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Senator Kamala Harris Aide Resigns In Scathing Letter Obtained By New York Times; 10 Animals Killed In Fire At Ohio Safari Park; Top 10 CNN Heroes; Lonely Caller Finds New Friends On Thanksgiving. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 29, 2019 - 08:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Okay, breaking 2020 news is there turmoil in Senator Kamala Harris' presidential campaign? "The New York Times" has obtained a scathing resignation letter from one of her aides in it. The aid Kelly Mehlenbacher writes, "This is my third presidential campaign, and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly. With less than 90 days until Iowa, we still do not have a real plan to win. Our campaign, for the people, is made up of diverse talent which is being squandered by indecision and a lack of leaders who will lead. That is unacceptable".

"POLITICO" reports that staffer has accepted a job with Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign. Joining us now CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN Political Contributor and Democratic Strategist Aisha Moody-Mills, okay, well that's not good. That is a - I mean that's the most scathing exit letter I've ever seen from a campaign. So Abby, what's going on?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been, unfortunately, a long time coming for the Harris campaign. There's been a lot of dissatisfaction for quite some time taking a step back. This is happening because the campaign initially said she was moving to Iowa in October.

That she was going to invest everything in Iowa so that, if we got to December, they would be in a good position to really reinvest, to do TV ads. Turns out moving to Iowa were not enough. They ended up a month later having to lay off a lot of staff. A lot of staff was in the operations department which Kelly Mehlenbacher ran and they laid off their almost entire New Hampshire ground team.

So there have been a lot of layoffs. People have been blindsided by these staffing decisions. And on the bottom line really is this feeling of a lack of strategy. That I think is behind all of this. That even while she's moving to Iowa, Kamala Harris is in Iowa right now. She spent Thanksgiving with a family there. But it's not enough. There's a sense among senior aides in the campaign that they are directionless that they don't have a plan to win.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Layoffs are devastating in a campaign, especially when people sign up, they move and then all of a sudden, they're taken out. But the strategy as Abby says that's the real killer here. Kamala Harris began the campaign incredibly strong. She was top tier.

She had that incredibly powerful first debate against Joe Biden seemed to boomerang on her. Now she's at 3 percent in the latest CNN poll. So is Michael Bloomberg who just got in the race. What's gone wrong and our friend and colleague, Jonathan Martin from 'The New York Times" reporting that some of her supporters are suggesting she may need to get out by December to avoid the embarrassment of being on the California Ballot Super Tuesday and losing.

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, to the point that Abby was making. I think so much of this is about just poor HR. So we don't realize--


MOODIE-MILLS: Poor HR. We don't really think about campaigns as being organizations and having like staffing that requires deep management. And I have been on so many of these. And it's kind of no holds barred, everybody go run and do something. The truth is to have a sophisticated engine that runs you need management. You need to have layers of management. And you need to have communication.

And so much of the complaints that I am hearing are that staffers don't understand what's going on and they feel a bit disrespected with regard to the way that the campaign is being managed. So sure, layoffs are tough. People don't understand strategy because it's not being communicated.

People don't quite know who they're reporting to and taking orders from. We're not sure if Maya Harris, her sister, is the one who is calling the shots on strategy or if it's the campaign manager who is calling the shots on strategy. Who are we supposed to be deferring to?

And I say that because if you look at really successful Presidential like the Obama campaign and even the Hillary campaign which was quite an engine, there are layers of actual HR management that are put in place to deal with the staffing and the infrastructure and to connect with the people who are working on the teams.

CAMEROTA: So you aren't blaming the candidate. You don't see this as any reason to blame the candidate?

MOODIE-MILLS: It's not fair. I wouldn't say I know enough to blame the candidate, but I do think that the structure is broken and it is clearly broken which is why you get a resignation letter like this.

PHILLIP: There was one quote in this excellent times piece from a former aide to Harris who said it's hard to make the case to the American public that you want to run the country if you can't run a campaign. And so there is - there's an element of that. That's true.

But I do also think that the underlying problem with her standing in the polls is lack of focus on message. They've really struggled to settle on what they want her campaign to be about? And this middle lane that she has tried to be in is now extremely crowded. You have Pete Buttigieg rising in Iowa. [08:35:00]

PHILLIP: Taking a lead in our last poll in that state and then you have people like Michael Bloomberg also a moderate candidate, jumping in the race. All of that putting pressure on Kamala Harris to really clarify what she's running and why she's running?

AVLON: Well, on paper, though I mean, she's triangulated between the Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warrens but it hasn't translated to actual support. She's lost so much support. Let me ask you thought about the entry of Michael Bloomberg into the race, Kelly Mehlenbacher joining the Bloomberg campaign. What is that say to you because Bloomberg got in a week ago and he's already at the same number that Kamala Harris is at who has been in here for months?

MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, I think that she can put some ads up and get to 3 percent in the polls but I don't think that you can actually buy voters and buy constituents. And I keep repeating that because at the end of the day, there are so many people, billionaires, millionaires who say I'm going to throw up all these ads on the air and that's going to get you to maybe 5 percent or so.

At the end of the day it's about voters turning out and constituents on the ground. How many people are going to carry a banner for you and get their friends to come to the polls? I'm not convinced that just because you put up ads it's going to happen. It doesn't mean much to me that Michael Bloomberg currently has 3 percent and Kamala has 3 percent.

It is going to be really interesting to see who has the turnout engine on the ground that actually gets real people to the polls rather than folks some who say I have an opinion. Yes, I like you, when you're doing a survey.

CAMEROTA: Speaking of Pete Buttigieg.

AVLON: Pete Buttigieg.

CAMEROTA: As we were not. You know, he is struggling to win over black voters. And so at the latest Democratic debate, he basically said as a gay man, he can relate to a feeling of being marginalized and discriminated against. Maybe I should be asking Aisha since she's already - what's wrong with that? Why can't he relate to feeling marginalized?

MOODIE-MILLS: Let me just caveat it this and say I'm probably the most senior African-American woman to lead the - to be a leader in the gay rights movement. I gave Pete Buttigieg his first national platform when I was the head of the victory fund to come out and speak to the community.

So I have a great appreciation and fondness for him. The challenge with this oppression Olympics, though, is, one, that it pits communities against each other. The reality though is that as a white man in America of privilege, Pete Buttigieg has not felt the same type of discrimination just walking around as African-Americans. He was able to go to the best schools, come from a privileged family, end up at Harvard, be a road scholar, become Mayor, go into the Navy, doing all of those things to build himself as a closeted man and he could do that because he walks through the world being white, right?

And so I think that African-Americans get really frustrated with that comparison because it's not the same. I show up as a black woman. I'm a black woman. You don't know that I'm lesbian until I tell you, right but he is not the same comparison and he knows that and I think that he is trying to dial that back.

PHILLIP: Yes, I think he's really trying to figure this message out, trying to find a way to connect on this issue of - and make the issue of his sexuality not a liability. But rather something that he could use to connect with voters. But, obviously, it's a struggle and difficult.

AVLON: And the senior most member African-American member of the City Council in this town endorsed Joe Biden last week.

PHILLIP: Longtime antagonist Pete Buttigieg.

AVLON: All right guys thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Aisha, thank you. Abby, thank you very much.

AVLON: All right, up next, a desperate dash at an Ohio Wildlife Park. This is heartbreaking more on these exotic animals trying to flee the flames, next.



AVLON: A truly grim scene at an African Safari Wildlife Park in Ohio. Ten animals died after a barn in they were housed in caught fire. CNN's Brynn Gingras joins us with the details.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was so sad. Now, listen there were a few animals that did survive. I want to put that out there, that, according to a police officer who was on scene shortly after this fire broke out at the African Safari Wildlife Park near Toledo, Ohio.

We want to show the video of this though. This is so heartbreaking. It's a few Giraffes running around in circles, the building behind them engulfed in flames. Neighbors that reported hearing screeching from the animals coming from this park and that same officer tells CNN the Giraffe one of them at least was finally found shelter in a nearby pond and was rescued.

People on scene were also able to rescue a Zebra that was outside that barn but hiding under an overhang. Ten animals, though, lost in this fire which overtook a heated barn where they were housed for the night to keep them warm three of them Giraffes three Red River Hogs, three Bongos and one Springbok. The park released a statement in part saying "We are grateful that our staff is safe and no one was injured, but the loss of the wildlife that we care for every day is tragic for our team members and those who love these animals". The cause of this fire is under investigation. A first responder reports hearing two explosions and its possible it was electrical because there were also reports of lights flickering before this fire broke out.

This park boasts 300 wildlife animals and really allows visitors to drive through and feed them. It will be closed today so authorities, including the Ohio State Fire Marshal can really get to the bottom of this Alyson.

CAMEROTA: Brynn, thank you. That video is just horrible. Thank you very much. So the death of a parent is a life-long trauma for children. After losing her dad when she was 14, one of this year's top ten CNN heroes struggled with depression into her late 20s. Mary Robinson finally got help. For nearly two decades now she's dedicated herself to making sure other children do not spend years with unresolved grief the way she did.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Bella, and my dad died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kids in grief are kids at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Aiden and my mom died.



CAMEROTA: Time does not heal all wounds. Time helps, but it's what you do with that time and what you need to do is mourn.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you hear other people's stories, it kind of brings comfort.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why a place like imagine exists to give children a place to mourn their loss and find out that they're not alone.


CAMEROTA: Mary has provided free year-round help to more than 700 grieving families. Go to to vote for her or any of your favorite top ten heroes.

AVLON: So, should you buy those gifts today on Black Friday? Or wait until Cyber-Monday? Well, we'll start talking shopping strategy is there a difference and all the best deals?

CAMEROTA: Why not both? AVLON: That's up next. When in doubt, do both.



CAMEROTA: Black Friday shoppers are out in full force right now. Look at this from around the country. Shoppers stood in line to get the first crack at sales. Online sales for Thanksgiving are expected to reach a record $4.4 billion. Nearly half of those came from buyers on their smart phones. Joining us to explain all of this, we have Hitha Herzog she is the Chief Research Officer for H Squared research. Hitha, great to have to you here.


CAMEROTA: $4 billion, but why were they shopping yesterday? Aren't you supposed to wait until Black Friday? Did they get bad deals yesterday?

HERZOG: Shopping online has been so easy in the last couple years. And especially this season. So all of these retailers have spent so much capital expenditure making sure that if we don't want to talk to our family, we can just go on our smart phones and go ahead and do some shopping and pretend that we're listening to that random story that uncle Bob was talking about.

AVLON: This is a coping mechanism.

HERZOG: Yes, it's a coping mechanism and retailers are benefiting from that.

AVLON: But extraordinary though, almost half of that 47 percent of yesterday's $4.4 billion came on people's cell phones.

HERZOG: Exactly. Because you have your cell phone with you and again because infrastructure is so easy now, we can be shopping while we're walking around on the street, at dinner, in bed. It doesn't matter. Retailers are really capitalizing on that.

CAMEROTA: Okay, so let's see the deals that you have sassed out for every one of the best deals. Let's start with the headphones the beats headphones.

HERZOG: Okay, so the beats headphones what's really interesting is that the best - people are really coveting these Apple iPod, the pro headphones so they're not really going to go on sale but these beats head phones that we're talking about are discounted $150. So they're originally, I'm going to look at my notes here.

They're originally 199 - sorry. They're on sale for $199.

CAMEROTA: They're originally $234.

HERZOG: $234. So you're having $150 marked out. If you can't get those iPod headphones, the iPod pro headphones that are not going to be available for another couple of months, go with these ones.

CAMEROTA: Okay, next, the Merch from Frozen 2.

AVLON: You know, kids of a certain age.

HERZOG: All right. So you know my kids are 1 and I'm sure that they are going to be on the Bandwagon of Frozen 2. I know this is a very big deal. For toys, you are seeing discounts between 30 percent to 60 percent on the older stuff it's around 60 percent but on the newer stuff it's 30 percent.

If you go on, right, you are seeing discounts of around 40 percent. So this is a castle here. It is call the Arendale Castle, the play set. It's $139 which is really interesting too is that there is free shipping, and there's also a discount code. So you're layering on your discounts. It's not just this discount that they're providing you for Black Friday. If you're smart you just go and get the free shipping and then add in the discount code.

AVLON: How can't you buy it?

CAMEROTA: No, exactly. I want to get to these next deals because I think that this should have a caution with them - a warning with them. So the first one is this vacuum cleaner, okay. So it's regularly $299 but you can get it for $199. The next one is this slow cooker that's regularly $99.95 for $64.95. Now are you really supposed to be giving a vacuum cleaner as a gift?

AVLON: Seems like sending a message that's--

CAMEROTA: It seems like a message.

HERZOG: Here's the thing. We go through vacuum cleaners like crazy. So I feel like these sort of Instapot presents and vacuum cleaners, these are out of necessity. Some of the best deals I've actually seen are those things for your home. That you wouldn't probably want to gift but you really kind of need them.

There was another gift that I saw that we don't have the picture for, but a printer. Who really wants a printer underneath the Christmas tree or for Hanukkah but that was discounted up to 60 percent so if you need the things for your home now is your time to get that.

AVLON: Self-gifting is better.

HERZOG: Self-gifting is better because I do know a husband who gave a wife a vacuum cleaner and they're no longer married. That's all I'm saying.

CAMEROTA: Was it a Dyson, though? If I got a Dyson, I'd still say married. What were you just going to say? Okay, thank you.

AVLON: Thanks very much for walking us through all of that.

HERZOG: Great to see you.

HERZOG: All right. The good stuff. That's next.



AVLON: It's time for the good stuff. The kindness of strangers on full display in Pennsylvania. This group of people responding to a viewer's call at a local TV station on Thanksgiving eve.


CARL BRAUN: I don't want no food, how about some friends?


AVLON: And what followed was hundreds of other viewers reaching out asking how they could find that man Carl Braun. Then the call went out on social media for people to meet in a park on Thanksgiving morning and surprise him. Mission accomplished.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just could not believe that that many people did have open hearts that cared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We hope you enjoy them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy Thanksgiving.


AVLON: Carl quickly went from having no plans and no one to spend the holiday with to having more invitations than he knew what to do with. So get in line. Carl is already booked for Christmas Eve and New Year's.

CAMEROTA: I call Valentine's Day.

AVLON: I love that.

CAMEROTA: That is so wonderful, John.

AVLON: That is great.

CAMEROTA: People are wonderful sometimes.

AVLON: How about that?

CAMEROTA: That is a beautiful story.

AVLON: That's what we like. That's what makes America great.

CAMEROTA: John thanks for being here great to work with you.

AVLON: Absolutely any time.

CAMEROTA: Have a great weekend.

AVLON: Have a great weekend. Happy Thanksgiving and Black Friday, everybody.

CAMEROTA: All right, Newsroom with Ana Cabrera starts right now.