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AT THIS HOUR

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) Discusses Anti-Semitism, Attack on U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Impeachment; Tech Will Help Police Keep Revelers Safe in Times Square; 2019 Closes with Strong Economy & Market Highs; Joe Biden Is Open to Picking Republican Running Mate; Corey Lewandowsky Won't Run for Senate Seat. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 31, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00]

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): But I think that we have to resolve because this isn't, unfortunately, the first incident, and probably won't be the last. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. There have been so many different incidents across the country, and I think that government needs to do something.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Do you -- do you think maybe working with the tech companies, perhaps passing laws that compel the tech companies to do more to rein in anti-Semitic and just hate speech on the Internet would help?

ENGEL: I would leave no stone unturned. I think that we have to look at all aspects because if we don't, it's only going to get worse.

NOBLES: OK. So let's switch gears. You're obviously the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, so it's appropriate that we talk to you about the situation in Iraq. Protesters trying to storm the U.S. embassy there in Baghdad.

I want to read what President Trump tweeted about it this morning. He said, "Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the embassy and so notified."

I should tell you, Congressman, that we just received word from the defense secretary, Mark Esper, that they are sending additional U.S. forces there to protect the embassy. We know they've dispatched Apache helicopters.

Do you agree with the president that Iran is behind this protest and attack on the embassy?

ENGEL: There's no doubt in my mind that Iran is behind this. Iran has been the biggest foe, in my opinion, of the United States for a number of years now. And any kind of trouble they can make, they will do.

But I think it's very important that the administration, the president contact Congress and work with Congress on this. We are co-equal branch of government. And I think that that -- the sooner that happens, the sooner we have a briefing, the sooner we work together, the better it is.

NOBLES: Are you concerned the administration hasn't done enough to include Congress at this point?

ENGEL: Well, I think we want to make sure -- you know, Congress has not been in session for the past week or so. I think when we get back, we need to have a full briefing and there are lot of ideas that I think a lot of people have. And it should not be closed. It should be open and Congress should be consulted.

NOBLES: How concerned are you about the escalating tension between the United States and Iran? President Trump has always been pretty hawkish when it comes to Iran. At one point during the Obama administration, there was a deal for them to denuclearize. It seems as though all of that progress has stalled.

How do you think President Trump should approach the situation with Iran?

ENGEL: Well, first of all, I think there should be consolations with Congress. Again, I think it's important that the president work with Congress and try to come together with us.

We know that Iran is not a friend, and we know that Iran is responsible for a lot of the things, the malevolent things that go on in that region.

And I think that we have to approach this in a united way. And I think the administration needs to have a more coherent policy, not just kind of flitting back and forth from right to left. We need to have a more coherent policy.

There's no doubt -- this harkens back to Ronald Reagan's time when our embassy in Iran was overtaken and this kind of reminds us of what happened there. There's no doubt that in the Middle East Iran is the most dangerous country there, and that the United States, we have to stand up.

But again, it's got to be in tandem with the Congress. It just can't be the administration going off on its own and keeping Congress in the dark.

NOBLES: Let's talk about the latest on impeachment. I'm sure you saw the "New York Times" story yesterday. Then the minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, called it a "game changer" in terms of the new information that was presented and really believes that Mitch McConnell needs to allow witnesses to come forward in the Senate trial.

I wonder, from your perspective as a member of the House, are you fearful at all, especially when you see this reporting coming out, that the House moved too quickly when it comes to articles of impeachment and maybe should have waited for the opportunity for the court to decide whether Mick Mulvaney and some of the other officials involved in this could have come before your body?

ENGEL: No. There's always things happening, and if we waited two more weeks, something else would happen. I think we did it when it was appropriate. We had many, many meetings about this. This wasn't some fly by the night decision.

And I think now Mitch McConnell should act not as if he's protecting the White House but he should about as the majority leader to try to find out the truth and get to the bottom of it.

I think Senator Schumer's absolutely right. It may be a game changer or not, but it is something that needs to be looked at and needs to be inspected.

[11:35:07]

And I think that Mitch McConnell should stop worrying about protecting the White House and act the way he's supposed to act. And what we're seeing now is trying to protect the president. That's not what's in the Constitution.

And I think that we need to look at all these things and make a decision not try to protect and not -- and stop witnesses from testifying.

NOBLES: All right, Congressman Engel, thank you so much for joining us. Happy New Year.

ENGEL: Thank you. Same to you.

NOBLES: And good luck in 2020. We appreciate it.

ENGEL: Thank you.

NOBLES: Still to come, from drones to a bigger footprint on the ground, New York City police are stepping up security for tonight's celebrations in Times Square. Congressman Engel will not be front and center, he told me. He's got different plans tonight. We're going to take you live there as tens of thousands get ready to ring in the New Year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:48]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(FIREWORKS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: The New Year is already here in many parts of the world, including Singapore where they rang in 2020 at the top of the hour with this spectacular fireworks display. And after a year marked by protests, Hong Kong welcomed the New Year with a light show just a short time ago.

Then as we wait for the clock to strike midnight here in the United States, revelers are already getting in place for New York City's ball drop in Times Square. Security is always tight, and this year, new tech will be helping law enforcement keep everyone safe.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Times Square.

Miguel, the crowd's already gathering there. Tell us what the scene is like.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Massive crowds already. This is the spot where the ball will drop in Times Square.

The crowds have been gathering. Police have been gathering. They will have thousands of police both in uniforms and those in plain clothes. They're going to have resources in the air. They're going to have them on the ground. They're going to have a large swath of this area protected by both cement barriers and garbage trucks.

And the crowds, everybody that you see here has gone through at least two checks to make sure they don't have giant bags on them and to make sure that they don't have any booze, umbrellas, or that sort of stuff on them as well. They've got through a magnetometer as well.

A lot of these people are here to see BTS.

(CHEERING)

MARQUEZ: They're absolutely bananas for BTS all over the world. We have folks from Georgia here, Nebraska over here.

You guys are absolute insane, you realize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're not.

MARQUEZ: No, you're not. You're going to do it. You're going to love it.

What is the bathroom strategy for tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have one.

MARQUEZ: Oh, dear.

I'm sure he'll learn from some of the people who have been here before. They will figure it out.

For the most part, everybody having a great time so far. Much better than last year where it is rainy and cold. We are expecting gorgeous temperatures. The sun came out earlier. It's going to be a great night -- Ryan?

NOBLES: Miguel, I'm very nervous for that gentleman that does not have a bathroom strategy.

(CROSSTALK)

NOBLES: Better him than I, put it that way.

Miguel Marquez live in Times Square. Thank you very much.

Don't forget to ring in the New Year with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen. "NEW YEAR'S EVE LIVE" begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Coming up, it has been a year full of market highs, topped off by a booming economy. So what's behind the strong numbers, and what does it mean for the president heading into a re-election year?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:47:59]

NOBLES: The first big economic headline of 2020 is already here. This morning, the president tweeted out on January 15th he'll sign what he calls a very large and comprehensive phase-one trade deal with China. He also says he'll head to Beijing for phase two of talks at a later date.

The last trading day of 2019 opened lower this morning, wrapping up what has been a spectacular year for all three of the major indices. This, despite turbulent moments for investors, some of them caused by the president's trade war with China.

What can we expect heading into an election year?

CNN business politics and business correspondent, Cristina Alesci, is here.

Cristina, you have so many jobs, sorry.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS & BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So many hats to wear.

NOBLES: Tell me, what's behind the big stock market boom we saw in 2019?

ALESCI: Two things behind the booming stock market this year. First and foremost, it's the Fed, and then it's Trump calling a truce in this crisis that he created, the trade war.

Remember, let's go back to the Fed for a second. Fear that the Fed would raise rates is what caused this a year ago. That fear alone -- sorry, we're supposed to have a chart showing a decline in December, a 20 percent decline in the stock market.

And I'm hearing that investors are confident that the Fed will continue to support the economy and try and remove any jitters out there.

Take a look at this chart. All three major averages -- sorry, indices are up over 20 percent this year. These are record highs. And this morning is a perfect example of how Trump is trying to push the market even higher.

He's tweeting about signing phase one of the China trade deal, which is essentially averting the potential for economic disaster that he manufactured.

The S&P 500 loves this kind of tweet this time of year. The index is now on the verge of having its best year since 2013 when it rallied more than 30 percent.

NOBLES: Cristina, so is the stock market rally driven by what happening in the economy is this economy?

ALESCI: To a certain degree it is. The jobless rate is now at a 50- year low. Manufacturing was hit hard by trade uncertainty.

[11:50:06]

But an optimistic consumer more than made up for the manufacturing. Consumers are the backbone of the economy, and they just kept spending this year, Ryan. It was unbelievable. You could not get consumers not to shop.

NOBLES: That's good.

But we obviously are going into an election year. What does this all mean for President Trump?

ALESCI: I think, with his reelection at stake, President Trump will be less inclined to mess with the economy and the market gains. That means he'll likely back off with tensions, with trading partners like China.

The economy, after all, is one of Trump's biggest selling points. CNN polling this month shows that Americans finally believe the economy is on solid footing. That is 10 years into the recovery. And 76 percent said economic conditions are good. The highest rating in nearly two decades. So Americans feel better about the Trump economy.

But to be honest, it's not all that different from the Obama economy. So 2.1 percent economic growth in the third quarter. And remember, it's not the 3 percent, 4 percent, 5 percent that the president said his tax cuts and rolling back regulations would produce, but still solid.

The Trump economy also has not addressed a big problem, the growing divide between the rich and everyone else. And that is a message that the Democrats will capitalize on.

We'll see if the American people really take to that message and give Trump a run for his money in 2020.

NOBLES: That statistic you showed about Americans actually believing in this economy, that flies in the face of the Democratic message that it hasn't helped everyone.

ALESCI: Exactly. NOBLES: We'll have to see how that plays out in 2020.

Cristina, thank you for being here.

ALESCI: Of course.

NOBLES: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:56:28]

NOBLES: Down to the countdown to 2020, and in the race for the president, former Vice President Joe Biden asked if he can pick a Republican running mate. Here's his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is I would, but I can't think of one now.

There's some really decent Republicans that are out there still. But here's the problem right now, of the well-known ones, they've got to step up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: So the answer is I would. That's what he said to those New Hampshire voters.

Joining me to discuss this are CNN political reporter, Arlette Saenz, and CNN political commentator and former RNC communications director, Doug Heye.

Arlette, no one knows the Biden campaign better than you. How serious should we take Biden's statement? And is this really part of a broader, smart strategy?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Ryan, I think it's pretty unlikely that Biden would end up selecting a Republican running mate, but he doesn't want to rule anything out just yet.

All of this gets at the heart of his strategy and his messaging during this campaign as he talks about unity and saying that Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together across the aisle.

But, you know, in all of modern presidential campaigns, no major campaign has featured a bipartisan ticket. You had John McCain who kind of toyed around with the idea of adding Joe Lieberman, but he ultimately settled on fellow Republican, Sarah Palin, as his running mate.

So while I guess it's unlikely for Joe Biden, never say never.

NOBLES: Never say never. Doug, in this era we're in, hyper-partisanship, are Republican voters

even interested in bipartisanship? And to that end, are Democratic voters even interested in bipartisanship?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ultimately, I don't think they are. There's a reason Joe Biden was asked this question, or Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg or Bernie Sanders who aren't asked this question. We know the answer for them is not only no, but there's no track record.

Ryan, my first job in politics was working for Jesse Helms. My last job in politics was working for Eric Cantor. Aside from being Republicans, what do they have in common? They both worked real closely with Joe Biden. Jesse Helms on the Foreign Relations Committee, Eric Cantor on budget negotiations, the debt ceiling, the Violence Against Women Act.

Because Joe Biden is somebody is someone who can bring people on both sides together. Even in this hyper-partisan time, still has that track record. It's one of the reasons -- I think, as we analyze every weakness that Joe Biden may have, we lose sight of voters are comfortable with him, Independent voters are certainly comfortable with him.

And when we look at whatever latest stumble or gaffe he may have, he's always been a lead in the polls and comfortably so.

NOBLES: Let's talk about another politician, one deciding not to run for something. That's Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for Mr. Trump. He just announced on Twitter he will not run for the Senate in New Hampshire.

Doug, he said, if he did run, he would win, but he's not going to run. What do you make of Lewandowski's decision not to get in the race?

HEYE: Two things. Every candidate who doesn't run, clearly, were going to win even though they didn't run.

Ultimately, it would have been a tough race for Cory. Cory is a friend and a smart and tough partisan. But it's New Hampshire, which is a tough state for Republicans these days.

And while he certainly would have had the backing of President Trump, that may not be enough in a state like New Hampshire to win statewide on a general election ticket.

He would have been the nominee, no doubt about it. Winning statewide might have been tougher, though.

NOBLES: It certainly would have brought a lot of attention to that Senate race if Corey Lewandowski had been in it, but he's not doing it so we have to leave it there.

Arlette Saenz and Doug Heye, thank you both for joining me. Appreciate it.

SAENZ: Thanks.

HEYE: Thank you.

[12:00:00]

NOBLES: Thank you for joining me today.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with Nia-Malika Henderson starts right now.