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NYPD Fires Officer In Eric Garner Chokehold Death Case; Trump And His Advisers Downplay Recession Threat; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Interviewed About Trump's Conspiracies. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 19, 2019 - 17:00   ET


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): We have an obligation to visit and to understand the security concerns first hand.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

GILLIBRAND: Thank you.

BERMAN: Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

[17:00:19] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.

Dismissed. The New York police officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner five years ago has been fired and will not get a pension. An administrative judge found the officer had used the chokehold. Garner's dying words, I can't breathe became a national rallying cry for police accountability.

More conspiracies. President Trump spinning more conspiracies blaming the media and the fed for any economic woes, Fox News for bad polls and Google for Hillary Clinton getting more votes. Is he worried about re-election?

Shooting plots foiled. Three men in three states have been taken into custody for allegedly threatening or expressing interest in mass shootings. How are police and the FBI able to stop them?

And absurd. That is what Denmark's prime minister calls President Trump's desire to buy Greenland. The world's biggest island may not be for sale, but it is melting. We're going to show you the shocking impact of the climate crisis there.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KEILAR: Five years after he was accused of fatally choking Eric Garner. New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo has been fired and will not receive his pension. The move coming after a disciplinary hearing in which Pantaleo was found guilty of using a chokehold on Garner. Garner's final words, "I can't breathe," were a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement and with recession fears mounting.

President Trump blaming the media, Democrats and his own fed chairman for economic concerns and he has you some new conspiracy targets falsely accusing Google of manipulating millions of votes for Hillary Clinton and turning against his favorite Fox News for a poll showing him losing to four different 2020 Democrats.

I'll be speaking with Congressman Steve Cohen of the Judiciary Committee and our correspondents and analysts have full coverage of the day's top stories.

We do begin with the firing of the police officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner. I want to go straight to New York and CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz. Break this down for us, Shimon.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUST REPORTER: Yes, Brianna, so this was a decision that was weeks in the waiting comes amid a lot of implications for policing. And also, for Mayor de Blasio who is running for president after he took the national stage during a CNN debate and said that the family would finally get justice after the Department of Justice decided against bringing charges against the officer that was involved on this. And, of course, the mayor here wanting this officer to be fired.

Now, today, a visibly emotional police commissioner at times talking, explaining his decision. Said it was a hard decision to make. Said he was confident in his decision. In his decision was based on the fact that the officer acted reckless. But, of course, understanding the implications that this has on the men and women of the NYPD, the police commissioner said this was not an easy decision to make. And here is what he said.


JAMES O'NEAL, COMMISSIONER, NYPD: Trials Commissioner Maldonado ruled that officer Pantaleo's use of a prohibited chokehold was reckless and constituted a gross deviation from the standard of conduct established for a New York City police officer.


PROKUPECZ: So, Pantaleo, the officer here who has been on desk duty since this incident will not, as a result of his firing, he will not be able to get his pension. He is essentially fired. He is terminated from the police department. He will sue -- the union says that they will sue for him to try and get his pension back and also his job. Brianna?

KEILAR: And, Shimon, tell us what have the reactions been from his family and also from the police officer?

PROKUPECZ: Well certainly the Garner family are happy. They're happy with this decision. They said that while it came a little too late, they are happy. This is what they wanted. They wanted the officer fired. Now obviously the police union is not happy. They are very upset over this decision by the police commissioner to ultimately fire this officer and here is what they have to say.


PATRICK LYNCH, NYPD BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION: He's firing a police officer who even -- he even set almost 300 arrests, took numerous guns off the street, 14 commendations from the New York City Police Department. An exemplary police officer. Not a troublemaker. That meant nothing.


[17:05:00] PROKUPECZ: And so, here's the thing Brianna, in the end for the NYPD and certainly for the police commissioner, one of the things that they're most concerned is about, how is the rank and file going to react to this? We heard the police commissioner in his comments -- in his statement essentially speaking to - saying that you know if he was a police officer right now, he himself would be -- he would be mad at himself for making this decision. Obviously, this is something that has been on his mind for quite some time. Not an easy decision and now we see. We see what happens in terms of whether or not this officer will be able to legally fight to get his job back. But in terms of everything else, this case for now is over, Brianna.

KEILAR: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.

Despite warnings by many economists, President Trump and his advisers are vigorously downplaying the risk of a recession. The president is insisting that American consumers are rich and loaded with money.

Let's turn to CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. So, tell us what is behind this upbeat drum beat, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is playing the economist and chief this week insisting there is no recession on the horizon but one of the president's top economic advisers Larry Kudlow is scheduled to hold calls this week with business leaders and other state officials from around the country to offer some reassurance on the economy and there is a fresh sign that the president senses he may be in some hot water. He's spreading new wild conspiracy theories.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Amid growing concerns about a looming economic downturn, President Trump and his top aides are busy swatting away the r word. Recession.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't see a recession. I mean the world is in a recession right now. And although that is too big a statement.


ACOSTA: A new survey, the Nation's Fiscal how finds most economists do expect a recession by the end of 2021.


LARRY KUDLOW, NATIONAL ECONOMIC DIRECTOR: Everybody wants to talk about pessimism and recession --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that why the president --

KUDLOW: What is wrong with a little optimism.


ACOSTA: One of the president's top advisers, Larry Kudlow, insists there is no recession to fear but Kudlow is defending his own record of economic predictions. Less than one year before the 2008 financial crisis, Kudlow wrote in the National Review, you can't call it a recession, this sort of fiscal monetization will continue the Bush boom for years to come.


KUDLOW: I don't know that anybody saw that kind of crash. But, look, this is not then. This is not then. This is not then.


ACOSTA: The president and administration officials are blaming the Federal Reserve.


WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: I very much hope that Chairman Powell goes forward and does lower the rate this next time around.


ACOSTA: The president is also suddenly downplaying talk of new gun control.


TRUMP: I'm also very, very concerned with the Second Amendment, more so than most presidents would be. People don't realize, we have very strong background checks right now.


ACOSTA: The momentum for gun control may be slowing as new GOP talking points are emerging. Coaching Republican lawmakers on how to answer questions about the gun show loophole, high-capacity magazines and whether white nationalism is driving mass shootings. Iowa GOP Senator Joni Ernst faced a testy town hall when she tried to blame the shootings on the mental illness.


SEN. SENATOR JONI ERNST (R-IA): A lot of the incidents that we see do come back to mental illness.


ACOSTA: The president is still fighting with his former communications director Anthony Scaramucci tweeting he's a highly unstable nut job. I barely knew him until his 11 days of gross incompetence despite bragging that he only hires the best people.


TRUMP: Well we're going to get the best people in the world.


ACOSTA: Scaramucci is talking up the idea of a GOP challenger for Mr. Trump in 2020.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: This is not a never Trump situation. This is not just screeching rhetoric. This is OK, the guy is unstable. Everyone inside knows it. Everyone outside knows it. Let's see if we can find a viable alternative.


ACOSTA: The president is out with a new unproven conspiracy theory accusing Google of manipulating more than 2 million votes in 2016. Adding his victory was even bigger than thought but that is not true. There is no evidence of a Google conspiracy to change votes. And the search engine is denying any manipulation of its data. The president also thinks Fox News may be out to get him too after one of the network's polls found Mr. Trump's approval rating sagging.


TRUMP: Fox has changed and my worst polls have always been from Fox. There is something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it.



ACOSTA: Now there are new White House talking points going out to its surrogates predicting the economy will stay strong through the 2020 election. Those same talking points also take issue with Democratic contenders calling the president a racist. Those talking points accuse those candidates of essentially labelling Mr. Trump supporters as racist as well.

And getting back to this bogus conspiracy theory from the president, that Google manipulated votes in the 2016 election. We can put this up on screen. Hillary Clinton, she has chimed in on Twitter this afternoon noting that claim has been debunked. She says right there, "The debunk study you're referring to was based on 21 undecided voters. For context that's about half of the number of people associated with your campaign who have been indicted." A stinging response from the former secretary of state. Brianna?

[17:10:06] KEILAR: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House. Thank you.

And joining me now is Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Thanks for coming on Congressman.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN): Brianna, nice to be with you.

KEILAR: I want to begin with President Trump now backing away from calls for universal background checks on gun purchases. Do you have any hope that Congress in the administration will be able to get something done on gun violence?

COHEN: No. Because Trump and McConnell are both lock step with the NRA and they will not want him to do anything and much of the Trump base is against any changes. Even -- except they are for background checks. 90 percent of the country is for background checks but he's not going to do the NRA doesn't want it so we're going to have a hearing on the 4th of September on bills, on background checks, on the red flag laws and try to -- and on high-capacity magazines but Mitch McConnell, the grim reaper, they won't go anywhere.

KEILAR: What does it take to get something done on the federal level do you think?

COHEN: It takes a new president. Takes a new Senate majority leader. Takes people of the country coming to grips with the fact that we have a leader who is not capable of leading this country. The economy is in danger because the president has no clue. He doesn't have an economist. He has got a TV commentator. They don't know what to do. I've been with some of the leaders of around the world in the last several months and they are pretty much the folks I've been with and top financial people concerned about the United States going it alone with the tariffs on China and they think will harm the world economy rather than acting in concert with our allies and they have no faith in Trump and I have no faith in Trump.

The truth of the matter is my father was a psychiatrist. I think about him often and I think he should be here today rather than me because when you listen to the previous report you had, that is a paranoid delusional individual blaming even Fox News and the media for the problem with the economy and saying everything is fine and everything is wonderful.

There is an interview I just read back from 1990 where Trump cavalierly said depressions occur in the economy on a regular basis and there is not much you can do about them. Well, he can't do much about anything. Unfortunately.

KEILAR: The president is pointing the finger at Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. He thinks that it was a mistake for the Fed to raise interest rates. He wants to slash them even further. What do you think needs to be done to stave off a recession?

COHEN: Well, I'm not sure if there is a way - there are ways you can do probably in the economy but that takes in effect later on and really we should have been -- we should be trying to have world trade, have engagement with other countries and not hurt our economy. He's admitted finally that the tariffs hurt the consumers. They hurt Americans and they hurt -- dry up our economy and our spending. We should pass the minimum wage. Every penny that goes to workers who are getting a minimum wage increase will go into the economy because they're living hand to mouth. And that money will be spent on goods and services and help the economy.

The Trump tax cuts put money in the wealthy who put them into -- about a third of that, 25 percent of 30 percent of that went to overseas holders of stocks. And they got the benefit of the tax cut. And the upper 1 percent got so much of it they just put it away in savings and they don't spend it in the economy because they didn't need the money. But the working people, middle class people, people earning $150,000 or less, that is where the tax cuts should have gone. So the tax scam has come back, the pigeons have come have back to roost on the tax scam and on the tariffs and tariff man has got us in real trouble.

KEILAR: I want to talk to you about what comes next now after the firing of the New York City police officer who was involved in the death of Eric Garner. You sit on the House Judiciary Committee where Chairman Nadler has vowed to hold hearings on legislation to address the use of force by police officers. What specifics would you like to see in that legislation and what really are the chances of it getting out of Congress?

COHEN: Well, it will be difficult but there is a bill I have which has a bipartisan support that would require there to be sensitivity training of cultural differences among police personnel and law enforcement personnel throughout the country. Lacy clay and I have that together. Lacy kind of put together the portion of the bill that deals with training of police officers and the portion I have deals with having independent prosecutors when there has been a force used that could amount to deadly force or deadly force in fact was used to see to it that the prosecutors were not the same prosecutors in the jurisdiction where the law enforcement officer operates. They have a hand and glove relationship and there is no way that the public would see that result of whether to bring an indictment or not. Whether to charge an officer as being something that the facts dictate.

[17:15:11] So it is important that you have a separate prosecutor from where the officer is. This took -- in this case in New York it took a federal judge to make the decision. Local authorities did not make it. The local district attorney general didn't make it and they didn't bring an indictment which I think they should have.

So I think our independent prosecutor bill is one thing we might see. There are statistics bills that we have that would require the Justice Department and on statistics of crimes with minority communities and to see if that might bring more attention to them. The law on deadly force was out of emphasis and attorney here named Walter Bailey was the lead counsel and that pretty much set the law and I think the law of deadly force is appropriate.

KEILAR: Congressman Steve Cohen, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COHEN: You're welcome, Brianna. Always good to be in THE SITUATION ROOM.

KEILAR: And up next, is President Trump turning against Fox News? After a Fox poll shows him losing to key Democrats. The president says, quote, "There is something going on at the network."

And Denmark's leader calls the president's interest in buying Greenland, "absurd." As CNN gets a firsthand look at the shocking impact of the climate crisis on the world's biggest island.


[17:21:15] KEILAR: Given the subject of his tweets, President Trump seems to be seeing conspiracies against him everywhere that he looks. He's taken to Twitter to complain about what he see as the news media and Federal Reserve working against him on the economy and about searches on Google supposedly swaying voters for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. They didn't. He even upset - he's even upset with his longtime favorite, Fox News.

So let's talk about all of this with our political and legal experts.

OK. So, Chris, President Trump is proclaiming that there is something going on at Fox. But this comes after Fox put out a poll. Fox News poll found that his approval rating had dipped to 43 percent.

CHRIS CILLIZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: And that same poll showed him from behind anywhere from 6 to 12 points behind the four most likely Democratic candidates in the 2020 election. So, this is just a fundamental way in which Donald Trump either misunderstands or chooses to misunderstand the way the media works. His view effectively is that Fox should function as sort of a state media service. That they only report things that are good. When he says something is wrong with Fox, it just means they're not reporting things that are only good for Donald Trump. That is his measure. Whether it is objectively true or false, he's never been terribly concerned with.

KEILAR: So, April, is his expectation then that polls should be fixed for him?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes. That is of course his expectation. But the bottom line is that this poll is so much of straw holes put -- a view of what is happening right now. And he doesn't like what is happening right now.

But if he looks at what is happening right now, what he's been saying, what he's been doing, he's stirring up the race issue. He's stirring up issues of race, gender, anything that is negative, he's throwing it out there in the wind for people to either grab or throw back. And it looks like this poll is showing even Fox and Democratic polls are showing people are throwing it back. If, indeed, this Fox poll and the Democratic polls are actually right, if the election were to happen today, Joe Biden and other Democratic contenders for the Oval Office would beat this president.

This president's brand is a win. This is the -- the winning picture for the president is not this poll. Not the Fox poll, not the Democratic poll. And the president is losing out right now and he does not like it.

KEILAR: And there is another conspiracy theory, Jeffrey, that he's on to -- he took to Twitter today to accuse Google of manipulating votes. He said, "Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 election. This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump supporter. Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought."

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In a day of whack a doodle claims this is the most whack a doodle of all because there is not any claim that Google manipulated votes. There is no -- they didn't go in there and change votes. No one claims that except Donald Trump. The idea is that searches were ranked in certain ways that helped Democrats rather than Republicans. This, too, has been long discredited but it is all part of this incredible nervousness about his political standing. I was wrong about 2016. I don't know if he's going to win or lose in 2020. But today's spate of craziness tells us he's really worried about losing. That is the real message. Not any of the substance.

KEILAR: You're nodding here Sabrina?

[17:25:00] SABRINA SIDDIQUI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, look, I think that it is no coincidence that he picked out this 2.6 million number from the range that was provided in this unsubstantiated conspiracy theory because that is also very close to the margin by which Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote and we've seen the president that on multiple occasions throw out again conspiracy theories that votes were nearly 3 million votes were stolen from him in the 2016 election because that then helps him push back against the notion that Hillary Clinton in fact won the popular vote which is a big sore sticking point for the president.

But again, to Jeffrey's point, we've seen him repeatedly lash out when he is anxious about his own political standing and this is coming at a time when he's very concerned amid reports of possible economic downturn and that is the one area where he has actually received higher marks from the American public in terms of issues. So that is really something that he has to be concerned about.

KEILAR: Sabrina, Jeffrey, Chris, April, we have a lot more to talk about. Especially with you, Chris Cillizza.


You stick around. We're going to have a commercial break and we'll have a lot to talk about because the president has been talking about gun measures or supporting some tougher gun measures and now, he's backpedaling from that. What is behind that? We'll discuss.


[17:30:44] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Before we get back to our political and legal experts, we have more news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

A self-proclaimed White nationalist accused of threatening a mass shooting at a Jewish commune center in Youngstown, Ohio pleaded not guilty this afternoon. It comes as authorities in two other states, Connecticut and Florida, made arrests in separate investigations that also included threats of mass shootings.

President Trump, in the meantime, seems to be backing away from talk about tightening gun laws.

Let's bring back our experts to talk about all of this. So, Chris, all of these were alleged plots, but the concerns of authorities were that if they had not intervened, these would have been three more mass shootings. And the President is now distancing himself from --


KEILAR: He had talked about background checks, and now he's stepping away from that.

CILLIZZA: Yes. If you go and watch what he said or read what he said yesterday, before leaving New Jersey to fly back to D.C., it's basically the NRA's talking points on these mass shootings, which is, you know, mental health needs to be a focus, guns don't kill people, people kill people, there's already a lot of laws on the books.

I mean, that's essentially what he's saying, which is a big walk-back from even a week ago. August 7th, August 9th, he's talking about not only how he supports expanded background checks but how he thinks the NRA will eventually be on board with the expanded background checks and Mitch McConnell will be on board with background checks.

He's done this before. Parkland shooting. In the, remember, big partisan meeting with senators, he says, oh, we're going to get this done. Two days later, after meeting with the NRA, not so much.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And can we just talk about this -- this mental illness as -- you know, this idea that all mass shooters are mentally ill is proven to be not true. And the idea that if you have screening for mental health --


TOOBIN: -- you're going to stop any kind of violence in this country is simply not true. It is a talking point. It is not a fact. People with mental illness, overwhelmingly, are dangerous to themselves but not to other people. So, you know, this is such a distraction for people who don't want to talk about regulating guns themselves in any way.

CILLIZZA: And can we just -- just --

KEILAR: I just want to clarify, people with mental illness are, comparatively, to being a danger to other people, more likely to be a danger to themselves. That's what you --

TOOBIN: That's what I meant.

KEILAR: I just wanted to --

TOOBIN: That's what I meant to say.

KEILAR: Yes, I just wanted --

TOOBIN: If I -- that's --

KEILAR: I just want --

TOOBIN: That's not what I did say --

KEILAR: I just --

TOOBIN: -- it's what I meant.

KEILAR: I know, I just wanted --


KEILAR: -- and I knew that's what you meant to say.

CILLIZZA: Just one other polling point to bolster all this -- why the walk-away, to me, makes no sense, even politically -- 90 percent, in a -- that -- in a Fox News poll, the one we talked about the last segment. Ninety percent of people said they supported universal background checks, including 89 percent of self-identified Republicans. There's like zero bipartisan support for anything in Washington or outside.

KEILAR: And --

CILLIZZA: This is actually something where if you do it, you have the vast majority of the country for it.

KEILAR: And yet the question, is will people vote that way? Because what you have Republicans -- and even some Democrats who align with Republicans when it comes to gun issues are banking on the fact that voters won't because largely they do not.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, it's been a challenge for the gun control movement to make that a litmus test at the ballot box, but they have made gains over the years. There was a significant coalition that came together after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and has risen, really, as a rival to the NRA.

Now, they have not been able to counter yet the influence that the NRA has here in Washington, but they have seen victories at state legislatures where they've been more likely to pass some form of expanded background checks or other provisions to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers when they've put to the public in these ballot referendums. They've also been able to, in several states, enact universal background checks.

So many of the people who are part of that movement liken this to the fight for gay marriage where they're not expecting the action to happen at the federal level. They really think this is a battle that's going to play out in the states.

But if you do look, just really quickly, at 2020 Democrats, it's remarkable to see just how forcefully they are running on the issue of gun control where this is now a central pillar of most of their campaigns, which is a big shift from what we used to see several years ago, even in recent elections, when they would also tiptoe around the issue of gun control.

KEILAR: April, and when you're looking at this, are you really seeing any --


KEILAR: I mean, after Sandy Hook, there was a feeling something was going to change. Then there seemed to be some folks -- I mean, I think a lot of people who were skeptical because things didn't change after Sandy Hook thought, well, what is going to change after El Paso? What is going to change after Dayton? Do you think anything changes?

RYAN: You know, I thought, as you said, Sandy Hook, you know, something was going to change; but it didn't. I thought, after Parkland, more would change; but it didn't.

This is a very knee-jerk reaction society, particularly this president, and gun issues are a piece that this nation still has to be grapple -- we've been grappling with it, I mean, for the last 22 years that I have been in Washington.

When we first -- when I first came to Washington, they were talking about closing the gun show loophole. Now, H.R. 8 that is passed in the House, that has not passed in the Senate but in the House, deals with gun show loopholes -- just now, 2019 -- as well as closing the loophole on online gun purchases.

But it's more than that. It's more than just having someone who is crazy or who is not well mentally. It's also about issues of assault weapons. You know, you don't need an assault rifle to kill Bambi, to go out game hunting and to kill Bambi. That's just plain and simple.

Any time the NRA feels that there's any kind of restrictions, they're going to dig in. And they're digging in. But there is also another obstacle, Brianna. The other obstacle is the fact that this is election time for people like Mitch McConnell, so they're not going to vote for anything to restrict guns at this moment.

KEILAR: All right. April, thank you so much. Chris, Jeffrey, Sabrina, thank you so much for your insights.

And coming up, Senator Elizabeth Warren confronts Native American leaders and apologizes for her controversial claims in the past about her heritage.


[17:41:23] KEILAR: Two outspoken freshman congresswomen are speaking out today after being denied entry to Israel at the urging of President Trump. CNN congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is here with this story. And tell us the latest here.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very strong words today, Brianna, from both of these congresswomen, the first time that they are appearing together since they were denied entry last week into Israel. They not only went after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying he's following in President Trump's footsteps in pitting Jews and Muslims against each other, but they also went after Trump specifically for pushing Netanyahu to not let them in.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D), MINNESOTA: Netanyahu's decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress, but it is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians. This is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views that threaten the occupation, a policy that has been edged on and supported by Trump's administration.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: All I can do as my sittie's granddaughter, as the -- as the granddaughter of a woman who lives in occupied territory, is to elevate her voice by exposing the truth.


SERFATY: And this fallout continues on Capitol Hill as, behind the scenes, a group of Democrats is weighing their next steps. There are active discussions going on about what they potentially could do to respond to this controversy, including potentially taking some oversight action targeting the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. The question is, of course, how serious of an effort this is and, of course, what Dems will actually do, if anything at all, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, well, we know you will keep your eye on that. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much.

In the 2020 presidential race, Senator Elizabeth Warren made a high- profile visit to a Native American forum today, using the appearance both for an apology and to answer questions about how her policies would affect Native peoples and tribal lands. CNN's M.J. Lee reports.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Like anyone who is being honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes. M.J. LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Elizabeth Warren

offering a public apology and attempting to turn the page on the controversy over her family ancestry while speaking at a major gathering of tribal leaders and activists in Iowa.

WARREN: I am sorry for the harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned a lot. And I am grateful for the many conversations that we've had together.

LEE (voice-over): Questions over Warren's past claims to Native American ancestry have swirled for years, going back to her first Senate campaign against Republican Scott Brown.

SCOTT BROWN, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO NEW ZEALAND AND SAMOA: Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American, a person of color. And as you can see, she's not.

LEE (voice-over): The Oklahoma native described herself as Native American in numerous personnel documents early in her teaching career, a revelation that sparked a furious backlash. Last fall, Warren responded to the ongoing criticism by releasing the results of a DNA test which showed distant Native ancestry.

WARREN: What do the facts say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The facts suggest that you absolutely have a Native American ancestor in your pedigree.

LEE (voice-over): That decision was widely panned as insensitive and offensive, including by some tribal groups. The Senator ultimately apologized.

WARREN: I am also sorry for not being more mindful of this decades ago. Tribes and only tribes determine tribal citizenship.

LEE (voice-over): As Warren climbs in the polls, President Trump is taking notice and still attacking her with the racial slur.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll have to hit Pocahontas very hard again if she does win.

LEE (voice-over): Warren using today's platform to address issues critical to tribal communities like missing and murdered indigenous women.

[17:45:05] WARREN: Over and over, I'm struck by women who go missing, and it doesn't make a headline for a week, for a month. Women who are murdered, Native women, and it never makes a headline.

LEE (voice-over): And releasing an extensive plan to address the community's needs last week with Native American Congresswoman Deb Haaland who has endorsed the campaign.

REP. DEB HAALAND (D), NEW MEXICO: Every time they ask about Elizabeth's family instead of the issues of vital importance to Indian country, they feed the President's racism. Elizabeth knows she will be attacked, but she's here to be an unwavering partner in our struggle because that is what a leader does.


LEE: Now, an interesting update about that DNA test video. Over the weekend, the campaign told us that that video would be removed from the Warren campaign's Web site. Well, as of this afternoon, Brianna, that video is no longer on the Web site. Just goes to show another step that the campaign appears to be taking to try to distance Warren from that blunder.

And also, some of the tribal leaders that we spoke to at this conference saying that continuing to talk about this issue does not serve their community, and they would truly like to focus on the policies -- Brianna.

KEILAR: M.J. Lee in Sioux City, Iowa. Thank you for that.

Coming up, President Trump's interest in buying Greenland has generated plenty of political heat, but real heat and melting ice make what's happening right now in Greenland a cause for international concern.


[17:51:14] KEILAR: As President Trump confirms, he has looked into buying Greenland. Denmark's Prime Minister, who is in charge of the island, is firing back tonight. This all comes as Greenland is on the front lines of the climate crisis.

Senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen was just there. Tell us, Fred, what you are learning.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. And you're absolutely right, the Danish Prime Minister certainly firing back at President Trump, calling his idea to somehow acquire Greenland for the United States absurd and saying she really hopes that it was a joke on the part of President Trump. But, of course, he has now said that it really wasn't a joke.

But you're absolutely right, it is really on the front line of the battle against climate change, and the main agency behind that is NASA. Right now, they're flying missions over Greenland, and what they're finding is that it's not only warmer air that's driving the ice melt in Greenland but also warmer water in the oceans. Here's what we saw.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Greenland may not be for sale, but it is melting. For all President Trump's interest in buying this Arctic territory, the United States already has an interest in saving it. That's why NASA took us along on a mission trying to map out how warmer ocean water is melting Arctic ice here. An attempt to stop the devastating effect of climate change.

In the air, NASA Chief Scientist Josh Willis shows me the probes they're launching all around Greenland. Like dropping thermometers into the sea.

JOSH WILLIS, PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR, NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION'S OCEANS MELTING GREENLAND: -- part falls all the way down to the seafloor, so it gives us a profile from the surface to the bottom on the shelf.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): We've reached the drop zone, the enormous Helheim Glacier. The scientists spot an ice-free zone at the mouth of the glacier, pretty unusual. With great precision, they have to drop a probe into that pond.

WILLIS: Drop, drop, drop. Fourteen away. I see water.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Bullseye.

WILLIS: In the -- in the dreg (ph). Perfect.

PLEITGEN (on camera): I saw it, yes.


PLEITGEN (on camera): Oh, wow.

WILLIS: I see it.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But the readouts they get are troubling.

PLEITGEN (on camera): And these warm waters now are able to be in direct contact with the ice over its entire face. Supercharging the melting.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): What you are seeing here is not even the glacier itself. It's just the ice that it's lost in the past few days.

PLEITGEN (on camera): It is absolutely awe-inspiring to see the size of this glacier, to see how much ice is coming off that glacier. That's obviously then going to flow into the world's oceans.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And it's not just this glacier. The ice melt has been supercharged in all of Greenland recently.

And while it looks majestic, the ice melt is also dangerous. These billions of tons of ice are causing sea levels to rise.

WILLIS: There is enough ice in Greenland to raise sea levels by 7-1/2 meters, so it's an enormous volume of ice. That's about 25-feet, and that would be devastating to coastlines all around the planet.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The changes to our planet's environment --

WILLIS: Drop, drop, drop.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): -- can clearly be seen here in Greenland, a remote Arctic paradise whose warming climate will affect us all.


PLEITGEN: And, Brianna, it certainly was a humbling experience to be flying there over Greenland and also to be hearing from folks there how the nature has changed there over the past years. They're saying those glaciers, really, have been receding a great deal.

And if you speak to the local population there, a lot of them will tell you the first thing on their mind right now is saving their nature rather than talking about being sold off to the United States as President Trump seems to be indicating, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Fred Pleitgen, great report. Thank you.

[17:55:01] And coming up, the New York police officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner has lost his job. I'm going to speak with New York Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill de Blasio.


[18:00:07] KEILAR: Happening now, police officer fired.