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Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) Discusses Her Endorsement of Pete Buttigieg And Presidential Race, Bloomberg Entering Race, How Pelosi Has Handled Impeachment; GOP Senator Kennedy Backtracks Then Repeats Ukraine Conspiracy; Pompeo Suggested Many Foreign Actors Attempted To Interfere In 2016 Elections; Jared Kushner's Orbit Expanding In White House. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 26, 2019 - 13:30   ET



REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D-NY): I think when you hear his message, you know, African-American community, other communities across the country that may not have known him before, will get to know him and will support him.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: What are you hearing in his message that you don't hear from Joe Biden? You mentioned the misstates the party made in 2016. Is he making those mistakes? Are other candidates like Elizabeth Warren making those mistakes?

RICE: One of the things we do in Democratic primaries is we have a tendency to tack all the way to the left because we feel it's important to get the far-left members of the Democratic Party to support us in a Democratic Party.

When you take those positions, very often it makes it difficult for you to win in a general election when you're trying to appeal to Republicans and independents alike.

Pete has not made that mistake. Pete is a fresh voice, which I think we needed in Washington. I've spent my five years there talking about how we need leadership change. We need new voices, a voice that can take us into the future. And I think Pete is that voice.

And he is not spending his time pandering to specific portions of the party. He is taking positions, specifically on Medicare For All. He said I think actually people should be able to keep their health care if they want it.

I come from a district where 80 percent of my constituents get their health care through private health insurance that's given to them primarily through public-sector employers. That speaks to people across the country who don't want their health care taken away from them.

Pete has staked that position that is unique in this field.

GOLODRYGA: Another fellow New Yorker has thrown his hat in the ring for presidency as well, the former mayor, Michael Bloomberg. What are your thoughts on his candidacy right now? And why not give him a shot before endorsing Buttigieg?

RICE: I think Michael did a great job in New York City. I worked with him as a former D.A. Obviously, guns were a big issue for me and my constituents. He has taken a leadership role on that issue across the country.

I just look at Pete and I see the face of the future. And I hear a voice of the future. And I think that's what we need right now.

We have an incredibly divided country right now. And if you listen to Pete, he does not focus on using divisive rhetoric. He doesn't want a negative campaign. He is talking about taking this country into the future, a future that includes everyone in this country and does not leave anyone out.

GOLODRYGA: You keep talking about a theme of a need for change and a fresh voice. I'm reminded of your vote, you, along with other congressmen, who voted against Nancy Pelosi being House speaker. You lost your position on the Judiciary Committee because of that.

How do you think Nancy Pelosi has handled this impeachment process and do you regret voting against her?

RICE: My position about Nancy Pelosi was never about her personally. I think what you're seeing now in terms of how she is leading us in this impeachment inquiry is a perfect example of what a great leader she is.

My position was we need to pass the baton on to the future of our elected leaders in Washington. We have a tendency -- political parties tend to cling to the people who've been there the longest and claim the institutional knowledge are so important.

But when I got to Washington, my position was we need to hear from every voice in our caucus. And this applies to the Republican Party as well.

So my position was never a personal one against Nancy Pelosi. She is a historic figure, being the first woman speaker of the House.

But I feel we need a new voice that can take us into the future, change the way Washington works right now because clearly the American public doesn't think that Washington is working.

That's why I'm supporting Pete because I think he can get that job done.

GOLODRYGA: Just to be clear, you think Nancy Pelosi has handled this impeachment process well?

RICE: I think -- this is -- how many times has this happened in history? Very few times. I think she's doing the best that she can under very different circumstances.

Even though I did not vote for her, once she was elected, I said, I'm going to support her 100 percent, and I have. GOLODRYGA: Congresswoman, thank you so much. Great to have you on.

RICE: Thank you for having me.

GOLODRYGA: Have a happy Thanksgiving.

RICE: You, too.

GOLODRYGA: Still to come, Senator John Kennedy tries to clarify a conspiracy theory that he floated about Ukraine and then he promptly floats another one. What's that all about?


Plus, in addition to brokering Middle East peace, Jared Kushner reported has a new project on his to-do list. That's border wall construction manager.


GOLODRYGA: Today, Republican Senator John Kennedy, of Louisiana, clarifying his remarks over the weekend that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for hacking the DNC server. But in the process, he also reiterated a debunked conspiracy theory. Take a listen.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator Kennedy, who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers, their emails? Was it Russia or Ukraine?

REP. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don't know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us.

WALLACE: The entire Intelligence Community says it was Russia.

KENNEDY: Right. But it could also be Ukraine.




KENNEDY: Let me be clear. Russia hacked the DNC computer. I have no evidence whatsoever that Ukraine did it. There is, however, plenty of evidence that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.


GOLODRYGA: I'm not sure we've seen that evidence yet.

But to discuss, let me bring in CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Max Boot, a senior fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations and columnist for the "Washington Post." I'd also like to welcome Matt Steinglass. He's the deputy Europe editor for "The Economist." Gentlemen, welcome, both.

Max, I want to begin with you.

What appeared to be a backtrack from Senator Kennedy was really replacing one conspiracy theory for another. I don't remember any Ukrainians indicted by the FBI. What does this tell you about where we are as a country?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I guess what it tells you is that Republicans just can't stop repeating Russian disinformation, which is what this is, this notion with the Ukrainians somehow were responsible for interfering in our politics in 2016.

You hear two variations from Senator Kennedy. In variation one, it was the Ukrainians who actually hacked the DNC and not the Russians, and so this is what Trump believes because he goes on about the CrowdStrike server that supposedly ended up in Ukraine, which is nonsense.

But variation B is the one Senator Kennedy has now embraced, which is, oh, yes, the Russians interfered, but so did the Ukrainians, suggesting a moral equivalence so that the Ukrainian interference somehow canceled out the Russian interference.

This is all errant nonsense because, when you actually ask them, what was the nature of this Ukrainian interference, it basically comes down a Ukrainian journalist who revealed information showing that Paul Manafort was deeply corrupt. And, of course, Paul Manafort is now in jail.

There were a couple of remarks from Ukrainians that were not happy that Donald Trump was thinking about recognizing the annexation of Crimea. That is not interference. That is not the same kind of --


BOOT: -- interference the Russians carried out a high-level intelligence operation directed by Vladimir Putin himself.

GOLODRYGA: By conflating the two, you're taking away focus from Russia and their actions.

Matt, I want to bring you in because the president tweeted that he "held back the money from Ukraine because it was considered a corrupt country and I wanted to know why nearby European countries weren't putting up money as well," even though we know other European countries were.

It's a long-standing U.S. policy, an effort to help Ukraine become more of a Democratic country and a stable country to do saw with and root out corruption.

What I don't understand is, that is exactly what Ambassador Yovanovitch was doing, and thus, what led to the smear campaign into her being recalled. And she addressed this during her testimony earlier this month. I

want to play this for you.


MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and, working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. ambassador.


GOLODRYGA: So they found Americans who were willing to smear her because of her attempt to root out corruption, which was U.S. policy. What does that say about our standing in the world and in Europe as the beacon of democracy and rooting out corruption?

MATT STEINGLASS, CORRESPONDENT & DEPUTY EUROPE EDITOR, "THE ECONOMIST": I think one thing that people aren't doing often enough going back to the source of America's involvement in Ukraine, which diplomats testified during the impeachment hearing said it goes back to 2014.

And the revolution in Ukraine was really a revolution against corruption, a revolution against a corrupt oligarchic regime. And ultimately, the U.S. involvement in Ukraine was an attempt to get Ukraine to root out oligarchic involvement in governance.

That is why Joe Biden was going to Ukraine so often because he was a point man at the White House to emphasize that the United States government really stood behind anti-corruption, stood behind turning Ukraine into an authentically -- a country that wasn't run by a bunch of politically oriented businessman.

What's happened now is, because what we saw in the impeachment drama, people in Ukraine and other countries in Europe, as well where the U.S. has traditionally tried to help root out corruption, are beginning to wonder whether the U.S. stands behind that policy anymore, both whether the White House stands behind it and whether the United States' own model of governance is thorough to root out corruption as we have said.

GOLODRYGA: Matt, Fiona Hill testified that this debunked theory is propagated by the Russians and they're using it as a tactic going into the 2020 elections.

Talk about the implications of that, if, in fact, they are successful in another U.S. election.


STEINGLASS: I tend to be most struck by the way people in Eastern Europe see this drama unfolding. And the propagation of these false narratives, which seem to stem from a Russian intelligence disinformation campaign, as major elements in American politics, is very dispiriting to them because they're familiar with this from Eastern European politics.

It's very common for narratives that are invented by intelligence officials, which are damaging to politicians, are then laundered through the press and other figures, and used in political campaigns.

What they're seeing in the U.S. is something similar used in the kinds of electoral dramas you see in Romania or Moldova or Ukraine for the past 15 years.


Max, let me ask you because we also heard from Secretary of State Pompeo when asked about Ukraine and the president's tweets and what have you, suggests there were multiple foreign actors, again, watering down the focus that was exclusively on Russia.

What does that tell you? Why not just stay with the one country that actually propagated all of this?

BOOT: Because Mike Pompeo is too cowardly to tell the truth because he knows the truth will offend Donald Trump because Donald Trump keeps insisting that the Russian interference was a hoax.

To the point that you were just discussing, I think this is really unilateral disarmament of American soft power because we have stood for fighting corruption and championing press freedom and human rights, democracy. There's no way they can do any of that credibly under Donald Trump.

When he tries, for example, to castigate the Iranians for their human rights violations, no one takes him seriously because everyone knows he doesn't mean it.

It's especially dispiriting when we have invested so much energy in countries like Ukraine into fighting corruption and Donald Trump instead of fighting corruption he's promoting corruption.

GOLODRYGA: The world is watching.

Max Boot, Matt Steinglass --

BOOT: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: -- thank you so much.

Criminal justice reformer, Middle East broker, and now construction foreman. Not kidding. Jared Kushner's growing to-do list. That's coming up, next.






GOLODRYGA: This just in, a cold reception for Melania Trump in Maryland. The first lady booed during a children's event in Baltimore.




MELANIA TRUMP: Hello, everyone.






GOLODRYGA: Well, Jared Kushner's orbit in the White House is expanding once again. President Trump has reportedly put Kushner, who is a senior advisor and is son-in-law, in charge of overseeing the building of the border wall.

The president is said to be increasingly frustrated by a lack of obvious progress on the wall's construction. Earlier this month, it was reported the White House wants to install webcams early next year so that people can watch a live stream of the wall's construction.

Chris Cillizza has more details -- Chris?


CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: That's right, Bianna. This is a Jared Kushner idea to keep the public more informed about the wall construction, which his father-in-law, A/K/A, president of the United States, says he wants 400 miles of new wall before the 2020 election.

The man once called the secretary of everything has a really big portfolio. Part here overseeing border wall construction, a new addition to the Kushner portfolio.

Let's go through many of the other things he's doing.

Something I call Middle East peace. That should be no problem. Kushner is charged from the start with doing the greatest deal -- Trump's words -- greatest deal in history, bringing peace to the middle. There's lots of them.

Next up, modernizing, trying to bring tech into the government. Trying to streamline and modernize the way in which government works. Crafting trade policy. Who is the main liaison to Mexico and China in the U.S.? Jared Kushner.

Here we go. Only halfway there.

And criminal justice reform. Some things not done yet. This is something where Jared Kushner and Donald Trump have had success, the First Step Act. This is a way to overhaul our criminal justice system that Donald Trump signed into law in December of last year. That's actually a check mark. Jared Kushner got it done.

Keep it going. Impeachment legal strategy. Again, a small thing about whether or not the president will be impeached and removed from office. Jared Kushner again leading the charge, because the belief is that the messaging by Trump and his White House hasn't been adequate. Jared Kushner steps in.

I think one more. Yes. Reforming legal immigration policy. Now, Jared Kushner feinted in this. Tried to do a little in Donald Trump's first term. Didn't go anywhere. If re-elected in 2020, expect this reforming legal immigration to come back up.


As you can see, all of this and more, the son-in-law of the president, the one-time secretary of everything, is back. He has his hand in virtually every piece of what this White House is doing.

Bianna, back to you.


GOLODRYGA: One question. Where is he going to find the time for all of that?

All right. Chris Cillizza, thank you.

Well, 36 years behind bars for a murder they didn't commit. Hear why these three men were freed and what happened once they were.

Plus, what is it like to text with Rudy Giuliani? One reporter joined CNN on Giuliani's surreal communication habits.