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CNN NEWSROOM

GOP Infighting Over Next Round Of Coronavirus Stimulus Relief; Interview With Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY); Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) Discusses Trump Deploying Federal Agents In Cities, Warnings On Creating The Homeland Security Department, Voting Against Patriot Act; U.S. Ambassador To U.K. Accused Of Sexist, Racist Comments & Pushing To Have British Open Played At Trump Golf Course. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 22, 2020 - 14:30   ET

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


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[14:30:00]

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And the sooner we can see their bill, the sooner we can understand our differences and we're clearly or our similarities.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): And start negotiating.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And this sharp critique.

PELOSI: One thing is very clear. We have been united in our priority. I think their delay is their disarray.

MATTINGLY: Phil Mattingly, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Let's bring in one of the Democrats playing the waiting game here, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Senator, thank you for being with us.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): Hi, Brianna.

KEILAR: Hi, there.

So there are still big differences between the Republican proposal and the Democrats in terms of cost, and certainly a lot of differences between Republicans themselves.

The Democrats are looking at $3 trillion. Republicans are looking to come in at a little over $1 trillion. What are you willing to compromise on to get this over the finish line?

GILLIBRAND: Well, some of the biggest priorities are ones they're not paying attention to, which gives me grave concern. We need money for the state and local governments desperately. I traveled through the whole state. Every city and county is in

desperate need. And they're on the verge of having to fire police officers, EMTs, firefighters, other critical frontline workers. And this is no time to increase unemployment and decrease services people need to survive.

Second, they're not doing anything to relieve suffering. They're not willing to make sure there's more money for food stamps or rental assistance or housing to make sure mortgages could be forbeared or more rental assistance. And we're unsure whether they'll extend unemployment insurance.

So, what they want to do is liability protection. They want to make sure that every company in America cannot be sued regarding how they treat their employees. I think we need to have OSHA standards revised on an emergency basis. Then you would not be sued if you were not absolutely breaking the law.

KEILAR: Then businesses might have guidelines.

GILLIBRAND: Yes.

KEILAR: And we've heard the Senate majority leader say the second round of stimulus is going to include stimulus checks, PPE funding for businesses in this proposal. Is that welcome news to you?

GILLIBRAND: I think stimulus checks are very helpful. I think continuing to fund small businesses is also very helpful. I just wouldn't do it at the exclusion of state and local budgets. You have to make sure the greatest and most urgent needs are met.

And unfortunately, Mitch McConnell is unwilling to meet with us, unwilling to negotiate the House bill. He sent everyone home and President Trump spent time golfing. He should have been working with leaders on a bipartisan common-sense solution.

KEILAR: The clock is ticking here and it's looking like Congress is probably going to miss the deadline for so many Americans who need the help to come very soon. When do you anticipate this wrapping up?

GILLIBRAND: We should have been working over the last two weeks but we stand ready to negotiate. You heard from Senator Schumer and Pelosi that we have a host of good ideas. We want to find out which ones can be bipartisan.

I'm sure Senators, Republican and Democrats, heard from their mayors at home. And there's no state immune from the crushing effects of shutting down the U.S. economy.

Many states have seen an escalation in numbers of COVID cases because those governors aren't following science and the recommendations of the CDC.

KEILAR: Could this go -- I'm trying to see though could this go into August? Could this potentially go to the middle of August. GILLIBRAND: The employment checks will run out. And they're also -- we

don't want hundreds or thousands or millions homeless because Congress can't do its job.

I call on Senator McConnell to work with us, get this done and get it done before these programs run out.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about a label we've heard House Speaker Nancy Pelosi use. When she's talking about the virus, she's referred to it as the Trump Virus. And I wonder if you think that is appropriate or helpful?

GILLIBRAND: It's not a term I've used but I can understand her frustration with President Trump. He refused to wear a mask for months and made fun of people who were.

He's somebody who refuses to use the Defense Production Act to guarantee universal testing. His administration's been unwilling to spend billions that have been made available for an increase in testing.

[14:35:06]

He's not worked on making sure that we can have contact tracing and testing that works around the country. And so, he's not doing what's necessary to stop COVID.

I'm not surprised she's frustrated because he continued to call this a hoax, until a couple of weeks ago. It's incredible how badly President Trump handled this epidemic.

KEILAR: He announced he's sending federal forces to two more cities. What happens if he is to send them to New York?

GILLIBRAND: I think he is misusing military and governmental assets. It is not the role of the U.S. military to go into cities and states and undermine local law enforcement and governors and mayors, who are in charge of keeping the peace.

He is really tearing up the Constitution and the separation of powers in a way that's deeply worrisome and concerning. And I hope the American people speak out.

We have an opportunity to do that in November. And I look forward to defeating President Trump and electing President Biden.

KEILAR: Right. What is the scenario with him sending federal troops in?

GILLIBRAND: I hope we can avoid any serious issues. What happened already in Oregon is so deplorable, it's so concerning, because they were using military assets to harm peaceful moms who were protesting. I mean, I can't fully comprehend how President Trump believes this is an appropriate use of force. It's not.

And I think governors are going to do everything in their power to prevent this from happening again. And they're going to use the powers that they have to push back on the White House and this administration's plans to use force inappropriately.

KEILAR: Senator Gillibrand, thank you for being with us.

GILLIBRAND: Thank you.

KEILAR: And up next, as more than two dozen U.S. mayors express outrage over the Trump administration's use of federal agents in U.S. cities, I'll be speaking to someone who warned this would happen when creating Homeland Security.

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KEILAR: Today, President Trump is expected to launch "Operation Legend," which is deployment of agents to Chicago and Albuquerque. It comes as Trump faces increasing backlash for sending agents to Portland.

Protesters and federal agents have clashed there. The pictures have been eye-opening, as we've watched them. The protests have lasted over 50 days.

The former head of Homeland Security even criticized the president's use of the department. Take a listen to Tom Ridge.

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TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY (voice-over): The department was established to protect America from the ever-present threat of global terrorism. It was not established to be the president's personal militia.

It would be a cold day in hell before I would consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention in one of my cities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Those comments join a chorus of calls from city mayors angered by the president's decision. More than a dozen mayors joining Portland in asking the president to withdraw federal forces.

The mayors are writing this, quote, "These are tactics we expect from authoritarian regimes, not our democracy."

The mayor of Albuquerque saying, quote, "There's no place for Trump's secret police in our city."

And I'm joined by former Democratic Senator. He was one of a small group of lawmakers, who voted against the Homeland Security act in 2002. He was the only one to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001.

Senator, I guess your reaction to the deployment of federal officers to U.S. cities. How do you interpret what you are seeing? FORMER SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): In an era of crisis after crisis

where it's hard for people to absorb all the things happening, this one cannot be exaggerated in terms of its seriousness.

Here we have a president of the United States, who was exploiting loopholes, basically, in laws from the post-9/11 era to do things even the most conservative supporters of the Department of Homeland Security wouldn't have supported.

So, I opposed the U.S. Patriot Act, which provided huge authority for the government, often intend as only for drug cases. And now we see another piece of legislation from this era, the Department of Homeland Security.

Why is he using them? Because the military in this country has stood up to the president and the administration. That was after the fiasco in Lafayette Park where he wanted to stand with a Bible.

So, now he's using this to suppress the right to protest and to protest the racial injustice that has greatly infected our nation.

KEILAR: You're one of the few, we said, who voted against the DHS law. Is this exactly what you feared might happen or did you ever even imagine something like this?

FEINGOLD: Well, it's a little hard to imagine this extreme of a use. But it was fuzzy. It was jammed through for political reasons in 2002, frankly, because the Republicans wanted a good issue, and those that who voted against the bill would be accused of being soft on terrorism. This was done to help defeat the Democratic Senator from Georgia.

So it was politically motivated, as I believe the Iraq war vote was. And they got a result. They got the majority of the United States Senate.

[14:44:58]

But the reality is this agency is not properly defined or regulated. And the president is taking it further by not having a confirmed secretary. So, there's no accountability. He takes it to the limit. That's what you have to understand.

When you face a crisis like we did 20 years ago, what you decide then may not come to its worst results in that crisis, but in a future crisis.

Of course, we're now in a position where the administration is brutally using this in a way that I think most of the people in the Bush administration never would have even considered.

KEILAR: And hopefully, you just heard, right before the segment, we put up some sound from former Secretary Ridge, who just did an interview with Michael Smerconish yesterday. And he said DHS isn't meant to be, quote, "Trump's personal militia".

What's your reaction to him saying that considering, I mean, it's Tom Ridge?

FEINGOLD: He's a man integrity and he knows what's going on in Portland. It's not some kind of a crazy violent thing that needs to be crushed. It's legitimate protest after George Floyd.

I heard Senator Gillibrand refer to the mobs. They're here to protect the protesters from these militaristic troops. And they are not even properly trained to do this work.

So, now you can see it's not really about Portland. It's being threatened to be done in other major cities in America. This is an example of the use of secret police.

And I admire Tom Ridge for being direct about this, even though he and I didn't agree at the time on this legislation. He is dead right about this abuse.

KEILAR: The video we're getting out of these cities, specifically Portland, it's just wild.

We interviewed a Navy veteran who was talking. He wasn't doing anything. He was standing there. And the federal agents just went after him with a baton and pepper spray. They broke his hand. I think he's in surgery the next day or so.

It's unbelievable what we're seeing.

Russ Feingold, thank you so much. We really appreciate you, Senator, coming on.

FEINGOLD: Our Constitution is under assault. Thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you.

A bleak warning today from American labs processing coronavirus tests. We won't be able to do it once flu season hits. Can you imagine that?

Plus, President Trump's ambassador to the U.K. is at the center of scathing allegations. His reported sexist and racist comments are the beginning of a watchdog investigation.

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[14:52:02]

KEILAR: President Trump's billionaire ambassador to the United Kingdom is under fire on multiple fronts because of claims he tried to use his role as ambassador to help out the president's businesses, as well as allegations he made racist and sexist comments to his staff.

CNN national security correspondent, Kylie Atwood, is part of our team of reporters uncovering the story.

Kylie, tell us what your sources are tell us you about Ambassador Woody Johnson. KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, I want to

take you through some of the specifics that we have reported in this story.

With regard to the racist allegations, Ambassador Woody Johnson is said to have questioned why the black community would want a particular month to celebrate Black History Month in conversations with embassy staff.

And when they were planning an event to take place two commemorate that month, he asked if the audience would be filled with black people. He also said that the serious real challenge for the African- American community is that fathers aren't part of the family.

And one source told us that those comments stunned them. That is a source who overheard those comments being made.

With regard to the sexist allegations, Ambassador Johnson is said to have hosted official gatherings at a men's only club in London. He was told by another diplomat that he would no longer do that. If he hosted events there, women from the embassy could not attend.

He also made sexist comments about women's looks at the embassy and what they were wearing.

And I also think it is important to note that there are also allegations about him attempting to use his government position, abuse that position to press in a way that would benefit the president's personal property.

So he traveled to Washington and met with President Trump in 2018. He returned to the embassy and told officials that the president wanted to host the Open, which is a British golf tournament, at his personal property Turnberry. That is a golf course in Scotland.

And officials told the ambassador he couldn't do that. It would be unethical to raise that topic with British government officials. But he did so even though they warned him not to.

And the British government told us that there were no requests made regarding any specific sports tournaments but they didn't say that Turnberry did not come up in the conversations.

And, Brianna, we're hearing now from a number of folks who are reading this story. And I want to point to one player on the Jets team, the NFL team that Woody Johnson owns. And he tweeted this afternoon saying, "We need the right people at the top. Wrong is wrong."

And so we have asked Ambassador Johnson for a comment regarding all of this reporting and what he said back to us was that being the U.S. ambassador to the U.K. is an honor of a lifetime. But he did not specifically refute or comment on the specific allegations that we are reporting on.

[14:55:06] And the State Department said that they still have confidence in the ambassador. And that they stand by him as a loyal and also as someone who -- I want to read you the quote -- "led honorably and professionally" -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Interesting. That statement didn't answer the question at all that you had asked of them.

ATWOOD: No.

KEILAR: Kylie, thank you so much for the great reporting. Kylie Atwood, we appreciate it.

Up next, one convent outside of Detroit lost 12 sisters to coronavirus in just one month. We'll have that story coming up.

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