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Obama Says Women Are "Indisputably" Better Leaders Than Men; GOP's Rand Paul Denies Trump Saying When He Said on Video on Ukraine; Schumer's Impeachment Trial Witness List Includes Mulvaney & Bolton; Fiorina Says "Vital" Trump be Impeached But Won't Rule Out Voting For Him; Army, Naval Academies Launch Investigations into OK Symbol Flashed at Game; Warren Embraces Being Lone Female Candidate at Top of Field. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 16, 2019 - 13:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Now President Obama said that he was confident that if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see improvement across the board.

Let's bring in one of my favorite women, CNN's Abby Phillip, who is joining me now.




BASH: What else did he say? It's so fascinating.

PHILLIP: It is interesting because we don't hear from President Obama too often, but when he does speak up, people tend to pay attention.

In this case, he was in Singapore talking about what the future is going to look like. And he says here that he thinks women are better leaders overall than men, that if they were in charge, you would have better outcomes across the board for people on all kinds of measures, including living standards.

These comments are not totally off the wall. I mean, the United States is kind of late to this whole trend of women leaders. We've it in the U.K., in Germany, in New Zealand, in Australia.

But then he also made some other comments about the men and male leaders. He was asked, would you consider going back into politics, and he said no, and he said this: "If you look at the world and look at the problems, it's usually old men, old people and old men not getting out of the way."

He adds, "It is important for political leaders to try and remind themselves you are there to do a job but you are not there for life. You are not there in order to prop yourself up and your own sense of self-importance and your own power."

BASH: I'm sure the Biden campaign was thrilled to hear those comments.

PHILLIP: It seems extremely pointed. And in this race -- let's take the Democratic primary. You have several of the candidates in their 70s, two of them white men, one of them a white woman, and then you have other candidates who are younger in age.

Lots of tea leaves to read here from President Obama, but a clear message that he thinks when it's time to step aside, it's time to step aside for older people, in particular.

He considers himself now to be an older person, but when he came into office, he was not. He was young. He was considered of a younger generation. So there's a little bit of a message there for his fellow Democrats going through a pretty bruising primary right now -- Dana?

BASH: To say the least. I don't think these are welcome comments from his former vice president who talks about his relationship --


PHILLIP: But if you're Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, maybe --


BASH: Maybe a little built more.

Abby, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Still ahead, how Senator Rand Paul's defense of President Trump doesn't really match with what really happened.

Plus, one of the president's former rivals says it's vital he's impeached, but Carly Fiorina won't rule out voting for him next November. We're going to discuss after a break.



BASH: The House is on the brink of impeaching the president and the Senate is poised for a trial. Some Senators are already mounting a vigorous public defense, though, of the president.

On CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Kentucky Senator Rand Paul dismissed claims that the president tried to get Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, arguing that Trump was just concerned broadly about corruption.

Now, this despite the July phone call where the president specifically asked Ukraine's president to look into Joe Biden, not mentioning the word corruption, didn't bring it up at all.

And Paul also brushed off at that time the president said publicly, on the lawn of the White House, that he wants foreign governments to investigate the Bidens.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): The president did call on --


PAUL: -- the president of Ukraine and say-no, let me finish. He didn't call the president of Ukraine and say, investigate my rival. You guys are not being honest with the facts here. He does not call up and say, investigate my rival.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens.


BASH: Joining me now, Gloria Borger, CNN's chief political analyst, and Jackie Kucinich, the Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," and a CNN political analyst.

Gloria, what do you make of Rand Paul?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he has a bad set of facts he has to deal with, although people seem not to agree with what the facts are these days.

You have a president that never mentioned the word corruption, as you pointed out, on that phone call. You have a president who has been surrounded by people who have been indicted or are currently serving prison time.

If the president cared that much about corruption in Ukraine, he had a long time he could have dealt with it, aside from the fact he decided he cared about it only when Joe Biden became his main political rival, which, by the way, Rand Paul doesn't seem to admit was even part of the consideration, which is not true.

BASH: And so this is so important, this kind of argument from Rand Paul. And he's not the only Republican who makes these arguments that are just not dealing with what actually happened.

But it really plays into where we are right now. Even though the House is going to vote, all eyes are on the Senate.


The Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, wrote a letter last night, came on CNN this morning this morning, laying down his first sort of bid in these negotiations because the way that the Senate trial is going to play out will be, in large part, negotiated between him and Mitch McConnell.

How do you see that playing out, Jackie?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's ultimately Mitch McConnell's call at the end of the day, because he is the majority leader. And I think Republicans already have dismissed that letter as a stunt.

But this negotiating in broad daylight that we're seeing going back and forth, I wonder if we end up not close to the middle, further right from the middle.

But it also has to do with what the White House wants them to do. Mitch McConnell said in an interview just a couple days ago that he is working in close concert with the White House on how they want the trial to be, which you have to imagine is not what Senate Democrats will want.

But certainly, the rules are a lot more fluid in the Senate than the House. The House has a certain regimented way of doing it. So we'll definitely be waiting and seeing a little more than we have on this side of the aisle.

BASH: That's really the key. The rules are more fluid. It's really what 51 Senators agree that the rules are.

KUCINICH: Exactly.

BASH: I've heard now from people on both sides of the aisle about the fact that -- this sounds processy but, hold on a second, because this matters for how this is going to play out.

The House is going to vote to impeach the president this week. They will not send it over to the Senate until the Senate gets its act together, until they figure out the rules of the road for this trial.

So that does give the Democrats in the Senate leverage on how the trial will look.

BORGER: It does, it gives them leverage.

There's history here, pretty recent history here with Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton's impeachment in the Senate had three witnesses. The depositions were taken behind closed doors. And the rules were agreed to, 100 to zero. Imagine that, 100 to zero.

The Senate met in the old Senate chamber. And you had -- I believe it was Ted Kennedy, and I think it was Phil Graham, Republican Senator, proposing something and everybody said, well, if you two can agree on it, we'll agree on it.

BASH: Different times, Gloria Borger.


BORGER: But remember, three witnesses, three witnesses.

BASH: Let's talk about Carly Fiorina. Listen to what she told Poppy Harlow about Donald Trump and impeachment.


CARLY FIORINA, (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is vital that he be impeached. Whether removed this close to an election, I don't know. But I think the conduct is impeachable.


BASH: And yet, she said, you know, she might vote for him as a voter voting in 2020.

What do you make of that? Is that kind of an example of the fact that a lot of Republicans are confused and conflicted about what to do about Donald Trump, or is that people are going to look at that and say sour grapes or maybe some of both?

KUCINICH: Maybe a little of both. As you note, Carly Fiorina does have quite the history with Donald Trump because they ran against each other in the last election and were not terribly kind to each other.

That said, she also is where a lot of Republicans, particularly Republican women are, when they're looking at all of this. They don't like the president. They don't like what he did. They think what he did was probably wrong.

But does that mean they're going to become Democrats? Does that mean they'll vote for him and vote for someone completely in the anthesis of their beliefs are? That seems to be a bridge too far right now. So it's complicated.

BORGER: I think the big question a lot of republicans, like Carly Fiorina, are asking themselves is, when does character count. When does that matter? And where do you put that in the pot and stir it?

When you're talking about the president and you disagree with his value system, as she clearly does, but she kind of likes the way the economy is going. So what does she vote on? Does she vote on that or does she vote on character and values?

I think she's clearly saying, look, if it's a liberal Democrat, that will be a harder decision, a harder decision.

BASH: So interesting. I think you nailed it, both of you did, that she represents kind of the classic suburban woman now. Never mind the fact she ran against him for president.



BORGER: And he was really mean to her.

BASH: Yes, he was.

Gloria, Jackie, thank you so much. BORGER: Thank you.

KUCINICH: Thank you.

BASH: Just ahead, how Elizabeth Warren is embracing her status as the lone female candidate who is right now at the top of the 2020 field.

Plus, the Army and Navy now investigating controversial hand gestures made at the game, including whether they signal white power.


Stay with us.


BASH: The U.S. military and naval academies have both launched internal investigations after cadets and midshipmen were caught making controversial hand gestures at the Army/Navy football game this weekend.


Some are interpreting the hand gesture just as an OK symbol while others are saying it is associated with white nationalists.

Joining me now is CNN's senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt.

Alex, you're looking into this. What are you learning?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a big deal for a number of reasons. First of all, the act itself. Secondly, it was at the 120th edition of the Army-Navy football game, which is a huge football game for the military. And thirdly, the president was there.

This happened during the ESPN broadcast before the game. A number of cadets on the Army side, midshipmen on the Navy side, doing this signal, which obviously I'm not going to do. But if you were to do the OK symbol with your hands, that's what it looks like.

The day after the game, yesterday, both West Point, the Army academy, and the naval academy, put out statements that they are looking into the intents of these cadets and midshipmen.

I'm going to read part of the Army's statement. "The United States military academy is fully committed to developing leaders of character who embody the Army values. I have appointed an investigative officer, according to Army regulation, 15-6, to conduct an administrative investigation into the facts, circumstances, and intent of the cadets in question."

Dana, that is from the superintendent of the military academy.

There's -- there's been a lot of debate online as to whether this is a white supremacist symbol that is meant to say white power. That is something that first surfaced on 4chan, which is a toxic Web site where a lot of white nationalists find refuge. The ADL, Anti- Defamation League has said in the past it is a symbol that has represented hate.

Now, we have also heard from the Southern Poverty Law Center. They said, "It's hard to know whether they intended this as a white power symbol. We have to ensure we take this seriously. We cannot have people playing around with white supremacy in the military."

For now, no one is saying for sure it was the white power symbol. It has been used in the past as such.

We do know that both academies are looking into it, and specifically looking into the intent of those cadets and midshipmen.

BASH: They'll be interviewing the cadets and midshipmen. We'll ask them and hopefully they'll get --


BASH: Yes.


BASH: Thank you so much, Alex. No matter what, even the notion of it is very disturbing.


BASH: Yes.

Thank you.

BASH: Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, is expected to speak any minute about the witness list he submitted to the Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and what he sees as the path forward for impeachment.

Plus, after deadly crashes, Boeing may soon announce the fate of its 737 MAX aircraft. The details of that ahead.



BASH: With the first 2020 contest just around the corner, Democratic candidate, Elizabeth Warren, is starting to embrace her unique standing in the race as the lone female candidate at the top of the field.

Warren is the only woman left in the race who's still appears to have a realistic path to the party's nomination for now. That obviously could change. But right now, she is polling in double-digits nationally, alongside former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.

However, Warren's political momentum has taken a little bit of a hit.

I want to bring in CNN political correspondent, M.J. Lee.

M.J., this story you have filed is so interesting to me. It wasn't that long ago, I don't know, three years ago, in 2016, had you a woman, and even before that, who didn't put the femaleness forward. And now things have changed dramatically. Tell us about that.

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Dana. I don't know where the time has gone, but it's been almost a year since Elizabeth Warren announced her exploratory campaign for president, and so much has happened in the 2020 race since then.

We've had a bunch of candidates jump into the race and drop out, including some female candidates like Kirsten Gillibrand or Kamala Harris.

And where this leaves Elizabeth Warren in the race for now, is that she's the only female candidate who has consistently polled in the double-digits. She's the only woman candidate in that top tier of the Democratic top 2020 candidate.

What is so notable over the past couple of months is how much more frequently and explicitly we've seen Senator Warren discuss her own gender, how some of her own feminist views came into being in the earlier years of her life, and also, talking about gender inequality and sexism in politics.

I want to play a sound bite of Warren talking about this last week in Las Vegas.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I've lived enough of my life with men, and it's mostly been men, telling me to sit down and be quiet. I have stood up and fought back. And this is the fight of my lifetime and your lifetime. And understand this, Mitch McConnell said it all, nevertheless I will persist.


LEE: This is an interesting shift from the beginning of her campaign when she was often asked about her gender and her answers didn't always explicitly mention her gender.

And I will note that next week there are seven candidates on the debate stage, two of them are women, Warren and Senator Amy Klobuchar -- Dana?


BASH: M.J., thank you so much for that report. We'll check out your story online.