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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA); Debate Performances; Felicity Huffman Sentenced; Trump Ally Netanyahu Battling Corruption Charges Weighing on His Campaign Ahead of Israel Election; New Forecast: Tropical Storm Warning for Hurricane-Ravaged Bahamas; Actress Felicity Huffman Sentenced To 14 Days In Prison, $30,000 Fine In College Admissions Cheating Scandal; Biden Tries To Brush Aside Castro's Debate Attack As His Campaign Slams The Cheap Shot And Low Blow; Republicans Pounce After Fmr. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) Texas Says In Debate That, Hell, Yes, Government Will Take Your AR-15. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: from celebrity to jail cell.

A judge orders actress Felicity Huffman to serve two weeks behind bars for her role in the college admissions scandal. We will break down the sentence for the "Desperate Housewives" star and whether it's fair.

Low blow. That's what Joe Biden's campaign is calling Julian Castro's debate attack on the Democratic front-runner. Is Biden pushing back hard enough tonight, as some rivals question his ability to stand up to President Trump?

Storm winds. After being ravaged by Hurricane Dorian, parts of the Bahamas are now being warned about a gathering storm. Stand by for the new forecast that also has Florida on alert.

And orange is the new bulb. President Trump offers a bizarre explanation for the color of his complexion. Does he think Americans will buy his claim that energy-efficient light bulbs are the reason he often looks orange?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We're following breaking news on the first high-profile sentencing in the college admissions scandal.

Actress Felicity Huffman now under orders to serve 14 days in prison, pay a $30,000 fine, and perform 250 hours of community service. The "Desperate Housewives" star admitted she gave the scam's mastermind $15,000 to boost her daughter's SAT scores. Also tonight, Joe Biden is pushing against the most stinging attack at

the Democratic national debate in Houston. He says rival Julian Castro got his facts wrong when he questioned the former vice president's memory. Biden's campaign is hitting back harder, accusing Castro of a cheap shot and a low blow.

I'll be getting reaction from Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing.

We will have more ahead on Felicity Huffman's sentence and what happens next, but first Joe Biden's new reaction to questions about his memory and his age.

Let's go to CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

And, Jeff, Biden was asked about Julian Castro's debate attack just a little while ago.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, good evening. He certainly was.

And Joe Biden is trying to brush aside any of this discussion last night that he was on the receiving end of some attacks. But the reality is, he was taking it a little bit more seriously in the moment.

His campaign was trying to make some hay out of it, calling it a cheap shot, but Joe Biden, in a meeting with donors earlier, he acknowledged that -- he said the debate was good, but he said next time he must do a little bit better.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, Joe Biden brushing aside another round of attacks on the Democratic debate stage, this time from Julian Castro, a housing secretary under President Obama.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?

(BOOING)

ZELENY: Biden's campaign calling it a cheap shot and a low blow in an e-mail to supporters today.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he's got his facts wrong.

ZELENY: But the former vice president is not dwelling on the exchange tonight, saying his age is fair game.

BIDEN: Last night was the closest we came to a debate, OK? We actually had an open debate on health care.

ZELENY: Castro defending his words, but not repeating them, after being widely panned for a thinly veiled swipe at Biden's memory. CASTRO: I wouldn't do it differently. That wasn't a personal attack.

ZELENY: After the debate, Senator Cory Booker also raising questions about Biden's fitness for office.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because there's a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling.

ZELENY: But reversing course today.

BOOKER: Forgive me if my football metaphor about fumbling the ball is being taken out of context. But the reality is, is, I want to get into the end zone. I think we need to win.

ZELENY: The Democratic debate in Houston last night proved at least one thing: The 2020 primary fight is likely to go the distance, driven by deep divisions about how far left the party is willing to go.

Front and center is health care and whether to expand on Obamacare, as Biden is proposing.

BIDEN: I know that the senator says she's for Bernie. Well, I'm for Barack. I think that Obamacare worked.

ZELENY: Or to follow the lead of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren by dramatically overhauling the health care system with a Medicare for all plan.

While Sanders says taxes on the middle class would increase, but be offset by lower overall health care costs, Warren declined to answer that politically sensitive question.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The richest individuals and the biggest corporations are going to pay more, and middle-class families are going to pay less. That's how this is going to work.

ZELENY: Senator Amy Klobuchar sounding the alarm about the wisdom of abolishing private health insurance.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And while Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill. It says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it. And that means that 149 million Americans will no longer be able to have their current insurance.

ZELENY: On guns, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke finding his voice, calling for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons in the wake of a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso.

[18:05:08]

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O'ROURKE: We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.

ZELENY: For a party unified in its mission to defeat President Trump, there is little consensus among Democrats for what type of candidate stands the best chance of doing so.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump, you have spent the last two-and-a-half years full-time trying to sow hate and division among us, and that is why we have gotten nothing done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: And one other significant difference in the debate in Houston was how these candidates talked about President Obama.

They all rushed to praise him, of course, far different from the Detroit debate just about six weeks or so ago. Brianna, they were all essentially apologizing after the fact for, you know, being so harsh on the Obama legacy.

But the reality is, that is what's, you know, up for debate here. So nothing was settled last night in the debate. But health care remains that central divide. How left does the party want to go? We will find out in future debates. And, of course, there's one next month here on CNN in Ohio.

KEILAR: That's right. We will certainly be there and watching.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

And, tonight, President Trump is lashing out at Democrats, his anger fueled by the Houston debate and the intensifying impeachment investigation.

CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us now.

And, Jim, there are new tweets, there are more attacks from the president.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right, Brianna.

President Trump and his team are blasting Democrats after last night's debate. Today, Vice President Pence was in on the act. He went after both his predecessor, Joe Biden, and the former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

That was followed by the president, who was lashing out at the Democratic contenders with personal attacks as they were debating the issues. The rhetoric wasn't quite code red, more like code orange.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): Brushing off talk of impeachment coming from the House, tweeting, you "Don't impeach presidents for doing a good, great job," President Trump is spoiling for a fight with the Democratic contenders for 2020.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More than 130 Democrats in Congress have signed up for the Bernie Sanders total government takeover of health care. Crazy Bernie. He is a crazy guy.

ACOSTA: Slamming his Democratic rivals in a speech in Baltimore as they were holding their debate in Houston, the president once again resorted to racially loaded attacks, as he blasted Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and raised questions about former Vice President Joe Biden's mental fitness.

TRUMP: I hit Pocahontas way too early.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I thought she was gone. She's emerged from the ashes, and now it looks like she could get sleepy Joe. He's fallen asleep. He has no idea what the hell he's doing or saying.

ACOSTA: As the president mocked Biden's occasional gaffes, Mr. Trump had one of his own.

TRUMP: Sat around, and Chuck Grassley was there, and Joni Ernst, and John Thune, and Mike Pounce, so many, just a whole group of great people.

ACOSTA: The White House later said the president meant to refer to Senator Mike Rounds.

The president also mocked environmentalists, taking a dim view on energy-efficient light bulbs because of how they make him look.

TRUMP: The bulb that we're being forced to use, number one, to me, most importantly, the light is no good. I always look orange.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: And so do you. The light is the worst. But, number two, it's many times more expensive than that old incandescent bulb that worked very well.

ACOSTA: In his own speech to GOP lawmakers, Vice President Mike Pence poked fun at Biden too.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said, "I'm the vice president of the United States." So let me be clear. I am the vice president of the United States.

ACOSTA: Pence then pounced on for Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

PENCE: And they were talking about higher taxes. They were talking about gun control. And not just gun control. You had leading candidates for the highest office in the land talking about taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens.

ACOSTA: That was in reference to this moment.

O'ROURKE: Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ACOSTA: Moderate Democrats are not on board with that idea and worry O'Rourke may have just jeopardized efforts in Congress to find a compromise on new gun control laws.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I don't think a majority of the Senate or the country is going to embrace mandatory buybacks. We need to focus on what we can get done. And we need to focus on the challenge here, which is that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate and our president are refusing to listen to the 93 percent of Americans who want us to do something on background checks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: One other important thing to note, the president promised in that speech to unveil a proposal for a middle-class tax cut at some point during the next year.

But the president isn't talking about how he plans on paying for that tax cut. Keep in mind, just this week, the Treasury Department said the nation's deficit passed the $1 trillion mark -- that's trillion with a T. -- for this year.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump vowed to eliminate the national debt while in office. He hasn't done that. He is expanding it rapidly instead -- Brianna.

[18:10:07]

KEILAR: Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

And joining me now to discuss all of this is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill of California. She serves on the Oversight and Armed Services committees.

Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.

REP. KATIE HILL (D-CA): Thanks so much for having me. Glad to be here.

KEILAR: All right, so let's talk about this race.

You have endorsed Senator Kamala Harris. She had a breakout moment in the first debate. She hasn't been able to replicate that performance since then. She had a -- I think a performance that people would agree keeps her in the race last night.

What does she need to do moving forward to stand out?

HILL: Well, one of the things that we know about Senator Harris is that, the more people get to know her, the more that they come to recognize that she is such a strong contender, and that what she will fight for is the American people and the things that they care about, the things that they worry about in the middle of the night.

And so really making sure that we're showing that story, telling her story, and that people get a chance to know her and her policies. I hope, just generally speaking with these debates as we move forward, we're talking more about the issues, we don't keep beating a dead horse, right?

I don't think you're going to get more specificity or anything really different on this debate around whether we should do Medicare for all or expand the ACA.

Instead, I would rather say, OK, if we want to drill down on health care, let's talk about what implementation would actually look like. And one of the things that I hear about the most in my district -- I was here all of August -- and the issues that I heard about the most from every single stakeholder group, whether it was kids in high school, or if it was law enforcement professionals, medical providers, was the issue of mental health.

We haven't talked about that at all. How are we providing those resources? There's so much that we need to talk about, about access to reproductive rights. And within either framework, whether it's just an expansion of the ACA, or if it is all the way through Medicare for all, how do you accomplish each of those things?

How do we have a work force that is going to be able to handle that kind of an influx? And rather than just going back and forth on the same thing over and over again, we need to talk about the things that matter to people.

KEILAR: One of the moments that stood out last night was when Julian Castro went after Joe Biden on his memory. He did it repeatedly in sort of one exchange that he had with him.

Was that a cheap shot, in your opinion?

HILL: Well, listen, I understand the desire to point out that you might have said something different a few minutes before.

But I don't think going after somebody's -- a thinly veiled attack on age is ever a good idea.

I worked with Julian Castro, the secretary, on the issue of homelessness, and I have such great respect for him. That was my main major issue when -- before I came to Congress. And I think he did some incredible work there.

But I would love to see throughout the rest of this primary us really focus seeing on the issues, focusing on who is going to best be able to take these issues to Donald Trump coming up next year, and stay away from attacking each other as much as we possibly can.

KEILAR: And we heard Senator Cory Booker, who went after Biden's meandering speech. He also seemed to have -- he seemed to be attacking him in a way that could easily be interpreted as age.

Is it -- how do you look at -- you do not think that is fair, you just said, but what about this idea of whether someone has ideas from the past vs. the future? Do you think that these candidates are just sort of in an off-limits place, where they should not be?

HILL: I mean, you have the right to go after somebody's track record.

But I also think that we need to have the recognition that people evolve and change. And whether that is any -- any of the folks on stage have some kind of a background that I'm willing to bet that they would not repeat or that they would want to change moving forward.

And that's the fact -- that's the case for any single one of us. And so I don't think that that's the piece that we want to be fixating on. Instead, let's talk about the ideas that we have, how we would actualize those, how you're going to help reunite and recover from this really troublesome era with Donald Trump and the damage that has been caused to so many of our most basic democratic institutions, agencies like the EPA, basic protections for people.

How are we going to be emerging from this? That's the role of the next president of the United States. It's going to be taking us out of a really dark time as the country.

KEILAR: Health care is a huge issue for Democratic voters. Joe Biden said that he's glad Democrats are having a good debate now on health care.

He's a moderate on the issue, but, as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are pitching their ideas for Medicare for all, do you worry that idea of Medicare for all is something that's not going to play in the general election?

HILL: I mean, I think that I'm somebody who supports the idea of Medicare for all, but I also support protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act.

[18:15:03]

And I believe that we need a strong transition to whatever kind of program that is ultimately going to be the solution that we land on.

I think that it is incredibly complicated. I worked on the Affordable Care Act expansion -- I mean, implementation in Los Angeles. And it took us years and years and years to do -- to transform a system like this.

And doing the next phase of that is going to be just as difficult. So we really need to have that recognition. And I would love for us to drill down on each and every one of the candidates, how will you do that? What are the partnerships going to look like? If you are transitioning off of private insurance entirely, what is that going to mean? And how are people going to make that shift?

Those are fair questions that every single American deserves to be asking. I don't think that we should write off Medicare for all in any way not playing in the general election, because, ultimately, I don't believe that a single American believes that the health care system is working for them right now.

And I also don't buy into the narrative that people are happy with their health care insurance -- their current private insurance. I don't know anybody who is. People are paying way too much out of pocket. They're paying way too much for prescription drugs.

Their co-pays and their deductibles are through the roof and they don't have access to the kind of doctors they want. So, how are we addressing each and every one of those things? And I think a lot of people are ready for really bold solutions, but at the same time recognize that those don't happen overnight.

Those -- we do need to an ability to transition something that makes up such a huge part of our economy and affects every single person's life in such a fundamental way.

KEILAR: Congresswoman Katie Hill, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

HILL: Thank you. Appreciate it.

KEILAR: And just ahead: Actress Felicity Huffman says she accepts her punishment for her role in the college admissions scandal, as she prepares to spend 14 days in prison.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:35]

KEILAR: We're following breaking news.

One of the biggest names in the college admissions scandal now heading to prison. "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman speaking out in court before learning her punishment.

CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras is in Boston.

And, Brynn, Felicity Huffman is actually going to report to prison next month.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Brianna. She is going to spend 14 days behind bars.

She actually cried during the allocution portion of the hearing today. However, she was stoic when the judge handed down her sentence. And the judge essentially saying this isn't about the college admissions or their reputation being tarnished or the admissions process being compromised. This is about privileged kids getting yet another leg up on the system.

And that's partly why she handed down this punishment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GINGRAS (voice-over): Tonight, actress Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in federal prison, ordered to pay a $30,000 fine and serve 250 hours of community service.

Huffman telling the court: "At the end of the day, I had a choice to make. I could have said no. I take full responsibility. I will accept whatever punishment you give me."

In a statement released shortly after the hearing, she added -- quote -- "I broke the law. There are no excuses or justifications for my actions, period."

Prosecutors urged the judge to impose the harshest penalty, saying: "Most parents have the moral compass and integrity not to step over the line. The defendant did not."

Prior to today's sentencing, Huffman wrote a letter explaining how she legitimately worked with the scheme's ringleader, Rick Singer, for a year before she agreed to cheat, Huffman allowing Singer to hire a proctor, who changed answers on her oldest daughter's SAT, boosting her score.

She says she considered using the services for her youngest daughter, but backed out, Huffman explaining in the letter how her poor decision damaged her relationship with her daughter: "When my daughter looked at me and asked with tears streaming down her face, 'Why didn't you believe in me?' I had no adequate answer for her. I could only say, I am sorry, I was frightened and I was stupid."

In the courtroom, Huffman was joined by her husband, actor William H. Macy. He is one of 27 people who sent letters to the judge supporting the actress. Macy wrote: "Huffman rarely goes outside, usually bombarded by the paparazzi," but their oldest daughter -- quote -- "paid the dearest price" when her first-choice school denied her application two days after the scandal broke.

"Do something. Please, please do something," Macy says she begged her parents.

Huffman is the second to be sentenced, but the first to get prison time, in the country's largest college admissions scandal, which ensnared more than 50 college coaches, administrators and wealthy parents; 19 parents are still fighting the federal charges, including actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli.

The couple are accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their two daughters into USC as crew recruits, even though neither rowed. Both turned down a plea deal from the state earlier this year and are scheduled to go to trial.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GINGRAS: And, remember, those who didn't take that plea deal, like Loughlin, they had an extra federal charge handed down to them in this case. So it'll be interesting to see how Huffman's case impacts their case.

That's definitely something we're going to be on the lookout for.

As for Huffman, her attorneys have argued that she would like to serve that sentence in California. But that will be up to the Bureau of Prisons. As you said, Brianna, she reports for that sentencing on October 25 -- Brianna.

[18:25:03]

KEILAR: All right, Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

And just ahead: Was Felicity Huffman's sentence fair, or did the actress get a break?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Tonight, actress Felicity Huffman is expressing shame and resignation after being ordered to serve two weeks in prison for her role in the college admissions scandal.

We are following that breaking story, along with all of the new reaction to last night's Democratic presidential debate.

[18:30:00]

I want to bring in our legal and political experts to dissect all of this.

Susan Hennessey, first to you. As you see this decision come down, this sentencing decision for Felicity Huffman, two weeks in prison, we don't know where it's going to be. It's going to start next week. 250 hours community service, should be on probation, and she has a $30,000 fine to pay. Were you surprised at all by that?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it's especially surprising. So the prosecutors had asked for a month. Her attorneys had asked for probation. So this comes right down the middle. And keep in mind that from the moment that she was indicted, Huffman actually admitted guilt, pled guilty, cooperated, accepted the full responsibility. That matters a lot with judges. And, look, prosecutors here want to show this is a serious crime. This is a serious misconduct. It deserves something as serious as jail time.

That said, you know, pleading matters, accepting responsibility matters. And so I do think this is a signal to some of those other individuals who have been indicted that have chosen to try and fight the charges. Look, Huffman accepted responsibility. She's going to do these two weeks and then she's going to move on with her life. Individuals who have decided to fight it are still looking at many years in prison at this point.

KEILAR: I think of Lori Loughlin, and I think it's a struggle for a lot of people who are following this case to imagine a situation where the prosecution doesn't have very good evidence against her and her husband. They have not taken the plea deal. I mean, what is your expectation for them if they are found guilty?

HENNESSEY: Well, they're certainly facing very, very serious charges. I think the sentencing range even goes up to 40 years, although the likelihood that they would serve something like that.

But, look, they're facing undeniably serious charges. And it's not about whether you plead or not but when you plead. So even if they decided ultimately not to go to trial, if they drag this on much longer, they aren't going to be getting something like a two-week plea agreement, they're already looking at serious time. And prosecutors have chosen to add charges for Loughlin and her husband.

KEILAR: All right. Let's talk about the debate. We had a big night watching these ten candidates on the stage for the first time together instead of two stages and having them separated. Sabrina, let's look at one of the most combative exchanges from the debate last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You said they would have to buy?

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: (INAUDIBLE) would not have to buy in. If she qualifies for Medicaid, it's automatic.

CASTRO: Are you forgetting what you said just two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in, and now you're saying they don't have to buy in. You're forgetting that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: He's forgetting, over and over he said that. I mean, it's like you know what Julian Castro is saying. And I wonder what you thought about this moment and also, I mean, it struck me as sort of not what we have come to expect in general from Julian Castro.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And if you listened to the reaction from the crowd, it was very clear that most of the people in the audience took it to be a somewhat personal attack, and that's why Julian Castro is facing a fair amount of criticism.

I think he would have been better off if he had stayed focused on the issue of healthcare in that exchange they were having rather than really trying to land perhaps a punch line or create a moment between him and Joe Biden.

But, you know, Julian Castro is speaking to some very real concern that a faction of Democrats have about whether or not Joe Biden is prepared to really face what is going to be a very grueling campaign. Biden started out fairly strong in the debate, but you saw his performance be a little bit more uneven. He seemed to run out of steam as the night progressed.

But I think it has a lot to do with the tone and the tenor of the debate. And it's not typically you see something candidates bring up face to face. It's one thing if they maybe talk about it, you know, while they're on the campaign trail. But it just came out of left field in the way he delivered that particular line.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was a little bit of an escape hatch for Biden because of all the (INAUDIBLE). And it was so ham-handed and over the top, it allows us the next day to be talking about how inappropriate the attack was, rather than this was another debate that raised more of those concerns, particularly as he went on. It did genuinely. There are Democratic voters who are uneasy about his ability to perform against President Trump. There are also a lot of Democratic voters uneasy about the positioning of Warren and Sanders and how that would play out in a general election.

And last night kind of -- you know, it was one of those nights where the second-tier candidates were probably more impressive than the ones at the top and left me wondering above all, is there another moment where any of those candidates, Booker, Beto, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, any of them get a kind of another look. Because right now, you've got the three septuagenarians in the middle of the stage are taking up a lot of the space, a lot of the oxygen, and yet all of them, and I think last night, underscored that, have their own different vulnerabilities as a potential candidate against Trump.

KEILAR: We just heard from Congresswoman Katie Hill, who said, you know, an ageist attack is just out of bounds. That's essentially what she said. [18:35:00] That said, it's hard to imagine this does not -- that this is not an issue for Joe Biden. It's already an issue. This is going to continue to be an issue. What do you think? Where does this go?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. And Joe Biden himself, by the way, previously has said this is a legitimate issue for voters to think about, for other candidates in this race to talk about, and that he can be judged by this and ultimately needs to overcome this to be the nominee. But you need to be delicate about that.

And Julian Castro and the reaction to what he said and did on the stage last night, I think, is the best demonstration of how you can go overboard with this and make it into a personal attack versus what I think you heard from Cory Booker when he sat down with CNN after the debate in Houston and expressed, you know, just kind of what Sabrina did, that this is something Democrats are concerned about, it's something that I think we need to think about and look at. Take away the personal element of it and just talk about the issue.

KEILAR: All right. You all stand by for me. We have a lot more to discuss, including one of the most, I guess, personal and connecting moments that we saw in this debate. We'll be right back with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

KEILAR: We are back now with our analysts to talk about some of the more memorable and impactful moments of the Democratic Presidential Debate last night. Beto O'Rourke, you guys, he was praised by his fellow Democrats for his response in the wake of the shooting in El Paso, which is his hometown. Let's listen to his response. He was asked if he plans to take guns away from people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am if it's a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield. If the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.

When we see that being used against children, hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: He got so much applause there in the hall.

But outside in those sort of more broad, real world, while there is support, Susan, for background check issues, not so much for mandatory buyback of these assault weapons.

HENNESSEY: Yes. So we should start by saying it's not actually a crazy idea. It's actually the way that most countries in the world respond to mass shootings using assault weapons. Most countries think we're crazy for not adopting this. That said, you know, the legislative reality, the legislative landscape right now, this is not something that can be accomplished by unilateral executive action.

And so whatever Democrat is going to come into -- if a Democrat comes into the White House in 2020, they are going to have to deal with the legislative reality. And the reality is that congressional Republicans remain very much in the grips of the NRA even on far more popular proposals like universal background checks, we can't even get movement there.

That said, the point of a moment like Beto's is not just to make the specific message but also to issue-set for the other candidates. It is remarkable to hear Democrats, hear a Democrat on that stage take a really bold, aggressive position on gun control. That will have consequences and impacts for other candidates that might be more willing to embrace bold proposals.

One thing I do think we can say is that Beto O'Rourke is not running for Senate in Texas after enforcing that proposal.

KEILAR: We just interviewed last hour Congressman Maloney, who supports Beto O'Rourke, who is not for a mandatory buyback. He said he's for voluntary -- he's for an assault weapons ban.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

KEILAR: But there are Democrats today, Chris Coons, Joe Manchin, who do not like what they heard from Beto O'Rourke. They feel like this, in a way, can be weaponized by conservatives to be very bad for Democrats.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the long arc of this -- I watched this whole -- I covered this whole thing from '93 and '94 where Clinton, with Biden's help, passed the Brady bill, passed the assault weapons and lose the Congress in '94. And they kind of regained their nerve on guns after Columbine and Al Gore loses in Tennessee and New Hampshire, and Democrats, for over a decade, basically say, we can't touch gun control. And then, you know, the shooting in Connecticut happens, and we move back to where we are now.

On that stage last night, every Democrat now supports an assault weapon ban. All but two House Democrats voted for the universal background checks. But as you kind of move -- the nature of politics you kind of consolidate space and then move out beyond.

It is worth noting that while every Democrat on the stage last night supports the assault weapon ban, the House Democratic leadership has decided not to bring it up in the house because there are enough Democrats in marginal districts who are uneasy about voting on it if it's not going to become law.

And it's a reminder that on this issue, yes, the Democratic coalition is more united than it used to be because it's urban and suburban, they don't depend on rural voters, like they used to, but there is still a border there, and O'Rourke is certainly pushing that over to the window, as they like to say.

KEILAR: Rebecca, last hour, Jeffrey Toobin said it's not just about politicians responding to polls. It's about politicians driving polls. But how much can politicians drive polls when it comes to the issue of guns?

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BUCK: It's less about the politicians than the voters. You need a movement behind you. The politicians are always the lagging indicator, right? They respond to the polls.

And so, what we saw in 2018, for example, in the midterm elections was a movement around guns. People -- Democratic voters turning out with guns as one of their top issues, with gun reform as one of their top issues. And when we look at the polling in this Democratic primary, in this presidential election, gun reform is one of the top three, top four issues on the minds of Democratic voters.

And so, that's where you start to see the change is when voters care enough to start voting in elections, turning out to the polls. That is what drives change.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Because, Sabrina, they poll, you ask voters about background checks, do you want universal background checks, it is wild how many want that. It is over the90 percent and we don't s the movement in Congress. SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think part of the

problem is that so much of the debate is focused on what is possible politically for members of Congress to do on gun legislation when the polling speaks for itself. It's not just universal background checks. A majority of Americans support limiting high-capacity magazines and a ban on assault weapons.

And so, I think that's why Beto O'Rourke felt comfortable looking how the public has shifted on this issue in taking such an aggressive stance, even if it's something that Republicans are going to go after and hone on in.

KEILAR: All right. Thank you all so much for the discussion.

We can now announce that CNN and "The New York Times" are co-hosting the next Democratic presidential debate. This will be held at Otterbine University in Westerville, Ohio, outside of Columbus on October 15th. It's possible that a second night will be added if enough candidates qualify.

Just ahead, will the hurricane-battered Bahamas be hit by another storm? We have a new forecast out.

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[18:51:36]

KEILAR: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking a page from the playbook of his pal President Trump as he heads into next weeks high stakes election. Netanyahu has been trying to dismiss corruption charges against him as a media-led witch hunt.

CNN's Oren Liebermann reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are the dark clouds hanging over Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political and personal life -- multiple accusations of corruption stemming from three separate investigations.

The 69-year-old has denied the charges and on the campaign trail, he rarely discusses them. But he's facing allegations he took gifts from overseas businessman, and prosecutors say he tried to get a newspaper mogul to give him more favorable coverage.

He also faces potential bribery charges. Prosecutors say he advanced regulatory benefits worth $300 million to help his friend, a wealthy businessman, also for favorable media coverage.

Netanyahu's troubles have led to a tight race.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Right wing voters, right now, we are losing the election.

LIEBERMANN: In the final polls before election night, all five polls show a race too close to call, and neither Netanyahu nor his opponent, former Israeli military chief of staff, Benny Gantz, has a clear path to victory.

The coalition's scandals go beyond Netanyahu. Interior Minister Arye Dery served two years in prison the early 2000s after he was convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He returned to politics and is once interior minister and once again under investigation for similar charges.

And there's Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. Police say they have enough evidence to indict him on fraud and breach of trust for illegally helping a sexual predator avoid extradition. Coalition chair David Bitan and welfare minister Haim Katz both resigned their positions following corruption investigations. Katz has already been indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust.

All of these politicians insist they're innocent and they all may get their day in court to prove it. Until then, they're just hoping to win at the ballot box.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIEBERMANN: One of the main questions surrounding Netanyahu is, will he try to legislate immunity for himself? And you see here that he's not the only one who may have that interest in mind.

Brianna, the last round of election polls came out the night before the elections and they continue to show a very tight race in this election.

KEILAR: All right. Oren Liebermann from Jerusalem, thank you.

And just ahead, a new tropical storm warning for parts of the Bahamas. Is there any danger that it will be like Dorian?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:58:46] KEILAR: Tonight, the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas maybe in the path of another storm. Parts of the island nation are under a new tropical storm warning. Let's go to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray with the new forecast.

What are you seeing?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, this isn't nearly as strong as Dorian. But I think the worst part about this is, it's just going to delay those relief efforts for a couple of days. And that's awful when you're talking about what just happened in the Bahamas.

This could be a tropical storm as it passes through the northern end of the Bahamas by tomorrow, has winds of 30 miles per hour, gusts of 40, moving at eight miles per hour. This storm is much weaker than Dorian but it is still going to bring a lot of rain and even some wind to, yes, the Bahamas.

So, we're already starting to see some scattered showers pushing through Grand Bahama, as well as Abaco. This passes just to the north and east of Grand Bahamas Island, we are going to see 40 miles per hour winds by tomorrow afternoon. The latest track at 5:00 p.m. does keep this to the east of the U.S. So, this is going to stay off the coast.

We are going to have some rip currents across Florida and the Southeast, as we go through the next couple of days. Could actually strengthen into a hurricane by Monday afternoon. But so far, that track looks like thereby well away from shore by the time that happens. Here are the latest models, Brianna, it looks like they're in agreement as well.

KEILAR: All right. Jennifer, thanks so much. I'm Brianna Keilar, thank you for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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