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Amazon Wants Trump's Testimony in Lawsuit After Losing Pentagon Deal; Amazon Sr. V.P., Former W.H. Press Secretary, Jay Carney, Discusses Lawsuit Against Pentagon, Trump Testimony, Minimum Wage, Criticism from Sanders & Other Dems. On Amazon Working Conditions; Recording Resurfaces of Bloomberg Aggressively Defending Stop & Frisk in Blunt Terms; Biden Talks about Decision to Head to South Carolina Tonight. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 11, 2020 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the biggest companies in the world just took an extreme step. Amazon now asking a federal judge to force the president of the United States to sit for a deposition over a contract dispute.

This isn't just any contract that they're fighting over, of course. It is a $10 billion Pentagon contract that they lost to Microsoft last year.

Amazon claims President Trump's personal bias against CEO Jeff Bezos was a major factor in the Defense Department decision.

In the court filing, just unsealed yesterday, Amazon not only wants to depose President Trump, they also want to hear from the current defense secretary, Mark Esper, and former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, over the Cloud computing project.

Here with me now, senior vice president of Amazon, former White House press secretary, Jay Carney.

Thank you for coming in, Jay.


BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

The president's made no secret of his disdain for Bezos and Amazon. But he has successfully avoided testifying and answering questions and especially depositions since he took office. And it is not like folks haven't tried to force him. Do you think you're going to be able to depose him on this?

CARNEY: There's a legal process. We think it is important that there's a full legal review of the bidding and the awarding process that went -- that occurred within the Department of Defense. And we think there was blatant political interference in that process, that is why there was so many evaluation errors.

On the substance and the merits of the evaluation, there were mistakes made, pretty serious ones, that affected the outcome.

So I can't comment too deeply on this. It is a legal process. We think it is very important for the sanctity of the process and the proper use of taxpayer dollars that there be a full legal review.

BOLDUAN: Having yet heard from the judge on that, we'll wait and see.

Also, out today, a new op-ed you wrote for the "New York Times" about, in part, Amazon's move to a $15 minimum wage and Amazon's impact for workers and the economy.

You open the piece in retelling a phone call you received from Bernie Sanders. And in it you say, quote, "Listen, he told me" -- meaning Sanders to you -- "I just want to congratulate Amazon for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, that's good for the workers, right thing to do, please thank Jeff Bezos for me."

In making the move, you were responding to criticism from people, including Bernie Sanders, right?

CARNEY: Well, look, Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont, has long advocated an increase in the minimum wage. The guy I worked for, President Obama, advocated for it and rose it. The last time -- he had raised it the last time it was raised, which was in 2009.

And we at Amazon thought it was the right thing to do to raise the minimum wage. We appreciate those who said that it should be done. It is not why we did it.

But Senator Sanders calling me was a reflection of agreement between those advocating on behalf of America's workers and those who employ many American workers.

We've hired more people in the United States, more American workers over the last 10 years than any company in the country.

BOLDUAN: But, Jay --

CARNEY: And we have significant numbers of employees in more than 40 states across the country.

And it is important to remember, Kate, $15 is not a lot of money. But it is more than double the current federal minimum wage, which --


BOLDUAN: Absolutely, but --


CARNEY: -- can only be raised by Congress, where members of Congress, like Senator Sanders, have the power to take action.

BOLDUAN: I absolutely hear you on that. I don't -- but to your point, you didn't do it because of it.

When you and I talked back in October of 2018, when this was announced, you said it was because of criticism that came from people, including Bernie Sanders. That's directly what you said to me and Bezos --



CARNEY: No I -- I don't --


BOLDUAN: I'm looking at --

CARNEY: -- think that is right. But --

BOLDUAN: I'm literally looking at our conversation.

CARNEY: -- criticism -- OK, well, I would love to review that because I don't -- it wasn't because of --


BOLDUAN: Let me read it to you. I'm not -- I don't want to -- you and I should be on the same page.


BOLDUAN: I asked you specifically, Bezos said in the announcement, you listened to your critics. And I asked you, "Why are you announcing that now." You said, "For that very reason, we listened to a lot of critics." And you go to say, "And Senator Sanders was one of the many people we listened to, among many."

CARNEY: Fair enough. We do listen to our critics. We mean that in every way, not just on wages.


CARNEY: But our culture at Amazon is to listen to our critics, evaluate their arguments as dispassionately as we can, and where they're right, to take action.

I think Senator Sanders and a lot of others have been important voices in the debate about the need to raise wages for Americans. A company the size of Amazon can have a big impact by raising wages. Most of our retail competitors are paying less than we do.

And it is important to note that the lowest-paid person at Amazon makes more than 40 million working Americans across the country. They're earning less and they don't get the full benefits that Amazonians get. And they don't get the opportunities like paid upscaling, education that we provide our workers.

This is, I think, just an important point of the debate. The point of the op-ed is to say Amazon has been at the focus of some criticism in this campaign, often aimed at big tech. And the purpose of my piece was to explain how, you know, big tech and tech industry, those are phrases that obscure more than they enlighten.

We don't -- our business is not to sell bits of data or give them away free in return for your data, which we monetize.

We are a physical business that is undergirded by tech. We employ hundreds of thousands of people who, you know, ship, you know, pack, ship and deliver billions of physical goods to customers.

That requires an enormous workforce. It requires a lot of responsibility when it comes to benefits. And it causes a lot of job creation in areas of the country where jobs are desperately needed and where higher wages are called for.

BOLDUAN: Bernie Sanders is concerned about something else right now that's not addressed in your op-ed. He's concerned about worker safety at Amazon. It was in a letter just released yesterday, signed by 15 Democratic Senators, including Bernie Sanders.

They write this, in part, "Amazon's dismal safety record indicates a greater concern for profits than for your own workers' safety and health."

And in -- what they're doing is change. They're demanding answers. And you're talking about the good Amazon is doing for its workers. What do you say to the Senators?

CARNEY: Well, a couple of things. One, again, we appreciate and want the scrutiny and we will respond to it. The facts in this case are that injuries are woefully underreported, by and large, across the country, by employers across the country.

Amazon's approach is different. We aggressively report every injury and that tends to spike numbers.

Safety at Amazon is inconsiderably important. It is what we focus on first when we look at our goals every year. We are investing something like $300 million in new safety initiatives this year. And we're going to continue to tackle the challenge.

We are committed -- our system only works. We only delight customers, we only make our customers happy, if the entire process is a positive one.

From our sellers -- more than half of what you see on is -- are goods from third-party sellers, including small businesses in every state and every congressional district in the country -- and right through our employees and our distribution process to the customer himself.

So, you know, we're going to -- we look at ourselves, we accept the scrutiny and we take action.

We just want it to be clear that, when it comes to creating jobs, paying employees well and providing them benefits and educational opportunities, we're doing the very things that lawmakers and critics say they want the private sector to do.

And unless you don't believe that there should be companies, unless you believe that maybe businesses should be government owned, there's a role for private-sector employers, including big ones, to help create positive economic change in the country. And that's what I think we're doing.

BOLDUAN: Look, Amazon has become a big target in the Democratic primary as you mentioned.

Thanks for coming on and answering the questions, Jay.

CARNEY: Kate, I appreciate it. Take care.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.


We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: Mike Bloomberg is gaining some traction in national polls, putting him in third place in a new national poll, just out yesterday. With that comes more scrutiny.

A recording from 2015 is resurfacing on social media, putting a spotlight on his controversial Stop and Frisk policing policy when he was mayor of New York.

In the 2015 speech, Bloomberg aggressively is defending that policy, use something pretty blunt language. Listen to this.



MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR (voice-over): Ninety-five percent of murders -- murderers and murder victims -- fit one M.O. You can just take a description, Xerox it, pass it out to all cops. They are male, minorities, 16 to 25. That's true in New York. That's true in virtually every city. And that's where the real crime is.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now, with much more on this, is Cristina Alesci, following all this.

This isn't new. This is a 2015 speech. What are you hearing about it now? CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS & BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Whether or not

it is new, opponents will seize on the sound because it really presents some stark terms. And it gives fans the flames of critics who call him a racist.

Listen to this clip.


BLOOMBERG (voice-over): We put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes. That's true. Why do we do it? Because that's where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns of kids' hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them.


ALESCI: So here's the thing. Important context here, we don't have the full tape. So this is obviously snippets that have been released.

The podcaster and the writer that released this sound is clearly a Bernie supporter. If you look at his Twitter feed, he's very anti- Bloomberg. He's promoting a hashtag #Bloombergisaracist. We don't know how he got the sound to begin with.

So lots of questions are being asked, especially on the timing of this. As you noted in your introduction, a poll yesterday showed Bloomberg rising in the polls, and particularly strong support in the African-American community. He polled at 22 percent, just behind Joe Biden at 27 percent.

So the timing here and the mission here all calling into question --


BOLDUAN: You also know, Cristina, that Bloomberg is going to face continued questions about his --

ALESCI: That's right.

BOLDUAN: -- about his Stop and Frisk policy, about his change of heart in the Stop and Frisk policy. His speech -- his commentary that he came out to apologize for that policy, just before he announced his bid.

But what is the campaign saying today?

ALESCI: They put out the statement trying to repeat the apology. Mike Bloomberg saying, "I regret that I had -- I regret that and I have apologized. I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on black and Latino communities there."

He's obviously saying that did take him way too long at the height of the controversy, really back in 2012.

He waited, to your point, until 2019, just days before he announced his candidacy, to come out and give, you know, what some would say is a heartfelt apology. Others would call it, you know, very convenient timing.

And even harsher than that, his critics said this is a death-bed apology, like former mayor --


ALESCI: -- the current mayor, Bill de Blasio.

So there's going to be continued scrutiny on this and maybe even more sound that comes out. This is going to be something that Bloomberg's campaign will have to deal with.

But certainly, you can see the sound ending up -- and Trump seized on it this morning, tweeting, you know, "Wow, Bloomberg is a racist." And he deleted that tweet. We don't know why. We're continuing to ask questions on that front.

But Bloomberg seizing on Trump's tweet, saying," President Trump's deleted tweet is the latest example of his endless efforts to divide Americans."

So, you know, we're going to have to see how this fight plays out.

BOLDUAN: Noteworthy that Donald Trump endorsed the Stop and Frisk policy that he's criticizing --


BOLDUAN: -- Bloomberg on right now. Just a note on that. Welcome to 2020.

Thanks, Cristina. Really appreciate it.

ALESCI: Of course.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Earlier in the show, we told you about Joe Biden's new travel plan for today. In the midst of the New Hampshire primary, he's going to be heading out of the state and off to another, landing in South Carolina this evening.

Jessica Dean has been following all this and brought us the news this hour as Biden is explaining this a little bit.

Jessica, what is Biden saying?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, look, we've been following him here in New Hampshire for the past several days. They have been going forth holding rallies, holding events. While his crowd size has been smaller than that of his rivals, he's continued to press on all the while himself. But his campaign lowering expectations of what would happen in New

Hampshire. That fourth-place finish in Iowa, coming into New Hampshire, was not what they expected.

They certainly didn't expect Pete Buttigieg to have so much more momentum. Amy Klobuchar to be getting so much of the moderate vote as well.

We heard earlier, as we said to you and broke here on your show, that he would be heading to South Carolina tonight instead of staying here in New Hampshire.

He talked to reporters a short time ago about that decision. Here is what he had to say.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll fight for every vote we have here and then I'm getting on a plane, heading down there, getting a rally in South Carolina, and then getting on the plane and going to Nevada.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you concerned about the message you're sending to New Hampshire?

BIDEN: No, I'm not. Not at all. Not at all. They know we've worked hard here and we're continuing.


BIDEN: And this is it. I'm not concerned about it at all.


DEAN: He also said he was mildly hopeful, Kate, about what happens here in New Hampshire.

But I think that change in the travel schedule. That tells a lot -- tells a big story, which is that South Carolina is absolutely critical to the Biden campaign. They've long maintained it's their firewall in terms of getting this nomination.

And now, more than ever, he doesn't just need a solid performance there. He needs a really, really blockbuster performance to prove he has overwhelming African-American support, that he can build this coalition.


The Biden's campaign's argument all along has been that he's the one person in this nominating race that can build the broad coalition across gender lines, across racial lines, that can support someone to -- and get them into the Oval Office in 2020.

He's going to have to do that. So it makes sense he's going to South Carolina.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Jessica.

Coming up, much more in New Hampshire. What to watch for in the results tonight and what that will tell you about the race ahead. We'll take you there, next.