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State of the Union

Democrats Prepare for CNN Debates; President Trump Fans Flames of Racism; Interview With Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI); Interview With Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 21, 2019 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Trump's targets. A new rallying cry jolts the 2020 race.

CROWD: Send her back! Send her back!

BASH: President Trump fans the flames of racism with political attacks.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't talk that way about our country, not when I'm the president.

BASH: Is this a preview of the general election race? I will speak with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker and Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson next.

And Mueller's moment. Democrats waited for years for Robert Mueller's report. Now he will be taking their questions.

ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE SPECIAL COUNSEL: If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.

BASH: Will the special counsel reveal new information about the president?

Plus: star power. The candidates gear up for a fight at CNN's Democratic debates.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Looking forward to it. I like it.

BASH: As they make their case to the American people, who is winning the Hollywood primary?


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is, here we go again.

President Trump is beginning yet another Sunday with an attack on four freshman Democratic congresswomen, tweeting just moments ago: "I don't believe the four congresswomen are capable of loving our country. They should apologize to America and Israel for the horrible, hateful things they said. They are destroying the Democratic Party, but are weak and insecure people who can never destroy our great nation."

Now, it was exactly a week ago this morning that the president told the same four congresswomen to -- quote -- "go back and fix the countries they came from" in a series of racist tweets.

By midweek, the president was disavowing a chant by his own supporters at a rally provoked by those tweets to -- quote -- "send her back" about Somali-born Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, an American citizen, and falsely saying he had spoken up to quickly stop those chants.

Now, on Friday, the president reversed himself, calling the rally- goers incredible patriots.

And now, today, he's questioning those congresswomen's love of the country.

So, joining me now is someone who is running to replace President Trump, 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Good morning, Senator.

Let me start by asking about the president.

And you said the president's original comment was racist. Many of your opponents, Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, they have called Trump himself a racist.

What makes you stop short of that?


And the reality is, this is a guy who is worse than a racist. He is actually using racist tropes and racial language for political gains, trying to use this as a weapon to divide our nation against itself. And this is somebody who is very similar to George Wallace, to racists who use -- he's using the exact same language.

As somebody texted me during his rallies, I have seen this before in black and white. And now I'm seeing it again decades later, where I thought our country was beyond this. I'm seeing this in full color.

So, this election in many ways is yet another chapter in our American history. We have seen it with the Know Nothing Party, which was trying to stop Irish and German immigrants. We have seen it with McCarthyism.

We have a demagogue, fear-mongering person who's using race to divide. And this is a referendum, not on him. It's actually a referendum on the heart and soul of our country.

BASH: Well, let... BOOKER: Who are we going to be and who are we going to be to each other?

BASH: So let's talk about your race to get the chance to run against President Trump.

CNN announced this week the lineup for the Democratic debate next week. You will be on the stage right next to former Vice President Joe Biden.

Your deputy communications director tweeted about next week's debate and said the following: "Mark the date, July 31, 2019. Joe Biden finally gets his own Senate Judiciary Committee hearing."

What does that mean?

BOOKER: I'm not sure. I didn't see the tweet.

I'm looking forward to being on that stage with people that are vying for the most important job in our country and looking forward to putting out a vision of what we need for the future of our party.

And we need leaders not only good and sharp on the ideas, but back to that issue of the soul of our nation...

BASH: Well...

BOOKER: ... is, who can really divide -- excuse me -- at a time that Trump is trying to divide, who can really unite, not just our party, but who can unite the country as a whole?

BASH: Joe Biden, of course, came under fire for his handling of the Anita Hill hearings when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Do you think it's about that? And, more importantly, is that something that's in the front of your mind as you think about preparing for this debate?

BOOKER: Well, look, you know, there are issues in -- all across our country that we're still struggling with and challenges.


We're still in a nation which does not treat women on equal footing, whether it's equal pay for equal work or the scourge of sexual assault that still is something in our country, even, as I saw recently in the Senate, where we are not dealing with as we should listening to women.

And even more than that, we see a criminal justice system that not only attacks women -- we have 86 percent of the women we incarcerate are survivors of sexual assault -- but a prison system that was supercharged by things like the 1994 crime bill.

So we have to solve these problems and do it today. I'm proud to have been a part of...

BASH: So... BOOKER: ... in fact, one of the leaders of the only major bipartisan bill that passed through the Senate to reverse the things that were caused by the 1994 crime bill.

BASH: So, just -- I want to move on, but, just to be clear, you don't know what the context of a tweet by your own spokesperson?

BOOKER: No, I do not.


Let's talk about your record, which you are running on. You were mayor of Newark.

And part of that record comes with a DOJ report which talks about some of your time with mayor and says that black residents were at least two-and-a-half times more likely than residents to be stopped, be arrested or searched.

And the report says this about black residents -- quote -- "This undeniable experience of being disproportionately affected by the Newark Police Department's unconstitutional policing helps explain the community distrust and cynicism that undermines effective policing in Newark."

Do you take any responsibility for the way this policing hurt black residents of Newark under your watch?

BOOKER: Yes, I actually took responsibility.

Most folks who know New Jersey know I inherited a police department that had decades of challenges with accountability, challenges along racial lines.

And we actually stepped up to deal with the problem, not only working with the DOJ, but working with the ACLU to put forward what was a national standard-setting level of accountability.

So I'm proud of that record as a mayor of trying to take on these problems. And, frankly, as a senator, I have been one of the few senators that have put forth legislation to create more police accountability, more transparency, so that we could begin to deal with some of the deep racial issues that we have that permeate not just policing, but also everything from prosecutorial actions to our criminal justice system as a whole.

We had real challenges in the city of Newark. And we worked hard not only to deal with that, but, on prisoner reentry programs and transforming our court system, we did a lot of things that really have become models for what needs to happen, not just in New Jersey...

BASH: But...

BOOKER: ... but in our nation as a whole.

BASH: I want to get to a couple of other issues, health care, of course, which is a huge one in the race for the Democratic nomination

Your 2020 opponent Kamala Harris, who supports Medicare for all, like you do, said this week that she would not raise taxes on the middle class to pay for it. Joe Biden went on the attack about it this week.

Let's listen.


BIDEN: Now, you have a lot of people out there supporting this plan who are running saying, but I'm not for that tax.

Well, there's no way to pay for it if you don't.


BASH: So you're a co-sponsor of Medicare for all. Would you raise taxes on the middle class to pay for it?

BOOKER: First of all, I'm a co-sponsor of a lot of bills that can deal with this savagely broken system, the costs of which are tremendously, to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of billions, trillions of dollars, more than a lot of other countries are paying.

We have a deeply broken system. If I am president of the United States, the first step that I'm going to take is to create a public option that actually will reduce costs within the system, driving down prescription drug costs, attacking the bureaucracy that's going on.

As somebody who actually had to run something, I was a chief executive of our state's largest city during a recession. We found ways to battle back bureaucracy, lower costs, and make things more efficient.

BASH: But, Senator, do you want to do that?

BOOKER: That's the first thing I will do.

BASH: OK, but do you want to do that with the Medicare for all plan? Because you're a co-sponsor, that suggests that the answer is yes. But you're saying maybe not?

BOOKER: No, look, what I have said very clearly to folks is, I believe that Medicare for all is the end that we should be seeking.

But anybody who says that, it can't be a political slogan. There has to be a pathway there. And the first step in that pathway is actually creating a vibrant public option, driving down costs for Americans, creating options, so people don't have to ration their prescription drugs.

And so I...

BASH: So, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, they would do Medicare for all at the beginning.

BOOKER: Well... BASH: They get in the White House, and that would be what they would


For you, the answer is no?

BOOKER: And, Dana, you and I both know that, even if we had 60 votes in the Senate right now, all the Democrats in the Senate wouldn't even support that.

This is about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I'm -- we're dealing with a country right now that needs a lot more good. And so the next step of what...


BASH: So, is Medicare for all unrealistic?


Look, Medicare for all is what we should be going for, but the first step getting there has to be showing that we can create a public option, allowing Medicare to be more -- available for more people.

And if we do that, by the way, we will drive down costs, because people from private pools will begin to choose Medicare for all. Elder people, more older people, 55, 56, will choose that public option, which will make those private pools go down. And if we do the commonsense things...


BASH: And you're right. I do know the reality of Congress.

But I just want to make sure that we're clear here. You just said Medicare for all, what you said is your aspiration, can't pass. So it wouldn't be your first issue out of the gate?

BOOKER: Well, first of all, I'm not taking -- I'm not taking anything off the table.

I believe that this election for our nation needs to be a movement election. So we don't necessarily know what the -- what Congress is going to look like.

My goal is that, in America -- all Americans agree with this, that, in this country, health care should be a right. Nobody should be being denied health care opportunities because they can't afford them.

And so what's the first steps that we can take to begin to get there? They have to involve increasing access and lowering costs for Americans. And I am more than confident that I can be the president to deliver on that, pragmatic steps that can pull new coalitions together to advance us towards our ultimate goal, everybody having health care in America.

BASH: Senator, your Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders is under fire from his own campaign staff for not paying some of them salaries of $15 per hour.

You also support a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Do you pay your campaign staff that?

BOOKER: You know, we have said in our campaign that we're not only going to pay our campaign staff that, but we're going to pay interns as well.

So I'm very proud of the house that we have. Not only do we pay our campaign staff wages that reflect what my values are, but we actually make sure that we have inclusive campaigns, diverse campaigns.

BASH: So it's $15 an hour minimum?

BOOKER: It's $15 an hour or more than that, yes.


I want to ask about something that you were recently asked. And that is about whether or not you would meet with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. He's unabashedly anti-Semitic.

He said -- quote -- "I don't" -- you said -- quote -- "I don't feel like I need to do that, but I'm not one of those people who says that I wouldn't sit down with anybody to hear what they have to say."

Is that still where you are?

BOOKER: Well, first of all, that -- that is completely taken out of context, that larger conversation.

BASH: OK, give me the context.

BOOKER: I will not sit -- I will not sit down with Louis Farrakhan, period. And I reject anybody who preaches that kind of bigotry and hate towards other American.

BASH: OK, thank you for clearing that up.

Let's talk about this coming week. The former special counsel Robert Mueller, he's going to testify before Congress, as you well know.

He did not make a determination during his investigation in the report about whether the president committed a crime. He cited Justice Department guidelines that say a sitting president can't be indicted.

Your 2020 opponent Elizabeth Warren wants to get rid of that policy. Would you as president?

BOOKER: Well, first of all, I want to be specific, because we're going to have a big week ahead, with Mueller coming before Congress.

And what I see in the behavior that I see in that -- outlined with great specificity in that report, that many federal prosecutors have come out and said are indictable offenses and something that does -- is tantamount to obstruction or obstruction itself. I believe Congress has a role to play right now. And I have been

someone who's called for the beginnings of impeachment proceedings, especially because we have a president right now who is not allowing Congress to do its job, which is to provide checks and balances of the administration, to provide oversight and investigation.

So this is a moment where, as someone who swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, we have a president that is acting not like the leader of the free world, but more like an authoritarian figure.

BASH: Senator Cory...

BOOKER: And so we...

BASH: Go ahead. Finish your thought.

BOOKER: I just want to finish the sentence.

We need to begin impeachment proceedings against this president.

BASH: Thank you. Thank you very much. Sorry for the delay there.

I appreciate you joining me this morning, Senator.

BOOKER: No, thank you for having me on.

BASH: Thank you.

And next up, I will ask a leading Republican senator how the president's latest fight is going over in a key swing state.

And coming up: Did President Trump find a way to unite all Americans over hatred of paper straws?

Stay with us.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

President Trump's racist attacks this week on four Democratic congresswomen came as he is already campaigning for a reelection bid, which begs the question, is this controversy helping President Trump with those key swing state voters?

Well, joining me now is a senator from one of those swing states that President Trump won in 2016, Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson, who is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

Senator, I have to start by asking you about President Trump's tweet just this morning continuing his attacks on those progressive congresswomen. Here's what he tweeted in part: "I don't believe the four

congresswomen are capable of loving our country."

Do you agree with the president that they are not capable of loving the United States?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Good morning, Dana.

You know, I would say, in general, the whole America love-it-or-leave it is not -- not a new sentiment. Back in the '60s, that wasn't considered racist.

I just find it very unfortunate that so many parts of our public debate right now are getting immediately stuck inside a racial framework, when what I would like to see is us moving toward that colorblind society.

And I was hoping, when President Obama was elected, it would really go a long way toward healing the racial divide, so we can concentrate on these enormous challenges facing this nation, where we really could embrace Dr. King's sentiment that let's judge people on the basis of the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin.

BASH: So...

JOHNSON: So I would like to see everybody -- I would like to see everybody reduce the rhetoric, and let's start dealing with these enormous challenges facing this nation in a good-faith effort.

Dana, I truly believe that Americans, by and large, all have the same goal in mind. We all want a safe, prosperous and secure America. Let's concentrate on those shared goals and let's start tackling some of these problems.


BASH: Fair point.

But when the president of the United States tweets, first last week, "Send them back," which, for people like you and me, maybe it doesn't hit a -- hit a chord and strike a nerve, but, for people of color, it does, because many of them have heard that in their communities in a very negative way, still, even in 2019.

So, given that, and today saying that they are incapable of loving this country, how is the president doing -- practicing what you just preached?

JOHNSON: Well, again, I understand people not liking to hear that.

And, again, I would like to see everybody tone down the rhetoric and start concentrating on the big problem.

So what I'd prefer is, we start talking about these enormous challenges. You have been down to the border. You understand the overwhelming nature of that crisis. Let's start focusing on that, which, by the way, I'm doing it.

BASH: I...

JOHNSON: You had Cory Booker on.

BASH: Yes.

JOHNSON: I'm a co-sponsor with him on the Fair Chance Act.

We voted in the FIRST STEP Act. Those were things that President Trump championed. So let's concentrate on the problems and let's start looking at some nonpartisan solutions.

BASH: I have a lot of questions about issues, but I just feel like, because this is the president of the United States, the leader of your party, who won your state with votes from your constituents, I just -- it's incumbent, I think, upon me, and maybe you, to be more clear.

Do you disavow his statements last week and this morning, or not? And then we're going to move on.

JOHNSON: Yes, well, again, the president did not like the chant. I didn't like the chant.

BASH: What about incapable of being...

JOHNSON: And so, hopefully, there won't be another crowd in one of those rallies that do that.

BASH: What about his tweet this morning saying they're not capable of loving the country?

JOHNSON: I mean, that's his opinion. I don't agree with it.

BASH: OK. All right.

So let's move on to talk about some of the big issues, including international issues.

Iran seized two British tankers -- British tanker ships, rather, this morning in the Strait of Hormuz on -- and this -- on Friday, this happened. They're still holding one of those ships captive now.

And this comes as the U.S., according to CNN reporting, is looking at possibly being more hawkish in tone towards Iran.

So, you chair the Homeland Security Committee. You sit on the Foreign Relations Committee. Is the U.S. headed closer to war with Iran?

JOHNSON: I hope not.

But let's face it. Iran has been a malign influence, the largest state sponsor of terror since its founding back in the late '70s. You go down the list of the Beirut bombing, or the IEDs they supplied in the Iraq War, their involvement in Syria and Yemen. That is why we were so opposed to the Iranian agreement, because it

pushed -- it allowed hundreds of -- more than $100 billion of money to flow into the economy and the military of the largest state sponsor of terror.

And, by the way, as you see as they have increased their enrichment of uranium, it did nothing to stop their nuclear weapon program. So, again, I think Iran is playing a very, very dangerous game. It makes no sense that they would go after the U.K. I think they were trying to divide the U.S. from our friends and allies.

They're just uniting us in hopefully standing up to Iran once and for all, demanding they never have a nuclear weapon, and to end their missile -- their ballistic missile technology and their malign sponsor of terrorism around the region and around the world.

BASH: Let's talk about the border.

You, as Homeland Security chair, I know you have been working very hard to come up with a bipartisan solution to the crisis there, the humanitarian crisis and the whole crisis overall currently.

Are you any closer to that, as you're talking to your Democratic colleagues behind the scenes?

JOHNSON: Well, I think we took a good step, but it's just a baby step, in signing a letter of support for Operation Safe Return, where we rapidly and more accurately determine those families that clearly don't have even a credible claim, and safely -- and I underline safely -- return those individuals back to the safe zones of Central America.

Now, again, it's a first step. But, Dana, you understand the overwhelming nature of the problem. I sent you that chart and your jaw dropped.

I mean, since -- since 2014 -- and that was the humanitarian crisis year, when President Obama declared it a humanitarian crisis, when 120,000 unaccompanied children, but primarily people coming as a family unit, entered this country legally -- we have had 1,148,000, unaccompanied children and family members enter this country illegally, been apprehended, and they have been dispersed all over America.

It's overwhelmed our adjudication system. We have only removed about 12,000 of that -- of about 820,000 family members. That's about 1.5 percent. So it -- that creates a huge incentive for more people.

There's a survey done in Guatemala. A third of Guatemalans intend to migrate to the United States. That's about 5.8 million people. Depopulating Guatemala and Central America, that's not good for Central America. It's not good for us.


So there are so many components to this issue, this problem, the destroyed public institutions because of the drug cartels, because of our insatiable demand for drugs, I mean, the fact that we create these huge incentives and pull factors on a broken system.

BASH: We have -- we have a...

JOHNSON: So -- go ahead.


JOHNSON: So, I'm trying to work with my Democratic colleagues to fix it.

BASH: OK. So there's a multitiered, multilayered, very complex problem, which has been going on and has reached new heights in recent months.

But to figure that out, you have to have people who are willing to take a political hit from their own party and talk to people on the other side of the aisle. Is that going to happen?

JOHNSON: Well, I had three Democrats join in the letter. And that was Doug Jones and Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, really kind of led that effort. But I was really working very closely with my ranking member, Gary Peters. Tom Carper called me, wanted to be constructive.

So I think there is goodwill in the Senate to try and fix this problem, but all the components. I mean, what do you do with the eight million people in this country documented that are in the work force? You have the dreamers. What do you do with the 1.1 -- 1.1, 1.2 million people who have come in since 2012 DACA, as a part of the family unit?

Nobody's talking about, what do we do with those individuals? So this is an enormous challenge. What do you do to help create development in Central America, so people don't feel that they want to move to America, basically economic migrants, which is not a valid asylum claim?

So, again, we could spend this entire program and barely scratch the surface of all the complexity of this problem. But we have to start, from my standpoint, reduce that flow of people coming to this country, exploiting our broken asylum system. Focus on that, while we certainly try and help Central America.

BASH: Well, you gave viewers, I think, a glimmer of hope that there is actually conversation being had between conservatives like you and some -- maybe some moderate Democrats and even some more liberals to try to get beyond the politics and fix the crisis.

Thank you so much, Senator. Appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Have a great day.

BASH: Thank you.

And President Trump is dusting off his 2016 playbook that he brought with him to the White House as he runs for president a second time. Will it work again? Plus: Democrats are cramming before the Mueller hearings this week,

holding mock sessions and sharpening their questions. But are there political risks for the party?

That's next.




TRUMP: I was not happy with it. I disagree with it. But again, I didn't say, I didn't say that, they did.

That stadium was packed. It was a record crowd and I could have filled it 10 times, as you know. Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots.


BASH: That was the president sending some mixed signals on the send her back chants from his North Carolina rally this past week. He is back on Twitter this morning writing -- quote -- "I don't believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our country."

Let's discuss with our panel. Who wants to start with this one? Senator Santorum?


RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, the president is going to make this about patriotism. He's going to make it about this is his base, this is what he's going to talk about. I think that tweet sort of sums up where they're going to go going forward on this, that these not just these four, the squad but the broader Democratic Party are moving this country in a way that is fundamentally different than the traditional American values of a free economy and religious liberty and all the things that I think most Americans hold dear, you see the progressive left just sort of destroying that.

And --

S.E. CUPP. CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's a much better way of saying what he's saying.

SANTORUM: But if I --


SANTORUM: But here's -- here's the --


SANTORUM: The point is if he said it that way, no one would be talking about this this morning. KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Correct.

SANTORUM: He says things to bring attention to these issues and I know it's hair on fire time for everyone on the left. But we're talking about this.

CUPP: I'm not on the left. I'm a Republican and it's hair on fire for me because it's disgusting and because it's un-American. And because this is not conservatism, this is not patriotism.

This is division. This is pure racism and marginalizing people who happen to have some criticisms of our country. I don't like those criticisms, Congressman -- you know, that that, Senator. You know that. But there is a difference between -- between pointing out those criticisms and turning Americans against Americans to get elected.

FINNEY: But there is also an important difference as the black woman at this table, if you have not had somebody get in your face and say, go back to Africa. And as a six-year-old I'm like, what? It's very confusing. It's very upsetting.

It is an old racist trope to say, go back to where you came from. To say it about four women of color, black and brown women when we know that the fundamental issue that he is -- what he is really trying to do here is stoke, racism, bigotry and fear. It's what he did in 2016, it's what he's doing in 2020.

And I'll tell you something Pew just came out with a poll that showed last month that actually independents don't like it. People feel embarrassed. People feel disgusted by it.

So, I think that -- hold on, I think that the danger for the Republican Party on this as your base continues to shrink, I don't know how you're going to make an argument to women or people of color that they should be joining the Republican Party. What we're also seeing is as we saw in 2018, independence, moderates moving away because they are so disgusted.

BASH: Let's get you in.

WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's good to know that racism means that you're incredibly patriotic in 2019 America because I get told nearly every single day, Dana, on the social media can go back home even though I was born and raised in this country and it's interesting that they never followed up with questions able my economic and political ideology.


It's very interesting Donald Trump tells four congresswomen of color, three of them who were born and raised in this country, remember that country Ohio, that radical country, that Muslim country Ohio, the country of Ayanna Pressley, he tells them to go back home to their country. But Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist is never told to go back home to his country. And then he doubles down with a 13-second chant. And I just want people to like really think about this. What does it say about this country when Donald Trump ignites a nativist chant that was used against Italians, eastern European Jews and Catholics, send her back for 13 seconds, basks in it and said that those people are incredible patriots.

The question I have are two questions. Is it racist? It's racist, period. Question I have. What are the repercussions of this racism on Americans especially communities of color? You can ask us.

And number two, is this the vision of America for Republicans going forward? That 13-second clip of incredible patriots using a nativist chant, send her back home, is this the vision of America for Republicans?

SANTORUM: No, it's not. And here is the problem that you have in claiming that this is racist. I would agree the fact that he picked out four women although they have sort of identified themselves as the quad so it's not like he picked them out. They are an identified group.

The fact that they are all people of color in my (INAUDIBLE) is problematic. But what he is criticizing them for is not the color of their skin, he's criticizing for the positions they take.

CUPP: If they were white, would he say go back to your own country?


SANTORUM: If -- if -- if -- if the squad included white people, he would be just as equally critical.

CUPP: He would not say go back to your own country.

SANTORUM: I disagree --

FINNEY: He knows exactly what he was -- exactly what he was doing by saying it.

CUPP: Rick, what would that even mean?


ALI: Go back to Fremont, California. That's what he means.

CUPP: Listen. Dana, you and I -- and maybe everyone else we covered McCain 2008.

BASH: That's right.

CUPP: And when I saw the center back moment, I immediately thought of John McCain.

BASH: Of course. CUPP: Not only did he have multiple opportunities behind the scenes with his staffers to go low and to go racial and refused but there was a very public moment at a town hall when someone confronted him and said I don't like that Obama, he's a Muslim and John McCain said, no he isn't. He said it in real time. He said it immediately.


BASH: No, madam --

FINNEY: He's a family man --


CUPP: Immediately --


BASH: Listen -- listen. I was there -- I was there for that rally and I think you were, too. It is a different time.

I just have one question before we go to break. I'm just asking about the raw strategy here as a Republican who has ran many campaigns including for president, do you think this is the right strategy for the leader of the Republican Party?

SANTORUM: I think it's the right strategy to after Democrats on how extreme they are and these four people --


FINNEY: Four Democrats out of the whole party --

SANTORUM: And these four people -- and this four people --

ALI: Women of color.

SANTORUM: These four people exemplify in the worst possible terms in my mind that the -- how extreme the Democratic Party has gone. The fact that they are four women of color is problematic and leads to the issue of racism but here is the problem with Democrats. Every issue is a race issue. The Democrats call Wolf all the time on the issue of race --

FINNEY: That is not true.

BASH: Isn't he making it easy --

SANTORUM: And he's making --

BASH: Or maybe in some ways are.

FINNEY: You can't use --


SANTORUM: He is making it easy on this case but the fact is they've lost credibility on this issue.

ALI: You know I call racism when racists behave like racists and this weekend Donald Trump had a chance to walk back. He retweeted Katie Hopkins. You know who she is? An extremist who so far to the right that the right in Britain says, we don't want her.

A woman who says she wants a final solution on Muslims, blame the Jews in Pittsburgh for their own massacre because she said the chief rabbi is actually pro migrants and she (INAUDIBLE) with white supremacists. He retweeted he four times --

BASH: Everybody standby --

ALI: President Trump, the racist.

BASH: -- because we have a lot more to talk about including the fight to take on President Trump. Democratic governors have a warning for those Democratic presidential candidates. The way you're going, you're not going to win reelection or election at all. That's next.




GOV. TONY EVERS (D-WI): I think the fear is around being pragmatic at the end of the day. I think the people in Wisconsin want to see issues resolved and pragmatism, I think, will cure the day. But I think any one of the 20 plus that are running for president they have to be pragmatic. They have to think about how we're going to get from point A to point B.


BASH: That was Wisconsin's Democratic governor who is raising the alarm warning his own party's presidential candidates about going too far left to ultimately win the White House in 2020.

OK, so let's discuss that with the Democrats at the table. You've had your share of experience in presidential politics. Do you see this field and the way it's going and do you also worry about the general election?

FINNEY: I don't worry at this point because that's what the primary purpose is for. The whole purpose is put out ideas, hash those ideas out. It's for us to sort of pick and choose. You may not like where Elizabeth Warren is but let's hear the idea.

I mean, I prefer to have a primary discussion about ideas than making it personal, than making it -- and we're going to hear, I think, a fascinating conversation between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on health care, on the economy. That's what should be happening.

ALI: Democrats always bring a plastic straw to a gunfight --


BASH: We're going to get to that. Don't rain on our parade.

ALI: And they always stab themselves. Republicans bring a bazooka and kill everyone including their base.

BASH: So you're saying --

ALI: I say -- listen, I say if you look at the center -- right -- that's why I hate this language because Democrats are always hijacked by the Republican base. They're always chasing this mythical moderate unicorn, ordinary American drinking real coffee in the real diner that they have never met before. And the right has shifted so far to the right it dragged the center with it, right? So, you have to be like, left of center.

But if you look at the ideas, if you look at most of the policies, just look at them. Most Americans are for acknowledging climate change and battling climate change. All that Donald Trump says, I don't know if climate change exists.


That's my Donald Trump impression. Look at health care -- right -- at least they are debating health care options. Look at the Republicans. Donald Trump wants to kill Obamacare.

There's Texas -- the United States in the courts right now to get to the Supreme Court to do the 5-4 decision. So, I say go on the offensive.

What I'll say is this, if you're a Democrat, you think we're too liberal. Some of our positions might be a little bit liberal but we want to give health care to everybody. It might be Medicare for all, it might be this public option, it might just be Obamacare. But compare us to Donald Trump and the Republican whose want to kill Obamacare --


BASH: You're smiling for the first time this morning.

SANTORUM: To compare. So, the Democrats want to give free health care to illegal immigrants. They want to destroy and eliminate private health insurance, they want to --


ALI: Not all.

SANTORUM: Well, eventually whether you're for the public option or you're for Medicaid (ph) for all it's eventually going to destroy --


FINNEY: Some of them have said that's not what -- (CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: He's been very clear. He says look --

FINNEY: He's one of 24. That doesn't mean everybody's for it.


FINNEY: You can't use one and say they are all for something.

SANTORUM: No, no, no. The folks who are not for Medicaid (ph) for all are for a public option and the folks who are for the public option, Cory Booker said in the show, it's a ramp to where we want to go which is eliminating private health care.

You want -- you want to give free tuition to everybody and by the way, everybody who has loans, we're going to wipe out all the loans and all these people 74 percent of Americans who don't have college degrees, you're going to pay for all this. And you wonder why the guy drinking a cup of coffee doesn't want the Democrats to be in charge.


FINNEY: You're taking Bernie Sanders' -- you're taking Bernie Sanders' ideas and you're saying that's what everybody say --

SANTORUM: Because everybody is following Bernie.

FINNEY: No, they're not.

SANTORUM: You saw it. Everybody has moved --


ALI: They're debating ideas.


CUPP: The problem is with what Wajahat said. It's not a mythical person in the middle of the country drinking real coffee that you've never met. The problem is you've never met them. They are real and they are the reason Donald Trump won because the Democratic Party have left so many of those behind and so did the Republican Party, by the way.

BASH: You know what else --


CUPP: Until Trump. And so those are real people and neither --

ALI: I agree they are real people.

CUPP: -- the only party trying to reach out to them at the moment is the Republican Party and the Democrats have an opportunity but they are going to kill it with decriminalizing the border and abolishing -- (CROSSTALK)

BASH: S.E., I know you want me to get in here on this. Thank you. Because the other thing that people who were drinking real coffee -- I'm going to get you started. People who are drinking real coffee probably don't like are the paper straws which the Trump campaign is seizing on. This is a lighter note but it actually is serious and that it's related to the cultural changes in this country.

Now offered at the campaign store for Trump 2020 are plastic straws, and Trump campaign manager wrote an email introducing this, "Much like most liberal ideas, paper straws don't work and they fall apart instantly. That's why we launched our latest protect, official Trump straws. Now you can finally be free from liberal paper straws that fall apart within minutes and ruin your drink."

And I will tell you that he actually mentioned to me that this idea came after he was drinking out of a paper straw at an airport and it fell apart.

SANTORUM: And it's very important to understand, these are recyclable.

BASH: Recyclable plastic.

SANTORUM: Yes. Plastic straws because a lot of the plastic straws are not recyclable and end up in the general waste. The Trump campaign is being environmentally sensitive. Plastic straws that are recyclable.

BASH: OK. But let's get -- but let's get serious. This is a larger point about large cultural shift and people in parts of the country not getting it, not understanding it and hating it.

FINNEY: But here is the thing, you're right about that but I would rather have a president who tells me the truth than one who lies and says -- tries to tell you that we are not going to be a majority minority country. We already are. We're here. We're not going anywhere.

So, this guy who says those people -- it's your fault, it's their fault you don't have a job and then didn't bring the jobs back --


BASH: We have 15 seconds. I got to let S.E. get in.

CUPP: It's a much simpler -- it's a much simpler argument to say plastic straws. I was at my hotel this morning here and I ordered a nice coffee that came in a plastic cup with a lid. I said can I have a straw? We're a straw-free property. How am I supposed to drink this thing?

And I was like, oh, this is how he (ph) will (ph) win (ph).


BASH: All right. Everybody --

ALI: That moment ratified me right there.


BASH: Thank you. This is a fascinating discussion.

Up next, we are going to play "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" with the 2020 presidential candidates. Who is ahead in the Hollywood primary? Stay with us.



BASH: For Democratic 2020 candidates, the Hollywood primary is heating up.

Check this out. Senator Kamala Harris hanging out with some pop stars this weekend. Who else is picking sides?


BASH (voice-over): Hollywood may have found a new leading man. Campaign finance disclosures out this week reveal that in the race for celebrity support, 37-year-old South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg may be pulling ahead. This spring, the Indiana mayor scooped up donations from a star-studded cast of Hollywood royalty including Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael J. Fox and Kevin Bacon.

In fact in Hollywood these days, it's more like six degrees of Mayor Pete. Another favorite among the celebrity set. Their home state senator Kamala Harris who scored donations from Sean Penn, Don Cheadle and former TV spy Jennifer Garner.

America's sweetheart Tom Hanks wrote a check to former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign. He could also offer the former V.P. some advice on debate prep.

TOM HANKS AS FORREST GUMP: You never know what you're going to get.

BASH: One complication in this 2020 election cycle, cashing big checks for millionaires could be problematic.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST, THE AXE FILES: You become kind of a favored candidate of the elite.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're trying to reach everybody at every different level.

BASH: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has sworn off -- quote -- "fancy receptions or big money fundraisers." SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am not doing fundraisers with multi millionaires.

BASH: But Hollywood just can't seem to quit her. Warren still found support from Bette Midler, Amy Schumer and Scarlett Johansson.

Some celebrities couldn't pick just one candidate like fictional presidential adviser Bradley Whitford.

BRADLEY WHITFORD, ACTOR: I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.

BASH: He gave to Buttigieg, Senator Cory Booker and former HUD secretary Julian Castro.

The primary race is just getting started but if one of these Democrats wins in 2020, the future president may need Hollywood's help on a sequel.


BASH: Thank you so much for joining us.