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Biden's Fiery Exchange with an Iowa Voter; Trump and Allies Set Sights on Trial; Bears Beat the Cowboys; Video Released of Death in Border Patrol Cell; Farmers say Trade is Hurting Them. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 6, 2019 - 06:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Former Vice President Joe Biden hitting the campaign trail today with former Secretary of State John Kerry. That endorsement, though, taking a back seat to Biden's fiery exchange with an Iowa voter on Thursday.

Joining us now, CNN political commentators Joe Lockhart, he's President Clinton's former press secretary, and Democratic strategist Paul Begala.

Good to have both of you gentlemen here, as always.

When we look at that exchange, Paul -- and the vice president told Jessica Dean, as she just told us a short time ago, he struggles with the balance of wanting to protect his son but needing to respond -- did he have the right response?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think so. I don't think you yell at a voter, you know? It -- now, it wasn't out of control. It wasn't Brett Kavanaugh and a crying JAG at the Senate Judiciary Committee, OK? It was well within reason.

But I don't like going after a voter. I do think the better answer for Joe is, defend your son, right. By the way, it's a guy who went to Georgetown University, went to Yale Law, was at the Commerce Department, knows about business. You can -- you can make a case for his qualifications to be on a corporate board. But then he's got to do a pivot, not to ever attack a voter, but attack Trump, right? Donald Trump is filling your head with these lies because he's scared of me. I'm the guy who can beat Trump. That's -- that's Joe's winning message is always, I'm the guy who can beat Trump. And he didn't get to that.

Now, it's because he loves his son and his son's unfairly attacked, and so I -- I get that. But I -- I would have steered him in a slightly different direction.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I -- I get the sense from the campaign they're not one bit unhappy with this moment. And that what he was doing was attacking Trump by proxy, they think there. And in their minds, I think they are riding -- they think they're riding a moment between the Kerry endorsement, between Kamala Harris getting out of the race, between a lot of the numbers stabilizing in the polls right now. I think they feel that Biden's getting a bit of a stride in Iowa.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know how he's doing on the ground in Iowa. And I think one of the rules of politics is, as Paul said, is, you know, don't attack a voter and anger rarely works.

I think in a very narrow sense it did work for Biden because the big question is, you go out and talk to Democrats is, is he tough enough to take on Trump? Will he punch back? Will -- or will he punch him first? And I think there you saw that. And, you know, there's -- there's a much better way to answer that going forward. If he does it again and again, I think it -- it's a terrible idea. I -- my guess is it's like one of those basketball coaches who when a guy is taking a 40 foot shot going no, no, no, no, no. Yes, it went in. Maybe it worked. And I think the -- my guess is his aides were in the back cringing and then they kind of watched the reaction of the crowd and though, oh, this might work for us.

HILL: It will be interesting to see, too, if they hone that message a little bit, right? Because while he did get upset and you're a damn liar, he didn't specifically say and he didn't actually specifically address what that voter said. He said, you were selling access to the president is what he said. And that, to me, looking at that, that would have been a moment, right, for him to come out and say, that's absolutely not what was happening.

BEGALA: Yes. And it's so hard. There's nothing more important to Joe Biden than family. This is why Donald Trump goes after that, right, because Trump has this really evil genius of find wherever you're most sensitive or vulnerable, go right after it.

But you need to know that when you step in the ring with him, right? And so I do -- I think Joe makes a point --

HILL: Yes.

BEGALA: That this could work out for him. But the voter is the victim of Trump's lies. He's not the villain who you say, Jack, you're a damn liar.

BERMAN: No, I like hearing from, you know, political activists and strategists and workers because yelling at a voter is something you never want to do in theory.


BERMAN: And that's clearly your first reaction.

Anger, though, seems to be a thing right now, right?

Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, yesterday, had a moment with "Sinclair News" reporter Jamie Rosen when he asked her if she hated Donald Trump. Watch this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word "hate" in a sentence that addresses me. I don't hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is full -- a heart full of love and always prayed for the president. And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So don't mess with me when it comes to words like that.


BERMAN: Don't mess with me, Joe.


BERMAN: Any risk about saying that? Is it the same Joe Biden risk yelling at a voter, yelling at a reporting like that?

LOCKHART: Oh, I -- there I don't think so at all. I think I talked about cardinal rules of politics. And I'll give you one that's even more important, which is, you never question someone's faith.


You never do that.

And, you know, Paul and I have known Nancy for decades and decades and know she is a devout catholic and was being genuine there. And she went in to be solemn and what Rosen's question did is, you got raw -- an authentic reaction. And I, you know, I think she would do that again and she'll do it every time someone questions her catholic faith.

BEGALA: Absolutely. I loved it. I thought that was Nancy Pelosi at her truest and at her best. She is a devout catholic. It is in the Catholic Church teaching, love the sinner, hate the sin. It goes back to Saint Augustin (ph) who wrote this in like 424. This is really central.

And it's, I think, important for our times. What Nancy is saying, don't hate. She's angry. She's angry with the cheap shot question. But it's really important for those of us who really can't stand the idea of a Trump presidency, that we not fall into that. And she is not motivated by hate. And when somebody says that, that -- that -- I thought she put him in his place.

And it was a good little Catechism lesson here, that like -- you know, so I like -- as my wife taught CCD (ph) for many years and so I like taking it to a higher level and saying, look, this is not how my faith tells me to act.

BERMAN: All right, Joe Lockhart, Paul Begala, not angry at all. Thank you for joining us.

BEGALA: Where's my dog, by the way? My dog Gus is a very good dog. Turley's dog, apparently, Professor Turley's dog, he's testified, was very upset. HILL: The labradoodle, yes.

BERMAN: We'll get them before Congress soon.

Thank you, gentlemen.

All right, a prominent Republican senator is warning the Senate impeachment trial could turn into a three ring circus. So what's the strategy for both parties heading into that moment? We'll discuss next.



BERMAN: This morning, President Trump's impeachment looks all but certain. The president and his allies therefore now setting their sights on the Senate trial, where Republicans have the majority and really can set the framework.

Joining us now is CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's "SMERCONISH."

And, Michael, the White House has been saying that they want the Senate trial to be this open thing where they can call witnesses, mount an active defense. That could turn into quite a show, a Trumpian reality show. And there's a prominent Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, who was part of leadership, who's now saying, you know, he's not so sure that's a great idea.

Listen to what he said. He said, I don't want a three ring circus. It's always unpredictable. And I think one alternative would be to do depositions and then present excerpts. That's actually what happened in 1998.

What do you see happening here?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We have no idea what's to come. We speak of the Senate trial as a trial. And I think that suggests -- I think that it implies that there are a set of rules and that there are a set of precedents and that this will be like that, which many of us can see in our local county courthouse or in the federal judiciary. And actually none of that ask true.

The Constitution is very vague as to what will now transpire. It speaks of a trial, a trial to be presided over by the chief justice. But beyond that, we don't know what the burden of proof will be. There are no rules of evidence. There's really not a structure to this.

And so, in the last process that we had, you had Trent Lott and Tom Daschle reach an accord, the Senate majority leader, as well as his counterpart from the opposing party. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell have yet to come together. We don't know if they will come together.

So we're really headed into a gray area on so many different levels, not the least of which is your example of whether there will be live witnesses.

HILL: And the other questions, of course, is who these witnesses will be, whether they're live or whether these are, you know, taped depositions and then excerpts are released. That is going to be a major part of the negotiations here for both sides.

SMERCONISH: Well, and, Erica, that brings me to a third area of the unknown, and that is what exactly will be the role of the chief justice, because the language of their rules speaks of him presiding, but it's really not a traditional role of a trial judge. Those senators are there both to try the case and to act as jurors. So how assertive will the chief justice seek to be?

And then another question, will they be able to muster 51 votes when necessary to override the chief justice or to rule on motions, or will they seek to change whatever loose rules are established, which would require 67 votes. I know that I'm raising more questions than I'm answering today, but that's really the unknown nature of what's about to transpire.

BERMAN: Look, these are all the important questions that have no answers today. I will say that my reporting from talking to both sides is, really Schumer's people and McConnell's people, they want to talk. They want to reach some kind of agreement. It's best for both of them. And if they do reach an agreement in set rules, that would obviate the need to have the chief justice do much. They don't want the chief justice to have to play an active role here. They want it all agreed to beforehand.

Michael, I do want your take on one question facing Democrats this morning, which is how expansive to make the articles of impeachment. We know they're still talking about Mueller, but what's less clear is if the Mueller issues is just talk right now and ultimately they'll focus on Ukraine.

Where do you see it going?

SMERCONISH: My view is, in my opinion, that it would be a tactical blunder, a huge mistake of Democrats were to expand the focus to include the Mueller report. Let's not forget, John, that in the second half of the Mueller report, relative to the obstruction issues, Mueller reached no conclusion. And then you got into that whole tit for tat with Bill Barr and what Mueller had concluded differently or not concluded at all.

But, more importantly, I think that it would play into the president's hands and the hands of Republicans who say, look, they've been lying in wait since day one for the president. This is about the whole kitchen sink and not simply what transpired relative to Ukraine. I think a sniper approach is better than a shotgun blast in a case like this.

BERMAN: Michael Smerconish, great to have you on with us.

[06:45:00] Be sure to watch CNN's "SMERCONISH" tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Think of how much is going to happen before 9:00 a.m. at the rate we're going.

HILL: Oh, my gosh.

BERMAN: The mountain of news Michael will have to discuss.

HILL: I'm going to have to take a nap now just thinking about it.

Disturbing new video raising questions about the border patrol's explanation of how a migrant teenager died in their custody. That story is next.


BERMAN: Erica's team, not so hot. Another week, another loss for the Dallas Cowboys.


BERMAN: This time they lost to the hands of the Chicago Bears.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Coy, I wish I played in the NFC East. I'd be in first place in the NFC East right now.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You certainly would. And you wouldn't be missing field goals like the Cowboys were last night, John. It is hard to believe that the Cowboys have a losing record with just three games to go in the season and they're still leading their division. Former Bears player Anthony Adams doing the Dak, dancing like his quarterback or looking like me and John Berman trying to work off our Thanksgiving turkey. Get it, big fella.

Well, the Chicago Bears and Mitchell Trubisky, they went to work on Dallas. Trubisky torturing the boys for three passing touchdowns on the night. He ran for one too. Bears win to improve to 7-6, keeping slim playoff hopes alive.

But those Cowboys feeling the pressure mount. They are now 6-7 on the season.

And now our Tums ultimate tailgate is here in Atlanta for tomorrow's SEC championship game between the number two LSU Tigers and number four Georgia Bulldogs. One of the best offenses versus one of the best defenses.


You look at those scoring there, Georgia allowing the second fewest in the nation. LSU, they've scored the second most.

Well, the Tigers, they're led by one impressive young fellow, quarterback Joe Burrow. He graduated in three years from Ohio State with a business degree last year, transferred to LSU, and he's now in his second season in the bayou as the starter.

And, Erica, he's working on his masters in liberal arts. And, oh, by the way, he is the current frontrunner to win the Heisman for the best player in the entire nation.

HILL: Kind of a slacker, huh?

BERMAN: Yes, what else has he done though? I mean, come on.

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: Who's going to win though?

WIRE: And he has the good hair and everything, John. I mean, goodness gracious he has it all.

BERMAN: Coy, who's going to win the game? I need to know.

WIRE: It will be LSU, I believe. Sorry.

BERMAN: All right, thank you very much.

WIRE: All right.

HILL: You're working on your little side bet there?

BERMAN: No, I kind of like Georgia.

HILL: A little -- a little extra Christmas cash.

BERMAN: I'm a little bit of a -- I'm a little bit of a Georgia fan, so I was kind of hoping, but Coy says no.

HILL: Go Dogs.

New questions this morning about the treatment of migrant children at the U.S. border with Mexico. And this involves a shocking surveillance video that was released by Propublica. It shows a sick 16-year-old boy collapsing in his cell. That young man is unresponsive for hours before he is found dead.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live in El Paso, Texas, with more of these disturbing details.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is absolutely disturbing.

Good morning, Erica.

The 16-year-old was in Border Patrol custody for six days and died after just six days in their custody. He was diagnosed with the flu and had 103 degree fever. But rather than being taken to the hospital, he was quarantined. And this new video raises questions as to whether Border Patrol agents did enough to keep the teen from dying in their custody. And we have to warn you before you see this video, some of you may

find it disturbing.


VALENCIA (voice over): These are the final moments of life for 16- year-old Guatemalan migrant Carlos Hernandez Vasquez. The video is not only disturbing to watch, it calls into question the official narrative released by Border Patrol after the teen's death in May. The security footage was first obtained by the investigative team at Propublica. In the surveillance video from the early morning hours of May 20th, the Guatemalan teen, who was diagnosed with the flu and 103 degree fever, can be seen inside his cell at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas. Time stamps have been added by Propublica.

At 1:20 a.m., Vasquez is seen laying on a concrete bench, appearing to be in pain. Four minutes later, he collapses on the floor, face down, clutching a Mylar blanket.

After more than ten minutes and with seemingly no one responding, the teen picks himself up and appears to prop himself against a toilet inside the cell. His feet can be seen flailing for minutes before the video abruptly ends at 1:47 a.m.

According to welfare check records obtained by Propublica, Border Patrol says an agent checked on Vasquez three times over the next four and a half hours. The log does not indicate how those checks were done.

At 5:48 a.m., the video begins again. Officials did not provide an explanation for the gap. Vasquez still hasn't moved.

In an official press release by Border Patrol, the agency says Vasquez was found unresponsive during a welfare check, but video shows it isn't until Vasquez's cell mate wakes up that anyone realizes something is wrong. Several agents are then seen tending to Vasquez, but it's already too late.


VALENCIA: The video was obtained by Propublica through local law enforcement via open records request. Customs and Border Protection has refused to release the video, but they did send us this statement which reads, the investigation into the death of Carlos Hernandez Vasquez is ongoing. They continue to say, while we cannot discuss specific information or details of this investigation, we can tell you that the Department of Homeland Security and this agency are looking into all aspects of this case to ensure all procedures were followed.


HILL: Nick, thank you.

Also with us, CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon.

It is -- it is disturbing to watch the video, to read the full piece that they have put together there, and it raises questions anew about what is happening or not happening in terms of, you know, migrants. I mean they're taken into custody and whether they're also, especially children, what's being done and is the law being followed?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It pulls the curtain back on the conversation we have as a country. Too often we retreat to statistics and abstractions and fear based arguments. Carlos Hernandez Vasquez is caught on camera here dying. Those wellness checks, it's hard to imagine they occurred as documented.

But it's part of a pattern. He was supposed to be held for 72 hours. Instead, he was there for six days. One of six migrant children to die in U.S. custody this year.

So this is about us confronting through Propublica's great work the reality of what occurs and we need to humanize every public policy problem and not simply retreat to our corners (ph).

BERMAN: It think that's the crucial point here. Carlos Hernandez Vasquez was 16 years old. A human being.

AVLON: That's right.

BERMAN: He was a human being. And this is a failure to treat someone like a human being.


I get there are questions about the systems and there absolutely are, but this can't happen, John.

AVLON: And it's part of a pattern. That's the problem. This is part of a pattern. There are policy decisions. Governing is complex but we have seen a pattern in this administration to sometimes -- to demonize migrants and to therefore simplify in people's minds and to dehumanize them. And that's precisely what we cannot do as a civilized country.

BERMAN: All right, John, thanks for being here and helping us understand this.

So, this morning, we still don't know where U.S./China trade negotiations are headed. Over the last several days, the markets haven't liked the confusion one bit. However the markets feel, though, there's one sector that is being hit hard by this impasse, U.S. farmers. They are suffering. And one question is whether it will affect their vote.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich, she's in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, the eastern edge of the state, farm country in Pennsylvania.

And you've been digging, Vanessa. What have you found?


Yes, farmers have had a tough couple of years between bad weather and this trade war that has persisted. Nationally, farm bankruptcies are up 24 percent in just the last year. And here dairy farms in Pennsylvania are dwindling. We spoke to some farmers who supported the president, but say they're rethinking their vote for 2020.


YURKEVICH (voice over): Bill Boyd has been farming all his life. He grew up on this dairy farm in Pennsylvania.

YURKEVICH (on camera): Is the dairy business profitable?

BILL BOYD, PENNSYLVANIA FARMER: Just like everything else in agriculture right now, barely profitable.

YURKEVICH (voice over): Made more so, he says, by the trade war.

YURKEVICH (on camera): What are your thoughts on the trade war? Good idea? Bad idea?

BOYD: Oh, no, it was a bad idea.

YURKEVICH (voice over): Boyd, a Republican, voted for President Trump but doesn't support the president's tactics with China.

YURKEVICH (on camera): How big of a hit has that loss of the China market been to you?

BOYD: Cost the farmers here $2 a bushel.

YURKEVICH: Is that a lot?

BOYD: Yes, that's a -- that's the profit.

YURKEVICH (voice over): Pennsylvania will be a key state in the 2020 election. It helped elect President Trump in 2016, who campaigned here on promises made to farmers like Boyd.

BOYD: I think he's sort of back stabbing the main people who got him into office in the Midwest. All those Midwest states helped to vote him in and also Pennsylvania. And he just left us down.

YURKEVICH (on camera): Will you vote for him again in 2020?

BOYD: Unless they come up with a better alternative, I'm going to vote for him again.

YURKEVICH (voice over): The president still trying to close a phase one trade deal with China, which could restart big buying of U.S. ag products, lifting prices. It's a lifeline for farmers like Jesse Poliskiewicz.

JESSE POLISKIEWICZ, PENNSYLVANIA FARMER: There was talks about a month ago that they were -- they were supposed to be opening back up. And I have not seen -- I have seen prices go down. I have not seen prices go up.

YURKEVICH: Poliskiewicz, a Democrat, voted for Obama and then flipped to Trump, just like North Hampton County here in Pennsylvania.

POLISKIEWICZ: Right now I would not vote for him. I don't know who I'm going to vote for. I don't -- I don't see a good candidate.

YURKEVICH (on camera): On either side?

POLISKIEWICZ: On either side, in my opinion.

YURKEVICH (voice over): In Breinigsville, Kyle Henninger's fields are harvested, but his soybeans sit unsold.

KYLE HENNINGER, PENNSYLVANIA FARMER: The first time I ever had beans in here in my life.

YURKEVICH (on camera): Oh.

YURKEVICH (voice over): Henninger voted for President Trump and supports the trade war.

HENNINGER: There are the corn -- that's your paycheck right there.

YURKEVICH: Every morning Henninger checks crop prices.

HENNINGER: Down here is soybeans.

YURKEVICH: Hoping to find a buyer for his beans.

YURKEVICH (on camera): How long are you willing to be patient and wait out this trade war?

HENNINGER: Other than saying I'm not going to vote for Trump, you know, that would be one way to retaliate personally. But I don't want see that at this point.


YURKEVICH: And the Trump administration has offered some federal aid to farmers affected by this trade war, but farmers and even the secretary of agriculture say that is simply not enough. And it's important to think about when this trade war is going to end. We do not know, John. And that is putting some doubt in farmers' minds. If this does not get wrapped up and this looks like it's going into 2020, John, these farmers are going to be expecting some more federal aid from the government. And as of right now, the Trump administration has made no indication that that money is going to be coming next year, John.

BERMAN: No. And the president really needs almost universal support from this group. And to lose any of it could be dangerous for him.

Vanessa, thanks for going there and finding out for us. Appreciate it.

All right, we are witnessing history in Washington this week. Major developments looming in the impeachment process.

NEW DAY continues right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another big week ahead. The House Judiciary Committee on Monday will have another hearing.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the speaker announcement, she has weakened this nation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our democracy is at stake right now because the Democrats keep going after a vote that was legally done, legally headed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Friday, a deadline for the White House to respond to the House Judiciary Committee request.