Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Biden & Trump Hit Campaign Trail in Key State of Iowa; Biden Speech to be Scathing Attacks on Trump's Policies, Politics, Personality; Pelosi "Done" with Trump, But Impeachment Not Off the Table; NTSB Investigating Helicopter Crash in New York Building, Pilot Identified. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 11, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:27] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

Today, I'm wondering, is this June 2019, or have we fast forwarded to October 2020? Here's why I ask. The Democratic front runner, Joe Biden, the incumbent president, Donald Trump, both headed to the great state of Iowa today, head to head, though they're heading to opposite sides of the state.

Take a look at this wonderful map we have created for you. Biden kicking things off this afternoon around 1:30 eastern time. Then, before heading to Mt. Pleasant, a little after 4:00.

And that is just as President Trump will be in Council Bluffs touring a renewable energy plant. He then heads to west Des Moines for a Republican fund-raising dinner this evening.

That is just when Biden will be about 180 miles away speaking in Davenport, a speech in which he will be eviscerating the president. The copy of the remarks we have seen is page after page of scathing attacks on the president, his policies, his politics, and his personality.

So let's get to it. CNN's Jeff Zeleny in a town which is Biden's first stop.

Jeff, are we in June 2019 or have I fallen asleep and woken up in October 2020?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, that is a great question. Certainly, Joe Biden would like it to be 2020. He would like it to be just a few months before the November general election campaign, but he does, of course, have a primary to win. He has 23 other Democratic candidates, several of whom are taking shots at him as well.

He's trying to show voters here in Iowa and elsewhere that he's the strongest Democratic nominee by confronting the president. That's exactly what he plans to do when he's here in Iowa, going after an economic type argument.

Let's take a look at just a bit of what he plans to say later today in Iowa. At least he's expected to say. He's supposed to say this: Trump doesn't get the basics. He thinks his tariffs are paid for by China. Any beginning econ student at Iowa or Iowa State could tell you the American people are paying his tariffs. The cashiers at Target see what's going on. They know more about economics than Trump.

So going after a bit of an economic argument.

But again, the former vice president is trying to build up his own campaign to sort of prove he is a front-runner by going after the president.

But one thing is very interesting, we're here in Ottumwa, one of 32 counties in Iowa that flipped from blue to red, that Trump won in 2016. Look, add these numbers specifically here in Ottumwa and all of the county. In 2016, President Trump, Donald J. Trump, beat Hillary Clinton by 21 points. Four years earlier, in 2012, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by 12 points.

So this is one of the places that Joe Biden is going to make his case, trying to get back some of those disaffected Democrats into the fold.

But again, Kate, before any of this can begin, he needs to convince some of those other Democrats who are looking for new generation or new type of Democratic candidate that he's the best prepared candidate to beat President Trump -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: This really is a fascinating day. You're right in the middle of one of those pivot counties that is going to be so critical throughout the election.

Jeff, stick around with me.

Also joining me right now is Kaitlan Collins. She's in Des Moines where the president is headed later today. And in Washington, CNN political director David Chalian.

So, Kaitlan, you also have some new reporting on how much Joe Biden, already, it seems, has been getting inside the president's head. What is it doing?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRSPONDENT: That's what Joe Biden wants, to frame himself against the president instead of the other Democratic candidates, as Jeff was laying out.

For the president, it seems to be working because people close to him say it is Joe Biden who has consumed the president's head space the most, more than any other potential Democratic nominee has.

Now, the reasons for that, of course, are not only that Joe Biden has name recognition from being a Senator and a former vice president, but also because the president believes he's the most serious threat to appealing to those middle of the road voters, some of those blue- collar voters that the president won over in 2016. So that is his fear there.

So you can see the president, he's been not only talking about it on Twitter, at press conferences with other world leaders, but also sources say that's who the president is talking about when he makes those early morning phone calls. He wants to know, do people think that Joe Biden poses a threat to his ability to stay in the White House?

And also, we should note that there was some internal polling at the Trump campaign recently that showed the president was lagging behind Joe Biden in states that are going to be critical to his win in 2020. And the president, since then, was infuriating by those numbers but also has told people he doubted whether or not those numbers are right.

[11:05:11] BOLDUAN: Because when in doubt, just don't believe them. That's always one way to go.

David, what do you make of the fact that Biden is really solely focused on Trump throughout this speech? It draws in policy, but it draws in policy in order to contrast it with Donald Trump. I mean, he launches into Trump in basically his third line. And the fact that the campaign gave out the whole speech 12 hours before he's going to be delivering it.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: I think it's pretty clear that the Biden campaign is not looking for headlines about Joe Biden's tough on China strategy. I don't think that's what they think is going to come out of this event. The reason they're previewing the entire thing is they love this story line about Biden versus Trump.

Now, remember where we are. Biden is just coming off one of the worst weeks he's had as a presidential candidate this time around.


CHALIAN: They're trying to grab hold of the narrative again in a way that they believe works for them. And this is the calling card of Joe Biden's campaign to Democrats in the primary. It is look at how I can stand toe to toe with Donald Trump. Look at how I'm unafraid to take him on.

Kate, I will say, Joe Biden's approach today is going to reignite an ongoing debate inside the Democratic Party since November 2016. Is this kind of tough talk about President Trump --


CHALIAN: -- the right way to take on Donald Trump? I'm not sure Democrats are agreed that it is.

BOLDUAN: That's an excellent point.

Because, Jeff, let me throw out two somewhat opposing questions, if you will. To David's point, is there a risk that Iowans who you guys are hearing, want to see and hear more of Joe Biden, are going to hear Joe Biden basically only talk about Donald Trump today. Is that what they want?

On the flip side, why shouldn't Biden take on Trump and pretend there isn't a Democratic primary? Isn't there only upside for him there?

ZELENY: Look, there's only upside for Joe Biden trying to ignore the fact that he's in a Democratic primary, but the reality is he knows that he is, and his advisers know that he, you know, essentially is in a very competitive race here.

Front-runners often are very fleeting in Iowa. If you look historically, the leaders at this point of a campaign, they generally did not go on to win the Iowa caucuses or the nomination. So what's different about this case, of course, is President Trump is in the White House, and many Democrats are motivated to defeat him.

But there certainly is a sense among progressive activists and others that they want to see new policy. They want to hear new ideas. So that, of course, is Joe Biden's challenge, presenting himself as electable without sounding essentially like, you know, turning a page backwards in history here.

So going after Trump may not be all he has to do, but for today, at least, he's trying to drive that narrative.

And it's a matchup that both men have been waiting for, as Kaitlan said, President Trump has been consumed by Biden. He'll be in essentially the same air space today if not the same head space.


Kaitlan, do you think folks will be hearing the president go directly at Biden today, respond directly to Biden today? I haven't seen anything on Twitter but I haven't looked down in 30 seconds. Is this what his campaign wants today?

COLLINS: That could be part of the strategy of releasing this speech 12 hours before Joe Biden is even scheduled to give it, because, of course, he mentions the president dozens of times by name in this speech, if you just search through that document.

So that, of course, has been the headline on cable news all day, which we know the president watches. We know he's been watching this morning because he's been tweeting over a dozen times within a span of a few hours, and of course, he's going to take a ride on Air Force One over here to Iowa. So there's certainly a chance the president is going to be made aware of those comments.

And he is eager to get this fight started. Even though aides say, hey, look, the election is so far away. You don't have to single Joe Biden out by name yet, the president is eager to have a foil.

And his campaign has been delighted by what David was noting. A very bad week for Joe Biden, where he had a series of missteps, having to reverse a position on a key abortion amendment and also, of course, not attributing parts of his policy statement. That's something that the Trump campaign has been highlighting time and time again.

So it's pretty hard to see how the president is going to come here to Des Moines, going to be just a few hundred miles away from Joe Biden, and he doesn't bring up who he potentially believes could be his 2020 rival.

BOLDUAN: David, in a couple places in the speech that we see from Biden, he does respond to the onslaught of criticism that has been coming at him from his Democratic competitors.

Here's just one section. He says so, "Yes, I will look to work with the Congress. I will work across the aisle. I will seek to find consensus. That's not naive. That's not some old-fashioned way of doing things that no longer works. That's the way our system is supposed to work. And we're going to rue the day we decide to walk away from the fundamentals of American democracy."

Is that going to quiet the other Democrats, though, in the criticisms we hear? Though they criticize him without saying his name?

[11:10:09] CHALIAN: It's not going to quiet the Twitter crowd. Right? But I think it's Joe Biden's --


BOLDUAN: Twitter doesn't win primaries though.

CHALIAN: Exactly. And that's Joe Biden's bet there in that comment. He's betting that the Democratic electorate overall actually, it is not anathema to them to want to see things get done, for progress to be made, and the awareness that you can't do that with just one party alone.

I think there's a very vocal activist base part of the party that is ready for a fight at all cost and doesn't want to hear anything about compromise or conciliation or even kindness across the aisle right now. They're just angry and fired up.

But I think Joe Biden is betting here that he can appeal to a broader swath inside the Democratic primary electorate that maybe doesn't feel exactly that way.

BOLDUAN: Jeff, just to round this out, Iowa was a key pickup for Trump in 2016, not just as the first in nation caucus, but how important is how Iowa -- how important is Iowa to a general election when no matter who is up against the president this cycle, what are you hearing?

ZELENY: Well, Kate, it is critical to the president. If the president were not to hold Iowa, only the six electoral votes here, of course, it would likely be a sign of trouble in other parts of the Midwest like Wisconsin, perhaps Ohio. So holding Iowa for the president is key to his strategy. Democrats would certainly like to win that back.

Barack Obama, of course, won in 2008 and 2012. Since then, Iowa has been trending Republican at the state level. This will certainly be a year from now, we will be watching Iowa as we always do, one of the key battleground states.

Look for President Trump to come here again and again. It's one of the reasons he's raising money tonight for state Republicans. He views this as important.

There's also a bit of nostalgia here. It was just four years ago after he jumped in, he defeated every other Republican candidate, except Ted Cruz here. Iowa launched him. So he would like to win Iowa again in 2020 -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And Donald Trump is sentimental with those election memories, as we well know, because he keeps talking about them still.

ZELENY: Indeed.

BOLDUAN: Guys, good to see you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Still ahead for us, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's done talking about Donald Trump, but she's also not giving up on talk of impeachment. We'll tell you what else she just said to our Manu Raju in a really illuminating interview.

Also coming up, more questions than answers right now after a deadly helicopter crash in New York City. What went wrong? And why was the chopper flying in restricted area of Manhattan in the first place?


[11:17:35] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi digging in her heels against launching impeachment proceedings today against President Trump. We should say at least for now. Despite the vocal pressure on her coming from her caucus.

Just minutes ago, Pelosi also batted away President Trump's stinging attacks on her while both were attending a commemoration of D-Day just last week overseas.

Here she is with CNN's Manu Raju.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I'm done with him. I don't even want to talk about him.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But you have to work with him. How do you work with him after he levels such an insult against you overseas?

PELOSI: I just consider the source.

(LAUGHTER) RAJU: What do you mean by that?

PELOSI: My stock goes up every time he attacks me. What can I say?


But let's not spend too much time on that because that's his victory. The diverter in chief, the diverter of attention in chief.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill, and also back with me is CNN political director, David Chalian, for this.

Lauren, Nancy Pelosi in the conversation was asked by Manu, did not take the opportunity to deny the reporting that she said behind closed doors that she wanted to see President Trump not impeached but rather in prison. Did you hear any new ground from her on this issue of impeachment?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Kate, there were a few interesting moments in that interview from my colleague, Manu Raju. One was how she sort of batted back this argument that Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have been making that opening on impeachment inquiry makes it easier for them to fight against the Trump administration stonewalling in court? She argued, will it, is that the case. She didn't have a straight answer on that.

The other point she said is it was clear not a majority of her caucus was there yet on the impeachment question. And of course, this is exactly what she said about opening an impeachment inquiry.


PELOSI: It's not off the table. You can't. I don't think you should impeach for political reasons and I don't think you should not impeach for political reasons. It's not about politics. It's not about Democrats and Republicans. It's not about partisanship. It's about patriotism to our country. It's upholding a Constitution of the United States.


FOX: And you know, behind the scenes, Democrats have been debating a little bit the politics of this issue. You know, one of the hardest questions is how freshman members elected in places where President Trump won in 2016, how they deal with the question about opening an impeachment inquiry.

[11:20:10] There's been some concern that moving forward with an impeachment inquiry could endanger them in their 2020 re-elections. That's sort of where they are at the moment.

Pelosi obviously batting back this talk about impeachment. She did not want to go there. She wanted to talk about policy. She wanted to talk about exactly what the House was doing to advance an agenda -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and she wouldn't even like almost further than that, Lauren.

David, I think you even noted, she said something about, I don't care what you ask me, I'm not going to talk about him anymore.

On full display, seems to be the tough spot, delicate dance, whatever you want to call it, that Nancy Pelosi is in. She says she doesn't want to talk about Donald Trump, doesn't want to be part of what she calls his distractions, until she does want to talk about him, and she is facing real pressure. Though still not a majority, coming from her caucus on this.

CHALIAN: Not even close to a majority was the case she was making to Manu, which I thought was really interesting. I thought Nancy Pelosi's mission on this impeachment thing was actually to try to tamp the talk down a little bit. It seems to me she was trying to say it is such a small portion of the Democratic caucus that wants to move in this direction that it's really not part of her calculus right now.


CHALIAN: We know those calls have been growing. I think she made clear, if anybody out there thinks that the House Democrats are on the precipice of launching an impeachment process here, I think the speaker couldn't have been more clear today that that is not the case.

BOLDUAN: I think that's exactly right. You definitely got that from her tone. And also then, we all got to get excited about the debt ceiling coming up soon. Get excited, everybody.

Lauren, great to see you.

David, great to see you.

Guys, thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next for us, federal investigators searching for answers after a deadly helicopter crash in New York City. The pilot, a former volunteer fire chief, was killed in the crash. We have new details on him as well.


[11:26:51] BOLDUAN: It was a terrifying afternoon in the heart of New York City. A helicopter crashing onto the roof of a 50-story building, killing the pilot. The impact could be felt throughout the building, people there said, sending people running for the exits. No question.

Now federal and local officials are deep into an investigation of what happened here and what caused the helicopter to crash.

CNN national correspondent, Brynn Gingras has the very latest on the investigation. She's joining me now.

Brynn, what are you hearing right now?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, we now know that the NTSB is here on the scene. They're working on the roof of this high-rise behind me. We also know the medical examiner is on the scene as well.

And really, they're here to answer some major questions that are still sort of posed in a lot of people's minds, which is why did this helicopter pilot take off in the weather that we're experiencing in New York City? How did he end up in restricted air space in Manhattan? Those are some major questions that not yet do we have answers to.

What we do know is the timeline, as far as we're hearing from law enforcement sources. We just learned new information that when this pilot took off on the east side of Manhattan, we're told from a source that he said he thought he had a window in all of that weather, about five to seven-minute window to take off.

Once he got actually in the air and started making his way around the lower part of Manhattan and up the west side, there was some communication back to the heliport at some point that he needed to come back.

And we're being told then the last communication this pilot had with the heliport was that he was unsure of his location or he had some visibility issues, but that seems to be the last communication, at least from the people there on the ground had with this pilot.

So it still doesn't answer many questions as to then what happened next, and unfortunately, we may not know those answers because the only person who might have the answers is, of course, the pilot here, who was killed or died in this crash.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right.

Brynn, what else are you learning about Tim McCormack, the pilot we're talking about here?

GINGRAS: By all accounts, Kate, this was a very experienced pilot. He was a pilot for about 20 years of experience, is what we're learning. He had his commercial pilot's license back in 2004.

He actually was involved in an incident back in 2014 where he was taking up six tourists and hit a bird in a helicopter, broke the window, and was able to safely land that helicopter. So that certainly speaks to how skilled he was as a pilot.

We're also learning that for the last five years, he was flying these executive helicopters for a company called American Continental Properties Group, which is a real estate company.

But there was more to this man. We know he was a volunteer firefighter and beloved by a lot of people. Take a listen to what people who worked with him or volunteered with

him had to say.


DON ESTES, CHIEF, EAST CLINTON FIRE DEPARTMENT: Tim McCormack served with the Clinton Volunteer Fire Department from 1994 to 2019. He was chief of the department for 10 years.

Tim will be exceptionally missed by his department members. Not only for his leadership but his wonderful sense of humor. Rest in peace, brother.