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THE SITUATION ROOM
Biden Calls Out His 2020 Rivals for Attacking Obama Legacy in CNN Debate; Dems Say Trump's Spy Chief Pick Padded His Resume; Biden Calls Criticisms of Obama During Debate "Bizarre"; Trump Heads to Ohio Rally, Says He Doesn't Know if He Can Stop Crowd from Chanting "Send Her Back"; U.S. Military Tracks More North Korean Missile Launches, Trump Says "No Problem". Aired 5-6p ET
Aired August 1, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: ready to fight. President Trump signals he's eager to take on the Democratic White House hopefuls as he heads to a campaign rally tonight. And he says he doesn't know if he can stop the disturbing chants that broke out at his last rally.
Attacking each other: frustration amid the fallout from CNN's Democratic presidential debate as the candidates spent the night attacking each other and even President Obama's legacy instead of training their fire on President Trump.
Director dissent: Democrats voice increasing concern about the president's pick for the Director of National Intelligence. They cite his lack of experience and now they're questioning whether he lied about prosecuting terrorists.
Could this nomination stall?
And Kim's missile message: North Korea fires off a missile for the third time in two weeks as Kim Jong-un defies the West again.
Why does President Trump say Kim's provocations are no problem and what's the reason behind them?
I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news this hour: President Trump about to retake the spotlight from the Democratic presidential candidates after our two CNN debates. Mr. Trump is on his way to a rally in Cincinnati right now, his first since the disturbing chants targeting an African American congresswoman broke out at his previous rally.
We're also following the fallout from the bitter infighting among the Democratic White House hopefuls in last night's debate. Vice President Joe Biden is calling out his rivals for attacking President Obama's legacy instead of President Trump.
We'll talk about that and much more with the national press secretary for the Kamala Harris 2020 campaign, Ian Sams. And our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.
First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
You're there in Cincinnati where the president's rally is getting ready to start fairly soon.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. President Trump appears to be eager to talk about his Democratic rivals, potential Democratic rivals at this rally coming up later on this evening in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The president spoke with reporters earlier this afternoon as he was leaving the White House but much of the country will be looking to see whether or not there's a repeat of what happened at a Trump rally a couple weeks ago, when some supporters were chanting "send her back" about congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Just a few moments ago the president told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House he's not sure whether or not he can stop the supporters from doing it again tonight.
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump is making one thing obvious: he wants to be up on the debate stage with the big field of Democrats vying to take back the White House.
TRUMP: He came limping through, as I say about Joe. He limped right through it but he got through it. He really did. I think he was OK. I think Kamala had a bad night last night I would say but it's really boiling down to four or five of them.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is sounding off on his potential Democratic rivals, crowing on Twitter, "China, Iran and other foreign countries are looking at the Democratic candidates and drooling."
As the president claimed, "We are respected again all around the world. Keep it that way. We'll only grow bigger, better and stronger together."
If that phrase "stronger together," sounds familiar, that's because it belonged to Hillary Clinton back in 2016. Yet at the same time he was suggesting China wants him to remain in office, the president was also escalating his trade war with Beijing, announcing he will impose a new 10 percent tariff on some $300 billion in Chinese products starting in September.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: For many years China has been taking money out by the hundreds of billions of dollars a year. We have rebuilt China. So now it's time that we change things around. If they don't want to trade with us anymore, that would be fine with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): But even as former top economic adviser Gary Cohn says in an interview with the BBC, Mr. Trump's tariffs are not likely to produce a new trade deal.
GARY COHN, FORMER TRUMP ECONOMIC ADVISOR: I don't really think it's hitting the Chinese economy. I think the Chinese economy is going to slow down with or without a trade war.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is heading to Cincinnati to stage his first rally since his supporters infamously chanted "send her back" after Mr. Trump toured at Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
TRUMP: Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds. Tonight she talked about the evil Israel and it's all about the Benjamins. Not a good thing to say.
ACOSTA (voice-over): On his way to Ohio, the president was asked whether he could stop the chants this time around.
TRUMP: I don't know that you can stop people.
ACOSTA (voice-over): That ugly spectacle hasn't let up in some parts of the U.S. In North Carolina, a gun store set up a billboard, blasting Omar and the three other Democratic women of color, known as The Squad, saying "The four horsemen are idiots, signed the deplorables."
SCIUTTO (voice-over): The president was also pressed on his phone call with Russia's Vladimir Putin, a conversation the White House said was about wildfires in Siberia and trade issues.
TRUMP: I spoke with President Putin of Russia yesterday. They're having massive fires in the -- in their forests. They have tremendous -- I've never seen anything like it. It's very big. I just offered our assistance, because we're very good at putting out forest fires.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is also weighing in on the Justice Department's decision against prosecuting former FBI director James Comey for leaking memos he wrote in 2017, revealing Mr. Trump's efforts to shield former national security adviser Michael Flynn in the Russia investigation.
TRUMP: I would frankly be surprised because what James Comey did was illegal. So I would be surprised but I don't know anything about that.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is accusing Republicans of going soft on Moscow.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: They want the Russians to interfere, because they think it will help them. It's clear; Mueller made this clear that the Russians wanted Trump to win.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): With all of that on his agenda, the president is getting involved in the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was acquitted of war crimes in the death of an ISIS fighter. Taking the Navy SEALs' side in the matter, Mr. Trump tweeted he ordered the Secretary of the Navy to strip achievement medals from the military prosecutors handling the case. A former Pentagon spokesman questioned the move, tweeting that authority resides at a relatively low command level.
ACOSTA: And the president is defending his announcement of new tariffs on China, saying the costs of those tariffs will not be passed onto American consumers but, Wolf, that is not true. Studies have shown -- multiple studies have shown -- that the costs of those tariffs are indeed passed onto American consumers.
As for the prospect of this crowd here chanting "send her back" later on tonight, I talked with one Trump official, who said, "Maybe they won't chant" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We will find out. Jim Acosta in Cincinnati for us, thank you.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden is calling out his 2020 rivals for the collateral damage they inflicted on President Obama's legacy with their attacks on Biden in last night's CNN debate.
Our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny has got details for us.
Jeff, some veterans of the Obama administration, they are obviously very upset about what was said about President Obama last night.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they certainly are. It's become clear about this primary campaign that this is no longer the Democratic Party of Barack Obama. The party's leftward shift was on full display at the debates in Detroit on both evenings.
But the direct target wasn't Obama himself but rather Joe Biden. Still, Democrats worry all the deeply personal attacks have left President Trump smiling.
BIDEN: Hi, guys, how are you?
ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, former vice president Joe Biden is calling out his rivals for leveling more criticism at the legacy of the former president than the policies of the current one.
BIDEN: I hope the next debate we can talk about how we fix -- our answers to fix the things that Trump has broken, not how Barack Obama made all these mistakes. He didn't.
ZELENY (voice-over): A day after the second Democratic debate in Detroit, Biden is still standing and bristling over fellow Democrats' directing more attacks at President Obama's record on health care and immigration than at Trump.
BIDEN: I must tell you, I was a little surprised at how much incoming was about Barack.
ZELENY (voice-over): But the onslaught was actually aimed at Biden, who's leading the Democratic race, though hardly in firm control of the crowded 2020 field. A series of fiery exchanges set the tone for the race to come but hardly resolved deepening differences on health care.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must agree that access to health care must be a right and not just the privilege of those who can afford it. And in America today, far too many people -- in fact, 30 million people -- are going without access to health care.
BIDEN: Anytime someone tells you you're going to get something good in 10 years, you should wonder why it takes 10 years. You can't beat President Trump with double talk on this plan.
ZELENY (voice-over): At center stage, the dispute between Biden and Senator Harris intensifying but after her breakout first debate a month ago in Miami, Harris also taking considerable fire from other rivals.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we can't admit tonight what's in the plan, which is banning employer-based insurance, we won't be able to admit that when Donald Trump is accusing Democrats of doing that as well.
HARRIS: We cannot keep with the Republican talking points on this. You've got to stop.
ZELENY (voice-over): It was Senator Cory Booker, standing on the other side of Biden, who zeroed in on the former vice president's long record, particularly on crime, as he led the Senate Judiciary Committee.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every crime bill, major and minor, has had his name on it. And you can't just now come out with a plan to put out that fire.
ZELENY (voice-over): Biden pushing back on Booker, raising his record on crime as mayor of Newark, New Jersey.
BIDEN: There's nothing done to deal with the police department that was corrupt. BOOKER: There's a saying in my community, you're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor.
ZELENY (voice-over): But again and again, Biden on defense over his administration's record, even a member of Obama cabinet, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, blasting Obama's deportation policy, calling for decriminalizing illegal border crossings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN CASTRO (D-TX), FORMER HUD SECRETARY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, Mr. Vice President, it --
CASTRO: -- looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't.
CASTRO: What we need are politicians that actually have some guts on this issue.
BIDEN: I have guts enough to say his plan doesn't make sense. Here's the deal. The fact of the matter is, that in fact when people cross the border illegally, it is illegal to do it unless they're seeking asylum. This particular part of the law is being abused is because of Donald Trump. We should defeat Donald Trump and end this practice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY (voice-over): But there was far less talk about Trump than Obama, which infuriated former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, the first chief of staff in the Obama White House.
He told CNN, "We've seen this movie before. Democrats need to wake up. I would not treat the Obama years as something to be airbrushed out of history."
ZELENY: Now talking to Rahm Emanuel and several others today, they say Democratic candidates should be building on Obama's legacy and picking it apart is short-sighted. Now people close to the former president say he isn't bothered by this progressive shift but they say he is concerned at what he views as unrealistic proposals from some Democratic candidates.
After all, 12 years ago, he represented a shift from the Clinton era, so he's not bothered by that. But I am told he's concerned about this entire discussion here and his advisers certainly are, with the kind of attention that's being focused on President Trump.
BLITZER: I'm sure he is. All right, thanks very much, Jeff Zeleny, good report.
Let's get more on this. Joining us now the press secretary for the Kamala Harris 2020 campaign, Ian Sams.
Ian, thanks so much for joining us.
IAN SAMS, PRESS SECRETARY, HARRIS 2020 CAMPAIGN: Hey, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's get through some of these issues. As you know, Senator Harris launched some extremely sharp attacks on the former vice president Joe Biden last night.
Does she respect Joe Biden?
SAMS: Yes, absolutely.
BLITZER: Can Senator Harris guarantee she'll support Biden if he's the eventual Democratic presidential nominee?
SAMS: Yes, absolutely. I think these are so funny because obviously the Democrats are going to be united in 2020. We all know who the real opponent in this race is and it's Donald Trump. Last night, for example, Kamala Harris, in her closing statement, what did he do?
She didn't attack fellow Democrats, she didn't try to have an ideological battle about the direction of the party. She looked to the American people and say, I know predators. I've put them away. I've taken on predatory lenders, predatory banks. And I know what a predator looks like and we have a predator living in the White House.
So everyone understands who our real opponent is. I have no doubt, just like in the 2007 and 2008 Democratic primaries, when we had Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards and Joe Biden all running against each other, that they would be united at the end of the race and they were. We'll have that happen this time, too.
BLITZER: With all due respect, she spent a lot of time attacking many of Joe Biden's positions. Yes, she went ahead and attacked President Trump but she really went after him.
SAMS: Well, this is a choice of who will be the nominee of our party. Kamala Harris loves Barack Obama. They've been friends for more than 15 years. He supported her in her first district attorney's race all the way back in 2003-2004. So they have a long history together.
He has praised her as a future leader of the party. They have a really warm relationship. But at the end of the day, this is a competitive Democratic primary. Democratic voters are looking for something pretty simple: who is the right person to lead us into the future?
Who is the right person to defeat Donald Trump?
In the context of arguments and discussions and debates about that, you'll have differences on some of the issues. Kamala Harris, for example, pointed out that Biden's health care plan doesn't actually cover every single American. Hers does.
There are substantive differences between the candidates I think voters need to know about if they're going to make an educated decision about which direction they want the leader of our party to take us.
BLITZER: During the first Democratic debate in Miami, Senator Harris had this to say about some of the negative attacks that were being launched among Democrats. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Hey, guys, you know what?
America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we're going to put food on their table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So why did she play a big role in what was clearly seen by so many people last night as a food fight?
SAMS: Well, first of all, I think it's important to take a step back, look at the stage. We have a lot of folks who were throwing food in one direction -- to the middle of the stage -- at vice president Biden and Kamala Harris. That's the nature of being a front-runner. When those people were lobbing bombs, what did she do?
She said, I want to talk about Donald Trump and how he's ripping families apart at the border, how he's screwing over farmers and workers across this country with these disastrous tariffs, which he announced more of them today in a tweet.
That's what she's talking about and connecting directly with the American people in the midst of these lobbed attacks. When Vice President Biden and Senator Harris --
SAMS: -- have a disagreement on an issue, they should talk it out. That's what the primary is all about. But there's no lobbing of attacks from my candidate in this race.
BLITZER: Do you worry, though, Ian, that all the negativity among the candidates is simply going to help President Trump by dividing and demoralizing your party?
SAMS: Look, I think what Democrats are doing right now is having a real debate over the direction of the party -- on immigration, on health care, on trade, on climate change, real issues that impact our country. We have some disagreements. Largely we all stand united. We all know we're the party trying to expand health care. We all know we're the party trying to take on climate change, trying to look out for working-class and middle class Americans, not those at the very top.
We're all united in our vision. We need to have a discussion about the best way to achieve that vision. There's been a lot of conversation -- I heard Jeff's segment about President Obama -- take Medicare for all, for example. Barack Obama said it was a good idea last year. In 2016, when he was talking about the Affordable Care Act, he talked about the ACA as a starter home. We need to grow, we need to expand it. We need to finally cover everyone in this country.
So it's a healthy dialogue and a healthy debate to talk about how we get to the broader vision. That's what Democrats are doing right now.
BLITZER: Speaking of health care, Biden specifically called out Senator Harris' health care plan that would take 10 years to completely transition to Medicare for all.
What's to prevent a future Republican president from killing her Medicare for all plan before it even takes full effect?
SAMS: I've heard this over the last few days. When they were fighting to pass the Affordable Care Act, and God bless them that they did and thank God they got it done, because it's expanded health insurance to millions and millions of Americans, wouldn't it have been a shame if Democrats were saying, don't pursue that, because maybe Republicans will try to repeal it. That would have been a disaster.
We have to move toward our big ideas. And it's going to be a fight, it's going to be a real fight but Kamala knows she wants to get that fight done. She's taken on insurance companies. She's taken on Big Pharma in her career. She knows how to go about this fight.
Look, what she heard over the last six months on the campaign trail is people were uneasy about moving to a Medicare for all system in four years. So she listened to experts talk to experts with that concern. They said, look, let's do it over 10 years. It's a sensible period of time to allow people to feel confident in the system, so that's what she put forward in her plan.
BLITZER: She's clearly pushing a lot of progressive ideas, including Medicare for all.
Do you worry about potentially alienating moderate, independent voters down the road, voters you will need if she gets the nomination?
She needs to beat obviously the incumbent president.
SAMS: You know what sounds like a sensible idea to most Americans?
Getting access to health insurance with no co-pays and no deductibles. That's what Medicare for all does.
What sounds sensible to the average American?
It's finally taking on climate change, which is causing our seas to rise, causing shoreline erosion, causing flooding in the Midwest. They want to take on these big issues. We can have a discussion about the best way to get us there.
But what's happening right now is Donald Trump is burying his head in the sand. What Kamala wants to do is say that's not a way to lead the country. We need to stand up and push for big ideas that are fundamentally going to improve the lives of the American people. So that's not super liberal. That's sensible. This is what Americans support. Overwhelming majorities of Americans support these ideas.
So that's what we're discussing in these conversations. And I think some of this punditry, we'll leave it to you guys on how you think it will play. But at the end of the day, Americans are hearing these ideas and they're saying that actually matters to me. That actually might help my life.
And if Democrats and as Kamala is doing, talking about the 3:00 am agenda, if Democrats can communicate to Americans what they'll get with a Democratic president, how their lives will get better, I think we're going to win.
BLITZER: Ian Sams, tell the senator we would love to have her join us in THE SITUATION ROOM at some point.
BLITZER: Good luck to you and good luck to the campaign. We'll continue this conversation.
SAMS: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: By the way, in the next hour, I will speak live with one of last night's debaters, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, he will join us live in the next hour.
Up next, new criticism of President Trump's pick for Director of National Intelligence.
Did he pad his resume by falsely claiming he prosecuted terrorists?
BLITZER: Democrats are stepping up criticism of President Trump's pick for Director of National Intelligence, Congressman John Ratcliffe. They're voicing concern about his lack of intelligence experience and questioning whether he padded his resume. Our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is up on Capitol Hill for us.
Sunlen, Ratcliffe claims that, as a prosecutor, he put terrorists in prison but apparently there's no evidence that he did.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, his office has yet to provide CNN with any names of any terrorism suspects that were --
[17:25:00] SERFATY: -- put in prison as a result of his prosecutorial work and CNN has not yet been able to find any terrorism cases where he's listed as being the prosecutor in records thus far.
So certainly these concerns and questions over his resume are really fueling the Democratic outrage and concern up here on Capitol Hill. One Democrat saying the reason that this specific question about his resume is so concerning, this senator said it's because his record was so flimsy in the first place to begin with.
And certainly there are other concerns, concerned that he's too political of a risk, that he'll just be a yes man to President Trump if he is confirmed. That's why many Democrats are vowing to try to stand in the way of him being confirmed. Here's what the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer told me earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: He strikes me as extremely unqualified in every way. You know, this is serious; this is about war and peace.
If we don't have a DNI who speaks truth to power, who first is able to cull the facts and come up with an unbiased view of what they say and, in an unvarnished way, can tell the president, we're in a much more dangerous world than they would have been.
I could hardly think of a worse choice than him, padding resume or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And amid all of this, President Trump today stood by him, defended him, saying he's a respected and outstanding man, that's according to President Trump on the South Lawn of the White House. This certainly tees up what could be a potentially nasty and tough confirmation battle ahead, Wolf, when Congress and the Senate gets back in September.
BLITZER: As you know, almost half of the House Democrats are now formally supporting some sort of impeachment inquiry.
What happens when that reaches a majority of the Democratic members in the House?
SERFATY: That's the exact question that a lot of Democrats up here on Capitol Hill have been privately been wondering in the leadup to this moment.
Will this very significant but yet symbolic moment, reaching this threshold, where the majority of Democrats support an impeachment inquiry, will it be enough to change Speaker Pelosi's calculus and strategy?
Certainly there's no indication that that will be enough. She has, as we've been talking about in the last weeks and months, been very committed to this, take it slow, step by step, deliberate process, where they focus on investigations and court actions and then gather all the facts.
There's no indication she's straying from that today. She was asked about that today. She brushed off questions, saying she would have something to say about this later.
BLITZER: Thank you, Sunlen.
Coming up, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris head back onto the campaign trail, both pushing back against critics of their debate performances last night.
[17:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following multiple breaking stories, including former Vice President Joe Biden, today, pushing back at critics of his performance at last night's CNN presidential debate and his rivals' criticism of President Obama's legacy. Let's bring in our correspondents and our analysts and check out where the campaign currently stands.
And, Gloria Borger, I want you to listen to Joe Biden, today, talking about some of that negativity directed at former President Obama by some of the Democratic presidential candidates last night. Listen to the reaction from Biden today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I must tell you, I was a little surprised at how much incoming was about Barack, about the President. I mean, I -- I'm proud of having served with him. I'm proud of the job he did. I don't think there's anything he has to apologize for.
I hope, the next debate, we can talk about how we fix -- our answers to fix the things that Trump has broken, not how Barack Obama made all these mistakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, what do you think? Does he have a point that these candidates should direct their fire at President Trump, not former President Obama?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I do. I do think he has a point, but the reality of this is they, A, had to find a way to differentiate themselves from Joe Biden, who is -- you know, who is bound to Barack Obama; and, B, the party has moved to the left, Wolf. I'm not sure that Barack Obama could get nominated in this Democratic Party right now.
And so, Joe Biden had to really navigate it, this road, and he had some difficulty with it, particularly on the issue of immigration, if you'll recall, with Julian Castro, who said, well, I guess I've learned a few things since I was in the Obama administration, maybe you haven't, when they were talking about deportations. Because, of course, Biden shares Obama's beliefs that you should not
have open borders, and Castro was talking about open borders, which, by the way, is quite unpopular with the American public. And so, you know, I think Biden is going to stay firm and say, look, this is where we were. And he is banking on the fact that the country is more where he is, but the Democratic Party may not be.
BLITZER: I'm going to speak live with Julian Castro in the next hour. We'll get his thoughts on all of these.
Chris Cillizza, do you think some of these Democratic presidential candidates risk alienating a lot of Democrats out there who still love President Obama?
[17:34:59] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. I mean, I thought it was a lucky break for Joe Biden but a good one for him that the debate played out the way it did and the storyline coming out of it was, why is everyone attacking Barack Obama?
And I'll give you one stat why, Wolf. 2018, Pew does a poll. They asked, all the recent presidents, are they one of the best, the best, the second best president you would say in your lifetime? Seventy-one percent of Democrats said Barack Obama was the best or the second-best president in their lifetime.
So, Gloria is right, they're trying to differentiate. They're trying to pry a wedge between what -- the popularity of Obama and Biden claiming that popularity, but I will say I do think it is tenuous ground and good for Joe Biden. Running down Barack Obama is not a popular thing for most people in the Democratic Party, liberal, moderate, or conservative.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: That's right.
BLITZER: I'm sure you're right. Does it, though, in the end, wind up helping Biden, these attacks on the Obama legacy?
SIDDIQUI: Well, it certainly is a risky tactic to go after President Obama's legacy because he remains, arguably, the most popular figure in the Democratic Party. And, frankly, he has approval ratings among the American public that are higher than those of President Trump's.
And so, it reinforces Joe Biden's case that a lot of this election is about electability and a return to normalcy, determining whether, as he says, Trump is an aberration, or whether we're going to give him a second term, and as he says, fundamentally reshape the course of the direction of this country.
But I think that when you look at Obama's -- the criticisms that they leveled against Obama last night, you have seen some Democrats now pushing back and saying keep your eyes on President Trump because they -- there is some concern within the party about creating this false equivalency between Obama's record on immigration where, yes, there were a record number of deportations under his watch but also the record of President Trump who has enforced some of the most restrictive measures on immigration. The party has obviously tried to really draw attention to the cruelty,
for example, of the family separation policy, the conditions in these detention facilities, so they don't want Democrats to lose sight of the case that they're trying to build against President Trump by relitigating the Obama/Biden record.
BLITZER: Let me get --
CILLIZZA: Very quickly --
BLITZER: Yes, let me get April --
CILLIZZA: Very quickly, Wolf, one -- just one other stat to Sabrina's point, January 2017, Barack Obama out of office, Gallup poll, 95 percent of Democrats approved of the job he did.
BLITZER: Yes. You know, April Ryan is with us. April, you covered the eight years of the Obama/Biden administration.
APRIL RYAN, WASHINGTON, D.C., BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes.
BLITZER: I'm anxious to get your thoughts on what you saw last night, this attack. There were plenty of criticisms of President Trump, but there was some criticism of President Obama as well.
RYAN: It seemed like it was really Obama on the table. Barack Obama's presidency was on the table because Joe Biden is linked to him because he was the number two. But in this climate that we have of hate and discrediting by a U.S. president on other presidents, be it Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, Democrats have got to be very, very careful.
I mean, I was looking at Twitter, and people were like, do not go against my president, Barack Obama. People still have an affinity for this president. But when you have a current president, Donald John Trump, who is strategic and makes concerted efforts to go after Barack Obama, to continue to discredit him, be it on matters of race or be it on his legacy or be it on the job that he did, Democrats cannot join the chorus.
Last night, in some extent, it sounded like they were joining the chorus. Barack Obama did not everything right, and he did not do everything wrong and he -- they're -- he had a lot of credits. But they cannot sound like Donald John Trump, that's the bottom line.
SIDDIQUI: And to be clear, no one is arguing that President Obama's legacy is completely off-limits, but what this is really about is the fact that former Vice President Joe Biden, early as it may be, is still leading most of the polling. And for many of these candidates, these debates in Detroit may have been the last chance to make an impression on the national stage.
BORGER: Well --
SIDDIQUI: And so, this is really about undercutting Biden -- BLITZER: All right, hold on.
SIDDIQUI: -- and whether or not he can represent the party this time.
BLITZER: Everybody, hold on. We're going to continue this conversation. There's a lot more we need to discuss, and we'll do that right after a quick break.
[17:39:17] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and our analysts. And, Gloria, I want to play a clip. This is the President speaking at the White House to reporters just before leaving for this campaign rally later tonight in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was asked about what he would do if there were these chants, "send her back," at this political rally later tonight. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know that you can stop people. I don't know that you can. I mean, we'll see what we can do. I'd prefer that they don't, but if they do it, we'll have to make a decision then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
BORGER: As Joe Biden would say, I think that's a bunch of malarkey. I think he can stop it. All he has to do is stand up there and say, this is not who we are, this is not the chant we want to have representing my campaign, I don't like this, I am opposed to this, let's talk about make America great again, and let's do it in a different way.
He is the leader in this position. And leaders just don't say, oh, there's nothing I can do about that. I think that's ridiculous.
BLITZER: What do you think, Chris?
CILLIZZA: Why did the crowd start chanting, "send her back," at Ilhan Omar? The answer, Donald Trump was savaging her, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. He paused for -- yes, 13, 14, count the seconds -- a number of seconds to let that cheer rise. And what did he do when it ended? Went back to attacking Ilhan Omar.
So, the idea that he has no control over these things, it seems unlikely to me, if he's talking about GDP and unemployment being at record lows, you know, parts of his stump speech, that the "send her back" chant would rise up out of the blue.
He sets the pretext for this, and he allows it -- whether he encourages it or he condones it, he allows it to continue. He's not blameless in this, and he's certainly not incapable, to Gloria's point, of stopping it. BLITZER: You know, Sabrina, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who was the
target of those "send her back" chants, just tweeted this -- and I'll put it up on the screen. They said "send her back" but Speaker Pelosi didn't just make arrangements to send me back, she went back with me. So grateful for the honor to return to Mother Africa with the Black Caucus and commemorate the Year of Return.
SIDDIQUI: Well, interestingly enough, what the President has done is he has helped to unify the Democratic Party because before his attacks against the so-called squad, the story was really about those four congresswomen of color feeling sidelined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly saying that she felt that Speaker Pelosi was singling out these freshmen women of color who were trying to take House Democrats into more progressive direction.
And just to the point of whether or not the President can stop those chants, of course, he can; or to Gloria's point, he could at least try and deter the crowd from doing so. But the fact of the matter is he doesn't want to. He relishes in these moments. He has intentionally sought to weaponize race going into this election.
And it's his choice to bring up, standing there before his supporters, these four congresswomen of color. He could just talk about his record, but he doesn't want to engage on his record.
[17:45:01] BLITZER: April, what do you think?
RYAN: Well, you know, it means a lot for African -- well, African- Americans who are descendants of slaves to go back to a slave house, particularly from the place from whence they came, and then did that -- it was the middle passage 400 years ago coming to Jamestown. And for the Speaker of the House to come, it says a lot to African- Americans, particularly in this election season as African-Americans are the base of the Democratic Party.
But particularly for those 14 members of the Congressional Black Caucus that traveled with the House speaker, it let them know she was there. She heard them. She felt them. To be able to go into a slave house, that's life-altering and mind-changing no matter what race or color you are.
And you know, as we are talking about reparations, as we are talking about how do you deal with this and studying the whole idea of repairing the wrong of slavery, for Omar and Pelosi to stand together at that slave house, there had to be some kind of understanding.
And Speaker Pelosi put out a statement about it, but I was told it was a very heartfelt moment. And it could really change the course of their relationship. You know, some things are left unspoken and some things are just heartfelt, and I believe the heart was there for both of them at that time.
BLITZER: Important point. All right, guys, everybody, stick around. There's more breaking news we're following. U.S. military intelligence now reporting yet more missile launches by North Korea.
[17:51:14] BLITZER: The breaking news from North Korea. It's raising disturbing new questions about the message Kim Jong-un is sending with yet another round of missile firings. Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. officials giving CNN new information on this just a short time ago. For the third time in a little over a week, North Korea has fired off a round of short-range missiles. From Washington to Seoul, intelligence officials now watching to see just how far the dictator is going to push this envelope.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, the North Korean dictator continues to prod, press, and provoke to see just how far he can push President Trump without eliciting a response.
A senior U.S. official telling CNN, U.S. military intelligence late today tracked the launch of what appeared to be more short-range ballistic missiles from North Korea. Today's tests follow similar launches on Wednesday morning, Korea time.
And even before today's firing, Kim Jong-un's propaganda arm was already trash-talking about Tuesday night's test. A news reader saying Kim oversaw the firing of a multiple rocket launcher and bragging about the destruction it could cause.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It would be an inescapable distress to the forces, becoming a fat target of the weapon.
TODD (voice-over): Kim's fat target is likely a reference to U.S. and South Korean military forces which are set to hold joint exercises in the coming days, an event which always angers the North Korean strongman.
In a little over a week, Kim has fired off three rounds of missiles and made a show of inspecting a large submarine being built, a vessel which could have the capability to launch nuclear missiles. Moves analysts say which are also designed to send a message to President Trump about how displeased Kim is over nuclear talks that have completely stalled.
ABRAHAM DENMARK, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR EAST ASIA: To me, the message is that we're not going away. North Korea is saying that you can't just stop by once in a while, have a nice photo op, and then call it a day. That this is something that needs to be taken seriously, they need attention -- they want attention, and that this is not something that we can just try to run out the clock on.
TODD (voice-over): But if Kim is trying to bait Trump, it doesn't appear the President is taking it, telling reporters late today he's not concerned.
TRUMP: I have no problem. We'll see what happens, but these are short-range missiles. They're very standard.
TODD (voice-over): Still, August could be a hot month in this standoff. South Korean officials telling CNN tonight, they believe North Korea will continue to launch provocations throughout this month to protest those joint U.S./South Korean military drills. How could North Korea ramp up the pressure?
DEAN CHENG, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: If North Korea were to test a missile by flying it over japan but keep its range short of an ICBM, that, again, would produce some interesting pressures on -- to American allies.
TODD (voice-over): But tonight, Kim's military is feeling internal pressures of its own. South Korean military officials say a North Korean soldier was detected crossing the DMZ, moving across the Imjin River. They have him in custody.
KIM JOON-RAK, SPOKESPERSON, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA (through translator): The man found at the central front of the DMZ was an active-duty soldier, and he expressed his desire to defect.
TODD (voice-over): That follows other high-profile defections of North Korean troops within the past two years including this dramatic dash across the DMZ in November 2017. This soldier ditched his vehicle, made a run for it, was shot five times by fellow North Korean soldiers, and barely survived.
CHENG: It's important to recognize that North Korean soldiers probably have a higher standard of living than even fairly well-off North Korean civilians. So, for these people to be defecting suggests that all is not well within the security establishment.
[17:54:57] TODD: Meanwhile, the Trump team is choosing to respond to the latest North Korean missile test by not responding very much at all.
In addition to President Trump's downplaying of the missile test today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was at a conference in Asia, made no mention of the missile test whatsoever, saying the U.S. is optimistic that nuclear talks with Kim will continue. We are ready to go, Pompeo said.
Analysts say this all could be a signal that, at the moment, the Trump team might be willing to brush off just about anything the North Koreans might do, short of a long-range missile test -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.
Breaking news next, President Trump about to take back the spotlight from the Democrats who hope to replace him. He's holding a rally tonight. What will he do if that ugly chant of "send her back" breaks out again?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Chanting and raving.
President Trump heads to a campaign rally after attacking his Democratic rivals from the White House lawn. The President's last rally turned ugly when the crowd started to chant "send her back" after he attacked a Somali-born congresswoman. He says he doesn't know if he can stop the chanting this time.
[17:59:57] Biden battles back. Front-runner Joe Biden bore the brunt of the attacks when Democratic hopefuls turned on one another in their CNN debates. Now, Biden is battling back, saying criticism directed by fellow --