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GOP Struggles with Defense of Trump Ahead of Public Hearings; Rep. Pete King Becomes 16th GOP Congressman Not Seeking Re-Election; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Presidential Candidate Takes Aim at Buttigieg for Lack of Experience; Veteran Boycotts Trump's Speech at NYC Veteran's Day Parade. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 11, 2019 - 11:30   ET



CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That ought to send a real signal to the president that a lot of these members simply don't like serving in Washington with him. He's made it very difficult.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to -- add another one to the list just this morning, Peter King. I want to ask you about that in just a second.

But in general, I want to get your take on, what does this week mean for Republicans. All of the reporting that I have seen is that the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, they have been told to take these hearings extremely seriously.

What do you think the Republican game plan is? If they treat the whole thing as a charade, which is what I'm hearing leading into it, does that potentially backfire on them?

DENT: Yes, I do. In fact, I wrote an op-ed saying -- a few weeks ago saying, Republicans ought to take this impeachment inquiry very seriously.

Because these will become -- these will be nationally televised events, and I think the American people will be watch watching. They're going to be seeing some very serious people present testimony -- Taylor, Yovanovitch, Vindman and others.

And I think it's not going to be helpful to the Republican cause to simply just and try to undermine the proceedings.

I think it would be an enormous mistake. There could be John Dean moments coming out here.

I vividly remember in the early '70s, the Watergate hearings with my parents and we were driving across the country listening with bated breath. They were so enthralled by the whole thing. And I think this -- these hearings maybe have that same potential, as we saw during the Watergate proceedings.

BOLDUAN: So let me play for you what Senator Lindsey Graham -- what his position is on the -- what's going to be playing out this week and beyond.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I consider any impeachment in the House that doesn't allow us to know who the whistleblower is, to be invalid, because without the whistleblower complaint, we wouldn't be talking about any of this.

And I also see the need for Hunter Biden to be called to adequately defend the president.

And if you don't do those two things, it's a complete joke.


BOLDUAN: This whole -- where they are now is objectively beyond the whistleblower at this point, though. It's not about that person anymore, because there are multiple witnesses, current and former government officials, that are putting their names on it and are corroborating elements of this complaint.

Do you get a sense that sticking on the whistleblower is somehow having, I don't know, somehow having an impact?

DENT: No. I think -- again, I think it's a mistake to go after the whistleblower. The whistleblower's identity must be protected at all costs.

That said, I think it's fair for an investigator -- I'm not saying this person should go out and give testimony, the whistleblower, but it's probably fair for an investigator, though, to speak to the whistleblower and perhaps, you know, to Biden's son, as well.

But I think they should protect this whistleblower at all costs. Everybody else's testimony has confirmed and corroborated what he or she has said anyway, so what's the point?

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you, as we were talking retirements, Congressman Peter King, longtime Republican Congressman, he announced this morning he's retiring. He served in Congress for 14 terms. And that now makes him, I believe, the 16th Republican member of Congress to say that they're not seeking re-election.

For comparison, there are only like five Democrats in the House that are not seeking re-election.

No matter his reasons, what does this say to you about the state of the Republican Party? When you see that list of retirements, does it trouble you?

DENT: Yes, it troubles me very much. By the way, Peter King's seat will likely be a competitive seat for Republicans to defend.

So I suspect that members are retiring, in part, because they're frustrated with the current political environment and the president's conduct in office. That's a part of it. But, you know, Peter served a long time.

So I tell you what, if I were leadership right now, I would be alarmed with the numbers of retirements. And I think you have to still watch for more.

Look what happened just last week in these elections. Those elections, I think, sent a bad sign. They don't bode well for 2020. You see what's happened in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where I am today, or in northern Virginia. I mean, this is -- they're in a bad spot.

The party is going to have to have a debate and a discussion about what this party should look like after Donald Trump. And I think those conversations have not really been occurring. They need to start now, because the party is in a terrible place.

BOLDUAN: I was going to say, I think the most important question is, do those discussions happen any time before Donald Trump has left office, no matter if that's in the near or far term after his second term. And that's a very big question.

It's good to see you, Congressman.

DENT: They are happening.



Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

DENT: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: Coming up, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, he's risen to the top tier in the polls in Iowa, but with his resume, would he be there if he was a woman? One of his Democratic rivals says "no." That discussion, next.


BOLDUAN: Would a 37-year-old woman who's served two terms as the mayor of a city with a population 100,000 people be taken as seriously in a presidential race as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a man with those same credentials?

That is the very real question that is being debated right now in the Democratic presidential primary.

Senator Amy Klobuchar is not shying away from that debate at all, telling the "New York Times" this: "Could we" -- and she means female candidates - "be running with less experience than we had? I don't think so. I don't think people would take us seriously."

And then she put it this way to CNN yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do I think that we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience that he had? No, I don't. Maybe we're held to a different standard. But my goal here is to get the best candidate to lead the ticket. I believe that's me.


BOLDUAN: Is Senator Klobuchar right?

Joining me right now is one of the very few women to run a presidential campaign and the candidate, a female, no less. Former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, Patti Solis Doyle.

Good to see you, Patti.


BOLDUAN: So we're looking at a crowded field still. Seventeen Democrats running for president, five of them are women. With your unique perspective, is Amy Klobuchar right? Are women in politics held to a higher standard that we're looking at today?

SOLIS DOYLE: She absolutely is 100 percent right on this one.

You know, it's no secret that sexism plays a role in politics and government. It's no secret that women have to work twice as hard, be twice as good to get half the credit. And not just in politics, but in various industries. It's why we've never elected a president, a female president. And it's why we have relatively fewer CEOs.

I'll give you an example from my experience. In 2018, when Hillary was running in the primary against Barack Obama, she ran on being more experienced. That was her message. She was ready on day one.

Barack Obama criticized her, however, on her foreign policy experience, saying that, as first lady, having teas and cookies with foreign leaders does not translate into foreign policy experience.

And that criticism stuck for us. We had to fight back pretty hard on that criticism.

The irony, of course, is he ended up picking her as secretary of state, his, you know, lead adviser on foreign policy.

In, you know, 2016, the most qualified person ever to run for president ran against the least-qualified person ever to run for president. One was a woman. One was a man. The man won.

Even today --


BOLDUAN: So, Patti --


SOLIS DOYLE: Go ahead.

BOLDUAN: But looking at today, so are you saying in this, do you think Pete Buttigieg is not qualified to run?

SOLIS DOYLE: No, I'm not saying that at all. I think he is definitely qualified to run. I think he's an inspiring candidate. I'm just saying that a woman with the same credentials would not be leading in Iowa right now.

BOLDUAN: So Buttigieg was asked about this last weekend. And he more or less agreed, actually, with Klobuchar's point, saying this: "Yes, I think it would be naive for me to say that this hasn't played some role to the disadvantage of female candidates and to the advantage of male candidates."

What do you do with that? That's -- that's refreshing.

SOLIS DOYLE: Well, look what we have. We have two candidates in the Democratic field right now with zero government experience, zero political experience. Both are successful in business. One is a successful businessman. One is a successful author and speaker.

Only one of those, the man, is actually on the debate stage today.

You have to -- you cannot take sexism out of this equation. And so --


BOLDUAN: So what does it -- and this, I think, is -- maybe the key question now, looking at this, right, it is what it is, right? But what does it do, calling it out in real time, in terms of an on-the- ground sense? How do you make the case to voters, you are holding me, as a female candidate, to a higher standard, that is not OK, and still get their vote?

SOLIS DOYLE: Well, that's a very tricky question, Kate.


SOLIS DOYLE: Because when you call it out, you know, people don't like it. You know, people don't like their sexism being put out there in public, right? They don't like it. And they're not going to react well to it.

So it's a very tricky thing that women politicians and women candidates have had to deal with for, you know, decades and decades and decades. It's getting better, but you have to worry about things like coming off angry, coming off looking overambitious. You have to worry about these things when you run as a female candidate. And it's unfortunate. But I think, with women like Hillary Clinton

and Amy Klobuchar and Senator Warren, it gets a little bit easier every time.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that resting you-know-what face is always something that women need to contend with when they're out in public.

It's good see you, Patti. Thank you so much.

SOLIS DOYLE: Good to see you. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

A programming note for all of you. Former Vice President Joe Biden will be taking questions from voters in Iowa at a CNN town hall tonight. CNN's Erin Burnett will be moderating. Tune in tonight right here on CNN at 9:00 p.m.


Coming up for us, it's a day of unity, to remember and honor all of those who serve, Veteran's Day. Vice President Pence took part in the wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns a short time ago. We'll talk to an outspoken veteran next about what today means and what veterans need from their country now.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To every veteran here today and all across our land, you are America's greatest living heroes, and we will cherish you now, always, and forever.


BOLDUAN: That was President Trump speaking at the start of the annual Veteran's Day parade here in New York City, taking time, as everyone should on Veteran's Day, to thank them for their service and sacrifice they and all their families made across the country.

There are roughly 200,000 servicemembers deployed overseas right now, and at a time when the country feels more divided than ever in recent memory.

What does this mean for a day and a platform that is supposed to be beyond politics?

Joining me now, the founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization, a veteran himself who served in Iraq and has spent, I would say, all of your time helping veterans, Paul Rieckhoff.

Good to see you, Paul.


BOLDUAN: It's such long time.


BOLDUAN: Which is something I want to get to. You were outspoken today on the president's choice to speak in New York and you made clear you were boycotting the Veteran's Day parade. What did you make, then, of what you heard from the president?

RIECKHOFF: He was fine. He didn't screw up, which was good. He didn't drag us into politics, which was good.

But his presence still politicizes an event that is not supposed to be about him. This is the one day that's supposed to be beyond politics. And that event I've been going to ever since I came home. I've been a leader at it for a long time, right?

It's about unity, it's about cohesion, it's about no politics. With his arrival, it just politicized everything.

The comparison I gave, Kate, was imagine he was coming to your wedding. There's no way it's not political. It's like homecoming. It's like a wedding. So now there are protests. Now you're covering him instead of the five grand marshals that are there and so many other veterans.

It really just sucks the oxygen out. For me, it's just been a troubling trend of politicizing our military and our veterans over and over again.

BOLDUAN: That's a fair criticism. And that gets to something you and I have talked about on the whole politicization of the military or using the military and servicemembers as a political backdrop that you and I have talked about a lot.

On a day where everything does feel overly political, how do you get it right?

RIECKHOFF: You try to put it on pause for one day and focus on the policies. Don't talk about the politics. Today, he did try to raise up some of the honorable people that have served, talking about folks at the Battle of the Bulge, all generations, and bringing them together.

Honestly I wish all politicians would stay away for the day. If it was up to me, the mayor, the governor, all of them stay home. They --


BOLDUAN: And then they make sure to tell everybody not to criticize the president --


BOLDUAN: Yes. RIECKHOFF: There's been times on political campaigns --


BOLDUAN: He's the commander-in-chief, you know?

RIECKHOFF: But he's not our normal commander-in-chief, right? A week ago, he was attacking Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who is an active- duty officer. A couple of weeks ago, he was attacking John McCain. The history goes on and on and on. This is not a normal situation with a normal commander-in-chief.

He hasn't been to the parade any other year, and now he wants to come when everybody is talking about impeachment. I think we see over and over again, when his back is against the wall politically, he pivots into veterans and he pivots into the military and uses them not just as a backdrop but sometimes as a shield.

And that's unprecedented and that's very dangerous. And I want to bring attention to it and I think many other veterans do as well.

BOLDUAN: Let's bring attention to a common thread over the years that you've been nice enough to join me. The single issue veterans are struggling with the most is suicide.

Since that is the singular common threat throughout our conversations, it makes me wonder if you see any progress, or is there any hope? Or what needs to be discussed? Or what hasn't been done? Our conversations don't change when it comes to this.

RIECKHOFF: There's hope. In the early days, we had to fight to get people to talk about suicide, to get them to talk about this mental health menace that is taking as many as 20 veterans a day.

Today, is an example of a missed opportunity on behalf of the president. He could have launched a national agenda to focus on veteran suicide. That is an example of something everyone would have rallied behind. It's a little more creative. It's definitely more strategic.

But we're losing more veterans every day to suicide than we are to any enemy. This can be a galvanizing issue if it's done right.


BOLDUAN: It comes to you and me.


BOLDUAN: I mean, we need to focus on that as well, and we can remember that on this Veteran's Day.

If you would stick with me, because before we go, there's one tribute to the nation's veterans we want to live you with.

Last night, 96-year-old World War II veteran, Pete Dupree, preformed the anthem before the Nicks game. Dupree stole the show. Listen to this.








BOLDUAN: Thank you, Mr. Dupree. Our hat is off to you, sir, not to everyone else.

Thank you, Paul. Good to see you. Thanks for being here.

We'll be right back.