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John Delaney Interview on his Presidential Campaign; Nixing the Electoral College; Midsi Sanchez Shares her Story in Turning Points; 8-Year-Old Wins Chess Championship. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 20, 2019 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] JOHN DELANEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's to make sure that we meet, you know, both of -- each of the criteria that's been established, yes.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: So we'll be watching that. We'll be watching the counter. We know there's some tickers on other people's websites too.


HILL: We should point that out.

DELANEY: I mean my campaign is about, you know, the entire country helping people. I've always thought about how the government, the private sector and the non-profit sector can work together to solve problems. So, in a way, this challenge is in the spirit of how I think about problem solving generally.

HILL: And that's a lot of what you talk about. You talk about bipartisanship.


HILL: You're -- you don't shy away from the word capitalism. You're an entrepreneur, a successful businessman.


HILL: But you also have a lot of support for social programs. Socialism, at least in some circles, has become a dirty word. How do you feel about it?

DELANEY: So, listen, socialism in its pure form is not the right answer, obviously. But to some extent it's a false choice. We are a capitalistic country. We have a free market system. It's the greatest innovation and job creation machine ever created.

But we've always had really strong social programs. We've built great societal infrastructure. We have regulation, tax policy, workers' rights to ensure that our citizens have the kind of opportunities I've have. I mean I grew up in a blue collar family and have had these amazing opportunities. But I grew up at a time where we cared more about supporting people. We've allowed these social programs to erode. And so really we

shouldn't be having this capitalism versus socialism debate. We should be saying, how do we rebuild the social compact so that every young person in this country has the opportunities that people like myself have had. Because today -- you know, today's generation is the first generation of Americans that won't do better than their parents. We've let them down.

HILL: That -- want's interesting is that you have a real -- you want this to be a real bipartisan approach to solving those problems. What makes you confident that you're a person that can unite, not only a divided country, but a very divided Congress? Yes, you have experience in Congress, but, still.

DELANEY: Yes, well, I was -- I was ranked one of the most bipartisan members of the Congress, so I have a track record. As an entrepreneur who started two businesses, I was the youngest CEO on the New York Stock Exchange. I've spent my whole career bringing people together around a common goal and getting things done. And that's exactly what we need in our next leader.

We're way to divided as a country. Our current president pits American against fellow American. And we're not getting anything done. All the great things we've ever done as a county, the things we celebrate today, Medicare, Social Security, sending someone to the moon, they were done when good-minded Democrats and Republicans came together around a sense of common purpose. And that's what we have to get back to. That doesn't mean we're going to agree with each other on everything. We don't want to live in a country where we agree with each other on everything. But we deserve to live in a country where our elected officials roll up their sleeves once in a while and get real things done that matter to the American people.

HILL: There are a lot of things that you talk about that are very important to you. Public education.


HILL: We talked about social programs, infrastructure.


HILL: And yet some of the hottest topics on the campaign trail that we are hearing, we're going to do a little lightning round here to get your take --

DELANEY: Sure. Yes. Yes.

HILL: Are none of those things. There are calls to expand the Supreme Court. Where do you stand on that?

DELANEY: So, you know, I think these things become arms races, right? So if we expand the court, then when Republicans get control, they'll -- they'll expand the court. Where does it end, right? I think we should be reestablishing the norms in our society. I think what Mitch McConnell did to Merrick Garland was just unpatriotic. And so I understand the urge. I -- I wouldn't mind creating an additional seat for him because I think he deserves it. But, in general, going down this path where we just expand the court, because we're in control, then they'll expand the court when they're in control. I don't think that lead us to where we want to be.

HILL: Getting rid of the Electoral College, and really giving people their vote.

DELANEY: Yes. If I were starting from scratch, I would do that. It requires a constitutional amendment. We haven't even passed the Equal Rights Amendment yet, which is something we should have passed a long time ago, right? So I'd much rather focus on things that can get done and affect the American people. I'd much rather focus on lowering drug prices, building infrastructure, creating digital privacy legislation in this country, right, expanding pre-k, that every kid has that opportunity, making sure community colleges is free for every kid in this country. Doing real things that matter to people, right, and getting them done and, you know, affecting people's lives.

If I were starting from scratch, absolutely I wouldn't have the electoral college system, right? I'm as mad as anyone about what happened last election, that Secretary Clinton got more votes and isn't our president. But I just think it's not going to change. You need the small states to decide to do it as part of the way we amend the Constitution. And they're just not going to agree with it.

HILL: What about reparations?

DELANEY: So, again, I support thinking about how we overcome the significant racial injustice that still exists in this country, which is kind of a legacy of the most immoral thing we ever did, which was slavery. And we still have institutions in our society that I believe are unjust, and particularly racial -- racially unjust, like how we fund public schools, et cetera. So I favor real programs to actually create equality in this country.

What I don't favor, to quote my former colleague, Jim Clyburn, is this notion of making cash payments, because I think it's impractical, it's divisive, and it's not the right way to move forward.

[08:35:08] HILL: Before I let you go, there's a lot of talk about who the candidate will be and what that candidate will look like, especially in 2020.


HILL: And how it just may not be the right time for a white man. How do you feel about that discussion?

DELANEY: I think the Democratic primary voters are going to elect the person who's the best leader, right? I think at the end of the day, that's what they're going to decide. And, you know, I'm running in a field that's diverse, right? I think that's terrific. I think the Democratic Party uniquely, compared to the Republican Party, actually represents the American people. And you can see that in our field for president.

So I think it's terrific. I think it's a level playing field. Everyone's got a shot. It's going to be a battle of ideas. And, at the end of the day, Democratic primary voters are going to pick the person they believe will lead this country to a better place.

HILL: Good to have you with us. Good to hear some of your ideas.

DELANEY: Thanks for having me.

HILL: We'll be following.

DELANEY: Thank you.

HILL: John Delaney, thank you.

CNN will host a presidential town hall tonight with former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Dana Bash hosts live from Atlanta. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we have breaking developments in the crash investigation of the Lion Air plane that crashed in October. Remember, this was a 737 Max 8, the same type of plane that just crashed in Ethiopia. So this is hugely significant. We'll tell you these developments, next.


[08:40:17] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, breaking news, two big developments in the Lion Air crash investigation in Indonesia. This took place last October.

"Bloomberg" reports that one day before the crash, an off duty pilot kept the plane from crashing. The extra pilot was seated in the cockpit jump seat, diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable the malfunctioning fight control system. That's one bit of news.

Reuters has new details on what the voice recorder captured on the flight that did crash a day later. Pilots were scouring the Boeing 737 Max 8's handbook to find a fix. They were going through the handbook as they struggled to understand why the jet's nose was diving.

HILL: Oh, that's just awful to think about.

You won't believe who really hated the Electoral College, probably even more than Elizabeth Warren. Here's a hint, it's a man who wore a wig and helped to write the Constitution, which really narrows it down.

BERMAN: Well, the first part, I was like, oh, you're talking about me? But, no.

HILL: No. BERMAN: No, the Constitution part ruled it out.

HILL: I don't know. is it --

BERMAN: Don't touch me.

HILL: John Avlon, "Reality Check"?


So, look, getting rid of the Electoral College, radical left wing fantasy or as American as apple pie? Elizabeth Warren certainly jumping into the debate.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My view is that every vote matters. That means, get rid of the Electoral College.


AVLON: And that's got folks talking, both pro and con.

So, is this just a case of Dems trying to change the rules because they've won the popular vote but lost the presidency twice so far this century? Is this an insult to the founding fathers and could it actually even happen?

Well, it turns out that this isn't such a new idea. In fact, the Electoral College has been targeted for reform or abolition some 700 times according to Jessie Wagman (ph), who's writing a book on this subject. That's more than any other part of the Constitution.

It was the subject of intense debate among the founders. The biggest controversy was the winner take all structure. James Madison, not a fan. He even called it evil at its maximum. One year after he wrote that, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, but John Quincy Adams became president. The first of five times that's happened in our history.

It happened again in 1876 and 1888, which make incumbent Grover Cleveland so mad that he ran again four years later and reclaimed the office his supporters felt had been stolen from him.

This little glitch didn't happen during the 20th century, but reform efforts continued. In fact, Indiana Senator Birch Bayh, who just last week died at age 91, came within a few votes of advancing an amendment to abolish the Electoral College and replace it with a direct popular vote. By 1968, his effort committed 80 percent approval according to Gallup. One year later, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to abolish the Electoral College. Even President Nixon was on board, but was filibustered to death in the Senate by southerners lead by Strom Thurmond.

All of this was more or less forgotten until 2000 when George W. Bush won despite losing the popular vote. By that time, we were all getting a little used to the depressing idea that if you don't live in one of a handful of swing states, your vote's going to be taken for granted.

So a new idea began percolating. It's called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compart. A complicated name, but it's actually pretty simple. States pass legislation committing their Electoral College delegates to vote for the winner of the national popular vote. So far 12 states in the nation's capital passed Colorado just last week. It's gotten support from Republicans, as well as Democrats. And here's the thing. The compact won't kick in unless they get enough states to hit the requisite 270 electoral votes. And they've still got a way to go. Oregon, New Mexico and Nevada look like they may be next.

This will face a court challenge, but it won't credibly be based on the right of states to allocate the electorates however they'd like. That's settled. Instead, the big question is whether the compact between the states is constitutional.

Look, Trump lost the popular vote by an unprecedented margin, but won the Electoral College because of 78,000 votes in three states. That certainly brought the idea back, but it's been debated since the days of James Madison. Now there's just renewed focus on figuring out how to make every American's vote count equally for the president.

And that your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: Where it gets interesting, though, John, is the absence of a movement in red states or the states that always votes one way. Until we see that, I'm not so sure I will believe there is a national push to get it done.

AVLON: There's certainly that obstacle. It's a reflection of our polarization, which is why I think it's so fascinating that back in '98 it had 80 percent approval in the nation and we came really close to getting that amendment passed.

BERMAN: All right, John Avlon, that was very interesting. Thank you so much for that.

This is what to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 10:30 a.m. ET, Speaker Pelosi immigration news conference.

2:50 p.m. ET, President Trump speaks in Lima, Ohio.

10:00 p.m. ET, CNN town hall with John Hickenlooper.


[08:45:26] HILL: An eight-year-old cress prodigy wins the state championship, helps to change his family's life. Get this, he only started playing chess about a year ago. He is here this morning to tell us his story.

BERMAN: The trophy is bigger than he is. HILL: The trophy is ginormous.

BERMAN: All right.

First, how a kidnapping victim turned her trauma into something powerful. That's today's "Turning Points."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On the way home from school to celebrate her eighth birthday, Midsi Sanchez was abducted by a stranger and sexually abused for nearly three days.


GUPTA: But Midsi managed to escape.

SANCHEZ: I went back to school just two weeks after.

GUPTA: When she was nine-years-old, Midsi was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. By the time she got to high school, she quit therapy and turned to drugs and alcohol.

SANCHEZ: I couldn't deal with the trauma resurfacing.

GUPTA: Then, in 2009, Midsi learned that another girl had disappeared. It hit close to home.

SANCHEZ: She was eight years old, Latina, from a family of five, just like mine. And I took that little girl's flyer home and had 3,000 copies printed.

GUPTA: Midsi says she went back to therapy and realized her purpose. It prompted her to start a foundation that offers child safety programs no prevent abduction and abuse.

SANCHEZ: I was being kidnapped.

Every time it was like I was re-traumatizing myself, but I was willing to do it to help those families. I get to turn my traumatic situation into something powerful. This is why I'm still alive.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.



[08:51:50] HILL: At just eight years old, Tanitoluwa Adewumi is taking the chess world by storm. The Nigerian immigrant finishing first place in the New York state tournament. Doing it undefeated. And what's perhaps even more extraordinary is that he went from beginner to chess master just a year after learning to play the game.

Joining us now, eight year old New York state chess champion Tanitoluwa Adewumi, his mom, Oluwatoyin, and PS 116 head coach Shawn Martinez.

Great to have all of you with us.


That trophy is huge. Is it hard to carry?


HILL: No? No problem when you've got those big muscles.

So you've only been playing for a year. You're a state champion. What's that feel like? That's a big deal.


HILL: Yes.

T. ADEWUMI: Uh-huh.

HILL: Is it surprising to you, or did it just feel totally normal.

T. ADEWUMI: It did not feel totally normal.


BERMAN: When did you know you were going to win?

T. ADEWUMI: I did not know I was going to win because on my last game, I was scared of losing because my opponent was winning. When I was losing, then I (INAUDIBLE) and he took it.

BERMAN: But you came back and did it, yes?


BERMAN: Excellent.

HILL: What was it like when you won? What was that feeling like for you?

T. ADEWUMI: I felt really calm and also I felt really happy and excited.

HILL: I would think so.

Mom, you must be pretty excited, too, and very proud.

OLUWATOYIN ADEWUMI, MOTHER OF 8-YEAR-OLD NY STATE CHESS CHAMPION: Yes, I really did. (INAUDIBLE) the fifth round, it was somehow, I was scared. So when he came in, the last game was just 10, 15 minutes or something. And all the previous ones were like (INAUDIBLE). Fifteen minutes. I was just like, what happened? That was how they coached us. State champion! (INAUDIBLE). I was so happy. So, so happy.

BERMAN: So, Shawn, have you ever had someone learn so quickly before? He learned to playing a year ago and now he's a champ? I mean what makes him so good?

SHAWN MARTINEZ, PS116 HEAD CHESS COACH: I think that Tani works very hard. I mean I've had other students that have accelerated pretty quickly, but not exactly to this level that Tani's reached. Tani's reached about 1,500 in a manner of one year. One year ago he was only rated 105 in his first event, I remember. And when we went to the state championships, I remember having the expectations of him doing really well but I wasn't too sure if he was going to be the state champion.

And going into the last round, it was nerve-racking for -- like his mom said, she and I were like really excited, but we knew that he had to keep his composure to really take that last round out. And my partner, one of the coaches, Angel (ph), he let me know, he said please make sure to let him know that if he takes a draw (ph) in the last round, he could win the tournament. So I let him know. I said, listen, don't push too hard. If the position is equal, draw, and you can still be the state champion. He came back about 10, 15 minutes and we were all like, what happened? What happened? And he was just the most modest, humble kid who walked in the room and he said, Coach Shawn, I drew. And I said, do you know what you just did right now, you became the state champion. And we went ecstatic (ph) -- the room went crazy.

[08:55:10] BERMAN: What makes him so good? He looks like a steely-eye killer to me.

MARTINEZ: What makes him so good, honestly, is that he's very tactical. His memory is great. And the reason he's very tactical is because let's say the average kids in New York may do like 50 to 100 puzzles as week. He's aiming to do 500 puzzles a week.

HILL: Wow.

MARTINEZ: So he really sets the bar very high when it comes to practicing chess. And I think that's really what it takes to become a great player, just dedication and hard work.

HILL: You want to be the youngest grandmaster. That's your plan. I know Coach Shawn has said he -- you see that he's really on that route. What do you really love about chess, Tani?

T. ADEWUMI: I love really about chess -- what I love really about chess is -- is --

HILL: That was a tough one, huh? Sorry, buddy. You're sure good at it. It seems like you've found your thing.

T. ADEWUMI: Deep thinking.

BERMAN: Clearly.

HILL: It is a thinking game.

T. ADEWUMI: A good -- like good understanding of it. And that's what I like about it. BERMAN: Mom, what has it meant for your family?

O. ADEWUMI: So grateful. We are very happy. We are so great about it. We are very proud of him. So -- it's -- it's a great treat (ph) for us. Yes.

BERMAN: Well, Tani, mom, you know, Shawn, thank you so much for being with us. Congratulations. I will never play you in chess because you scare me, but thanks so much for being with us.

O. ADEWUMI: Thank you so much.

HILL: We look forward to covering you when you become the youngest grandmaster, all right.



HILL: Thanks, guys. Congratulations.

O. ADEWUMI: Thank you so much.

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

HILL: We have new insight into how the White House plans to stonewall Congress and possibly even the public when it comes to a bevy of investigations. And we're going to fill you in on those developments, next.