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Hope Hicks Testimony on Capitol Hill Hits a Wall As White House Claims Wide Privilege; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is Interviewed About Hope Hicks' Testimony and White House Privilege Claim; Biden Fires Back At Booker; Sen. McConnell Denounces Reparations: "We've Elected An African-American President"; Prosecutor: David Ortiz Was Not The Intended Target In Murder-For-Hire Plot; President Trump's Florida Rally Full Of Familiar Themes, Falsehoods. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 19, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:20] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening. John Berman in for Anderson.

Democrats got a new look at an old game after Hope Hicks went to testify. Well, she went that much we know and as far as testifying goes, she claimed immunity for many of the questions, a rather spurious legal doctrine causing to executive privilege made all the more dubious as this isn't a White House counsel or senior advisor to the president making this claim, it's the former communications director.

Regardless, she wouldn't answer many questions. However, just to see how far her accompanying White House counsel intended to stretch this immunity theory, Democrats started asking her incredibly basic questions. For instance, where was your desk in the White House? Her lawyers objected.

Two sources also tell CNN she wouldn't answer a factual question from Democrats about whether or not war broke out in the Middle East during the Trump presidency. This perhaps is what President Trump meant today when he tweeted that Democrats are putting wonderful Hope Hicks through hell. Sounds awful.

Now, Hicks did answer one question about those white lies she testified to in a previous hearing that she would tell on behalf of the president. Multiple sources say she testified today that those lies were not about anything substantial.

Now, keeping them honest, a lot that went on today for the past few months bear some fact checking. For starters, not about anything substantial? When Hicks was the campaign spokesperson in 2016, she set up contacts with the Russians, it never happened. There was in communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.

Not so, according to the Mueller report. Quote: The investigation established multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the campaign. In some instances, the campaign was receptive to the offer.

And let's not forget when the campaign was asked days before the election whether they knew about a payment between the "National Enquirer" and Karen McDougal, Hicks told the "Wall Street Journal" we have no knowledge of this, also that any allegation of an affair was totally untrue. To steal a phrase, that's totally untrue.

Now, she might not have known about it but it wasn't true what she was saying.

Putting the truthfulness aside for a moment, none of this White House stonewalling should come as a surprise since last month we've seen immunity claims for Hicks and former chief counsel Don McGahn. We've also seen executive privilege games over documents pertaining to McGahn, the census and the Mueller report.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to turn over the president's tax returns to the Ways and Means Committee because he says the returns didn't fulfill a legitimate legislative purpose.

Now, all of these are dubious theories. Collectively, though, they do have one purpose, one that to this point is working very well for the president. Drag it out. Drag the whole process out as long as possible, preferably past November of next year.

Even if the Supreme Court said there is no absolute claim of executive privilege, and even if Democrats make the point that it's difficult for Hicks to claim immunity when she's already answered some of the same questions from Bob Mueller, doesn't matter. Drag it out. This from administration that claims it is the most transparent in history.

Just a short time ago, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler of New York, expressed his outrage at the answers or non- answers he got from Hope Hicks today. This is what he told CNN's Manu Raju.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): She answered some of our questions. We learned considerable information. The White House pleaded a non- existent absolute immunity and that will not stay.


BERMAN: More now on Hicks' testimony today.

Democratic Congressman Pramila Jayapal joins me. She sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

Congresswoman, thank you so much.

You called Hope Hicks' testimony such as it was a farce. Did you learn anything today?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, I called the hearing or the interview a farce because she had White House counsel, her own personal counsel, about six different lawyers there telling her that she could not answer anything, objecting to every single thing from, you know, answering a question about where she sat relative to the Oval Office.

Later, she was asked by the chairman, did you tell the truth to Robert Mueller? And they immediately said objection. Who objects to whether or not somebody is telling the truth to the special counsel?

[20:05:00] So this was clearly the White House trying to as you said in our opening comments, stymie the American people from getting information they deserve to have. We did not get a lot from Hope Hicks because of these executive -- you know, the absolute immunity claim. And you know what? One thing that was interesting, John, they did not claim executive privilege. They didn't claim executive privilege because they can't. They have already waived executive privilege.

And so, what they did is claimed this absolute immunity, which is absolutely farcical and they kept using that. But what we were able to do importantly is show the American people, as will be seen as the transcript is released, that the White House is blocking even a witness that would like to come and comply.

And let's just give Hope Hicks the benefit of the doubt. She was there. But, you know, the reality is that we weren't able to get a lot of information because the White House blocked it, ongoing obstruction of justice.

BERMAN: When the Chairman Jerry Nadler did say you get, quote, a lot of good information, do you know the information he was talking about there?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think that, you know, some of the -- she did start answering some questions around the campaign, and it may be that he's talking about a few pieces there. We obviously are trying to continue to piece things together.

We also had her read some of the very specific pieces in the Mueller report that talk about her involvement, the typing of the notes that were given to her by Corey Lewandowski. And as you remember, those notes were taken because the president said write this down. And this was in terms of a message to be delivered to Sessions, a speech he wanted Sessions to give basically even though Sessions recused himself from the investigation, he wanted Sessions to give a speech that said that Trump is a great guy and this is an unfair investigation that never should have happened.

He asked Corey Lewandowski to write down what he dictated and then Corey Lewandowski sometime later gave those notes over to Hope Hicks to type up and then to turnover to another individual and so, we had her read some of those passages and I think that's very important because again, she is claiming that she can't answer questions that she already answered to Robert Mueller and I think that is significant. BERMAN: Well, that of course, happened -- well, that happened when

she was in the White House. You had her read that out loud in the White House and she agreed to it?

JAYAPAL: She did read it out, because it was from the Mueller report.


JAYAPAL: So, she read the passages and, you know, she then refused to answer any questions because her lawyers objected, and so she didn't answer any questions about whether that was truthful testimony or anything like that. She did read it out.

BERMAN: That is interesting.

One of the things that Chairman Nadler said today is that he will destroy the immunity argument in court. I guess my question is when? When?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think you're going to see a number of things happening very quickly and I do think that the immunity argument is ludicrous. I think it will get destroyed. We just hope that it is destroyed extremely quickly.

So when we go to court and I do believe that will be very soon, we will then, you know, ask for the judge to rule quickly because obviously this is a critical issue, this is a crisis situation, and we have to be able to get the information that we seek.

BERMAN: Was there any rational given why she wouldn't answer where she sat in the White House?

JAYAPAL: It really was she will not answer anything about her time in the White House, and that includes by the way -- this was interesting. That includes at the end, not at the end but, you know, at certain points, we said after you left the White House what is your reaction now to what you experienced at the White House? In other words, how do you feel about it now?

She actually started to answer a question. This was about Corey Lewandowski and his behavior around this incident that I was describing. She started to say, well, it was odd. And then immediately, the White House lawyers objected and said she can't answer the question. So, she was shut down.

BERMAN: So, do you think -- were you given the impression there were questions that Hope Hicks wanted to answer that the White House would not let her answer?

JAYAPAL: I did get the sense that she would have probably answered many of those questions, but the White House clearly was engaged in on going obstruction of justice and instructing her not to answer and then she was following the instructions of her attorneys, both her personal attorneys but then also her White House attorneys. BERMAN: All right. Some interesting color. Congressman Jamila

Prayapal, thank you very much. Pramila Jayapal, I'm sorry for mangling the name there.

JAYAPAL: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you very much for being with us tonight. Appreciate it.

JAYAPAL: Thank you very much. Bye, bye.

BERMAN: All right. Democrats were upset after today's testimony. Ted Lieu of California said it was obstruction of justice in action. You just heard the congresswoman say the same thing.

For more perspective, let's turn to CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin, and Washington correspondent for "New York Magazine", Olivia Nuzzi, who did a profile story on Hope Hicks just before she left the White House in the spring of 2018.

Jeffrey, I just want to get your big picture take on what we saw or didn't see but at least heard about happening in that hearing room.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You remember on election night at the midterms, like the Democrats are retaking the House. They are going to be able to conduct all these investigations, and what do we know after six months? That the stonewalling has worked. None of these investigations have produced really anything of importance yet because at every step whether it's documents, witnesses, all sorts of different committees, the White House has refused to produce anything and the court fights by in large haven't even begun yet.

The strategy has been as you said drag it out but put it in the court system which is not set up on a political schedule. So, you know, the odds that there is a definitive decision on any of these issues, whether it's the tax returns or any of these documents or Hope Hicks or Don McGahn before the end of 2019, the odds are really remote, even though these claims are really bad on the part of the White House.

BERMAN: And I do want to get to the law in just a moment.

But, Olivia, I want to touch on something we heard from the congresswoman. She said she was left with the impression Hope Hicks would have answered some of these questions if not for the White House. In one case at the end there, Hope Hicks started answering a question before the White House counsel stepped in.

You've covered Hope Hicks at length. Do you get the sense that she would want to talk if given her rudders?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, I mean, I can't speak for her right, but I do think that if she's asked a question, you know, in a private setting, she's probably inclined to try to answer it like any person tries to answer a question or asked. But Donald Trump does not want that to happen because Hope Hicks is one of the closest aides to him, was one of the closest aides to him.

And it's not like a Dan Scavino or somebody like that. There is a difference with Hope Hicks. They were incredibly close. She was close with the family, with the Trumps. She worked with the Trump Organization.

She's been around for a very long time and for the record, her office if you walk outside of the Oval Office and you turn left, it was a few feet away. That's where her office was. And that proximity was incredibly important.

I mean, she was around for some of the most important decisions at all hours going on at that White House. So, it's no surprise -- obviously, Donald Trump does not want anybody answering questions but in particular because of how close and how perceptive Hope Hicks is as a human being, it doesn't surprise me that they really would not want her to answer even basic questions.

BERMAN: So, Jeffrey, to the law, it will take a long time and I know it will get dragged out. But when a judge does hear this case, what deciding who's right and who's wrong, what does the law say?

TOOBIN: Well, I think -- the argument there is some sort of absolute immunity, that the entire subject matter is off limits I think is a clear loser. I think Jerry Nadler was right about that.

The Supreme Court has never really defined the precise contours of executive privilege and what's off limits. It is true that there are certain conversations involving decision making on policy matters where the president is entitled to get advice and not have those conversations subject to congressional or other sorts of compulsive disclosure. However, there is also a lot that Congress is allowed to investigate.

And the idea that you can simply say no to everything is just clearly wrong, but the court process is Trump's allies because this will take months, the public's attention is fleeting, and these cases are often decided very much on the factual basis of each claim which could tie the process up even longer. So, you know, I think the stonewalling has been much more effective than I expected and I think many people expected.

BERMAN: Olivia, do you get the sense Hope Hicks views what the Democrats are doing or even views the whole Mueller affair in the same terms that the president does? Does she see this as a witch hunt?

NUZZI: I don't know the answer to that. She obviously has not spoken publicly at all. She has been especially private since moving to California after leaving the administration.

It seems like she's attempting to move on with her life and, obviously, the president in his tweet today defending her was trying to make it seem like this some kind of prolonged victimization. But, of course, she was a public official. Very powerful one at that, and I think that most would agree that's fairly ridiculous. But I don't know if she views it that way. By being there, she's

indicating that she at least thinks that it's credible, they have a reason to be doing this or a right to be doing this.

BERMAN: And, Jeffrey, one last question --

NUZZI: Everybody involved in this, everybody involved in this seems to have a real victim complex. We saw that last night at the Donald Trump's rally, right? He's still talking about it. They're attempting to campaign on it.

BERMAN: It seems to be one of his campaign planks, victimhood there.

Jeffrey --

NUZZI: One of the only ones.

BERMAN: Corey Lewandowski, he was brought up by Congresswoman Jayapal before. He didn't work in the White House, never. Does he have any claim of privilege or immunity? Why won't he -- why don't you think Democrats put him in front to ask questions?

TOOBIN: I mean, I think out of all the people whose names come up, Corey Lewandowski has the weakest claim to any sort of privilege. I don't see how there is anyway he can claim legitimately a privilege. But remember, by refusing to answer and throwing the matter in court, that's a win for the White House, even if they ultimately lose in court because the circus moves on and people's attention doesn't last.

So, even if he fights and loses, he's doing a service to Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Delay is a means to an end. Delay is in and of itself.

TOOBIN: Exactly.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, Olivia Nuzzi, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I appreciate it.

Still to come, we do have breaking news. Joe Biden just hit back at Cory Booker. We'll tell you what he said as the former vice president defends himself tonight about comments he made about two segregationist senators.

And a veteran White House journalist will join me. Sam Donaldson will discuss a dubious record set today, 100 days without a formal press briefing.


[20:20:45] BERMAN: We have breaking news on a back and forth that has broken up between Joe Biden and other Democrats, in particular, Cory Booker. Biden hitting back tonight after a Booker aide said that the senator was, quote, pissed off and disappointed by what Biden said last night. The fight began when Biden was at a fundraiser and the former vice

president cited two former segregationist senators as examples of colleagues he would work with in the Senate. He named Mississippi's James Eastland and Georgia's Herman Talmadge saying while he didn't agree with them on much, quote, at least there were some civility, unquote.

Booker objected and then just moments ago, as we were coming to air, Biden shot back, telling CNN exclusively he had nothing to apologize for.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Corey should apologize. He knows better. There's not a racist bone in my body. I've been involved in civil rights my whole career, period. Period, period.


BERMAN: Perspective now from David Gergen, an advisor to four presidents and a CNN senior political analyst. And CNN political director David Chalian whom I spoke about this with just before air.


BERMAN: So, David Chalian, these comments from Vice President Biden, how big of a problem are they?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Here is the problem. Clearly, they are providing an opportunity for opponents to take shots at him, and clearly, he has caused concern in some quarters of the party and my guess is he's going to need to address that job. But here is the larger problem, I think this feeds once again into what could be the most troubling narrative for Joe Biden, which is that he's of another time and he's out of step with where the modern day Democratic Party is.

We saw this over the issue of the Hyde Amendment. I think, you know, trying to tell your time of the '70s of your days in the Senate to make a point trying to make today about the leader you want to be is not necessarily the most relevant way to get to people and I just think it exacerbates that question over the Biden candidacy.

BERMAN: It highlights his age. I mean, this is about people he knew and worked with in the 1970s before some of the Democratic presidential candidates were born.

David Gergen, the other side of this is that Joe Biden wants to lean on his experience. He wants to lean on his ability to reach across the aisle, although in this case, he was dealing with Democrats, and he's a Democrat here.

But in terms of trying to have it both ways, can he have it both ways?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's a darn good question, John. I don't think you can have it both ways. I understand why he wants to celebrate his experience but he's going to turn it into a liability if he keeps talking this way.

I think David Chalian is onto the right general point and that is from my perspective, the real issue here is that he seems to be looking at the world through a lens that was created back in the early 1990s and so, he interpret things in a different way than what most other people do, especially younger people do today.

It may well be we're working with a couple of segregations that got bills passed, but a lot of young people today don't think you ought to celebrate that. You shouldn't celebrate segregationist. You should oppose them and I think he missed that, he missed that in his comments.

BERMAN: David Chalian, I want to ask you about the new Monmouth University poll which shows Joe Biden, by the way, out in the lead. But it does show Senator Elizabeth Warren we've seen again and again in the polls vaulting up into this clear second tier either tied with or slightly ahead of Bernie Sanders.

What's behind this war and momentum? And who should be concerned about it? Which other candidates should be concerned about it?

CHALIAN: Well, Bernie Sanders should be concerned. There's little doubt. You're right. I mean, that's a tie there, 15 percent to 14 percent between the two of them.

But they are fighting over a swath of territory that involves a lot of the same voters, right? I mean, we saw in our Iowa poll, John, that among Sanders' supporters in that Iowa poll, Elizabeth Warren was the second choice for a third of them. That's a big chunk.

So, we do see them fighting over similar turf and by the way, Bernie Sanders is taking notice also if you noted today, he used the opportunity where the Democratic centrists group Third Way made nice comments about Elizabeth Warren to say, whoa, I'm the only non- corporate-backed Democrat in this field now.

[20:25:04] So, he is definitely starting to find ways to differentiate himself from Elizabeth Warren.

BERMAN: You know, and, David Gergen, we should point out in these polls, and there have been two out today, that Vice President Biden is still over 30 percent, still clearly in the lead. But again at the Elizabeth Warren narrative, when people say oh, the reason she's on the rise is because she's highlighting policy, that's a heck of a thing to be people labeling you with. In a good way.

GERGEN: I think that's right. The problem increasingly may be for Joe Biden that he doesn't seem to have any kind of fresh policies in the way she does and at some point, he's going to have to produce that and excite people with where he's going.

Let me say this about Joe overall -- as long as there are four or five candidates in the race in the top tier in the Democratic side, and Joe Biden has 30, and the other four have to divide up what's left, he's in good shape. BERMAN: Yes.

GERGEN: It is -- if Elizabeth Warren passes Bernie and this become as two-person race, it could be much more challenging for him.

BERMAN: That's very true. In Iowa and New Hampshire, it's even more true as more states vote, and these delegates get a portion, that people don't get a 50 percent, that becomes a real advantage for a front runner like Joe Biden.

Last question, David Chalian, to you these debates -- according to this new poll, some 86 percent of Democratic voters said that the debates will be important in determining who they will support. It's obviously a high number. So, regardless of where things stand right now, they could easily shift once the debates begin, correct?

CHALIAN: Absolutely. There are going to be six debates this calendar year. Six more once the voting begins next year the way the DNC set this up. There is little doubt in my mind, John, that when we gather for a conversation in December, after Democrats have seen six debates with those folks, they'll be in a different place about this race than they are today.

BERMAN: Well, I look forward to many conversations before then, David. I'm not waiting until December.

David Chalian, David Gergen, thanks for being with us.

CHALIAN: Thanks.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. One important note as this back and forth between Cory Booker and Joe Biden continues, CNN will have Cory Booker on "CNN TONIGHT" later tonight with Don Lemon. Be sure to watch that.

Meantime, a congressional hearing over reparations for African- Americans has produced some outrage, not so much over Republicans inside the committee said but what Mitch McConnell said outside of it.


[20:31:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, on the day celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the old confederacy, a day called Juneteenth, we saw an historic first in Congress, a committee hearing dedicated the legislation that would study the topic of reparations for African-Americans.

Republicans and their objections to reparations produced some tense moments, but nothing like the fallout from what happened when Republican Senator Mitch McConnell was asked a question, Tuesday. He said he was against reparations, but it's his rational that is drawn the most fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea. We, you know, tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We elected an African-American president.


BERMAN: Joining me now is Charles Blow, a CNN Political Commentator and op-ed columnist for "The New York Times," also Rick Santorum, a CNN Senior Political Commentator and a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania.

Charles, I want to start with you. There are two things that went on here. There's McConnell's comment about President Obama and then there's the discussions on reparations. Can I talk to you about McConnell first, though?

First of all, President Obama not descended from slaves. His father was Kenyan. His mother, you know, was Caucasian. And also, Mitch McConnell should be noted as soon as Barack Obama was inaugurated said he was going to dedicate, you know, his job to making sure he didn't get reelected. But what do you make of the Obama justification there?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Obama has nothing to do with reparations. I mean, you can't look at what you may consider to be racial progress and say that that has something to do with -- whether or not we are going to repair the sin, whether or not we're going to deal with the harm that actually (ph) done.

I mean, millions of people, black people, died either enslaved or because they were enslaved or killed, right? We were a slaved country for 100 years longer than we have now been a country free of slaves. This is not a thing that happened 150 years ago. This is a thing that happened for 250 years in America, right?

And there is death, there is torture, there is terror. There is also 250 years of millions of people giving labor for which they were never compensated. It made America a rich country and it made people in America very rich. And even if you're descended from somebody who was not a slave owner, the whole society benefited.

If I was rich, I could build a school, I could build a hospital, I could donate to the local cultural institutions and events. It made the society richer. Everybody other than the slaves benefited from the institution of slavery. It has nothing to do with Barack Obama. It has nothing to do.

Even, he said, you know, the civil war, you know, half the country fought to keep slavery and if they had one, we'd still have it presumably. He says the civil rights movement. Well, half of the people in this country did not want that to happen, particularly in the south. People died to get that. I don't understand this -- I mean, I think it's just -- this is, you know, kind of a self-delusion or something of being intentionally obtuse.

BERMAN: Senator, can I get your take on that?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think being critical with Mitch McConnell for simply recognizing that America has made tremendous progress since the days of slavery is -- I think is pretty harsh. I think -- I don't think he meant anything other than the fact that progress has been made.

To the point that the Mr. Blow was making, yes, clearly slavery is the original sin of American that did occur for a couple hundred years and it caused a horrific harm, but it still was 150 years ago, and so that's just the fact.

[20:35:16] I think the comments that he's making are very compelling comments and maybe 150 years ago the Congress should have had a hearing on this and actually seriously considered whether there was something that should have been done to deal with the harm that had occurred to the people who were -- who actually experienced the harm.

But it's really curious to me because you said it, John, this is the first year when we've had on this issue in the history of the Congress. Why now? What's going on in the discourse in America that we now look back for something that clearly was horrific? I mean, you know, your comments, Charles, were riveting. But why now? Why are we having this conversation now?

What's going on politically within the Democratic Party, because that's where this is being -- this is (INAUDIBLE) from that this is an issue now that has some sense of urgency and that I think is the question that needs to be answered.

BLOW: Let me say this. There's two problems with that, right? People keep saying it was 150 years ago. No, it didn't. We kept a kind of quasi slavery long after actual slavery was eliminated, right?

We built into the 13th Amendment the clause that says you cannot be forced to give voluntarily labor unless you are convicted of a crime, which is a backdoor that allowed southern states to basically accuse black people, even children of all sorts of crimes and to put them in a system and will call convict leasing where they would lease out these bodies, again, free labor to farmers, to industry, to anybody. This happened until the 1930s, right?

We built -- we allowed reconstruction to fail and we pulled federal troops out of the south. We knew exactly what was going to happen when that happened. And right after it did, states started with Mississippi in 1890 rush in, call constitutional conventions and they are not shy about it at all. They say we are here to white supremacy into the DNA of the states. And every southern states then follows Mississippi and they write white supremacy.

Those constitutions that -- they never had new constitutional conventions and those laws exist until the 1960s. The idea that we are just talking about total (ph) slavery is false. The idea that all of the injury was happened in the 150 years ago is false. And we have to get our heads around what we did and how much we benefited from that and how much of those tax dollars that we had that black people were paying our system were not being used at all. Their schools were underfunded. Their neighborhoods weren't.

I grew up in one of these segregated neighborhoods. I watched my neighbor's house burn out because there was one fire hydrant in the entire black neighborhood and they -- by the time they got that water from that fire hydrant, that house has burned to the ground.

BERMAN: All right. We are going to talk more about this. What we're going to do, Senator Santorum, in you can, hold your next thought. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, I'm going to ask you to respond.


[20:42:00] BERMAN: Reparations, they are a volatile topic on Capitol Hill today. Congress finally discussing what a -- assessing a bill that would allow a study of the topic. A hearing, this hearing has been in the works for some 30 years.

Back with us to discuss now, Charles Blow and former Senator Rick Santorum. And Senator, this was a hearing to talk about studying reparations. It wasn't coming up necessarily with solutions, just saying it's something that should be studied. Do you think that is worthwhile?

SANTORUM: Look, again, Charles makes some very compelling arguments about the message of slavery continuing on until the 1930s and into some degree to the 1960s. We're still talking 90 and 60 years ago, number one. And number two, he says that the whole country benefited from this area of the country, the south, having these slavery and post slavery repressive actions.

Well, if the whole country benefited, then that would mean that those blacks who didn't live in the south benefited, too. So, should they be paying reparations to other blacks who happen to be descendants from families from those areas? I mean, this gets into a very convoluted subject when you look back and try to fix what happened in the past instead of trying to look forward and try to create opportunities for people in the future.

And that's really what I think -- you listen to Tim Scott and many others who have commented on this and the focus should be going forward, what are we going to do to create opportunities and create equality in this country as opposed to trying to look back and punish some and reward others? And it may or may not be connected to anything that -- any harm that was done to them individually.

BERMAN: So that there were two arguments you were bringing up there. One is that it's logistically hard, which is something that we heard today and that you do hear in this discussion, Charles.

And the other is an argument Coleman-Jones made today who said -- he's a columnist who testifies against reparations. He said, 'There's a difference between acknowledging history and allowing it to district us from the problems of today." So to those two issues, how would you respond? BLOW: Well, I don't know how you separate problems of today, right? So, my mother is in her late 70s, right? And so the idea that people were denied opportunity, jobs, access, that's her life. That's not some like distant life. That's my mom, right? I have people in my -- I know three of my great grandfathers. All three of them had land that was I think thought they owned, didn't, was swindled or taken from them in some sort of way after they worked for it.

Thought they had paid on it or was a sharecropper but raise enough money wasn't good enough for farmer, raised enough money to buy it outright and then they put what they called the bad white man on them, they can shoot through the house. What is being lost in this is a whole structure that was designed to prevent the accrual and transference of wealth and inner generational wealth.

[20:45:01] So when people say, oh, well, let's work -- let's start now at zero. Well, we can't start at zero because you've had -- your family has had since they arrived here the chance to accrue and transfer in generational wealth, which is something that was denied to mine. And whether or not -- and they had nothing, whatsoever, to do with how hard they worked.

BERMAN: What do you say to those who say, well, how do we figure out who to pay if we're going to pay reparations?

BLOW: I mean, we are -- we can't figure this out. I mean, there are census records. Now we have, you know, DNA possibilities. There's all kinds of ways to deal with that. And I'm sure if they are allowed to study this, they'll figure out easy ways to deal with that.

I think those are just road blocks that people are putting up. America is, I believe, at its core allergic to the concept that we would do something that would benefit black people and would be an I'm sorry on this issue. I think it makes people queasy and upset and angry when they think that we would pay for that sin.

BERMAN: Rick, we got about 20 seconds left.

SANTORUM: Well, I don't think that's the reason that -- I think people recognize the sin and certainly feel -- obviously not anywhere near what you feel, but certainly feel that sin as sustain on this country.

But I do believe that people want to look at creating a system for everybody and particularly those who have been harmed in the past to have an opportunity in the future as opposed to picking out certain people to be given benefits. I just think that that in itself seems to be, you know, a bridge too far for most Americans, looking forward instead of looking back.

BERMAN: Senator Rick Santorum, Charles Blow, thank you for the discussion. I really do appreciate it.

SANTORUM: You bet.

BERMAN: Still ahead, the top prosecutor in the Dominican Republic reveals stunning new details in the shooting attack that left Red Sox legend David Ortiz fighting for his life. Was he the intended target? What the authorities are saying tonight and frankly, do you believe them? That's next.


[20:51:14] BERMAN: All right, Red Sox legend David Ortiz was not the intended target of a murder for hire plot and was accidentally shot at a bar in the Dominican Republic earlier this month, that's according to the attorney general for the Caribbean nation who says the target was one of Ortiz's friends who was sharing a table with him and was not wounded. Both men were wearing similar colored pants.

The top prosecutor has also revealed that the master mind of the attack was Victor Hugo Gomez who lives in the United States. Gomez has alleged ties to Mexican drug cartel and is wanted by the DEA. David Ortiz' wife said, Tuesday, that her husband had been upgraded from serious to good intention. He remains in intensive care at a Boston hospital.

Chris Cuomo joins me now. Chris, I do have to say, I'm listening to what we're hearing from the officials down there, but it's a tough sell. David Ortiz, it's hard to mistake him for someone else and particularly in the Dominican Republic where he is an even bigger deal than he is in Boston.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Huge star, readily identifiable, physically distinct. We have to know what the friend is in terms of his physicality and see if there is any match up. The best fact for this guy is that Ortiz was shot in the back so he would say I didn't get to see him. But, it doesn't make it OK if you shot the wrong guy. This was an obvious hit.

The play on his part would be to try to curry some sympathy because shooting David Ortiz who is a national treasure might be regarded differently by the system there than if it were some, you know, body with curious connections to bad people. But under the law, you don't get a free pass because it's not who you wanted to shoot.

BERMAN: You've got a big show, Chris. Very quickly.

CUOMO: I do. That is a correct assessment, J.B. We have Senator Bernie Sanders on tonight. Here's the challenge for me with him. I don't want to get too deep on policy, because at the end of the day politics is about raw persuasion. How does Bernie Sanders beat Trump? Let's see if we can talk politics.

BERMAN: Excellent. Chris Cuomo, thank you very much. "Chris Cuomo Prime Time" raw, coming up.

President Trump formally launched his 2020 presidential bid last night with the full throat of campaign rally in Florida. We're keeping them honest in what he said in a conversation with legendary newsman, Sam Donaldson.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:56:58] BERMAN: At least 15 lies told during the President's reelection launch rally, no chance to question the White House about them because we're now at 100 days without a formal press briefing.

Earlier, I spoke about all of this with legendary former White House Correspondent and ABC News anchor, Sam Donaldson.


BERMAN: Sam, the fact that this was the President's announcement speech, the kickoff and there were so many falsehoods in it, what does it tell you about what the next year and a half will be like?

SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Well, you know, there's an old saying, never quit a winning game. The opposite is true, quit a losing game. But he seems to say to himself, I won in 2016, I'm going to double down, I'm going to play to my base, immigration. It's going to terrible. I'm going to make all of these things that I say happen, maybe, and I'll get regretted. And he's foolish about that. He can't get reelected on that platform.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting because if you wanted to press the White House on any of the things he said in the announcements, things that weren't true, you wouldn't be able to do it in a press briefing because there hasn't been one in a hundred days. What's you view of that?

DONALDSON: Well, there may not be another one, who knows? Mr. Trump wants to be his own press secretary. He wants to tweet in the morning, watch Fox and Friends, change policy because of it, maybe, and go about his business. Gaggle once in a while in the driveway, reporters can't follow up, reporters can't really (INAUDIBLE) with questions and get on his helicopter.

He may have another press secretary, but if so, we know who it's going to be. And you say, Sam, you know the name? No, I don't know the name. Can you see Donald Trump in his Oval Office with someone that he says to that person, look, go out there, dodge and weave if you want, put me in the best light naturally, but don't lie. Are you kidding?

To say to someone that he wants as a press secretary don't lie is like saying to a 500-pound man saying to somebody, I don't want you to have another dish of ice cream. I mean, we're going to have a press secretary who's going to follow the Sarah Sanders, Sean Spicer lie.

BERMAN: Well, speaking of Sarah Sanders, she was at this event last night at this kickoff rally. The President called her up onto the stage. I want to play some of that for you.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A woman who has been so good, so talented, so wonderful and we're sort of going to be losing -- I have a feeling she's going to be running for a certain gubernatorial position. SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. President. This has been truly the honor of a lifetime. One of the most incredible experiences anybody could ever imagine and that's because I've had the chance to be on the front row of history and watch you drastically change our country for the better.


BERMAN: So, Sam, she may have been in the front row, but it wasn't in the front row of the Brady briefing room because there haven't been press briefings, not for 100 days, just seven in the last 300 days. You spent so much time in there. You've asked so many questions to press secretaries. What is lost by the absence of them?

DONALDSON: We lost the give and take of a press secretary having to come clean whenever he or she can. When they can't, they can say no comment.

BERMAN: Sam Donaldson, the relentless pursuit of the truth, thank you for being with us tonight. I appreciate it.

DONALDSON: My pleasure.


BERMAN: The news continues, so I hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now.