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AT THIS HOUR

A.G. Barr to Testify Before House Judiciary Next Month; Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) Discusses Trump's Vengeful Conduct after Impeachment, A.G. Barr and Trump's Interference in the Stone Case, Trump's Attacks on Vindman; Three Congressional Black Caucus Members Endorse Bloomberg Amid "Stop-and-Frisk" Controversy; "Race for the White House" Premiers 9:00 P.M. Sunday; Spike in Coronavirus Cases in China. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 13, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: This comes as Attorney General Bill Barr is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next month. This could give Democrats the opportunity to press the attorney general on the sentencing of Roger Stone and other controversies that have emerged in the aftermath of President Trump's impeachment trial.

Democrats are outraged over President Trump's praise for Barr in the intervention of the sentencing phase.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): These are attacks on staff people and people he appointed, on political opponents, on judges. It is unhinged, but we knew it would be.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): He definitely learned a lesson. He learned that he could get away with corrupting his office with absolutely no consequences. He essentially has a get-out-of-jail-free card from Republicans in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLODRYGA: I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Adam Smith.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us on our busy morning.

We have been reminding viewers it is only a week since the president's acquittal and look at all that has transpired since. President has been described as emboldened. This is just the beginning, of perhaps a new phase in his presidency. Do you see it that way?

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): I see it as a continuation of the presidency. I don't know about a new phase. From the day he got off in office, he, and increasingly his administration. I think that's the biggest thing that has changed, is he's purged anybody like Jim Mattis or John Kelly, who would be a calming influence, who with remind the president the Democratic institutions matter.

This is not an autocracy. He's not a dictator. The Justice Department doesn't work for him. It works for the country.

Those people are gone. Now he's surrounded by an administration that empowers him.

And it is important to understand that what he and Attorney General Barr believe is they believe in power, in sort of right-wing extremist Republican conservative power. They don't care about the institutions that support our country. This is a grave threat to all of them.

Our country is not supposed to be about individuals. It is supposed to be about laws and institutions. And the president is laying waste to that for the sake of his own personal power. And a number of Republicans are helping him because they simply want to advance conservative power. They don't care about the institutions.

GOLODRYGA: The next question is, what are you and other Democrats in Congress going to do about that. You talk about the president wanting to expand his power and the power of others around him in this administration. What can you do to contain that?

SMITH: I'm a very practical person. And the thing we can do is we can beat him in November. The legislative process is difficult. He's the president. We overturned his emergency declaration twice. He vetoed it. So the clearest way to stop power is to find a way to defeat him.

One problem we had along the way is there's a tendency for people to say, well, you say all these bad things, but what are you Democrats doing about it. This plays into Republican hands. They want to stir the pot and the people say it is their fault, too.

We're doing what we can do. We impeached him. Every Democrat in the Senate voted for it.

But at the end of the day, the president has an enormous amount of power. That's why we have to be really careful about who we elect to the job.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: So what we need to do is have people unite on the other side and defeat him in November. But in the short-term, also criticize his policies in a way to build support for the idea that this isn't the way the president should act.

GOLODRYGA: You seem to be speaking in lockstep with Speaker Pelosi, who this morning threw cold water, according to Manu Raju, on the idea of impeaching Bill Barr. She said the Democrats can't go and spend their time going after every single lie of a cabinet official. A lot of things can happen within nine months.

Are you saying there's nothing you can do on your end of Congress to uphold this administration before November? SMITH: I'm saying that the way you're asking that question is making

it worse. There are things we can do. Honestly, I haven't spoken with the speaker about any of this. It is the logical conclusion to where we're at.

And I think you see that. You see a lot of people -- I'm not going to participate in the election, yes, the president is terrible, what are the Democrats doing about it. We're doing everything we can.

And, yes, we are going to hold hearings. We're going to ask questions. We're going to pass legislation. But the way our Constitution is set up, the president gets to veto it and the Republicans get to kill.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: -- these good ideas. And then they say the Democrats aren't doing everything.

We're doing everything we can. We're going to keep doing it. We need to build support for that, not undermine support for that.

GOLODRYGA: I think the way -- and the reason I'm asking the question the way I am is because we're in unchartered territory from a lot of what we're hearing from experts that come on this show, especially legal experts, regarding this specific situation, saying they have never seen something like this, alarm bells are going off at the DOJ. That's why I'm asking the question I am.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: Absolutely. No, absolutely.

GOLODRYGA: If things are so dire, then why can't --

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: Things are dire. But let me tell you something. When things are dire, you have to be incredibly intelligent about how you meet that threat. And if you take steps to undermine your ability to defeat that threat, that makes it worse. Not better. Yes, it is an incredibly dire situation.

[11:35:06]

But I'm a very optimistic person. I believe that if you work together, if you bring the assets that you have on your side of an argument together, in the most intelligent and most effective way, you can win. But that's what we have to do. And internal conflict, that doesn't get us there.

What the president is -- we're 100 percent clear now that this president, Bill Barr, his administration, are a direct threat to the Constitution, the rule of law, and democracy.

Let's go defeat that threat. There are plenty of people that want to do that. And I'm going to work as closely with all those people as possible and do it in the most effective way possible.

And we're not going to ignore what he's doing. But nor are we going to say, look, because you haven't stopped him, it is your fault.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: We're going to stop him in any way we can. But it has to be done in an effective way.

GOLODRYGA: I have to say, it's reassuring to hear there are people still optimistic.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLODRYGA: Let me finally end on -- let me end on a specific question that I know is important to you as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. How are you planning to address the constant attacks against Lieutenant Colonel Vindman coming from the president and some of his supporters?

SMITH: We're going to keep putting pressure on the Pentagon to not give into that. And in fact, Secretary Esper is going to testify before my committee when we get back in two weeks after next week. And there are a lot of questions.

Certainly, the personal attacks against both Colonels Vindman, which, by the way, is further evidence that this president is running the White House like he's a mob boss.

Not only does he get rid of Colonel Vindman, he gets rid of his brother, who had nothing to do with any of it. We are going to put pressure on the people in the Pentagon.

We also very soon are going to see the president steal another $6 billion or so out of the Pentagon to build his wall, going completely against legislative norms.

Don't misunderstand me. We have to call him on it every time he does something like that.

But we got to make sure that people who are concerned about this don't set the bar, well, you didn't stop him so what difference does it make. We've got to keep working on it. We've got to stop him eventually. That means we have to stick together and come up with the best plan possible.

GOLODRYGA: Congressman, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

SMITH: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you.

Michael Bloomberg picking up a number of key endorsements as he faces more questions about his controversial Stop-and-Frisk policing policy. His latest response and the impact on the race, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:42:18]

GOLODRYGA: As the Democratic primary race now moves to states with larger populations of voters of color, we're seeing just yesterday alone three prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the mayor of Houston, my hometown, and the country's fourth-largest city, has thrown their support behind Michael Bloomberg.

This comes amid new questions about the former mayor's support for Stop-and-Frisk practices in New York. This week, comments he made in 2015 resurfaced. He described the policy as a way to reduce crime by throwing minority kids up against the walls and frisking them.

Yesterday, Bloomberg didn't directly answer when asked why he said what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I don't think those words reflect what -- how I led the most diverse city in the nation. And I apologized for the practice and the pain that it caused.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But why did you say it?

BLOOMBERG: It was five years ago. And, you know, it is just not the way I think. And it is not -- doesn't reflect what I do every day. I led the most populist largest city in the United States and got re- elected three times. The public seemed to like what I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLODRYGA: Joining me now to discuss is CNN political commentator, Van Jones, who served as a special adviser to President Obama.

Van, always great to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLODRYGA: So obviously, the Bloomberg team knew that this kind of question was going to come up, right? Was his response adequate?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE VAN JONES SHOW": No, it is not. He has to have a much better answer than that.

Here is reality. Stop-and-Frisk was a horror show for African- Americans, Latinos, in the city for a very, very long time. It wasn't a secret. There were lawsuits, protests, complaints, for a long time. He clearly thought it was a great idea.

That attitude, that the way you deal with this problem is you throw people up against the wall and frisk them, as opposed to other things that could make communities safer and better, that was the whole problem. That answer was not sufficient. Will it stop him from getting some black support? It won't. There are

older black voters and more conservative black voters who will forgive him for that because he's able to beat Donald Trump.

But he's going to have to be able to come forward with a much better explanation for why he said that and what has changed in his world view that he doesn't thing that way anymore.

GOLODRYGA: We mentioned some supporters in the African-American community, we had endorsements. One from the mayor of Houston, three members of the Congressional Black Caucus. They are aware of Bloomberg's past policies. That wasn't a deal breaker for them.

JONES: Right.

GOLODRYGA: Will that be a deal breaker for voters, if we hear a different answer from Bloomberg, let's say next week, let's say, at his first debate appearance?

JONES: You know, I've learned now you should say black communities, not black community.

[11:45:02]

GOLODRYGA: Black community.

JONES: Because there are now - look, for younger black voters, that's a deal breaker. For the black Lives matter generation, they were at the effect of that. They were trying to walk this floor. They had to get to work. They had to deal with that every single day and nobody came to their aid. And they knew who was responsible. And that guy is running for president.

For younger black voters, that's going to be a deal breaker, at least in the primary.

But there are going to be other black voters who are going to say, that was bad, however, we need somebody who can stop Trump. And maybe you need a big billionaire to stop a little billionaire and they're going to get him a pass on some of it.

But he's not going to be able to waltz past this with non-answers.

GOLODRYGA: Regardless, this is something he has to address repeatedly. You know the others in this Democratic process are going to be going after him on this as well.

JONES: That's true.

GOLODRYGA: The other candidates will.

I want to turn to a different topic because of 2020 presidential race is under way. CNN is going behind the scenes of some of the presidential elections of past years. And you're participating --

JONES: Yes. GOLODRYGA: -- in the latest one, "THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE." You're looking at the 2008 race between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Here is a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: South Carolina, race permeates everything. It doesn't matter where you go to church, where you go to school, where you live, race is just kind of a defining factor.

ANNOUNCER: Up until now, the Obama strategy on race has been largely to steer clear.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & CNN HOST, "THE AX FILES": We always understated race. We always used to say, I'm of the African-American community, but I'm not limited to it.

JONES: That was audacious on his part, for him to say I'm not going to let you put me into the small box. I want to be in the full box, the big box, with everybody. And people say, he was trying to post racial.

ANNOUNCER: But in South Carolina, history is too raw and memories too bitter for post racial to fly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a serious fear in the black community that every time we get our hopes around a great leader, like Dr. King, like Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, they all get assassinated.

And there were people who literally said, I don't want to vote for Barack Obama because I'm concerned for his safety. If I vote for him, and put him in that position, they are going to try to kill him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLODRYGA: Van, looking back, it's a bit delusional to assume because the first African-American president was elected that we live in a post racial country, right?

But talk about the impact that race and politics had in terms of his administration, and his election. Not to mention the fact that he walked into the worst economic crisis that this country has seen since the Great Depression.

JONES: I don't think we can remember now how much hope there was. People were afraid to hope. You just heard the guy -- we were afraid to hope. Every day, people thought he was going to be killed.

A year before he's elected president, the biggest punch line for any black comedian was, what if the president was black and going into this whole thing about a black president. And, suddenly, it is possible.

GOLODRYGA: Right.

JONES: And not just for black people. I think for black people, white people, and the entire world, the idea this a country that was born in slavery, that had this horrific apartheid system and lynching, could elevate an African-American man to office, it was breathtaking stuff. I mean, it choked people up around the world.

And I think you'll see it tonight, the impact on this particular -- this idea of being -- of dealing with race in a new way, how it propelled that candidacy forward.

GOLODRYGA: And it was something this country took pride in around the world, right?

JONES: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: Unifying and look at what this country could do.

In terms of race and the minority vote, you have the president of the United States saying that, what do you have to lose. You have candidates saying, you have everything to lose.

Quickly, do we need to hear from President Obama now on this issue?

JONES: I love him on any issue. I miss him every day. I think that he has done a great job of being respectful of the president's office, and also being present for us on issues.

GOLODRYGA: Van Jones, great to see you. Thank you.

And you can catch an all new season of "RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE," this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

[11:49:22]

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GOLODRYGA: An enormous spike in the number of people infected with the coronavirus. Just today, in China, 15,000 more people are reported with the virus. It's the biggest single-day jump in cases since this outbreak began.

CNN's David Culver is in Beijing.

David, what can you tell us about the major spike in numbers overnight?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, you hear this and it's alarming, because it sounds like a massive jump from one day to the next.

But the reality is, we've got to put it in the context as to how it's being classified, the numbers, that is. And the Chinese government has shifted it a bit.

Initially, they were kind of focused on how they would classify those who were clinically diagnosed and who had been tested and confirmed positive. And then they were combined with those who had been clinically diagnosed and had not been tested at all.

Now, they're putting them all together in one category. That explains the massive number.

And it's political, too. Because at the same time, there's a correlation with some of the actions taken from the top. The central government in and of itself has now decided to fire two of the most senior leaders within Hubei Province and the city of Wuhan. That's the epicenter of all of this. Both of those senior leaders have been pushed aside.

[11:55:04]

Who has replaced them, but a protege of the president, Xi Jinping. He has put people from his party and his representation into those positions to take control.

So it's political in addition to being a bit confusing for folks.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Still alarming, though.

David Culver, thank you so much for your hard work out there. We appreciate it.

CULVER: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: And one week after being acquitted by the Senate, President Trump is protecting his allies and punishing his perceived enemies without objection from fellow Republicans. Is this the new normal?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)