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Military Officials Move to Question Trump's Fitness for Office; Democrats Increasingly Way 2020 Candidates' Pros and Cons; Bumble Dating App Expanding Market to India. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 14, 2020 - 10:30   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: -- unprecedented. Has this ever happened before, military commanders taking a president to task?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's happened before, but not en masse like we're seeing develop right now. Meaning during the Vietnam era, Curtis LeMay joined forces with George Wallace, the great Air Force hero. He didn't like the way the Vietnam War was being operated, so he went after LBJ. You know, these type of things. McChrystal once took a swipe at Vice President Joe Biden and got himself in hot water for that.

What's unique here, these are people that know Donald Trump well that are saying, he's unfit for command. I mean, McRaven, Jim, is the greatest perhaps Navy SEAL in U.S. history and he's saying, I'm embarrassed for our children, that we're allowing a president like Donald Trump to run shotgun over the U.S. armed forces.

So what's -- with all of these gentlemen have in common is they're defending the armed forces over Donald Trump's crazy tweets and attacks on people like Colonel Vindman.

SCIUTTO: They're doing more than that, are they not, as well? Because they're talking, you say, about competence but also character. The character --


SCIUTTO: -- of the man, in very strong definitive terms. That -- I mean, you talk about, for instance, LeMay during the Vietnam War, that was with -- with the carrying-out of the war. Here, you have a series of commanders questioning fitness for office here.

BRINKLEY: Couldn't agree with you more. I mean, Admiral Stockdale ran with Ross Perot because they didn't -- they wanted to get some attention to the POW issue. So those things have happened, but we've never had something like this where they're -- you know, they're saying the character of President Trump is unfit, that he's a moral degenerate.

General Kelly, who knows him well, has been White House chief of staff, had famously said, if I leave -- which he did -- this president's going to be impeached. Meaning he doesn't understand limits of executive power, he's going to abuse his power, he has utter disregard for Congress and he -- I think they're drawing the line in the sense that you're not going to demonize good soldiers in the United States.

And so it's been interesting to see them kind of start holding a line. Remember, people at CIA, State Department had to do the same thing when President Trump tried to strip security clearances away from some of our great diplomats and national security thinkers.

SCIUTTO: So in another way, too, they're stepping into the breach, are they not? Because other folks in positions of power have not been willing to challenge this president, particularly members of his own party with very rare exceptions -- you could say Mitt Romney during the impeachment voting, you know, and that was unprecedented, to have someone of the same party vote to remove a president of the same party from office.

But to put on your historian hat here, has that reluctance from lawmakers to publicly challenge the president, is that unusual today?

BRINKLEY: You know, yes. And a way to look at it, even the Nixon administration, with all their problems, they every year hold a reunion and people are proud for some of the things that they accomplished.

What you're getting with Donald Trump is anybody who worked with him who's not in government really learns to despise him. And you're going to have, like, after Trump leaves the White House, they're going to be meeting except they're going to be there to all dis President Trump.

He doesn't make friends very well, there's nobody that Donald Trump trusts in government, he's very paranoid, conspiracy-minded, and tends to belittle the best and the brightest in both the armed forces and in the federal bureaucracy.

SCIUTTO: And his response to Kelly, I mean, it was predictable, right?


SCIUTTO: He belittles him, he questions his qualifications even though he appointed him, et cetera.

Douglas Brinkley, thanks so much. Good to have you on.

BRINKLEY: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We've been talking about unprecedented. Here's another story of this. The defense secretary, Mark Esper, is defending President Trump's plan to divert nearly $4 billion in Pentagon funding -- this is funding approved by Congress for other things: weapons systems, fighter planes, bombers, et cetera -- taking that money approved by Congress to pay for border wall construction, which Congress has not authorized. The move quickly sparked bipartisan backlash. Texas Republican Mac

Thornberry said the plan was unconstitutional. Here was Esper's response this morning.


MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I'd (ph) say this much, border security is national security and national security is our mission. I think many NATO allies understand that as well. The action we took is legal under the law. I think it's -- should be no surprise, and I'll just leave it at that for now.


SCIUTTO: Well, Republican lawmakers disagree. According to Customs and Border Protection, the administration has completed construction on about 119 miles of wall. The majority of that has been replacing old existing barriers.


Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is apologizing for the stop- and-frisk policy on the campaign trail -- first time we've heard him do that on the campaign trail -- but does he need to do more to win over skeptical voters? We'll discuss.



SCIUTTO: 2020 contender Mike Bloomberg is apologizing, for the first time on the campaign trail at least, for the stop-and-frisk policy he had repeatedly defended during his time as mayor of New York.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is one aspect of (ph) the (ph) approach that I deeply regret: the abuse of a police practice called stop and frisk. I defended it, look back, for too long because I didn't understand then the unintended pain it was causing to young black and brown families and their kids. I should have acted sooner and faster to stop it. I didn't, and for that I apologized.


SCIUTTO: Fairly definitive. Bloomberg had previously apologized for the policy back in November 2019, that right before he announced his candidacy.

Joining me now, Toluse Olorunnipa. He's White House reporter for "The Washington Post." And CNN Washington correspondent Jessica Dean.

Toluse, I spoke with Bloomberg's senior advisor, just a few moments ago, on this issue of the apology. And he had quite strong words too. Have a listen, I want to get your reaction.


TIM O'BRIEN, SENIOR ADVISOR, MICHAEL BLOOMBERG PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Mike will always have to apologize for this. It was a mistake. He held onto it for too long, he defended it for too long and it was deeply damaging and painful to people of color in New York.

And I think Mike will have to spend the rest of his career, his public career, proving to people that stop and frisk does not represent who he is as a person or a politician.


SCIUTTO: Politics, of course, is not the land of the definitive apology, right? It's normally more friendly to the kind of half- apology. But seems to acknowledge there, both the candidate himself and his team, that they have to get in front of this and take responsibility.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that's exactly right. Regardless of what's in Mike Bloomberg's heart, if he wants to be the next president, he's going to have to put this issue to rest, he's going to have to address this issue for a constituency that is going to really determine what happens in the next election. In the primary, African-American voters on the Democratic side play an outsize role in specific states, specifically in his Super Tuesday strategy.

And if he's not able to get them on his side and convince them that this stop-and-frisk policy, which many consider racist, is not representative of what is in his heart and what he would do as president, then he's going to have to do more than just apologize and try to pivot and move on.

And I think his advisors are clear on that, and it seems like that's something that he's trying to do, he's trying to roll out this new support group, specifically focusing on what he would do for the black community. But this is something that's going to continue to be a part of his campaign and we'll have to see whether or not he's able to sufficiently address it.

SCIUTTO: Jessica Dean, President Trump has certainly noticed Michael Bloomberg --


SCIUTTO: -- and Bloomberg has noticed that the president has noticed him --

DEAN: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- here's Bloomberg describing Trump's mindset on a campaign stop in Houston just yesterday. Have a listen.


BLOOMBERG: Now, if I were from Texas, I might say he's -- Donald Trump is scared as a cat at the dog pound. But since I'm from New York, I put it this way. We're scaring the living hell out of him, and we're just starting right now.


SCIUTTO: That true? Does Trump see a potential serious rival in Mike Bloomberg?

DEAN: Well, I think we can certainly see that Donald Trump is tweeting a lot about Michael Bloomberg. We've seen this before in that whomever he's kind of thinking about, whoever's in his head is who we see on his tweets.


DEAN: The big thing, I think, for all of these Democratic nominees is, it's who -- Democratic voters are looking for who can beat Donald Trump. And no one yet has definitively convinced them of that, so Michael Bloomberg is trying to do that. And if he can do it, if he can convince people, look, I'm the guy? Are they willing to hold their nose if they don't like the stop-and-frisk background --


DEAN: -- if they don't like the redlining thing, if there are things about him they don't like, and say, well, we think he's the guy to get the job done? It's the argument that Joe Biden tried to make all along --


DEAN: -- just had trouble doing.

SCIUTTO: I'm the --

DEAN: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- that I'm the best to beat Donald Trump. Now, concern -- this was expressed to CNN freshman House Democrat Dean Phillips of Minnesota told CNN that if Bernie Sanders were the nominee, that he would have, in Phillips' view, a disastrous impact on down-ticket races for Democrats, claiming 25 to 30 Democratic House seats would be impacted directly.


Toluse, that concern not confined to that one sitting Democratic congressman.

OLORUNNIPA: No, that's right. And you even hear other Democratic presidential candidates making the same argument, that the Democratic socialist label that Bernie Sanders has self-identified with would make it harder for Democrats up and down the ballot to compete in 2020.

That is an argument that is being more mainstreamed in the Democratic race right now, and you're hearing several of these congressmembers, some of whom have endorsed Mike Blomberg, and many people who are saying, if there are no other moderate candidates that can compete with Bernie Sanders, let's put it -- put our chips in with Mike Bloomberg. He has the resources, he has the ability to take on Bernie Sanders and President Trump.

That is an argument that is starting to gain some traction. We'll have to wait and see on Super Tuesday, how far it goes. But there is concern in parts of the Democratic Party, specifically in more moderate parts, in the areas that Trump won, that Bernie Sanders would not make it easy for them to win re-election.

SCIUTTO: Pete Buttigieg weakness for him to date, Jessica, has been African-American support. He just picked up a first endorsement from a black South Carolina lawmaker. That's going to be a test in South Carolina, for --


DEAN: It's a real test. And, look, this race does turn now to a much broader cross-section of the Democratic population. And whomever, you know, is going to become the nominee is going to have to perform well in those areas.

So the test -- to your point -- for Pete Buttigieg is, can he grow that support? And is it possible that people are looking, giving him a second, third look now? Maybe. And so that's his -- that's his test now, how do you expand that and --

SCIUTTO: It's early --

DEAN: -- can you do it.

SCIUTTO: -- it's early in the race.

DEAN: Right.

SCIUTTO: Lots of tests, going forward.

DEAN: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Jessica Dean, Toluse Olorunnipa, thanks to both of you.

Attorney General Bill Barr says that he will not be bullied by anyone. But is he really standing up to President Trump? We'll test that.

But first, you probably know -- or some of you do -- of the dating app Bumble. It is now taking its message to India. Will that bet pay off?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Bumble, the dating app that puts women first.

WHITNEY WOLFE HERD, FOUNDER, BUMBLE: Everything we're rooted in is all about empowerment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): So India might not seem like the obvious next frontier. It's estimated about 95 percent of marriages in India are arranged. And while that's starting to change, casual dating is frowned upon in many parts. But Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd saw the challenge as an opportunity.

WOLFE HERD: Women in India are equally as deserving of having their voice heard as a woman anywhere else in the world. And so sometimes, they just need a healthy push and to feel like they have a buddy in the -- in the process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Bumble launched in India with safety features to help women feel more comfortable on the app. And it's available in both Hindi and Hinglish, a hybrid of Hindi and English.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of changes did you have to make, specifically in regards to safety?

WOLFE HERD: Women traditionally have not wanted to put themselves out there on these platforms in fear of being stalked, being found. We eliminated first names, and we just use letters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you have any naysayers, though?

WOLFE HERD: A lot of people were telling us that this was a waste of time, stay focused on your core market, stay focused where people care about feminism.

We need to go where we're needed the most. The most traditional, the most misogynistic mindsets globally, those markets for us are completely wide-open prairies.




SCIUTTO: CNN is set to take you inside some of the most iconic presidential campaigns in U.S. history with "RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE." This week's season two premiere documents President Barack Obama's prize journey to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. CNN's Tom Foreman has a look at five of the most pivotal moments of the 2008 race.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Democrats, the 2008 contest started with our fifth most memorable moment: Hillary Clinton jumping in with the best odds ever for a female contender.

BARBARA PERRY, PRESIDENTIAL STUDIES DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: She's the former first lady, she is a well-respected senator, she is married to Bill Clinton.



FOREMAN (voice-over): For Republicans, another seasoned pro was emerging: John McCain, a war hero with years in the Senate.


FOREMAN (voice-over): What neither of them could have foreseen is our fourth most memorable moment, the explosive rise of a far less experienced contender.

BARACK OBAMA, THEN-DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People call me Alabama or they call me Yo Mama. But the name's Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a candidate running for president.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Barack Obama electrified young voters and shocked the old guard>

OBAMA: You were a corporate lawyer, sitting on the board of Walmart. I was fighting these fights.


FOREMAN (voice-over): By the time Clinton realized her race was in trouble, the nomination was effectively his. And McCain was waiting, along with the third most memorable moment.

JEREMIAH WRIGHT, PASTOR: No, no, no. Not God Bless America, Goddamn America.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Obama was soon being hammered over his ties to a controversial family pastor and an old acquaintance

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Barack Obama and domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, friends.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Still, he weathered those storms and began surging again, triggering the second most memorable moment. Desperate to improve in the polls, McCain made a wildly unorthodox choice for a running mate.

MCCAIN: Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Palin drew praise from conservatives --

SARAH PALIN, FORMER REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

FOREMAN (voice-over): -- and scorn from liberals. But mostly, she and McCain failed to deliver the votes the party needed. And in the end, the number-one most memorable moment is one the country will never forget.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Barack Obama, 47 years old, will become the president-elect of the United States. FOREMAN (voice-over): Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.



SCIUTTO: A lot of memorable moments there. An all-new season of "RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE" premieres this Sunday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, only on CNN. We'll be right back.


SCIUTTO: A halftime promotion turned into a huge disappointment for a student at Northern Iowa University.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one, throw (ph).



SCIUTTO: Looks like he won. Dalton Hinsch made all four shots in 27 seconds, beating what he and the crowd thought was a 30-second clock to win $10,000 -- it's not easy to do -- but officials ruled, after, that he didn't get the last shot off in time.

The school's athletic department later tweeted, quote, "the insurance rules are it must be completed in 24 seconds." And a trip to St. Louis for a tournament next month. I don't know, what do you think, folks? I kind of think he deserved it.

Thanks for joining me today. I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR" will start right after -- right now, actually. Thanks for joining us.