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AT THIS HOUR

Sanders Dominates Democratic Candidates' Fundraising; Julian Castro Ends Presidential Campaign; Trump Campaign Raised $46 Million in Q4; Bernie Sanders' Campaign Manager Faiz Shakir Discusses Presidential Race, Fundraising Numbers, Health Care; New Images of Destruction Inside U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; Trump Facing Foreign Policy Challenges with Iran & North Korea. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 2, 2020 - 11:00   ET

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


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[11:00:15]

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining me. I'm Ryan Nobles, in today for Kate Bolduan.

And we are getting a fresh look at the financial strength of the Democratic presidential field, a field that saw another contender drop out this morning. We'll have more on that in a moment.

First, take a look at this new financial snapshot and it is a bright one for Senator Bernie Sanders. His campaign reporting that it raised $34.5 million in the last three months of 2019, including contributions from 40,000 new donors on New Year's Eve alone. That makes the best quarter to date for his campaign. It brings his total fundraising haul to $96 million.

So let's put those numbers in perspective. Pete Buttigieg has raised just under $25 million in the fourth quarter. Andrew Yang's campaign announcing it pulled in $16.5 million over that same period. Other top contenders, like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, we haven't heard about their final numbers yet.

Meanwhile, Julian Castro, the only Latino candidate in the Democratic field, announced this morning that he's ending his presidential campaign.

Joining me now to talk about all of this CNN political correspondent, M.J. Lee, and Lisa Lerer, CNN political analyst and national political reporter for the "New York Times."

M.J., let's start with you.

Let's break down these numbers. I think it's hard to understate just how big this haul is for Bernie Sanders.

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ryan. This is a stunning number from Bernie Sanders. Again, $34.5 million. As you know very well, this is the most amount of money that he has been able to raise in a single quarter during this campaign and the most that any of the Democratic candidates has raised in a single quarter in the 2020 race.

And this really does underscore the political strength that is behind Bernie Sanders right now. The large base of loyal supporters that he has been harnessing this kind of support from, they are continuing to give.

And the fact that so many of his donations come in the form of grassroots small-dollar donations means that they can continue to give, other than, you know, compared to the other sort of donors who max out to certain campaigns who can't actually give once they give the first time.

Bernie Sanders is backed by a lot of these grassroots supporters who continue to power his campaign, as we head into the month of Iowa.

Now, there are two other numbers that we should talk about. Pete Buttigieg, first of all, raising $24.7 million. That's nothing to laugh at. And Andrew Yang, as you mentioned, raising $16.5 million.

For Buttigieg, this is very interesting, because he has had a strong couple of months. He has been sort of the candidate to watch. And we are now seeing that the money is following through on his political momentum.

And for Andrew Yang also interesting because I think last year there was a time when he was very much an unknown candidate. We might not have necessarily expected that he would be so resilient.

But here we are, both of these candidates showing some strong backing in terms of their financial strength.

NOBLES: Let's go back to Sanders. He raised $18 million in December just alone. The knock on Sanders and his campaign that it is not necessarily wide, but just deep, and not necessarily growing. But his campaign touting that they have 300,000 people in this quarter who donated to him this time around that have never donated to him before.

Is this a sign that perhaps Sanders support is starting to grow heading into the Iowa caucuses?

LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it may be that sign that Senator Sanders is coalescing the liberal wing of the party, and that's important, particularly for Senator Warren, who has seen her numbers fall since her Medicare For All plan was released.

I think these numbers reflect a lot of what we've been seeing in the polling, which is that Senator Sanders has bounced back very strongly from his heart attack in the fall.

Don't forget, when that happened, when he had that heart attack, there were a lot of questions about whether his campaign would be able to go on. But I think it allowed him to sort of gather his support. He picked up the endorsement of Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, which was a big boost for him. And he's been able to emerge as perhaps the liberal challenger in this race. For establishment Democrats and for those on the more moderate side of

the fence in the party, these numbers are concerning to them because it means that Senator Sanders will have the traction to continue very long and very deep into this primary if he should want to, even if it becomes clear that he's unable to capture the nomination.

And that is a concern that some of the party have raised. There are many people who would like to see the party coalesce earlier and allow them to get their forces together against President Trump.

Senator Sanders' money means that he will be able to stay in the race for quite a while.

NOBLES: Let's talk more about President Trump's fundraising, M.J. We've seen some considerable numbers from Democrats, but President Trump's campaign is doing pretty well, too.

[11:04:58]

LEE: That's right. Looking ahead at the general election, President Trump's campaign announcing that it raised $46 million in the final quarter of 2019. And it has $102.7 million of cash on hand. This, of course, doesn't even include the money that was raised by the RNC, which will go towards Trump's re-election efforts as well.

This is sort of an apples to oranges comparison, if you're comparing President Trump's fundraising numbers to that of the Democrats. But it still goes to show, yes, he is the incumbent president and, yes, there are differences in that he is not competing in a large field of Republican candidates. In fact, he's the only person running for the nomination.

Even still, though, I think this is a stark reminder for the Democratic candidates who are still in the race that they really have a very large treasure chest in supporting President Trump that they have to contend with come next year and come the general election.

NOBLES: And, Lisa, before we go, just a note on Julian Castro. Why did he fail to gain traction?

LERER: That's a fascinating question. He was the only Latino in the race. He really staked out a fairly progressive ground in this contest, but he just couldn't make it happen.

I think he is someone who comes out of this presidential campaign stronger. I think he raised his profile. And I think he sort of defined himself a little bit better in the minds of a lot of Democrats and a lot of Democratic Party voters.

That could help him in the future, particularly, say, a Democrat wins the presidency and has to stake a cabinet. He is someone whose name would be on some of those lists.

But, yes, this was not -- it just wasn't going to happen for him. And if you can't make it to Iowa, you certainly are not going to win the nomination, right? NOBLES: And maybe an early frontrunner for the V.P., which we'll be

talking about in the future.

M.J. Lee, Lisa Lerer, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

With just 32 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, the leading Democratic candidates are now focusing their energy on the Hawkeye State. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar are all holding campaign events today in Iowa.

Let's go there, to Iowa. And joining me outside the Sanders campaign bus in Des Moines is Faiz Shakir, the Sanders 2020 presidential campaign manager.

Faiz, let's talk about this massive fundraising haul that you guys were able to pull in, $18 million raised in December alone. And I'm very interested in the new donors that you have funneling into this campaign. Is this a sign that the support for your candidate is growing?

FAIZ SHAKIR, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BERNIE SANDERS 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, hi, Ryan. Hope you're doing well.

It's nice out here in Iowa. We are feeling strong about this campaign. It is a movement that's been growing. We've been working very hard at it.

As I've told you and many people over the course of this campaign, is that we urged our volunteers to go kick the tires on a lot of candidates.

And we felt strongly, as we headed into the fourth quarter, people would start to come back home to Bernie Sanders, because they will see him the candidate that's positioned to beat Donald Trump, but also the candidate they trust to make the change happen that they want. We are seeing that evidenced in some of our fundraising numbers.

To me, the most important thing about the fundraising numbers is that it is people. And if you're going to defeat Donald Trump, you need people. You're going to have to beat him with money. You're going to have to beat him with people power and we're showing that through these numbers today.

NOBLES: To that end, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has said that he believes in order for a Democrat to win you need to be able to tap into all legal fundraising resources in order to fund the type of campaign that can beat Donald Trump. You guys have been consistent and competitive in the Democratic primary by not taking super PAC money or corporate money, only taking individual donors and, for the most part, small donors. You're averaging about $18 a donation.

But what happens if you win the nomination? Are you going to be able to sustain that against President Trump and will you hold firm and not change your fundraising strategy should Sanders become the nominee?

SHAKIR: We will hold firm and we will not change a damn thing. It's working. The reason it's working is because the working class believes in Bernie Sanders to defeat Donald Trump.

You've got somebody who has built a grassroots network, who has been fighting for the working class, built his credibility on it. We're not going to go into a general election and suddenly claiming that we're going to need money from millionaires and billionaires. We don't need that money.

In fact, with $50 million contributions we think we can get at $20, $25 a pop, you would have over a billion, enough to fund a presidential campaign, enough to fight for the working class who needs a champion for them, who knows Donald Trump has betrayed them.

So if you have Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden telling you that they need to kowtow at the altar of the rich to fundraise for the general election, they are wrong. We are upending those notions. You can fund this totally in a grassroots way.

And the problem with it, to Joe Biden, to Pete Buttigieg, to anybody else who wants to kowtow to the rich, they are telling you that those people who have enormous power and influence over our economy right now, over our political system right now, will continue to have that influence when they're in the White House.

Do you think they give that money? That is an effort to buy influence over the political process.

So if they're going to tell you they'll fundraise it, what that comes with is, oh, they're going to have influence over your health care. They'll have influence over environmental policy. They're going to have influence over every kind of policy within the federal government and even the people who serve in government.

[11:10:09]

That's something Bernie Sanders has always rejected and he does so in a way that I think the working class believes in, that he will be a different president who would organize the presidency in a different way than we've seen in different history.

NOBLES: But you're going to need to unify the Democratic Party should Senator Sanders become the nominee. I know you've said you're not going to accept corporate donations from the DNC should he become the Democratic nominee at the convention there.

Are you concerned at all that this could be somewhat of a rub between you and Democratic leaders that truly believe you need all the resources available to you to beat Donald Trump?

SHAKIR: Well, Ryan, what I would say to that is we firmly believe that everyone will understand within the Democratic Party that there's a thing that bonds all of us together, and that is the need to defeat Donald Trump.

We may have our disagreements in a general election, we may come at our issues in a different perspective. We will do our part if we are the nominee to extend the open hand, to welcome people into this movement. We are doing so now. If there's people out there who would like to join and endorse Bernie Sanders, we become you right now.

But we will do our part to make sure that we are bringing this party together, returning it to its roots, the FDR roots, the Lyndon B. Johnson roots of fighting for the working class of America, the policies that benefit everybody.

And I think we can show that this will be politically useful and beneficial to the party.

I don't have any concerns about it, and obviously, if we're not the nominee, we'll do our part to make sure we support the nominee.

NOBLES: Let's talk about policy. Obviously, Medicare For All, health care has been a backbone of the Sanders campaign. Recently, in a series of town halls, the Senator has been challenged by those that work in the health care industry concerned about what happens to their job once they get Medicare For All passed.

What do you say to those folks, a little nervous about that, and also to some Americans that like the option of private health insurance? What is your message to that group of voters?

SHAKIR: We have a system right now that basic has administrative costs, of hundreds of billions of dollars, really to deny people health insurance when they need it the most. And that is why when you call the person on the healing insurance line, they're job, they're being paid to find a way to deny you care. It is a dysfunctional broken system and we're paying for it.

Right now, I think we can build it in a much more efficient way, Medicare For All, to focus on providing health care. There's a shortage of doctors. Here in Iowa, if you go out into rural areas of this state, rural hospitals are shutting down. There are not enough doctors or physicians or nurses.

Don't tell me there aren't more jobs available. Right now, we're subsidizing jobs that are bureaucratic. And there should be jobs that are actually providing health care to people. So I feel strongly that we'll have a path that offers a transition for those currently in the health insurance industry.

And I believe when they see the benefits of a system that reduces costs for every family in America, people are going to buy into it. They just want to know, are you going to get there, can we achieve this. And we can. And the reason you achieve is with the movement we're building right now in the Sanders campaign.

NOBLES: Faiz Shakir, we're going to have to leave it there. Obviously, a big fundraising haul for you and your campaign. Faiz, you always tell me you're somewhere between a four and six on a scale of one to 10. Where are you today?

SHAKIR: At 5.5. Thank you very much.

NOBLES: At 5.5. Always in the middle.

All right, Faiz Shakir, live from Des Moines, Iowa, about to head on the Bernie bus, just about 30 days ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

We appreciate your being here.

Coming up, stunning new images reveal the extent of damage inside the U.S. embassy in Baghdad after hundreds of protesters left. We are live in Iraq with the latest details.

Plus, one of the victims in the Hanukkah stabbing attack now fighting for his life. An update on his condition, next.

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NOBLES: A warning moments ago from the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says Iran may do additional provocations, and if they do, quote, "They will likely regret it."

This comes as we're seeing dramatic images out of Baghdad showing extensive destruction after Iranian-backed protesters tried to storm it. They set fires and tried to scale walls and set up a tent camp around the complex before packing up and leaving on orders of protest leaders who told the crowds they had won a great victory over the American occupiers.

CNN senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, joins us from Baghdad.

Arwa, you were there in front of the embassy as things were breaking up. Tell us what the situation is like right now and what does this crisis mean for U.S./Iraqi relations?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, things have gone back to normal, in the sense that the Iraqi security forces are again manning the checkpoints leading to the U.S. embassy. And, as was par for the course, you either need an escort or the proper badge to be allowed through. In front of the embassy itself, you have a fairly lengthy cleanup effort.

The question is, where were the Iraqi security forces when all of this was unfolding. As one of them told us when we were down there, he said, look, what were we supposed to do, we couldn't have tried to stop this group because that would have potentially led to even more bloodshed and perhaps made it more difficult to dial back the situation.

And, Ryan, this goes to the very core of, who was this group that was demonstrating outside. They were members of or supporters of what's known as the PMS, the Popular Mobilization Force. This is a Shia para-military force that is under the control of the Iraqi security forces. Although it's clear from the events of the last two days, not necessarily entirely under the control of Baghdad.

[11:20:09]

Now, this force is made up mostly of former Shia militiamen, who are part of any number of groups, but most of them got their fighting experience by battling the Americans during the days of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. So that's basically who you had at America's front gate. Kataib Hezbollah, which the group that the U.S. targeted on Sunday, is among the more powerful of them with very close ties to Iran.

They have said that they are withdrawing for the time being. But they put the ball in the court of the Iraqi parliament, saying they expect parliament, within a week, to begin having serious negotiations and drafting a bill regarding the U.S. withdraw. Otherwise, they say, they have other moves that they can make.

NOBLES: Arwa Damon, live for us in Baghdad. Arwa, thank you. Continue to stay safe.

Meanwhile, this crisis comes months after President Trump boasted that Iran was, quote, "a very different nation," since he had broken its economy. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look what has happened to Iran. Iran, when I first came into office, was a terror.

They were involved with everything. Now they're pulling back because they've got serious economic problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Iran, of course, just one of the foreign policy challenges facing President Trump at the start of the New Year.

He also faces a new weapons threat from North Korea. Its leader, Kim Jong-Un, now saying his country no longer feels bound by its self- imposed moratorium of testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. Kim declaring the world will, quote, "witness a new strategic weapon in the near future."

This comes a year and a half after President Trump famously claimed, "quote, "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

Joining me now to discuss all of this, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, CNN's military analyst and a former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army.

So, General, first, do you think that President Trump has been naive in his dealings with North Korea and Iran?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think, Ryan, that it is a lack of understanding of the history and the culture of not only Iran and North Korea, but many other nations throughout the world where we are having challenges in national security. I would add to that list Ukraine, Russia, China, in the South China Sea, some of the things that other nations are doing.

And that's why it's so important to have allies who are like-minded, who have the similar value systems, to counter some of these threats.

In the case of Iran, as you were just talking to Arwa, it's an understanding that these militias -- and I use that word purposely -- these military forces that Arwa was talking about, are beholden to different politicians in Iraq. It is the extreme form of a non- regulated militia like we state in our Constitution. These are not regulated.

These are militias that will fight, but they are Iraqis. No doubt about that. They get support from tribal chiefs from other countries.

In the terms of North Korea, you have a third-generation leader in Kim, who, when you take a look at the history of North Korea and what has happened over the last 50 years, you'll see that the requirement to have a nuclear force is critically important for regime survival.

And just because you have a transactional president who thinks he has a personality that can make a deal, doesn't mean you're going to throw away that history of that culture.

That's what's critically important about reading the intelligence and the background behind some of the actions by these countries. And you just named two. There are many more that fit in the same category.

NOBLES: You mentioned how a lot of these issues, in Iraq, whether they may be Iranian backed, these are still Iraqi citizens. And you've tweeted that Iran proxy battles are a top concern for 2020 and that they could disrupt U.S. relations with Iraq.

You mention that the president doesn't seem to understand the full breadth of exactly what's happening in the region.

How do they change their foreign policy to address these potential proxy wars and the cozier relationship between Iran and Iraq?

HERTLING: I did tweet that. I believe that. But it's also the belief of the Council on Foreign Relations. They put potential for proxy battles between the U.S. and Iran, or Iran and some of the U.S. allies, as one of their top five concerns for 2020. And the Iraq is the battle ground for that.

Knowing that, it's important to consider that we have some very strong allies in the government of Iraq. Barham Salih, the president of Iraq, is a very good friend of the United States. He has been a colleague of ours over the last -- you know, he was a good friend of mine when I was in Iraq for over three years.

This is an individual who is the Iraqi Thomas Jefferson, if you will, who is trying to bring Democratic reforms to that country. We have made it even harder for him by not collaborating with the Iraqi government in addressing these militias.

[11:25:11]

And you have to understand that Iraq certainly is going to be beholden to Iran to a degree. They are, in fact, their neighbor. They share over 1,000 miles of border with Iran and they get most of their materials and exchange of the economic systems with Iran.

So you have to take that into consideration when you're dealing with other nations.

And to disrespect Iran, which I think the United States did with some of the actions over the last six months, is counterproductive to the type of relationships we need to help bring those kinds of countries forward, like Iraq.

NOBLES: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much.

HERTLING: Thank you, Ryan.

NOBLES: Coming up, a grim update on one of the victims stabbed at a Hanukkah celebration in New York. His family now says he may never regain consciousness. The details next.

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