Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

David Perdue's Racist Remark about Stacey Abrams; Rep. Mo Brooks Hopes to Advance without Trump; Pence and Trump Pick Opposites in Georgia Primary; European Commission Closer to Russian Oil Embargo; Interview with Rep. Diana DeGette on Baby Formula Crisis. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. What we're watching at this hour, decision day: Georgia's primary could say a lot about the influence of former president Trump's on the Republican Party. Voters head to the polls right now.

Top execs from America's major baby formula manufacturers will be in the hot seat, facing questions from Congress for the first time since the shortage set in. The congresswoman leading the hearing is our guest.

A new warning on monkeypox. The CDC says anyone can get this disease but one community may be more at risk right now.

Thank you so much for joining us. It is Election Day in America. Voters are heading to the polls in five states today. Much of the attention right now is on Georgia, the key battleground state in 2020, one sure to be important in 2024.

And right now it is a key test of Donald Trump's sway with Republican voters. The governor's race is what everyone is watching. The Republican primary for governor is its current governor, Brian Kemp, versus former senator David Perdue.

It's also basically turning into a Mike Pence versus Donald Trump matchup as well. And in the final minutes, there is a question today of what is David Perdue trying to do, really, on camera, making racist remarks about the Democratic candidate in this race, Stacey Abrams.

Let's get to it, let's start there. Kristen Holmes is live in Atlanta for us.

Kristen, early voter turnout has been huge and today is the day.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This race is huge. It has become a proxy war between the MAGA Trump election-denying part of the Republican Party and the Republican establishment, including former vice president Mike Pence. This is really a day of reckoning for former president Trump. One, he

has poured more than $2.5 million into this race, more than he has put into any primary this cycle.

And also because of the Big Lie and that test to the Big Lie. Perdue has made this a cornerstone of his campaign. And today we see whether or not Republican voters are ready to move past that.

Now I do want to touch on what you mentioned yesterday that happened during the campaign, one of the only things Perdue said wasn't related to the 2020 election and election fraud.

And that was these racist remarks when he was talking about Stacey Abrams. He essentially skipped over Kemp altogether and started talking about Abrams, who will be the Democratic candidate for governor in the fall.

He said that Abrams, who is Black, was demeaning her own race and that she should go back to where she came from.

One thing to note here, Kate, particularly with that last part, is she is from Georgia. She has lived here since she was in high school. She was just born elsewhere in the United States. So clearly just blatantly false. But I want to play what Abrams responded when she heard those remarks.


STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The challenge that I have is the answer from Republicans, from our former senator to our current governor, is to fight me instead of fighting the problems that are facing Georgia.

And I urge everyone to pay less attention to rhetoric and more attention to the record and the results. And I'm here to provide results for the future of Georgia.


HOLMES: So clearly not directly addressing the racist element of that speech. Perdue seems to have been referencing remarks that Abrams made back in 2018, when she said people shouldn't have to be in hospitality or agriculture to make a living in Georgia. But certainly a controversial way to end a very controversial campaign, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Good to see you, Kristen. Thank you so much.

Let's turn now to Alabama, where the focus is the Senate race and the Republican primary, where Donald Trump gave and then rescinded his endorsement. CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live for us in Huntsville, Alabama, this hour.

Dianne, what's happening there?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, actually Mo Brooks just walked into his polling place right across from me here to cast his ballot. Losing that Trump endorsement may have inadvertently helped Mo Brooks revive his campaign from what many thought was dead.

And that's because these two opponents, former aide to retiring senator Shelby, Katie Britt, and helicopter pilot, Mike Durant, have spent the last two months beating each other up. You can barely turn the TV on here without watching them really attack one another.


GALLAGHER: It seems that has created a lane for Mo Brooks' campaign. In his words, he called it to become a modern day Lazarus. It still remains to be seen if that will happen. But he had Ted Cruz here campaigning for him, although Brooks has not completely distanced himself from Trump, even though Trump has attacked Brooks the last couple months.

He wouldn't say whether or not getting that nomination tonight would mean more because he didn't have it with Trump's endorsement.


REP. MO BROOKS (R-GA): I believe that every endorsement matters and certainly president Trump's endorsement is a bonus. But at the same time, the people of Alabama, they're conservative, particularly in a Republican primary. And they're looking at the difference in the records. I have one; the other candidates do not.


GALLAGHER: So it's unlikely, because this is such a fractured primary, we'll have a winner tonight. Alabama requires somebody to win a primary. They have to get 50 percent of the vote. If they don't, it goes to a runoff next month.

Kate, that's likely what we may see in the governor's race as well. Governor Kay Ivey, it's sort of been this run to the Right. She has eight people running. It's a lot of people there. It is tightened up in the weeks leading up to today. So she may be able to fend off those challengers. But it may be very tight tonight, Kate.

BOLDUAN: A lot going on. Good to see you, Dianne. Dianne Gallagher on the ground in Alabama for us.

Joining us, co-anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION," Dana Bash.

Good to see you, Dana.


BOLDUAN: Thank you. Happy Primary Day. People are not even voting but still, on decision day, we love it.

Let's start with Georgia. Voter voting, what are you looking for today?

BASH: What I'm going to be looking for is whether or not this strategy, which is way beyond Georgia but Georgia is kind of the climax of this strategy, among the incumbent Republicans, led by the Republican Governors Association and people associated with that, to keep incumbents in place and focus on the more traditional conservative values, issues that they believe the voters really care about, in order to fend off the Trump endorsement tour.

And they were successful in that. If you look back at Nebraska, the incumbent governor, who is actually term limited, he was successful in fending off the Trump-endorsed candidate. It was successful last week in Idaho. And the real question is whether or not that is going to be true in Georgia today.

The polls show that that is the case, that the incumbent governor, Brian Kemp, is going to do very well against the man that Donald Trump wants, David Perdue, the former senator.

But we'll see what happens. But the fascinating aspect of this to me, Kate, is the fact that this isn't just happening by accident. It's not just happenstance that there is a very concerted effort by Republican governors across the country to fight back against Trump and Trump's attempts to tie the Republican Party to 2020.

They want to make it about the future.

BOLDUAN: Our good friend, David Chalian, pointed out that president Trump seems more committed to this race than any other so far in the primary season.

To your point, if his preferred candidate in this governor's race loses, what does that say about the concerted effort you're talking about here?

BASH: That is such a good point. There is no race that matters more within the Republican field and the Republican primaries to Donald Trump than this one. This is the ultimate when you look at his grievances and his lies about 2020.

He believes that he is not president largely because of what happened in Georgia and because Brian Kemp, the incumbent Republican, did not heed his calls. Others as well did not heed his calls to find votes out of the thin air to make him the winner there.

And that is the reason -- it's not just as if David Perdue woke up one day and said, I'm going to run for governor. Donald Trump recruited him, begged him to do this. If he's not successful, you know, you're already seeing some statements from the former president.

"Well, it's hard to beat an incumbent. Well, you know, at least he's going to get some votes."

You're already seeing him lay the groundwork for a loss, his loss. David Perdue's loss will be Donald Trump's loss. But to your point, it will be very telling about where this whole divide goes in the future.

[11:10:00] BOLDUAN: So an interesting part about this is it is exactly what you're laying out but in addition to that it's kind of a proxy battle between Trump and Mike Pence in Georgia. Marc Short has been advising Kemp's campaign. He was asked if Pence's involvement represents a full break from Donald Trump. Here's what Marc Short said.


MARC SHORT, FORMER PENCE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think Mike Pence is here not for any sort of broader message, he's here because he supports Brian Kemp. I think Mike Pence is here because Brian Kemp has been a friend, Brian Kemp has a great record.

He's proud to be here and I think that Brian Kemp is going to win tomorrow decisively. And he's on his way to win it again in four more years.


BOLDUAN: Do you think that's really all Pence's endorsement here means?



BASH: Absolutely not. It's some of it. It's part of it. If Mike Pence didn't like Brian Kemp, if he didn't have a relationship with him as a former governor himself, Mike Pence was governor of Indiana, if he didn't believe in his values and issues, he wouldn't be there.

But he also wouldn't be there if Donald Trump hadn't shoved him out of Trump world on January 6, 2021, because the then vice president refused to do, again, what Trump wanted him to do, which is not certify the election results of 2020, which Mike Pence announced, as he was walking into the chamber, that he did not feel that he had the power to do, which most legal scholars agree with.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And today being the most exciting day of covering any campaign, the day that voters have their say. Good to see you, Dana. Thank you.

BASH: You, too. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Dana will be part of CNN's special coverage of "ELECTION NIGHT IN AMERICA" that begins at 7:00 pm Eastern tonight.

Coming up for us, President Biden is wrapping up his big Asia trip and on his way home, he is now insisting there is no policy change when it comes to Taiwan, despite his words suggesting just that. A live report is next.





BOLDUAN: President Biden on his way back to the United States from his multi-day trip to Asia. On the way, the president is having to explain his own comments that the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily if China were to invade.

Biden now insisting he has offered no change in policy by saying that. Kaitlan Collins is live for us at this hour in Tokyo.

It's good to see you, Kaitlan.

Where do things stand with this now?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president seems to be trying to temper his comments from yesterday, where he did come out and seemed to suggest a change in U.S. policy by going where presidents typically don't go when it comes to this idea of strategic ambiguity.

If you're not familiar with the term, it basically means that presidents are warning China against using force in Taiwan but they wouldn't lay out exactly what the United States would do should China actually do that.

That changed during that press conference, when the president said, yes, he would get the U.S. military involved if that situation were to arise. But he said he doesn't believe that would actually happen, that China is planning to attack Taiwan.

Today, when he was asked about those comments and whether this idea of strategic ambiguity is over, this is what the president said.


QUESTION: Mr. President, is the policy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan dead?


QUESTION: Could you explain?


QUESTION: Mr. President, would you send troops to Taiwan if China invaded?

BIDEN: The policy has not changed at all. I said that when I made my statement yesterday.


COLLINS: So you have heard from officials repeatedly. They say the policy has not changed here. But Kate, it is a change for the president to say, yes, he would get the U.S. military involved because that goes a step further than what they said previously, which is, should that attack happen on Taiwan, the United States would provide them with defensive weapons.

All of these questions, of course, still following the president back to Washington. We should note this is about the third time the president has made comments like this when it comes to Taiwan. So it's pretty clear where he stands and how he views this. But it has taken on a new urgency since the invasion of Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: Now to Russia's war of Ukraine, the head of the European Commission saying she expects a deal on a Russian oil embargo in a matter of weeks. But Poland's prime minister telling CNN a ban is, quote-unquote, "a contentious point." Clare Sebastian is with us now.

What does it mean about this oil embargo?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't exactly know. Poland is right; it is a contentious issue. We do know that Germany is looking to get this done, to show unity in this time of Russian aggression. They are to phase out all Russian oil product by the end of this year. The E.U. Commission president said it would happen within weeks.

The German vice chancellor said to CNN in Davos that he believes it could be days. But we still have serious opposition from Hungary, saying it really needs guarantees for its own energy security before it commits to any sanctions. It relies on Russia for about 65 percent of its oil imports.

There is perhaps some compromise at work.


SEBASTIAN: The Polish prime minister hinted that there might be funds coming from the E.U. budget to sort of pay for infrastructure in countries like Hungary, to compensate them in some way.

But now I think attention turns to E.U. leaders at a meeting happening at the end of this month. There is focus on that to see if they can get something done then.

BOLDUAN: Moving fast but not so much at the same time. It's good to see you, Clare, thank you.

Let's turn now to the critical situation on the U.S. Mexican border. The rule known as Title 42, a court ruling will not slow border crossings. Migrants remain determined to come to America no matter what. CNN's Matt Rivers is live on the Mexican side of the border with more on this.

Matt, it's good to see you.

What are you seeing there?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, well, yesterday, we got a chance to visit a shelter here in Ciudad Juarez, which is just across the border to my left, from El Paso, Texas. What we saw at that shelter was basically a microcosm of what's happening across the border from Texas to California.

This particular shelter is completely full. It has 80 people. If one person leaves, another person enters. They cannot accept any more people. There are bunk beds next to bunk beds; people are sharing bunk beds at this point. And that is happening across the city.

The other interesting thing there is the majority of people in that shelter are not from the Northern Triangle. They're not from El Salvador, Honduras or even here in Mexico, which is traditionally where a lot of migrants have come from.

The vast majority of people in that shelter were Haitian. And that follows trends we're seeing here at the border, more than 100,000 people encountered by Border Patrol in April, according to statistics, were from outside the four countries I just listed.

And the other thing is the numbers keep going up. We have seen a steady increase, across the border and here, of people continuing to arrive.

I asked the director of that shelter, is the fact that Title 42 not expiring dissuading anyone from coming?

He said no. In fact, he is planning on more people arriving. He's building a new structure at his facility. And he said even when that's done in a few months, he still won't have enough space to house all the migrants he's expecting. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Matt, thank you for that update.

Still coming up for us, a second shipment of baby formula from overseas will soon be on its way to the United States. This is just as lawmakers are preparing to drill the FDA and manufacturers of this baby formula over this crisis. I'll talk to the chairwoman who will be leading that hearing, next.





BOLDUAN: Let's turn now to the American baby formula crisis. A second U.S. military shipment leaving Germany tomorrow is headed straight to Pennsylvania, much needed and maybe much overdue for many families. Let's get to Elizabeth Cohen. She is live at the base in Germany.

Elizabeth, what are you learning about this shipment?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, what we're learning is that this is another hypoallergenic formula and that's because many parents in the toughest situation have children with allergies or other medical conditions, not able to find that specific kind of formula that they need. Trucks arrived here yesterday. Today, still more to arrive, full of

this formula. Together, along with the shipment that happened on Sunday, it's 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles, the equivalent of that, for American babies.

Now the big question the parents have is, OK, is it going to start being easier to find formula on store shelves?

The answer is probably not anytime really soon. Much of the shipments, these two shipments, if not all of it, is going to hospitals and pharmacies and doctors' offices. Some of it may go onto store shelves; we're not sure yet.

But in either case it needs to be inspected first, because it's an import from a foreign country, so that's going to take some time. Plus 1.5 million bottles is a lot. But think about it, there are millions of babies across the United States who drink formula. So this is not going to be nearly enough.

Other steps being taken by the Biden administration, other steps that are being taken by other companies to ratchet up their manufacturing, hopefully, all of that together will help. But still, parents shouldn't expect to see a really significant difference for many weeks. Kate.

BOLDUAN: And how many weeks continues to be a key question. Elizabeth, thanks for that.

Joining me right now is Democratic congresswoman Diana DeGette. She is the chairwoman of the subcommittee who will be holding the hearing tomorrow with the FDA as well as the baby formula manufacturers in the U.S., all scheduled to testify.

Congresswoman, thank you for being here. I think it's important that the makers of these formulas are going to face some real questions.

What information do you want most from them?

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO): Well, I'd like to know, number one, what they intend to do to safely get the infant formula supply replenished in the U.S.

People can't just be driving around and around, looking for formula for the next two months. And I know that some of the other manufacturers, besides Abbott, have started ramping.