced as a diplomat. He is a different kind of politician. He shouldn't have done it, but this doesn't rise to the level of impeachment, you don't remove a President for this, which in its own ways, I think goes to Van's point that they've lost their honor and their integrity, because what we're talking about here is using, you know, military aid that this ally desperately needed against the Russians and holding it up to get political dirt, you know, and affect the election here in this country

But these things get normalized, and as time goes on, it's like, it's less shocking. It shouldn't be, but it is. And I think Republicans will retreat, but again, not to the so what. But I think they'll make some very stern speeches on the floor about why this was wrong about why the President shouldn't be removed.

BERMAN: And some of them have been there for a while. Rob Portman for a while has been a --

JONES: The problem is the Constitution only gives you the death penalty. Like it's not like you get, you know, an infraction, misdemeanor or felony and then impeachment and removal. You either say this is the death penalty. Your presidency is done. Or it's okay and that kind of binary choice is why you see a little bit of dyspepsia here.

You know, if President Trump were to say something like, you know what, I thought this was okay. Now, I'm hearing from the American people, I'm hearing from them, it turns out it wasn't okay. I won't do it again, that would be different.

I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon, and so what that means is that we are now facing the changing of a standard. That's why I think Democrats are willing to take this much political risk, because we don't want the standards to change.

You have around the world the emergence of these illiberal democracies, where you have democracy in form, but a lot of corruption and autocracy in practice. And so I think the reason different guys have tried to hold this line is this right or wrong, really is the question.

BASH: And Van used such an important word -- risk -- political risk, because in that interview I did with James Clyburn yesterday, he was also very honest about saying, yes, this is a big risk for us politically, but you know, we are doing it because we think it is right. And despite the fact that some polls show there's movement towards the notion of impeachment, more broadly, in battleground states, the same ones we're talking about this morning about the matchups, it's not moving.

And so it is a big political risk for Democrats, not just that it could, you know, hurt them. But more importantly, part of the hurting them is really rallying up and riling up the Republican base, which we're going to see potentially a ramification of tomorrow in the governor's race in the State of Kentucky.

BASH: It really does make you wish there was some option where you -- where people could register, this is wrong. We don't want this to happen again, change the law, do something so that you can have more unity. Right now, this is a binary choice and people are going into corners.

BERMAN: Can I just add one more thing before we go here which is that over the weekend, what the President has been doing is -- he is doing it again this morning, and I'm not going to read the tweets because it is frankly, not appropriate.

But the President has been suggesting the whistleblower needs to be outed and he has been going after him again, and again, and again. There are legal protections for whistleblowers, okay?

LOCKHART: Yes.

JONES: For a reason.

[08:25:05]

BERMAN: For what was that reason, counselor?

JONES: Well, so that people can -- when they see horrible stuff happening in the government, they can do something to help protect America.

BERMAN: So it's wrong legally and morally and ethically. What does it tell you, Joe, that he keeps on going to this route?

LOCKHART: Well, the President's strategy is pretty simple. Delegitimize everything. He wants to make it about the whistleblower and about the fact that he is secretly -- he is somehow a never Trumper who worked for all of these Democrats, even when, as far as saying yesterday that the transcripts that the Democrats are going to release are going to be fake.

So his -- CAMEROTA: Though Republicans are in the room and asking their own

questions.

LOCKHART: Yes, yes. So his whole strategy is to keep this away from the substance, keep it away from what he actually did, and make it all about how the deep state is trying to take him down in some sort of coup.

CAMEROTA: But Joe, how about the fact that these four top N.S.C. officials attorney -- some of them are attorneys -- are not going to testify under subpoena. They've been subpoenaed in today at 9:00 a.m. They were supposed to show up and they're not going to.

LOCKHART: This goes to the normalization of Trump. These are valid congressional subpoenas. They're not requests. They're not please come by if you have some time, this is -- you can be held in contempt, you can be jailed for this.

And I think we're all kind of at the point of saying, oh, well, we just expected this. This is a very big deal, and I think this week, the Democrats will be talking about one article in particular, which is obstruction of Congress.

BERMAN: All right, Van, Joe, Dana. Dana, great work on those interviews over the weekend. Big news making interviews, we've been talking about them all morning.

This huge cache of documents from the Russia investigation just got released revealing someone else in the Trump orbit has been pushing this conspiracy theory with Ukraine and for some time, a must-see reality check is next.

CAMEROTA: And it's been weeks of agony for fried chicken fans after Popeye's ran out of its popular chicken sandwich. Harry Enten has been grieving, but the chicken sandwich is back. He has already got one.

BERMAN: He better eat that one for real because I'm not touching that one.

CAMEROTA: Well, you are going to eat one --

BERMAN: He was pawing at that.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he was waiting for the tease, but we're going to see what all the --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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