Return to Transcripts main page


GOP's DeSantis Says a Vote for Black Opponent Would "Monkey This Up"; Andrew Gillum Makes History and Shocks Democratic Rivals; Mounting Pressure for D.C. Cardinal Wuerl to Resign; Graham Says Trump Called Him After McCain Tribute. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 29, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is not invited, but Presidents Obama and George W. Bush will speak. Then he'll be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis. And then Monday when the politics start and maybe we'll find out who will replace perhaps the irreplaceable Senator -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Buried next to his best friend at Navy in Annapolis. Nick Watt, thank you so much, in phoenix.

Coming up next, a stunning upset in the race for Florida governor. In less than 24 hours, already controversy with racial undertones between the Republican and Democratic nominees. The President was asked about it moments ago. We'll play that for you. Stay here.


BALDWIN: The Florida gubernatorial race is definitely shaping up as one to watch this November. Two candidates who stand at the political edges of both their party, Democrat Andrew Gillum, a Bernie Sanders backed progressive. He's now the first African-American to win a major party nomination in the Florida governor's contest.

On the Republican side, Congressman Ron DeSantis whose campaign surged after getting the endorsement of President Trump. But bless than 24 hours after those polls closed down in Florida, the race is heating up after Congressman DeSantis went on Fox News and said this.


RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And he's a charismatic candidate. And, you know, I watched the Democrat debates, none of that was my cup of tea, but I mean, he performed better than the other people there. So, we've got to work hard to make sure that we can continue Florida going in a good direction. Let's build off the success we've had on Governor Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.


BALDWIN: Now, in response to the "monkey this up" phrase, here's what we have from the Florida Democratic Party. Calling the comment, racist dog whistles. The DeSantis campaign fired back.

[15:35:00] Quote, Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd.

So, let's talk about this race. Vanessa Williams is a national reporter for "The Washington Post". Adam Smith is the political editor for "The Tampa Bay Times." So, welcome to both of you. And Adam, you're in Florida, so I'm starting with you first, on the monkey phrase. How are Florida voters reacting to that?

ADAM SMITH, POLITICAL EDITOR, TAMPA BAY TIMES: Well, we don't know yet, but it's certainly getting a lot of attention. And I've had several people sort of liken it -- these are not necessarily Democrats, liken it to the "macaca" moment that George Allen had. Maybe it was a harmless remark. We're talking about a candidate, Ron DeSantis, who's a Harvard and Yale guy. The first interview he gives virtually as the general election nominee, he uses that term "monkey", that's pretty remarkable.

BALDWIN: Vanessa, how did you hear it?

VANESSA WILLIAMS, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Remarkable, I think that's one way to look at it. You know, his campaign said that he didn't intend it to be offensive, but it's surprising that they didn't anticipate that it would be seen that way. This country has been engaged in a very serious conversation about racism and structural inequality. And in the last couple of years, that conversation has intensified because of a lot of the political rhetoric coming from the President, quite frankly. So, either they didn't think it would be offensive and one has to wonder why, or they didn't care that it was offensive, and again, one would have to wonder why. But it is surprising it didn't occur to them sooner.

BALDWIN: I want to hone in on this Tallahassee Mayor. Adam, you know, Andrew Gillum, the son of a bus driver. Didn't come from wealth. You know, if you were following the Florida polls, you never would have seen this coming. Can you tell me more about who he is and how he pulled this off?

SMITH: Well, we are still figuring that out, but there's no question, even when he was in the low single digits in the polls, if you went out on the ground and talked to sort of rank-in-file Democrats, the people that were actually paying attention to the primary, the name you heard over and over again was Gillum, Gillum, Gillum. He is a progressive. He's very likable, personable. He seems real. He doesn't seem like a cautious politician.

And Democrats in Florida, they have lost the last five governors' races. And they have consistently nominated very cautious, centrist, white nominees. So, I think there's a real hunger, especially in the era of Trump, among the Democratic base to have a real fighter and somebody who is a proud liberal. We'll see if that's enough to win a general election in a purple state like Florida. BALDWIN: Here's the bigger picture, question, Vanessa, I'm going to

pose this to you. Whether it is looking at the gubernatorial race in Florida or even Georgia for that matter, other states where you have -- it seems like at least and on the primary side, that the folks who were embraced and did the embracing of the President on the Republican side, did well. But when it comes to November, won't the true test be how Americans feel about that conservative versus the Democrat? That's the ultimate choice.

WILLIAMS: Well, I think with the candidates like Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams as well as some of the other candidates who are out there, they present themselves as representatives of communities and voters who have been ignored.

BALDWIN: We're one of you.

WILLIAMS: Yes, exactly. Especially in diverse states in the South which are far more diverse than people appreciate. They are like the rising stars. They are gathering up people who have been ignored, who have not been talked to, have not been campaigned to, and they are talking about issues that are important to them. You know, I know a lot of people, a lot of analysts have talked about the extremes, but frankly, things like health care, wages, jobs, these kinds of issues don't seem extreme to people who are living on the margins or below. And they are like, yes, somebody is finally talking about something that is important to me as opposed to some of these wedge social issues that really don't resonate in people's lives day in and day out.

BALDWIN: November 6, that will be the test, Vanessa and Adam, thank you both.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

SMITH: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, a Catholic University President now joining calls for a powerful Washington, D.C. cardinal to resign. We'll have details mounting -- details on the mounting pressure on the church in the wake of the Pennsylvania priest abuse scandal.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)[15:40:00]

BALDWIN: Pope Francis today is revealing details about his weekend meeting in Ireland with eight survivors of child sex abuse.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): My meeting with eight of the survivors has left a profound mark. And on many occasions, I begged the Lord for forgiveness of these sins, the scandal and the sense of betrayal.


BALDWIN: This comes amid new calls for the Pope's resignation. Retired Vatican ambassador claiming back in 2013 Pope Francis knew about abuse allegations linked to then cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

[15:45:05] But did nothing about it. Let's go to Rosa Flores. Rosa, clearly this outrage against the Pope has made its way to this American cardinal. What more can you tell us?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Brooke, I think it's important to note that this Cardinal, Donald Wuerl, was known as one of the good guys before the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. As a Cardinal that had been fighting for the survivors and for accountability. Well, now there are high-profile Catholics asking for his resignation. Just this past Sunday, there was a priest from the pulpit asking for his resignation. Here's part of his homily.

He said, quote, we are all hurting. You're stepping down and will be the first necessary step in the process of healing.

And Brooke, this priest got a standing ovation at the church this past Sunday. Then there are Catholic teacher -- teachers that work for the diocese -- also asking for his ouster. 50 of them sent a letter to Vigano, the ambassador, asking for his removal. And then there is the first president of a Catholic university coming forward and saying, it's not so much about what he did do or didn't do after the Pennsylvania report revealed those allegations. He said, it's just about leadership. They just have to go. Here's what she said, take a listen.


PAT MCGUIRE, PRESIDENT, TRINITY WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Yes, I think Cardinal Wuerl should resign. And I think that is part of expressing this deep sorrow on the part of the church for what has happened to these children.

But he still needs to take an action that expresses his sorrow and sense of penance and atonement. And that is best done when you're a leader by stepping out of the leadership role.


FLORES: The archdiocese responding to our request for comment regarding these high-profile individuals asking for his resignation and the archdiocese says, quote in part, it's unfortunate, however, that in the teachers fail to know not only the archdiocese of Washington's track record in protecting children, but Cardinal Wuerl's record.

Because the archdiocese stands behind the fact that Cardinal Wuerl says he has stood up for survivors all this time -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Rosa Flores, let's stay on that story. Thank you so much.

Coming up here, he is going to prison to protect his family. CNN has new details behind the stunning guilty pleas from President Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen. Including his current mindset accepting the possibility that he will go away for some time.


BALDWIN: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is speaking out about the touching tribute he gave to his best friend in the Senate, John McCain, up on Capitol Hill this time yesterday. He talked to Dana Bash about it today. He said that after he did that, President Trump actually called him afterwards. Dana also asked him about the tension between Senator McCain and the President.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I regret the relationship between the two. John is my dearest friend in the world and I'm going to try to help President Trump. And I will. Because I think country first means that. And if he'll listen, I'll talk to him. I've enjoyed my time with him. When he says something bad about John, it pisses me off. He called yesterday after my speech and he couldn't have been nicer. He said that was very sad, I just want to let you know that you did right by your friend. And I said thank you Mr. President.


GRAHAM: Yes, he did. Right out of the blue. To those who want me to say the only way that you can honor John McCain is to fight Donald Trump and try to kick him out of office, I don't agree. I'm going to do what I think is best for the country using what John taught me about the country.


BALDWIN: The President will be attending John McCain's but I could tell you the Trump administration officials who will be there include defense chief, James Mattis, White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly and National Security Advisor, John Bolton. Senator McCain is there lying in state at Arizona's capitol for the next few hours. His memorial service at Washington National Cathedral will be held Saturday and both of his former political rivals, former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, will be eulogizing him. So, stay tuned for live coverage. We'll be right back.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: We just got a preview of what the midterms could look like. And it ain't pretty. "THE LEAD" starts right now. It is Trump versus Sanders or pretty close to it after a primary night that's giving us a glimpse of how divided and how ugly the next few months could get.