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Democrats Gear Up to Win Minority Vote; Celebrities Supporting Bernie Sanders; The Other Democratic Candidates; Iran Finds "Washington Post" Journalist Jason Rezaian Guilty. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 12, 2015 - 09:30   ET



[09:30:06] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the last five years, the Russians have provided arms, provided financing, as have the Iranians, as has Hezbollah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they haven't been bombing and they haven't had troops on the ground.

OBAMA: The fact they had to do this is not an indication of strength, it's an indication that their strategy did not work.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The president also said in that interview that he was long skeptical to program and equip Syrian rebels, that the administration just hit the pause button on last weekend. He said the administration did have an obligation to try just about anything to help in this crisis, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Joe Johns reporting live from the White House this morning. Thank you.


COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

Once tomorrow's big debate is over, Hillary Clinton will return to the campaign trail and her efforts to shore up support with minority voters. On Thursday, Clinton meets with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in San Antonio, followed by her first Latinos for Hillary organizing event that very same day. Those events coming nearly a week after Clinton's recent sitdown with members of the Black Lives Matter movement, one attendee calling the conversation tough, while a Clinton aide characterized it as candid. And afterward, Clinton tweeted, quote, "Racism is America's original sin. To those I met with today, thank you for sharing your ideas."

Joining me now, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and Keith Boykin. Thanks to both of you for being here.



COSTELLO: Hi. Hilary, to you first. Should we expect to see a push for minority voters in tomorrow night's debate?

ROSEN: Oh, yes. When you total up, whether it's the Latino vote, the African-American vote, the LGBT vote, and then throw women on top of there, you've got a significant majority of voters in this country, and, obviously, a majority of Democratic voters. So figuring out how to navigate these waters is extremely important not just for Hillary Clinton but Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden if he decides to get in.

COSTELLO: That would be interesting, the Joe Biden question.

But, Keith, Bernie Sanders tweeted shortly after Clinton's meeting with Black Lives Matter, saying, "We want police departments that look like the communities they are serving." Sanders unveiled his own racial justice plan in August. Clinton is set to release more of hers in the coming days. So does Bernie Sanders have an opening here?

BOYKIN: Absolutely. I think that both candidates, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, all the Democratic candidates have viable opportunities to reach African-American or Hispanic voters. But I think that the issue is that you can't take the African-American vote, for example, for granted. I think Hillary Clinton, for example, back in 2008, she was actually leading in the polls, in several polls, among African-Americans. Until Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses and African-Americans suddenly realized he was a viable candidate and the support started to dry up.

Then there was the question about what happened in South Carolina, with Bill Clinton's comments in 2008.

But I think that -- I hope that Hillary Clinton has learned the lesson that she can't take that vote for granted. And Bernie Sanders needs to make an outreach, too, because he represents a state that's less than 2 percent African-American. So I think both candidates have some work to do to make sure that the African-American community knows that they are listening to us, not just talking to us.

COSTELLO: Yes, I'm just looking for a stat that -- go ahead.

ROSEN: I was going to say, there was a sea change in leverage here. And let's be real about that. Look at African-Americans. We've had an enormous upheaval with -- reflected in Black Lives Matter with police brutality and the injustices we've seen in the last couple years. With Latinos, the discrimination around immigration and the brow-beating that Latinos have been taking from the Republican candidates. You know, I'd add the LGBT to that, when you look at a sea change after the Supreme Court legalized marriage.

So you have these groups now saying lip service doesn't work. What we want is real engagement, real inclusion. We want candidates who are going to focus on us being not just a part of their government, but really a part of their policy development, as well. And so these next couple of months in those areas are really critical for the Democratic candidates.

COSTELLO: Yes, and I found stat I was looking for. This is from Suffolk University/"USA Today". They did a poll. And if we could put that stat up right now, that would be awesome.

OK, you see that Clinton support among minorities was 77 percent back in June. Now it's 40 percent. Sanders is just at 17 percent though, Keith. So I guess, you know, when you look at these polls, Hillary Clinton's percentages were so high you would expect a drop. But is that a big drop in your mind? Is it an expected drop? What is it?

[09:35:02] BOYKIN: It is a big drop. I don't think that it was entirely expected, but the polls also has -- that poll is actually has a margin of error I think of 10 points, 10 percentage points. And you have to consider it's the only one poll that's shown such a precipitous drop. So who knows where things will be in January and February when voters actually go to the polls?

But here I'm in Florida right now where African-Americans make up 16.8 percent of the population, Hispanics make up 24 percent of the population. The Democratic Party is a very diverse coalition of different backgrounds and people. And I don't think we're just concerned about single issues. You know, we're not monolithic communities, even part of the groups like the African-American constituency. We also care about jobs. You know, the African-American unemployment rate has dropped under the Obama administration from 16.8 percent to 9.2 percent. But that's still almost twice the white rate for unemployment. And African-Americans are concerned about jobs, are concerned about health care, are concerned about expanding the access to health care, and affordable college education and good schools in our communities. And all these issues that affect us.

We need to have voters -- excuse me, we need to have politicians and candidates who will speak to us as voters about all of these issues and how they can help improve our lives on a number of different concerns.

COSTELLO: All right, I have to leave it there. Keith Boykin and Hilary Rosen, thanks so much.

CNN will be the only place you can watch tomorrow night's Democratic debate on air or online. Starts at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, celebrities are coming out for the Democratic front runners. Who's supporting Hillary? Who's feeling the Bern? And does it really matter?


[09:40:57] COSTELLO: How much does it actually matter if the rich and famous support a candidate? Think a celebrity's opinion can change your vote? Bernie Sanders hopes so. The Democratic presidential candidate has been racking up A-list support. His website even lists more than 100, quote, "artists, musicians and cultural leaders" who back his run. Names like Will Farrell, Mark Ruffalo, and Apple co- founder Steve Wozniak. Ben Cohen is another one of Sanders' supporters, and you might know

him best as the co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. Welcome, Ben.

BEN COHEN, CO-FOUNDER, BEN & JERRY'S: Hi, how are you doing, Carol?

COSTELLO: I'm great. How are you doing? Glad to have you here.

COHEN: Happy to be with you, or at least here in Burlington.

COSTELLO: Exactly. A much nicer place. Did you develop a special ice cream for Bernie Sanders?

COHEN: You know, I fantasized about a Bernie Sanders ice cream, and it would be called Bernie's Yearning. And it would be a giant chocolate chip on top of the ice cream that covers the entire top.

COSTELLO: I thought it would be like something minty so you could feel the Bern.

COHEN: That's an idea. Well, so the rest you can say is all mint. And the giant chip on the top represents all the wealth that's gone to the top 1 percent of the population over the past ten years. And the way you eat it is that you whack it with your spoon, then you mix it around. That's the Bernie Yearning.


COSTELLO: I'm loving it. It's awesome. So I can probably guess why, in part, you're supporting Bernie Sanders, but tell us.

COHEN: You know, I've been a constituent of Bernie's for the last 35 years. I've watched him during the upset, when he won the mayoral contest, where his first act was to provide public access on the waterfront here in Burlington on Lake Champlain. And he's been incredibly consistent, plain talking. And then when he got elected to the House, pretty much the first thing he did was bus senior citizens and people with cancer over the border into Canada, where they could buy drugs for 1/10th the price. And then when he got to the Senate, you know, he was able to work across the aisle with John McCain to provide the best benefits for veterans since the G.I. Bill.

So, you know, the guy had the interest of regular Americans at heart and, yes, that's why I'm with him.

COSTELLO: Well, you know, there are many Americans out there who say Bernie Sanders is a socialist. Do we really want a socialist as President of the United States?

COHEN: You know, I don't care what you call him. He refers to himself as a Social Democrat, which refers to the countries in Scandinavia that provide much more benefits for their citizens. You know, it's absurd that the U.S. is the richest country in the world and, yet, we're the only country in the world that doesn't provide free health care of any industrialized democracy. And we have the highest child poverty rate of any industrialized democracy. You know, I'm a capitalist, clearly, and I support the guy. You know,

I think what he's saying is that we need to be more socially concerned about the benefits of the average man and woman on the street, as opposed to the corporations and the ultra wealthy.

COSTELLO: All right, Ben Cohen, I thank you so much for joining me.

[09:45:02] Still to come in the NEWSROOM --

COHEN: Nice meeting you.

COSTELLO: Nice meeting you, too.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Clinton and Sanders are not the only candidates on the stage tomorrow in Las Vegas. Coming up next, the three other Democrats -- yes, there are three others -- who will share the spotlight. We'll talk about them next.


COSTELLO: Five candidates set to take the stage at tomorrow night's presidential debate. Yes, I said five. Because Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders may be leading in the polls, but they're not the only ones with a stake in this race. Poppy Harlow looks at the three other contenders and where they stand on the issues.


[09:50:02] POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chances are you know her.

ANNOUNCER: Bernie Sanders!

HARLOW: And you know him.

But do you know them -- Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb? They don't always make the headlines but all three will share the stage with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders come Tuesday night.

MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Weather vanes tend to shift in the wind. I know where I stand.

HARLOW: Let's start with Martin O'Malley. You could say the married father of four, who was born in Washington, D.C., was tailor-made for a career in politics. At only 20, O'Malley left college briefly to work on the presidential campaign of Colorado Senator Gary Hart. And by 28 was ready for office himself, winning a seat on the Baltimore City Council. From there, his political aspirations grew. First Mayor of Baltimore, then Governor of Maryland.


HARLOW: But here's something you probably didn't know about Martin O'Malley: He's fronted a rock band. And he even used his guitar skills to tease his presidential bid. On the issues, gun control, O'Malley wants stronger, expanded

background checks, an assault weapons ban, plus a limit on the size of magazines. On immigration, he supports a path to citizenship. And on climate change, O'Malley says it is real and a real threat. He wants stronger regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Lincoln Chafee, the one-time Republican U.S. Senator, then Independent Governor of Rhode Island, has just announced he's running for --

HARLOW: Next, Lincoln Chafee, a former mayor of Warick and a U.S. Senator from Rhode Island. He was a Republican then, but he became an Independent in 2007 as governor. But now he wants to be the next president as a Democrat.

On the issues, health care -- Chafee not only likes Obamacare, but if president said he would take it a step further, pushing for even more Americans to be fully covered. On defeating ISIS, Chafee opposes American boots on the ground in Syria, but insists America must forge stronger alliances in the Middle East. In 2002, Chafee was the only Senate Republican to vote against war in Iraq. On social issues, Chafee supports a woman's right to choose to have an abortion and supports same-sex marriage.

JIM WEBB (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am unbought and I am unbossed.

HARLOW: And then there's Jim Webb, a highly decorated Marine veteran, former Secretary of the Navy, former U.S. Senator from Virginia, author, teacher, husband, and father of six.

On the issues, climate change, Webb wants to limit the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate emissions and supports the Keystone Pipeline and energy expansion. Immigration reform, he wants to see a path to citizenship, but says the border must be secured first. On prison reform, Webb wants there to be more focus on treating mental illness and drug addiction and would push for more dialogue on ways to reduce the high rate of incarceration among minorities.

Poppy Harlow, CNN, New York.


COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Iran says "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian is guilty, so what up? And why don't we know his sentence yet?


[09:57:31] COSTELLO: After languishing in a Tehran prison for 447 days, a verdict has been issued in the espionage trial of "Washington Post" journalist Jason Rezaian. That's according to Iranian state media, who didn't report details of the verdict or the sentence.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live in London with more for you. Good morning.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly after such a long time of imprisonment, Carol, some very sad news certainly for Jason Rezaian, for his family as well. But as you've said, we heard on Friday that a ruling had been made in his case and then today the Iranians were saying that he had, indeed, been found guilty.

Now, one of the troubling things about that, Carol, is that you really don't get any sort of detail as to what that actually means. First of all, what sort of sentence has he received? We don't even know whether or not he knows that he's been sentenced, whether or not he's been informed, because the courts there, the Revolutionary Courts, they work in complete secrecy, almost nothing comes to the outside. And so the very little information that we are getting there out of that court certainly leads to a lot more questions.

But also to a lot of condemnation, really from around the world. On the one hand, you have the White House that says they want Jason Rezaian released. His family's saying the same thing. But the "Washington Post's managing editor also coming out and calling the entire trial a sham.

I want to read you a little bit of the statement from the "Washington Post". They say, "The only thing that has ever been clear about this case is Jason's innocence. Any fair and just review would quickly overturn this unfounded verdict."

Now, one of the things that we have to point out, Carol, is that there is still the chance to appeal this verdict, which is something that the Iranians have specifically said. The timeline for that is 20 days after the verdict was issued, so 20 days after Sunday, presumably. But, again, it's unclear whether or not Jason would do that himself, whether or not he knows about the verdict yet, or whether or not his lawyer would be the one to file that petition.

A lot of unknowns in this case and that's certainly one of the things that is a great deal of concern for people monitoring this trial around the world. Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Frederik Pleitgen reporting live for us this morning.

Make sure to watch CNN's Wolf Blitzer's interview, Ali Rezaian, the jailed journalists' brother. That will happen today at 1:00 p.m. Eastern right her eon CNN.

The next hour of NEWSROOM starts right now.


COSTELLO: And good morning, I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. We're just one day away from the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas.

[10:00:01] Hours from now, front-runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders go head to head for the very first time.