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Jon Stewart Blasts Lawmakers Over 9/11 Fund; Trump Receives Letter From Kim Jong-un; Biden and Trump Trade Jabs. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 11, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: What the general election could look like if Joe Biden has his way.

The former vice president and President Trump are holding dueling events today in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state, and the gloves are off, Biden determined to position himself as the candidate who can beat Trump.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But this is a guy who does everything to separate and frighten people. It's about fear and loathing. It's about what he what he calls people, the names he calls them.

No president has done something like that, for God's sake. I mean, it's bizarre, and it's damaging. And so I think he's genuinely a threat to our core values. And he's a threat to our standing in the world.

On the D-Day ceremonies, the D-Day ceremonies, it was astounding to me that he was tweeting attacks on everybody, from the mayor of London to Bette Midler. He found time to go after Bette Midler, for God's sake.


BALDWIN: And President Trump left the White House for Iowa with some choice words for Joe Biden.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a man has to mention my name 76 times in his speech, that means he's in trouble. Now, I have to tell you, he's a different guy. He looks different than he used to. He acts different than he used to.

He's even slower than he used to be. So I don't know. But when he mentions my name that many times, I guess I should be complimented. No, I would rather run against I think Biden than anybody. I think he's the weakest mentally. And I like running against people that are weak mentally. I think Joe is the weakest up here. The other ones have much more energy.

I don't agree with their policies. But I think Joe is a man who is -- I call him 1 percent Joe. Joe Biden thought that China was not a competitor of ours. Joe Biden is a dummy.


BALDWIN: CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Ottumwa, where former the vice president just spoke. And CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood is in Council Bluffs, where the president speaks next hour. Also with me, Ann Selzer, who just conducted some new Iowa polling for CNN.

So, just welcome to all of you.

And, Jeff, let me start with you, because this speech, this Biden speech, we know he is set to deliver it later today. They leaked it this morning. They had to know President Trump could not resist. So was the fallout all what they wanted?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, there's no question the Biden campaign and the former vice president himself came to Iowa with one purpose in mind. It was to try and frame this campaign as a two-man race, as a competition already between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

So, the speech that we just heard here in Ottumwa is the same one that Joe Biden is going to be giving as he travels across Iowa on his second trip here. He's trying to make the argument to Democratic voters who are intent on unseating Donald Trump that he is the Democrat to do it.

So that's exactly what they had in mind. They are trying to draw him in some. But, Brooke, I was struck by, as we talked about earlier, five words that he said that brought the voters in the room to applause: "Let us make America again."

That is something that resonated with the voters I talked to afterward. The president, of course, called Joe Biden a loser and called him weak mentally, words like that. We heard Joe Biden describe it in far starker terms, in historical terms, in worldly and global terms, about the threat he believes President Trump is to the world, frankly.

So a different sort of elevated tone, if you will, but that's what they want this to be about. Of course, never mind, though, he actually has a competition with more than 20 Democratic candidates. So that will come much -- first, Brooke.

BALDWIN: But to hear the president of the United States, Sarah, call the former vice president a dummy and say, to Jeff's point, that he is the weakest of all the candidates, why is he wasting so much energy on someone he thinks is so weak?

Why can't he quit him? SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Brooke, we know

President Trump was frustrated with a recent round of internal polling that his campaign conducted, which showed that in states that will be key to his reelection effort, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, the former vice president is actually leading the president in head-to- head matchups.

That's obviously something that could concern President Trump. So even though, publicly, he's saying Biden is the person he would prefer to run against because, in the president's words, Biden is the weakest mentally, that's very different from the message that President Trump is sending to confidants privately, which is that he is fixated on the prospect of running against the former vice president, perhaps even the most concerned, because polling does show that Biden currently is the best positioned potentially to take on Trump in some of those states that provided Trump his firewall.

Aides and allies have expressed a desire for the president to stop going after Biden directly. They know that that elevates Biden, that that helps feed the perception Biden is trying to create for himself, that this is a two-man race. And it prevents Trump and the Trump campaign from being able to define the rest of the Democratic field together and to define them by their most extreme viewpoints.


It lets Biden -- gives him the ability to define himself. So today, in Council Bluffs, this will be a real test for President Trump to see if he can stay on message. He is here to talk about a move that his administration made on ethanol, lifting a partial ban on an ethanol blend called E-15.

But it remains to be seen, Brooke, if the president can resist the temptation to stray off that message, which is popular with Iowans, and go after Biden here.

BALDWIN: So we wait to hear these two gentlemen speaking again later today.

Ann, to you on Iowa and just these polls. As I mentioned, you help CNN conduct these new polls for Iowa. Biden, even as he was speaking in Ottumwa earlier, essentially said that these polls don't mean a thing right now. This is a marathon, but, of course, you can't go across the line of the marathon without starting in Iowa.

But you point out a couple of things. First, I wanted to highlight you found that there's a major enthusiasm gap for Biden. Can you explain that?

J. ANN SELZER, SELZER & COMPANY, INC.: Yes, that's right.

We wanted to know from each of our poll respondents, thinking about their first choice, were they extremely enthusiastic, very enthusiastic, just somewhat or only mildly enthusiastic? And for Biden, 29 percent said that they would describe themselves as extremely enthusiastic. We took the next three front-runners combined, so Elizabeth Warren

supporters, Bernie Sanders supporters, and Pete Buttigieg. We made them into a group. So we have Biden vs. the others. And 43 percent of their supporters described themselves as extremely enthusiastic.

So you just -- there's a little bit of lackluster -- almost, when you talked to Biden supporters, there's -- you can hear it, that, well, I'm for Biden. And when you ask them if they're for Elizabeth Warren, they go, oh, yes. I'm just really excited about Elizabeth Warren.


SELZER: So, anecdotally, you hear it.

BALDWIN: And I want to ask Jeff, because I know Jeff has been on the ground, but just staying with you, Ann, on Elizabeth Warren, she's stronger than she appears in Iowa.

SELZER: She is stronger than she appears.

We had -- we took a measurement of their total footprint, that is, were they a first choice, a second choice, or at least being strongly considered? And her number for across all those three combined even with Joe Biden at 61 percent.

BALDWIN: Jeff, what are you hearing from voters?

ZELENY: Well, Brooke, I was just talking to several voters who were inside this rally here with the former vice president.

And Terry Walders, a voter from here in Ottumwa, was watching intently. And I asked him what he thought of the vice president's attacks against President Trump. Let's listen.


ZELENY: Do you worry that Mr. Biden is getting down into the mud with President Trump, and that may damage him as well? Or should he go after him like he did today?

TERRY WALDERS, IOWA DEMOCRAT: I think that there's too many people that are ignoring Trump. They're just saying this is what he is and everything. But this is tearing our country apart. It's dividing us and stuff.

Bringing it out makes people -- if they aren't already aware of it, makes them think a little bit what's going on in this world.


ZELENY: So, Ann talked about an enthusiasm gap running against Joe Biden. That is another reason that he is going so hard to describe and criticize the president.

He is trying to, of course, tap into those Democrats who want nothing more than to see any Democrat, whoever it may be, win the White House -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Ann, you had correctly predicted that then Senator Barack Obama would win the Iowa caucuses back in 2008. OK, who are you predicting this go-round?

SELZER: Oh, well, it's awfully early.

And I'm always mindful of the run-up to 2016. When we first measured Bernie Sanders, he got 3 percent of the vote. And by caucus night, he was less than a percentage point away from defeating Hillary Clinton. So it's a big field. It's lots of challenges, but, at this point, we're just looking at where things have come from where they started so far.

BALDWIN: OK. We will come back as we get closer. I'm going to put you on the spot and ask you that same question again, but fascinating, all this polling data.

Ann, thank you. And, Sarah and Jeff, I appreciate all of you very much in Iowa.

Minutes from now, House lawmakers will vote to compel the attorney general and the former White House counsel to hand over evidence related to obstruction. This is happening as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells CNN that she is -- quote, unquote -- "done" with President Trump.

And President Trump reveals that Kim Jong-un has sent him another beautiful letter. And he's weighing in on a new report that the dictator's murdered half-brother may have actually been a CIA informant.


But, first, Jon Stewart on Capitol Hill, both angry and emotional, as he is urging our lawmakers to approve more funding to help 9/11 first- responders -- his powerful words just ahead.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Before President Trump left for Iowa a bit ago, he stopped and talked to cameras, made the surprise announcement from the White House lawn.

Trump says that he received yet another beautiful letter -- his word -- from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. He wouldn't say when he received it, nor what was in it. But this is what he did say:


TRUMP: I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong-un. I can't tell you the letter, obviously, but it was a very personal, very warm, very nice letter. I appreciate it.

And I will say it again. I think that North Korea has tremendous potential. And he will be there. I think that North Korea, under his leadership, but North Korea, because of what it represents -- the people are great. The land is great. The location is incredible between Russia, China and South Korea.

I think North Korea has tremendous potential. And the one that feels that more than anybody is Kim Jong-un. He gets it.


BALDWIN: Joseph Yun is a former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy and a CNN global affairs analyst.

He's with me now.

Joseph Yun, always a pleasure, sir.

We know that this president wants to maintain this relationship with North Korea, seemingly no matter what. What's your reaction to this latest letter?

JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think my reaction is that, of course, Secretary Pompeo and others, including President Trump, have been saying they're open to a third summit.

And this is clearly an indication that North Korea is now responding to those overtures. So what I expect is, over the next few weeks or so, there will be some working level meetings, perhaps leading up to a third summit, which probably should happen before the end of the year.

So I fully expect that the scene is beginning to be set for a third summit.


I want to you too about this report out of "The Wall Street Journal" this morning. They're reporting that Kim Jong-un's half brother, Kim Jong-nam, was a CIA source. We know he was killed back in 2017 from a nerve agent. And, according to reports, he had met the CIA operatives.

The CIA is not commenting to CNN. CNN cannot independently verified these reports. But when Trump was just at the White House, he was asked about it. He said he didn't know anything. But then he said this:


TRUMP: I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half-brother. And I would tell him that would not happen under my -- under my auspices.


BALDWIN: Are you surprised, Joe Yun, that Kim's brother might have been working for the CIA?

YUN: Well, what I'm surprised is that President Trump weighing in, in this issue at all.

I mean, this is -- he seems to be almost saying, yes, CIA may have been working with Kim Jong-nam, the brother, and that, if it was him, he would not have worked.

So I'm very surprised at President Trump weighing in, in a very murky intelligence world. And this is a absolutely no-go area for anyone.

BALDWIN: Do you think it's possible that he could have been working with the CIA, though? And what kind of information could he have provided?

YUN: Well, I think it is no secret that Kim Jong-nam needed protection. He was getting protection from China. He was getting other protection. He needed money. So it wouldn't be surprising if a number of governments including our own, worked with in some capacity.

Of course, Kim Jong-nam would be able to provide what is going on in Pyongyang, the kind of personalities and what the plans are. I think he could throw some very valuable insight to a very difficult to unknowable world that is Pyongyang.

BALDWIN: Insight that might have led to his murder?

YUN: Well, we don't know that. I mean, we don't know that.

There have been a number of accounts, Brooke, including from Malaysian press, where he was killed, that there was some involvement, that he had been meeting with some CIA personnel. So there is no question that these accounts have been going around for a while.

Now, of course, I believe the main reason that Kim Jong-nam was killed was because he was a threat to Kim Jong-un. They are brothers. Kim Jong-nam is an older brother. And he was under Chinese protection. And he was seen by many outsiders and obviously by Kim Jong-un himself a threat Kim Jong-un and a possible successor should something happen to Kim Jong-un.

So he was a marked man. And whether that's because of CIA connection or not, he had been a marked man for a while.


BALDWIN: Joseph Yun, a pleasure. Thank you so much for all your insight, as always.

Still ahead here on CNN, Jon Stewart excoriating lawmakers over funding to pay for health care for 9/11 first-responders. It's a bill that is set for a vote tomorrow.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON STEWART, FORMER HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": They did their jobs, courage, grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!




BALDWIN: Former late-night host and 9/11 first-responders advocate Jon Stewart just delivered a blistering takedown of lawmakers during testimony today.

Stewart unloaded during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorizing the 9/11 Victim Fund. Stewart was given a standing ovation from the crowd when it complemented his passionate tirade aimed at those members of the committee who apparently skipped the hearing.

He got choked up several times and did not mince words as he slammed Congress over its failure to ensure the 9/11 Victim Fund remains fully funded.


STEWART: There is not a person here, there is not an empty chair on that stage that didn't tweet out never forget the heroes of 9/11, never forget their bravery, never forget what they did, what they gave to this country.

Well, here they are. And where are they? And it would be one thing if their callous indifference and rank hypocrisy were benign, but it's not. Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity, time. It's the one thing they're running out of.

This should be flipped. This hearing should be flipped. These men and women should be up on that stage, and Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so damn hard and take so damn long, and why, no matter what they get, something is always pulled back. And they got to come back.

Mr. Johnson, you made a point earlier, and it was one that we have heard over and over again in these halls, and I couldn't help but to answer to it, which was -- you said, look, you guys are obviously heroes, and 9/11 was a big deal, but we have a lot of stuff here to do. And we got to make sure there's money for a variety of disasters, hurricanes and tornadoes.

But this wasn't a hurricane. And this wasn't a tornado. And, by the way, that's your job anyway. We can't fund these programs. You can.

Setting aside that no American in this country should face financial ruin because of a health issue, certainly, 9/11 first-responders shouldn't have to decide whether to live or to have a place to live.

And the idea that you can only give them five more years of the VCF because you're not quite sure what's going to happen five years from now, well, I can tell you, I'm pretty sure what's going to happen five years from now.

More of these men and women are going to get sick, and they are going to die. And I'm awfully tired of hearing that it's a 9/11-New York issue.

Al Qaeda didn't shout, "Death to Tribeca." They attacked America. And these men and women and their response to it is what brought our country back. It's what gave a reeling nation a solid foundation to stand back upon, to remind us of why this country is great, of why this country is worth fighting for.

And you are ignoring them.


BALDWIN: So powerful.

Let's take you to Capitol Hill, to our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty.

And, Sunlen, to his point, why were there empty seats?


And, Brooke, I have to say it comes up often sometimes on Capitol Hill, not to make an excuse for lawmakers, but there are, of course, at any time of day, a lot of various things going on.

But, certainly, this is such an important topic. And, certainly, Jon Stewart has been one of the leading and vocal voices behind this effort to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

And he essentially called out lawmakers today rather bluntly, saying it certainly is a travesty, so to speak, that they aren't even investing their time to listen to him testify. He has been up on the Capitol -- on Capitol Hill many times over the last few months, notably, Senate side, with 2020 contender Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been pushing for this reauthorization as well.

And, Brooke, potentially, this could make some headway way soon. It likely will be voted on in the House at some point soon. There is confidence -- and it has bipartisan support -- after it's marked up that it could and likely will.