Return to Transcripts main page
Eight-Year-Old Girl Among Eight Killed, 53 Shot In Chicago; Trump Supporters, Counter-Protesters Clash In Oregon; DHS Draft: White Supremacy Is Most Lethal Threat To The U.S.; Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) Discusses Allegations Against Postmaster General; NC Official Calls On Trump To Wear Mask During Visit Tonight; Gender Reveal Party Turns Into Disaster For California. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired September 8, 2020 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Chicago.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, whenever we have a warm holiday weekend in Chicago, there's a major concern for violence.
And on Labor Day, an 8-year-old girl was killed after gunshots were fired into the SUV she was traveling in.
She was among the more than 50 shot and eight killed over the course of this holiday weekend on the tail end of a summer where we literally saw weeks in a row at one point where children under the age of 10 were shot and killed.
And as part of a year here in Chicago where murders and shootings are up more than 50 percent compared to the same time last year -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Omar, thank you.
There were violent clashes over the holiday in Oregon state capital between Trump supporters and counter-protesters. Two people were arrested.
CNN's Josh Campbell explains what started the violence.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, ongoing tensions between pro-Trump supporters and counter-demonstrators in the state of Oregon escalating into tension over the long weekend.
A large caravan of pro-Trump supporters traveled to the state capital in Salem, squaring off with counter-demonstrators. State police say the different factions were firing paintball guns at each other, launching projectiles. Two people were arrested and charged with assault.
The arrests on Monday come over a week since another violent encounter here in the city of Portland. Social media videos show pro-Trump supporters firing paintball guns into the crowd. One Trump supporter was later shot and killed -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Josh Campbell, thank you.
The Department of Homeland Security is about to issue a report that singles out white supremacists as the most persistent and lethal threat to the United States.
A draft of the document shows officials predict an elevated threat that will last through early next year. It also indicates some groups are using the political and racial climate to their advantage.
Evan Perez is with us, our CNN senior justice correspondent. And he's there at the Justice Department with this story.
You know, Evan, tell us normally what an administration would be doing with this news and what we're seeing right now.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, normally, when you have an assessment like this from your Homeland Security Department -- this is an annual assessment that they do. They look at the threats that they face. We normally see these threats from foreign terrorist organizations.
They make sure that the FBI, Homeland Security Department are all on the same page to try to counteract this threat. That's not what we're seeing from the Homeland Security Department. We're not seeing that from this administration.
Matter of fact, according to the drafts of this document over at the Law Affair blog -- was able to obtain -- it appears there's been some softening of the language in some of the drafts that the Homeland Security is preparing.
But you read part of it that says, essentially, that, "Ideologically motivated lone offenders and small groups will pose the greatest terrorist threat to the homeland through 2021 with white supremacist extremists presenting the most lethal threat."
That is the language in the original draft. We're waiting to see whether the Homeland Security Department is going to issue -- what the final product is going to look like whenever that report is finally issued by the Homeland Security Department.
KEILAR: Evan, thank you so much for that update. Evan Perez.
Next, President Trump saying that he's open to removing his postmaster general if allegations prove to be true that he pressured his former employees to donate to the GOP. One of the members of Congress now investigating those claims will join us live.
Plus, the Trump campaign blowing through what was once a billion- dollar campaign war chest. And now the president says he'd be willing to dip into his pocket.
KEILAR: Last month, House lawmakers grilled embattled postmaster general, Louis DeJoy about rampant mail slowdowns.
Now Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want answers from him again.
The panel is launching an investigation following a "Washington Post" report that, when he ran the company, New Breed Logistics, he allegedly pressured employees there to donate to Republicans candidate and then reimburse them with big bonuses.
To be clear, encouraging donations is not illegal but reimbursing them would violate federal and state election laws.
My next guest is Congressman Jim Cooper. He asked DeJoy about contributions to the Trump campaign in 2016 when he testified before the House and Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM COOPER (D-TN): Did you pay back several of your top executives for contributing to Trump's campaign by bonusing or rewarding them?
LOUIS DEJOY, U.S. POSTMASTER GENERAL: That's an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it.
COOPER: I am just asking a question.
DEJOY: The answer is no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Congressman Jim Cooper joining us now to talk about this.
Sir, thank you for coming on.
That question that you put to Louis DeJoy, you were asking about activities related to the Trump campaign, not specifically what the "Washington Post" report alleged. You kind scooped the paper there.
What had you heard in advance?
COOPER: Well, I had done my homework, as I try to do on every hearing.
And also I had an advantage because I have a lot of friends in North Carolina. I went to the University of North Carolina. And also I had done my senior paper in Harvard Law School.
PAC contributions from corporations where the executives didn't really want to contribute. Any super reliable mega donor for Trump had to really pressure his employees.
And I just asked him the question whether it was true or not. Of course, it looks now like DeJoy lied under oath. KEILAR: What's also alarming about that is you're saying this is just
-- this happens commonly enough that you would ask him and expect that this is something he would likely have done, or any mega donor would have done.
If you think he lied under oath, then what?
COOPER: Well, it looks like, according to the "Washington Post," there are four different criminal laws he broke, including perjury.
It is wrong. It's illegal to use a straw man to contribute. It violates campaign finance limits. It really suborns his own employees. That's what "The Post" article revealed.
Lots of angry employees were upset by being pressured to give to a candidate who they didn't like or admire.
As DeJoy pointed out in his testimony, he did a lot more of this when he held his own company. When it was acquired by XPO, he was less able to do it but still apparently did it.
He may have bought an ambassadorship with this and bought the position of postmaster general. Both of those things are outrageous.
He really climbed on the back of his employees, forced them to give so he could climb a political ladder.
KEILAR: He's really been at the center of this controversy over the postal service during the questioning last month on mail slowdowns.
You asked him to hand over his communications with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and President Trump. Have you gotten those documents?
COOPER: No. DeJoy was a very uncooperative witness. He really didn't want to be there.
I tried to pursue the line of questioning: Does he think he's above the law? I established in three different ways he thinks he's above the law.
It's a crime to delay the mail. Also, previous postmaster generals had to pay fines for conflicts of interests. And DeJoy's conflict of interest is 100 times larger than the conflict in the 1990s with another gentleman.
DeJoy didn't really fear those charges. But he seemed to really wrestle with the charge that he reimbursed his employees. He knows that's a crime.
KEILAR: I want to listen to what President Trump said about any investigation into the postmaster general just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I think let the investigations go.
Go ahead, please.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A follow-up, please, if you don't mind. If it's proven to be a campaign finance scheme, he should lose his job?
TRUMP: Yes, if something can be proven that he did something wrong, always.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: What's your reaction to that?
COOPER: Good for President Trump for throwing DeJoy under the bus. His real hope, as I said in my last question to him, I thought his backup plan was probably to be pardoned like Roger Stone.
At the time when people didn't have the "Washington Post" article in front of them, a lot of folks thought that was reaching.
It looks now like DeJoy is in serious legal trouble, as he should be. Because in several instances, he seems to have broken the law.
KEILAR: Congressman Cooper, thank you so much for coming on. We appreciate it.
COOPER: Thank you. Appreciate it.
KEILAR: A vaccine maker CEO says the vaccine in the works is, quote, "near perfect." We have a doctor who says that is an irresponsible statement. We'll talk about what the CEO's reasoning was in saying this.
Plus, President Trump is headed to North Carolina tonight. But at least one Republican official there is asking him, please, wear a mask.
KEILAR: President Trump makes a campaign stop tonight in the battleground state of North Carolina. And a top Republican in the county where he's scheduled to visit is calling on the president to do something he rarely does, wear a mask.
Dave Plyler, the GOP chairman of the Forsyth County board of commissioners, put it bluntly in the "Winston-Salem Journal, saying, "It's been ordered by the governor. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in North Carolina, do as the government says."
"He -- meaning Trump -- "is a citizen of the United States but he is also a guest in our county. Without a mask, he could get sick and he could blame the governor." The president and his top aides have rarely been seen in public wearing a mask despite the president calling them patriotic earlier this summer at one point.
In fact, for months, he has mocked Joe Biden and reporters who wear them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Your second question was? I couldn't hear you.
TRUMP: Can you take it off because I cannot hear you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'll just speak louder, sir.
TRUMP: OK, because you want to be politically correct.
You're going to have to take that off. You can take it off.
TRUMP: You're -- how many feet are you away?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'll speak a lot louder.
TRUMP: Well, if you don't take that off, you're very muffled. So if you would take it off it would be a lot easier.
But did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?
TRUMP: And then he makes a speech and he always has it, not always, but a lot of times he has it hanging down.
TRUMP: Because, you know what, it gives him a feeling of security. If I were a psychiatrist
TRUMP: No, I would say --
TRUMP: I would say this guy has some big issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now with just 56 days until the election, it now appears that the president's big early campaign cash advantage over Joe Biden has largely evaporated as the election comes here into the homestretch.
As his war chest dwindles, the president today vowing to dip into his own money and spend whatever it takes to win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In the 2016 primaries, I put up a lot of money. If we have to, I will do it here. But we don't have to because we have double, maybe triple what we had a number of years ago, four years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How much are you talking about --
TRUMP: Whatever it takes. We have to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: This comes as Joe Biden's fundraising has surged ahead of the Trump campaign.
Now some of those major Trump campaign expenses are being questioned. According to "The New York Times," the Trump campaign has already spent about $800 million of the $1.1 billion that it raised.
For example, they spent $350 million on fundraising operations, more than $100 million on an ad blitz before the RNC convention, and $30 million was also spent paying companies to make campaign swag.
For more, let's bring in Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and CNN political commentator.
Doug, when you see some of these expenses, which do you look at and say they blew a lot of money that they shouldn't have?
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The one people pay the most attention to and is the most troubling is anything that goes to a Trump property, which certainly this administrator and the campaign have done a great deal.
You showed Dave Plyler earlier, the chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party. And I'm from Forsyth, North Carolina.
And while these new stories should be troubling for a lot of Republicans, there's a big difference between Forsyth County for Trump this time and last time. I mean, about four years ago this week, I was home in Winston-Salem,
stopped by the county headquarters. And they didn't have campaign signs or bumper stickers or material that they typically would.
And the reason they didn't is someone told me at the headquarters, they don't have Trump people here. They don't have staff and bodies on the ground.
They may not be able to fill their total campaign goals, which they laid out for a few years. But where they are this time versus last time is vastly superior. They have a good team, a robust team, and a team on the ground in the way they didn't.
I know a lot of people who, four years ago, my late father was one of them, who lived in Winston-Salem who said, I wish Joe Biden was running this time.
There may be Independent voters or soft Republicans who look at Donald Trump differently than they did last time or vote differently than they did last time.
But the Trump campaign will still have a well-organized team on the ground and that will give him, if not an advantage going in, certainly, what he needs at this point.
KEILAR: OK. And thank you for that glimpse from on the ground there in your home county.
I want to ask you about something that the former head of Trump's campaign, Brad Parscale, said when it came to the money going out the door.
He talked about the money going to marketing strategy and going to expenses. And he said nothing was done without the approval of the family.
So he's saying that the Trump family, family members, whoever that may be, right -- he's got an umbrella there -- knew where all of this money was going.
So what does that tell you?
HEYE: I think that's probably true. Look, this is a family enterprise. And in ways that a lot of Republicans, if the last name were Clinton or Obama, would be aghast at.
Republicans have certainly bought in on this. And it is also why you don't hear the widespread condemnation that you otherwise would from Republicans.
I would cite the example when I worked at the Republican National Committee in 2010, when we had some stupid expenditures that were made, not of the size that we're seeing of the blown money by the Trump campaign, and Republicans were fighting over which one could criticize us the loudest. And I suppose this time, whether it's just a lot of silence, that also will benefit the Trump campaign. But the Republican Party is baked in on this.
It's a family affair, to quote the old song, and that's not going to change.
What Brad said rings true to anybody who has been on the inside of this campaign, but even looking from the outside.
KEILAR: Doug, thank you so much for the insight. Doug Heye, we appreciate it.
HEYE: Thank you.
KEILAR: What was supposed to be a moment of excitement for a family has turned into a complete disaster for California. A gender reveal party is behind one of those fires that has now burned more than 10,000 acres.
KEILAR: And 25 major wildfires are burning across California forcing thousands to evacuate, and we've still got four months to go in the fire season.
Fire officials say a gender reveal party that used a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device triggered the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County. This is now one of the most dangerous fires they have ever seen in that area.
We have more from CNN's Ryan Young at the scene.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, fire crews have been working overtime to knock out the fires in California. Look at the scorched earth behind me.
This is the El Dorado Fire. This is the one that people across the area are talking about. This is a family that came out here to do a gender reveal party using pyrotechnics and it sparked all of this dry grass.
Firefighters do have some of it contained. But there's concerns about the high wind and the heat that they'll be facing much later. This El Dorado Fire is 45 minutes outside of L.A.
But as they deal with all of the conditions here in California, it could be worse in the next 24 hours or so -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Ryan Young, thank you so much.
Our special coverage continues now with Brooke Baldwin.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN on this Tuesday. Thank you so much for being here.
Today marks the unofficial start of fall. And it promises to be a season unlike we have ever seen. We enter this critical season with 11 states seeing an increase in new cases over the past week. And 15 are seeing a decline and nearly half are holding steady.