Return to Transcripts main page


Alabama Legislature Passes Restrictive Abortion Bill; Alabama State Senator Bobby Singleton (D-AL) Interviewed on State Bill Making Abortion a Felony; Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger. Aired 8-8:30a ET.

Aired May 15, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. John Avlon, thank you very much for that.


BERMAN: Is Roe versus Wade in jeopardy?

CAMEROTA: Sounds like it.

BERMAN: NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A near total ban on apportion now on the verge of becoming law in Alabama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will never get a heartbeat bill until Roe versus Wade is reversed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a court that is ready to overturn the decision that was made more than 40 years ago.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're having a little squabble with China, we've been treated very unfairly.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Farmers in the Midwest have been hurt very hard. I am not in agreement on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's willing to take these risks. Nobody wants tariffs. Sometimes it's a necessary resort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After days of pushback, Donald Trump Jr. will come in in mid-June.

TRUMP: They want him to testify again. I have no idea why. It seems very unfair to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will see members of the committee want to get to the heart of the matter about the June 9th meeting at Trump Tower.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, May 15th, 8:00 now in the east. And we begin with breaking news. The most restrictive abortion bill in the country just passed in Alabama. The state's lawmakers effectively banned abortion, making virtually every single abortion a felony, punishable by 99 years in prison for the doctor. Republican backers pushed the bill forward with one important goal, and that is to overturn the landmark Supreme Court ruling on Roe versus Wade which legalized abortions nationwide in 1973 and gave women the Constitutional right to end a pregnancy.

BERMAN: And the critical takeaway here, this law is designed to force a ruling in the Supreme Court, and with the new makeup of the court, many analysts do believe that Roe is in jeopardy. Of note here, the Alabama law even bans abortions in cases of rape or incest. The governor now has six days to sign the bill. It is expected that she will.

CAMEROTA: Democratic State Senator Bobby Singleton voted against the bill and choked back tears on the floor of Alabama's Senate after it was passed.


BOBBY SINGLETON, (D) ALABAMA STATE SENATOR: You just said to my daughter you don't matter. You don't matter in the state of Alabama. That the state of Alabama don't care nothing about you, baby. I've got to go home and tell her the state of Alabama don't care nothing about you, baby.


CAMEROTA: And that state senator, Bobby Singleton, joins us now. Senator, thank you so much for being here. What do you think now, the day after this has passed the Alabama legislature?

SINGLETON: Oh, I think this is a horrible bill still. I think that we raped women last night. We made women of Alabama the model of the new Roe versus Wade. I think this is just a horrible bill. And hopefully if it gets to that level to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court will not select this as a test case.

CAMEROTA: Is that why your colleagues passed this? Do they really want to send doctors to prison for 99 years, or are they hoping that this will -- was really the purpose of this to try to overturn Roe versus Wade?

SINGLETON: I would like to think that it's just for the purpose of Roe versus Wade. But there are some members on that side of the aisle who really believe sincerely in this. And I asked the sponsor that just last night, is that your intent to send doctors to jail for 99 years, or even for an attempted abortion up to 10 years in prison for attempt, which is not defining what an attempt is? But they just look me in my eyes with a stare as if, yes, that's what I want to do. CAMEROTA: You talked so emotionally about your own daughter yesterday

while this was all happening. I believe you have two daughters, nine and ten years old. Did you have any conversations with them about this last night after this passed?

SINGLETON: Yes, I did. I actually had a conversation with them before it. Before I left last Thursday there was at least 12 Republicans who had mentioned that their wives or their sisters or their daughters had said to them, dad, or brother, don't go down there and vote for that bill. Something went wrong over the weekend that members got lobbied or whatever happened, and only four of those Republicans stood with us to stand on it. So I don't know whatever happened to the other eight. But I think that they all have to go back and look at their wives and their sisters and their daughters and their mothers in the face to say what they did last night.

But about my daughter, I just think the fact that -- I hate to think the fact that if someone raped my daughter at 12 years old, because in the state of Alabama two years ago we had a test case where a 12-year- old was raped by her uncle.

[08:05:00] And if we -- if I had to have that, that is just sad to tell my daughter that she had to carry that baby for nine months here in the state of Alabama and look that rapist in the face for the rest of her life. I just couldn't take it as a father. So I had to speak up for women all over the country, for women in the state of Alabama because this was just wrong. I have a living mother, I have aunts, I have a sister, and I have nieces, and I have these two daughters that is very precious to me, which make me stand for women on this particular issue.

CAMEROTA: Here is what one of your female colleagues who was one of the co-sponsors of this bill says was her motivation. She says "This bill is about challenging Roe versus Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection. I have prayed my way through this bill. This is the way we get where we want to get eventually."

And so, look, we understand how passionate this issue is on both sides, but I'm just wondering, do your colleagues who voted for this, do they ever talk about what happens after that 12-year-old who was the victim of rape and incest has the baby? Are they allotting resources for mental health, et cetera, et cetera, for what happens after that little girl has -- after that girl has to have her rapist's baby?

SINGLETON: No, we can't even get them to talk about healthcare in the state of Alabama. Anytime you talk about healthcare in Alabama they think you want to expand Medicaid and want to do what they call Obamacare. And that is just a bad word around the state of Alabama. There is no new money even in our budget for mental health, even after the Department of Justice came in and said that we even are violating prisoners' rights with mental health in the state of Alabama. Just to put money in the budget just for regular, everyday patients of mental health or for women reproductive rights or just for women health, for infant mortality rate that is high in areas like my district that are rural and poor, hospitals are closing down in the areas. Doctors are leaving the area, and they don't even want to address that. So there's no conversation. Some of these gentlemen just don't have the heart to do it.

CAMEROTA: The latest Quinnipiac poll in terms of how Americans feel about abortion is from July, and it says that if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe versus Wade, would you consider it a good thing or a bad thing? Twenty-three percent believe good thing, 66 percent of the country believed that would be a bad thing. And I also wonder about your colleagues who sponsored this or who certainly voted for it, do they fear any sort of political backlash?

SINGLETON: Obviously not, because this bill that they put together looked like it was a rush job. They really didn't do a good job in defining -- actually defining when life starts. It's just about when a woman know that she's pregnant, then if she goes to have an abortion at that time, does a doctor face that criminalization. They then define what attempt of abortion is. So I don't think they did a real good job of working this. It sounded like one of those ALEC bills that they just jumped on, something going nationally with Republicans right now. So it's no real thought in this. They are just trying to get to the Hill to say that we are the first to race in to get Roe overturned, which state is going to be first. We are going to waste a lot of money in legal funds trying to make that happen, and the state of Alabama just don't have that kind of money to be fighting legal challenges like this.

CAMEROTA: Now it goes to the governor for signature. What do you want to say to your governor?

SINGLETON: I say Governor Kay Ivey, you are a compassionate woman. I would just like to ask you not to sign this bill. Think about what you're doing to mothers, think about what you're doing to babies that could be raped. Think about what you're doing to just women in their reproductive health in your state. You say you want a be a governor that is going to lead by example, then lead by example, governor, and overturn this, or at least put an executive amendment on this bill for rape and insist, and give us a chance to at least concur with your amendment before you sign it.

CAMEROTA: State Senator Bobby Singleton, thank you very much for bringing us your perspective on what's happened in Alabama yesterday.

SINGLETON: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: Joining us now is CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, I think the point here that's important for people to realize is this is not an abstraction at this point. The Supreme Court has changed. Anthony Kennedy, who was the swing vote on abortion is gone. Brett Kavanaugh, who it is believed has opinions on abortion is now there. There are people including Jeffrey Toobin who think Roe v. Wade is done. This case designed to work its way up to the court and get some kind of a ruling.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And he just said, he called it a rush job. There's little question that there is a race in some of these very conservative states to be the first to poke at the Supreme Court, to try to get this to the Supreme Court.

[08:10:08] Whether or not this is going to be the one, of course, there was just a law that was just passed and signed into law in Georgia, less restrictive than Alabama, but still pretty restrictive. We'll see.

As I was listening to him and as I'm hearing you, I'm actually thinking about, not that long ago, several months ago, talking to Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who voted for Brett Kavanaugh, who is for abortion rights, and said publicly, she said that she heard this from him privately, she said to me in an interview, I am convinced that he is going to stand by precedent.

And as you said, that was something that people were hearing about -- thinking about a legal -- an abstract legal discussion. Well, it's not going to be potentially abstract anymore. Potentially really soon it's not going to be abstract.

CAMEROTA: So all of the Democratic candidates for 2020 are speaking out about this. I don't know about all, but certainly many of them yesterday spoke out, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, who said that she's lived in America when abortion wasn't legal. She remembers that America, and we are never again going back there. But I'm not sure what will happen if this goes to the Supreme Court and if this is -- if Roe versus Wade is overturned. I'm not sure what she means by what would happen next.

BASH: We don't know. We don't know how quickly it would go through the federal court process. Wether the Supreme Court -- he just hinted at this -- would take this case just depends on a whole host of issues, of legal issues.

And then the whole question of just politics, you mentioned in 2020, is that for so long the energy has been on the Republican and the conservative side when it comes to abortion, for a generation, because that's how long Roe v. Wade -- a generation plus. I mean, decades and decades.

And people Elizabeth Warren was getting to there, is that people who are for abortion rights have -- many of them have been complacent because that's just the way it is and nobody could expect -- could think of an America without Roe v. Wade in place. This could shake that and change the debate and the dynamic in a very big way, and I expect it to very soon on the campaign trail.

BERMAN: It's not that long ago. Bill Clinton -- it is a long time ago -- in 1992 ran on abortion being safe, legal, and rare, which was a phrase that Democrats thought was a middle ground that they could sit on for a long time. But this when you're banning abortion for rape and incest, it's really pushing it, pushing the whole framework of the debate so far.

BASH: So far, so different. And we remember when Bill Clinton said safe, legal, and rare when he was trying to run as and he successfully ran as a moderate Democrat. The Democratic field already is completely different, is already very far to the left. But the question is -- and I was just texting with somebody who is an expert on Pennsylvania, for example, a swing state where the suburbs where women in the suburbs could and will and traditionally do decide the fate of a state like Pennsylvania, whether this could change it, because some of those women, no the all of them, Hillary Clinton won the suburbs, but some of them went for Donald Trump. Maybe it would be different now because if Roe v. Wade, if abortion is on the top of their mind, they tend to be more fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

CAMEROTA: It is interesting that these so-called heartbeat beats that we're seeing around the country and certainly what's happening in Alabama is bringing this all to a fore in a way that the candidates hadn't been talking about. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand just announced that she's going to be holding an event on the state capital of Georgia, so that's where, as you know, Hollywood has turned out, and they are saying to pull their business from Georgia. That is a state that's getting a lot of attention, so we will see what her message is tomorrow on the state capital.

BERMAN: Beto O'Rourke is talking about it, too. A lot of the candidates are now speaking out over just the last 12 hours. I expect we will hear from all of them if we haven't already.

BASH: It feels like there is a shift in the debate. Whether or not it's going to last very long we will see, and whether or not it will continue to penetrate beyond the primaries and into the general election, it's hard to see that it won't. This is going to not go away.

BERMAN: Dana, thank you very much, great to have you here.

BASH: Thank you.

BERMAN: President Trump's trade war having a major impact on American farmers after talks with China have halted. Some farmers seem to be losing hope. We're going to introduce you to some of these Midwest farmers bearing the brunt of the burden, next.



CAMEROTA: Midwest farmers are losing patience with the president's trade war with China, as they suffer more than most from tariff hikes. On Monday, the president promised to use tariff revenue paid by U.S. companies to subsidize them, but that may not be enough. CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Davenport, Iowa, with more. What's the situation there, Martin?


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. We got a beautiful day on tap, blue skies which actually have been a real rarity in Iowa. The weather's been awful. So farmers are going to be racing into the fields to get their planting done. It's about the only bright spot in what otherwise is a very gloomy picture down on the farm.

Robert Ewoldt readies for another day of battle. An Iowa farmer, he's on the front line of America's trade war with China, a war president Trump says he's winning, but Ewald says he's losing. China has stopped buying his soybeans, cutting his income by half. He still has a third of last year's crop in storage, and this season it will likely cost him more to grow their soybeans than he can sell them for.

ROBERT EWOLDT, IOWA FARMER: This is survival at this point. I mean, for a lot of operations, it is a survival thing.

SAVIDGE: Things are so bad, he's taken a second job. He drives a truck all night and farms by day. That's what's allowing you to survive?

EWOLDT: That's what's keeping this farm going.

SAVIDGE: Ewoldt isn't alone. Across the Midwest, farm incomes are down and bankruptcies are up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It might be the only payout (ph).

SAVIDGE: Every morning, in thousands of farm towns like this one, farmers gather for coffee and to commiserate. It's not just tariffs. Across the Midwest and southeast, farmers are also reeling from disaster, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, even fires. It's been raining so much in Iowa, farmers are nearly a month late getting into their fields. And every day they delay costs them more money. How far behind are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's almost nothing planted out here.

SAVIDGE: To try and help, democrats in the House, joined by 34 republicans, voted for a $19 billion disaster relief package, some of which would have gone to help farmers. But President Trump opposed the plan, tweeting, "House republicans should not vote for the bad democrat disaster supplemental bill."

Now that relief is bogged down in the republican-controlled Senate, over how much assistance to give hurricane devastated Puerto Rico. And so, back in republican voting farm districts, there is a growing bumper crop of frustration, particularly with the president who brags about his negotiating skills.

GREG BEAMAN, IOWA FARMER: My uneducated guess is that he better hurry up and start producing a little bit, because this negotiation that I'm seeing so far has not panned out.

SAVIDGE: You voted for this president.


SAVIDGE: Regrets? EWOLDT: Yes.

SAVIDGE: Larry Angler adds up the money he expects to lose this year.

LARRY ANGLER, IOWA FARMER: Between me and my daughter together, probably $100,000, $150,000.

SAVIDGE: Did you vote for Trump?

ANGER: I did. I'll never vote for him again.

SAVIDGE: The financial impact goes well beyond just the farm, though. I mean, when you start thinking about, say, the equipment, the tractors, they're $350,000-plus to be purchased, so that means the companies that sell them not to mention the companies like John Deere that make them, they'll be feeling the pinch as farmers cut back.

Then there's the seed that may not be bought in as high a number, the fertilizer that's used, you can go on and on, the banks that float the loans to pay for everything. It will ripple across the United States in ways that many people who aren't connected to farming have no idea how it's going to hurt them as well. John?


BERMAN: Martin Savidge for us in Davenport, Iowa. Martin, thanks very much. Joining me now is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He is from Illinois. Thank you for being with us, Congressman.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): You bet (ph).

We just heard from Martin from next door in Iowa, from farmers there, but I want to play you sound from a farmer from your own district in Illinois, a soybean and corn farmer, he was on CBS this morning with my friend Dean Reynolds. Listen.


EVAN HULTINE, ILLINOIS CORN AND SOYBEAN FARMER: Every day that this ticks on, farmers are the ones that are taking it on the jaw.

DEAN REYNOLDS, CBS HOST: How long is this going to go on before you say, "Hey, this is too much. You're ruining us out here."

HULTINE: I think to a point you could say we're already there.


BERMAN: That farmer in your district, Congressman, says he's being ruined by these tariffs. What do you say to him?

KINZINGER: Look, it's not great for farmers and here is why: The Chinese have basically decided to go after Trump's base. I mean if President Obama was doing this, if he was taking on Chinese unfair trade practices, which he never did, they would be going after the base that voted for him. It's not something I like. I would do some of this differently than the president.

For instance, I would have entered the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, and fought from a position of strength. I would not be having the fight with Europe, et cetera. But this should have been done 10 or 20 years ago with China. There is no doubt it should have been done. There is some pain, and it's terrible, and we need to do everything we can to make sure that we alleviate that as much as possible.

One of the great things is my new free trade born again free trade democratic friends should pass the USMCA. This is something that we can get done to replace NAFTA. It's good for farmers. That would be a good message right now, but I've heard some of them say they don't want to give Trump a win.

BERMAN: But Evan Hultine, who was the farmer there, what's your message to him? That it's worth it? That it's worth his farm? It's worth his livelihood?

KINZINGER: Well, you can't put it in - you know, it's that I've - I talk to these farmers all the time. I was home on Monday, talking to all these farmers, and they're very frustrated. And I'm expressing that frustration with them, but they also understand that this is a fight that, now that we're in it, we have to win.

If the U.S. backs away at this moment - and, frankly, all over the network we're seeing, you know, all these stories of people that are wanting the president to back away, if you back away from this fight right now, the concessions that'll be extracted from us will be painful, and then we're going to be having months and months of talking about why the Chinese are still eating our lunch.

BERMAN: Very quickly, last point on this. You said you were for TPP, so to some extent you're a free trader. Let me just ask you from an economic standpoint, who pays tariffs?

KINZINGER: Yes, I mean, obviously it's paid by the people that buy the goods.

BERMAN: Which is in this case?

KINZINGER: Yes, It'd be U.S. consumers, just like as the Chinese put tariffs on our goods, the Chinese will pay that. But the point is tariff, what that does is it makes it - obviously puts it on a level playing field with U.S. goods.


So it advantages U.S. goods, which is why tariffs, we don't want to use them unless we're treated unfairly. And the Chinese obviously know that this trade imbalance much more is devastating to them than us in this process.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman, you are on the Foreign Affairs Committee. We learned overnight that the State Department has requested - ordered the removal of all non-emergency personnel from Iraq. Do you know why? KINZINGER: No. There's probably, you know, intel that they have. I'll

put it this way, Iraq is very tenuous right now. We know that there are energized Shia militias that are supported by Iran and Iraq.

And so, if something were to spark off in the Middle East, if, you know, Iran decides they want to close the Straits of Hormuz - and that turns into a big fight, by the way, because that's international waters - the U.S. could be targets in Iraq, as well as other places, like Syria, Yemen, et cetera. And so, it probably makes sense to pull non-essential personnel at this - at this difficult time.

BERMAN: It has the appearance of being connected somehow, and we don't know for sure, to this rising tension with Iran. And I want to read you a quote from "The New York Times" about this, and the United States has said that - the Trump administration over the last couple weeks, there has been intelligence that Iran was planning some kind of attacks on U.S. interests over in that region. We haven't seen that intelligence. We don't know what it is. But this is what "The New York Times" said.

"One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential international, said that new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was small stuff and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr. Bolton," John Bolton, national security adviser. "The official also said the ultimate goal of the year long economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States." Do you feel that John Bolton is pushing the president towards war?

KINZINGER: No, I think that's ludicrous. So first off, it's another unnamed official. So have the courage to say your name, instead of just being an unnamed official. The idea that the administration wants to get into armed conflict with Iran, it may make good for, you know, political back and forth, but it's not true.

They're not pining for armed conflict. Look, do they want to take the Iranians down from what they're doing around the world? Absolutely. And when I say take down, get rid of their adventurism, what they're doing in Yemen, supporting the Houthi rebels, giving only, you know, weapons to the Houthi rebels, putting them in the middle of civilization populations so civilian get killed - civilians get killed.

Look at what they're doing in Syria, look at what they're doing in Lebanon, look at what they're doing around Israel. It would be nice if they didn't do that anymore, but the idea that we are desperate for a military conflict from an unnamed official is ludicrous. But we do want the Iranians to stop ruining the Middle East like they're doing.

BERMAN: Well, let me ask you this. You were active military, or the Air Force National Guard, I believe, right? And thank you - very much for your service on that.


BERMAN: - very much for your service on that. But there are those who argue that the increased presence, U.S. presence, in the region, as well as the clear ratcheting up of the rhetoric might create the possibility, increase the possibility, of some kind of accident. Does that concern you?

KINZINGER: Yes. I mean, it sounds like some of that is a little bit of the blame America first crowd. I think us having a strong stand in the Middle East, frankly, makes armed conflict less likely because what it says is, Iran, if you try to close the straits, if you attack - by the way, a quarter of Americans killed in Iraq were killed by Iran either directly or indirectly through technology. So they have a history of going after -

BERMAN: You're talking about the Shia militias, correct?

KINZINGER: No - yes, I'm talking about the Shia militias and actually Iranian intelligence and Iranian EFT - EFPs, the explosive foreign penetrators in the IEDs that actually ended up leading to a loss of American life, which was Iranian technology that was exported to these militias.

So you know, all this, they obviously have a history of going after and killing Americans. So I think to actually go in with a position of strength, which I know is new in the last decade, to say, "If you touch us there's going to be a high cost," I think it actually makes military force much less likely.

BERMAN: Congressman Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, thanks for being with us this morning.

KINZINGER: Anytime. You bet, too. (ph).

CAMEROTA: OK, John we have a little breaking news right now because CNN has just learned that President Trump could unveil details of his new immigration plan as soon as tomorrow. We'll tell you what we know about that next.