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Democratic Senators Will Be Off Campaign Trail for Impeachment; Interview with Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) on Endorsing Michael Bloomberg; 11 U.S. Troops Injured in Iran Missile Attack; DOJ Investigating Media Leak Tied to Clinton E-mail Probe. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 17, 2020 - 13:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: This weekend will be the last for some Democrats in the 2020 race to campaign for president. That, of course, is because the Senate takes up impeachment next week. The trial, slated to start on Tuesday, will take four senators, two of them frontrunners for the Democratic presidential nomination, off the campaign trail. They need to go back to their day jobs in Washington.

And remember, at this point we are as of today 17 days away from the Iowa caucuses, which means instead of campaigning, these senator candidates will, of course, be sitting there quietly, not on their devices, not talking, listening to the evidence being presented for the impeachment trial of President Trump.

Joining us now, CNN correspondent Jessica Dean.

So, Jessica, put it into perspective for us. We know it's an important weekend even if there wasn't a looming trial in the Senate, but this has really changed the perspective for some of these candidates.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, these candidates, these Senate candidates especially have a packed weekend. They're going to be all across Iowa, they're going to try to get to New Hampshire as well. And the thing about politics in Iowa, especially this is retail politics. The Iowans expect to see them. They want to see them in person. You know, there's the joke here that people will go the first time, make notes, go back a second and third time and see the same candidate, following up on what they said the previous time.

So they really want to see these candidates and that makes a big, big difference as we get so close to the February 3rd caucuses, and so it's going to be important for them to certainly be able to make their way around Iowa and to do so in a timely manner. And remember, all the polling and the data that we've seen, especially coming out of Iowa, shows that a high number of people are still pretty fluid in who they want to vote for.

That they either have committed and are willing to switch or haven't even committed at this point. So this is really the marrying phase of this entire process. They've been dating around for months now and now it comes down to making a decision, so you can imagine how important it is for these candidates to be here.


HILL: That it is. Jessica Dean, good to see you. Thank you.

As we take a closer look at some of these candidates, this week former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg received his second congressional endorsement in his bid for president. Democratic Florida congresswoman Stephanie Murphy is the first member of Congress to endorse Bloomberg from out of state. She's also been named campaign co-chair. Representative Max Rose from New York endorsed the billionaire earlier this week.

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy joins us now.

Congresswoman, good to have you with us. Obviously a lot of talk there with our Jessica Dean about Iowa. Mike Bloomberg, skipping Iowa as we know. Why did you decide ahead of Iowa this week that you wanted to endorse Mike Bloomberg and the time is now?

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Well, I think Mike is a proven leader, whether it's as an executive or as mayor or as a philanthropist. And he's -- we share some of the same values of wanting to address gun safety issues in this country and climate change, and I think he's the right candidate with the message and the machine to beat Donald Trump in November. And so I'm really excited to be on board and throwing my support behind Mike.

HILL: You mentioned you've seen some of his achievements. His campaign has started out there. He's been on a bit of an apology tour. There are a number of issues and questions that he needs to answer, specifically things like stop and frisk, different things that happened during his time as mayor here in New York City. And it's tough to talk about what you see as a strength when he is constantly on this apology tour. How tough is that?

MURPHY: I think a key sign of a good leader is to be able to acknowledge where you've made mistakes and then move forward. And I think that he is on an apologies tour, he's acknowledging where people have had criticisms. But if you look at his record on the whole, he did a lot of great things for this city. Made it one of the safest cities in the country. It is an incredibly diverse and large city that he helped to achieve real improvements in health and education.

And there is a lot of good things that he did there. But more than that, he has done so much investing in progressive issues that matter to my constituents and to Americans all across this country, improving health care and education, investing in climate change, making real progress on gun safety, Those are all very strong points and the reason why Mike is going to be a great candidate against Donald Trump.

HILL: You talked about a couple of those issues. Those issues that are very important to a panel of black voters from South Carolina that my colleague Alisyn Camerota just sat down with him. Talking to them about what they're seeing, of course, leading into the voting in South Carolina. Not a single one mentioned Mike Bloomberg, but two of them singled out Tom Steyer. Take a listen.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Do you like Tom Steyer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do like him a lot. Yes. I like his environmental standpoints because I'm an environmentalist, so at the moment I am leaning toward Tom Steyer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm big on his philanthropy also.

CAMEROTA: Tom Steyer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Steyer. I like the fact that, you know, he's contributed $22.5 million to underprivileged in education. He's using a lot of his own money to campaign.


HILL: Philanthropy, the environment. As you pointed out, these are things that Mike Bloomberg has also done a fair amount of work on. But that is not -- apparently that message may not be getting through in South Carolina. Both he and Tom Steyer we know spending hundreds of millions of dollars at this point on advertising. Mike Bloomberg is at 2 percent in South Carolina. Tom Steyer is in second place at 15 percent. Where do you think there needs to be a more focused message there to voters?

MURPHY: Let's be really clear about the context of this. Tom Steyer has been in this race for a lot longer. And Mike got in the race about two months ago and has made a deliberate decision, because of the timing of when he got into the race, not to play so as heavily in those states. But in the states where he is getting his message out through the machine that he is building, people are responding.

If you look at the most recent Reuters polls, you are seeing that when people hear about Mike and all of the accomplishments that he's made and the commitments that he has made to the future of this country, whether it's as -- in his role as an executive or as a philanthropist or as mayor of New York City, when people hear about this record and see what his plan is for this country, they get in behind him.

HILL: Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, good to have you with us today. Thank you.

MURPHY: Great to be with you. Thanks so much.

HILL: Still ahead, U.S. troops injured in that Iran missile attack despite what the Pentagon initially said. Initially saying there were no casualties. We have those details for you.

Plus, why the DOJ is launching an investigation involving James Comey years after Comey was fired from the FBI.



HILL: Iran's missile strike did injure U.S. service members. The Pentagon initially reported there were no casualties resulting from the attack on the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. But we have just learned there were in fact 11 service members who were Medevacked to Germany and Kuwait for treatment.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me now.

So, Barbara, what more do we know about their injuries and also why we're only finding out about this now?


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, so the attack first happens. The missile attack from Iran first happened on January 8th. What we now know is they were -- several members reported symptoms, symptoms of concussions. Some members didn't report any symptoms. Some of them eased up, some came in days later and said they were having symptoms and they perhaps did not feel themselves.

So the military was doing its standard protocol, evaluating everybody in the blast area for potential concussion. They have some up with 11, eight evacuated to the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, three to Kuwait to get MRIs and other medical treatment that they just cannot get with medical facilities in Iraq.

This is always such a difficult issue because, of course, this is the silent injury, right? There is no bleeding, there is no surgery, there is no bandages. It is not visible. So they have to get these people evaluated. But they didn't exactly talk about it right off the bat. And the reason the Pentagon gives for this is this is not one of the injuries like loss of limb, loss of eyesight where it is even required that they immediately report it to the Pentagon.

So the information didn't even get here until yesterday. And that's when a four-star general interrupted the secretary of Defense's meeting and informed the secretary of Defense yesterday that people just hours earlier had been evacuated out of Iraq to get this kind of medical treatment. That's how all of this came to light.

But a lot of folks may think that this really underscores the issue that traumatic brain injury still difficult to diagnose, difficult to deal with, and still very difficult for the Pentagon to figure out how to let the American public know on a really timely basis that people are suffering from this. Their view is that they let people know as soon as they knew what was happening, but, you know, it's an injury that can linger, that symptoms may develop days later.

It's much different than any of the other combat injuries troops suffer with. And years later in this war, it's still so tough for everyone to deal with.

HILL: Barbara Starr, appreciate it. Thank you. STARR: Sure.

HILL: In today's "Homefront," we're learning more about President Trump's plans to divert some $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for his border wall. Just in case you've been keeping count here, that is five times the amount authorized by Congress. An administration official tells CNN the additional funds would allow the government enough money to complete approximately 885 miles of new fencing by 2022, which would of course also fulfill President Trump's campaign promise.

In order to do this, however, we're told other government accounts could suffer. According to the "Washington Post," the president plans to pull billions of dollars from counter drug programs and from military construction projects, including schools and daycare centers for military families across the country.

The Justice Department is launching a probe into a case involving former FBI director James Comey more than two and a half years after Comey was fired. What they're looking into and why the timing is raising concerns.



HILL: It looks like President Trump's vow to investigate the investigators is alive and well. Justice Department prosecutors are investigating a 2017 media leak tied to the FBI's Hillary Clinton e- mail probe, and it could involve former FBI director James Comey, one of the president's loudest critics.

CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez joins me now with more.

So, Evan, what more do we know about the timing of all of this?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, the fact is, as you said, this is now more than two years after this alleged leak to the media that the FBI is now investigating this. U.S. attorney's office here in Washington has now spoken to some witnesses about it, and so that's raising the question, at least among some of the critics of the department, as to whether or not this is really about going after someone who, as you said, has been a vocal critic of the president, James Comey.

He was cleared in another investigation by the Justice Department looking into whether he leaked classified information related to the Russia investigation. That ended last year. This is looking into some classified information that had to do with the Clinton e-mail investigation, and again, just the fact that this is happening two years after the fact is what's raising some concern about what's at play here.

HILL: It is fascinating in all of it, and in terms of those concerns. I would imagine this will not be last time, Evan, we're talking about them either. PEREZ: Right, exactly, and look, I mean, Comey is very vocal and out

there raising questions about Bill Barr, the Justice Department, raising questions about the president, and so, again, the idea that you'd be doing a leak investigation -- again, we don't know exactly who's the target of this investigation, but certainly because Comey played a role in all of this, you can see that that's where this is possibly going to go.

HILL: All right. We'll continue watching that. I know you will, Evan. Thank you.

PEREZ: Thanks.

HILL: President Trump announcing his new legal team and chances are you will recognize some of their names and their faces.



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

President Donald Trump will soon be put on trial, but it's the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell who is being put to the test. With only four days to the start of testimony in the president's impeachment trial, the Senate majority leader must now determine exactly how to present it, and the most pressing question, will there be witnesses?

And as Republicans figure out the process, the president is finally making some call --