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Trump Administration Reverses Course On Census Citizenship Question; "Living Far Better Now Than Where They Came From; President Candidate Julian Castro Is Interviewed About The Migrant Conditions; President Trump's 4th Of July: Tanks, Troops, Flyovers; Military Chiefs Concerned About Politicization Of President Trump's July 4th Event; Senator Kamala Harris Stumps In Iowa On Independence Day-Eve; South Carolina Voters On Race And 2020. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 3, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with breaking news to report on the citizenship question the president appears determined to keep on the 2020 census. Now, yesterday, it was definitely off the upcoming census, but now the president says it's going back on, maybe. Even the Justice Department attorneys who are arguing with a Maryland federal judge today, they didn't sound sure.

However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi today told House Democrats in a letter today that, no matter what happens, if the president does try, they may hold the administration, quote, in contempt of Congress on the census. Originally, the administration said it needed this question to safeguard the Voting Rights Act.

Keeping them honest, e-mails between the Justice Department and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross undercut that narrative. Last week, the Supreme Court called their backstory contrived. However, the court left open a narrow window to add the question. They just needed to come up with a better backstory and by Monday, not next Monday, the one two days ago.

You see, unlike subpoenas for tax returns, the census isn't something the administration can hold up. So, on Tuesday, both Commerce and Justice said, all right, it's over, there will be no question about citizenship on the census.

And thus, the saga seemed to be over, until this morning when President Trump tweeted this, quote: The news reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the citizenship question on the census is incorrect, or to state it differently, fake. We're absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.

Now, as I said, this has come as a complete surprise to everyone, including the government's own attorneys. One told a Maryland federal judge this afternoon during a teleconference -- and I quote -- I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture, other than what the president has tweeted. A different justice attorney did say, quote: There may be a legally available path under the Supreme Court's decision, and that they had been instructed to go to the Supreme Court if they find it. However, that first attorney, quote, confirmed the census is still being printed without the question.

Now, at one point, the judge, who wants a more definitive answer from the government attorneys by 2:00 p.m. Friday, lashed out at the president's itchy Twitter finger. He told the government's attorneys, quote: If you were Facebook and an attorney for Facebook told me one thing and then I read a press release from Mark Zuckerberg telling me something else, I would be demanding that Mark Zuckerberg appear in court with you the next time, because I would be saying, I don't think you speak for your client anymore.

One of the attorneys representing the people who brought this suit suggested there is a point to all of this chaos, quote: The president's tweet has some of the same effects that the addition of the question would have. It leaves the immigrant communities to believe that the government is still after information that could endanger them.

In other words, this person's opinion, no matter what the final decision is, the damage to the credibility of the census, that may already have been done.

Joining me now is Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst and former prosecutor, Maggie Haberman, political analyst and White House correspondent for Maggie times -- from Maggie times -- "The New York Times." You're in it so much it seems like the Maggie times.

Can you explain, Maggie, what is going on here?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, and neither could -- I'm in the same position -- I mean, yes, I can. But frankly, what the DOJ attorney said is where things are.

COOPER: Right, fact that the Department of Justice attorney says to the judge, well, beyond -- I have no idea what's going on except for what the president just tweeted.

HABERMAN: Yes, your understanding's as good as mine, judge, is essentially what that lawyer was saying.

What I have heard from people inside the administration throughout the day is the president, for whatever reason, either did not accept or did not fully understand what his staff was saying about not going forward with this, saw news conference, reacted to it, tweeting they're going ahead, has been talking all day about how they're going to try to find some way to move ahead with this, whether it was drafting some kind of executive order or whether it was having -- he told some people he would have the question added to the census, even though the questionnaires are being printed without this question.

So, it's not clear exactly what he's talking about, but he is determined to find a way ahead. I did hear from people inside the administration making the very point that was made a second ago about how, you know, this is going to serve the same purpose that that question would have --

COOPER: Right, it's going to scare people who are undocumented from participating in the census.

HABERMAN: Correct. And there are people around the president who are well aware of that.

COOPER: And also, it seems to serve another purpose for the president just politically, which is, even if he loses on it, it goes nowhere, he can say, you know, I championed this, I fought for this, and these, you know, politically correct census bureaucrats wouldn't do it.

HABERMAN: Correct, and we've seen him say this a number of times. Also he's frustrated with Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. He's been frustrated with Wilbur Ross at various points over the last year. I don't think Wilbur Ross is going anywhere, but again, he would point to people on his staff disappointing him, as we've seen over and over.

COOPER: Wilbur Ross has those slippers, though, etched with the commerce seal.

[20:05:01] HABERMAN: I don't think that will --

COOPER: That's not going to do it?

HABERMAN: I don't think it will reverse the president's feelings about this.

COOPER: Jeff, I mean, from a legal standpoint, is this done?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, first of all from a legal standpoint, it's important to point out how surreal all of this is, because you know, the United States government often takes positions in court, and there's something called the interagency process, where it is worked out what the position of the United States is.

COOPER: That sounds so boring.

TOOBIN: It is so boring, except the Department of Justice can only have one position in court. I mean, you know, it makes --

COOPER: That's in the olden days.

TOOBIN: That's the olden days. But what's obvious, if you read the transcript, is that there was an interagency process, and the Commerce Department and the Justice Department agreed that they were throwing in the towel. I mean, they said that in court. And the idea that the president says it's fake -- it's his own government that said that.

HABERMAN: Wilbur Ross said it publicly, too.

TOOBIN: Right.

HABERMAN: This is across the board, this is what was happening.

TOOBIN: Right. And so, then this tweet comes out of left field, and you know, as a former government lawyer, I really felt for the lawyers, and at the lawyers are like, I don't know. You know, I mean, we don't know where things stand at this point.

And you know, it is possible -- I thought there was some root to the back to the Supreme Court to try to get the census question back on, but the Justice Department obviously thought that was not the case. And what makes this even more bizarre is that if you look at what the president is saying and has been saying about the census, his justification is not the justification that the government has offered.

The one that Chief Justice Roberts said was a pretext, was phony. The real one is discriminatory, as the president is acknowledging. So, I don't know where this goes from here.

COOPER: So what you seem to be saying is that the president has said this is a fake story, but that's actually not true. Is that what you're saying, that the president is actually not telling the truth about something being fake? Wow.

TOOBIN: I know.

COOPER: Wow. But I mean, this is -- you know, a lot of people's eyes glaze over when they talk about the census. The census is very important. I mean, the census determines where funds go, where money goes to local governments, to state governments. It determines representation in our government.

TOOBIN: Well, and -- yes. I mean, you know, it decides how many members of Congress members there are from each state and how many state legislatures are also divided up. And what makes this sinister and what makes the reason for this lawsuit is that it has appeared from the very beginning, is that the Trump administration wants fewer people of color counted so that they don't get resources from the government and they are not represented in the government.

So, it does sound boring. It does sound technical, but this is about discrimination against people of color, period.

COOPER: And just -- Maggie, to reiterate what you're hearing from people around the president or in the administration or supporters -- it may have that impact, even if that question is not on the census. It just has a chilling effect among particularly people of color, if they worry that they're going to be asked about or that this is somehow secretly the government is trying to figure out are they documented or not.

HABERMAN: Not everybody in the government will say that, but there certainly are some people in the administration who will acknowledge that this will very likely have the exact same effect, or if not the exact same, certainly a similar effect that having the question on in the first place would, which is chilling response to this, making people concerned about participating. It creates underrepresentation to the type that Jeffrey's talking about, without actually having the question on it.

Anyway, I don't think that the president himself is necessarily planning for that. I think it's more what you were saying before, where he says look, I championed this, I'm going to go ahead with this, I don't like quitting. But at the end of the day, the net effect maybe close to the same.

COOPER: It isn't funny, but it is a joke that we are now living in a world where you just have to disregard what the president of the United States says. I mean, the levers of government will basically just have to disregard -- people just disregard it.


TOOBIN: But -- go ahead. I'm sorry.

HABERMAN: The DOJ lawyers are in court saying, actually, we're trying to deal with this. I'm not sure they're disregarding it. I think if any, this is one of the times where you're seeing -- we have often seen in the last two years the president is at odds with his administration on any number of issues, but they have found a way to kind of spackle that and you don't really see it. They find a way to paper over it.

This is happening in real-time where you have government lawyers saying I don't know what he's talking about and we're trying to deal with it.

COOPER: Well, they're going to have a great Fourth of July, because they're going to be in court and writing papers in their offices.

TOOBIN: They'll miss the tanks.

COOPER: Yes. Well, you know, they may stick around for the tanks, who knows?

Jeff Toobin, Maggie, thanks. Stay with us. Maggie has more reporting, including on tomorrow's presidential military event.

And next, a pediatrician inside migrant detention facilities and what she says the people responsible are not doing while kids suffer.

[20:10:08] We're keeping them honest.

And later, what African-American voters in the key primary state of South Carolina make of Senator Kamala Harris. What appears to be a whole new primary race.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: The president of the United States has a message tonight for migrant children and others in overcrowded border detention centers and everyone who's concerned about them -- many of these illegals -- aliens -- are living far better now than where they came from and in far safer conditions. That's what the president tweeted earlier.

Now, you might say, well, at least he seems to be acknowledging that many of these human beings in detention fled from unsafe conditions in their homes, in their home countries. What he actually means, of course, is, quit complaining.

[20:15:01] And to the kids in cages without soap or toothbrushes or any clear idea of what's going to happen to them or if they're going to see their families again, seems like the message from the president's basically, kids, suck it up, it's not that bad.

Now, keeping them honest, we should underscore that custody means "in care of," not just detained by. Custody implies responsibility, accountability, and a duty to care. It also should be pointed out that not only do these reports of substandard conditions come from lawmakers visiting the detention centers, not only do they come from pediatricians, one of whom you'll meet in a moment, they also come from the Department of Homeland Security's own inspector general's office and from a veteran CBP agent who compares conditions to a zoo.

This agent spoke to CNN's Nick Valencia on condition of anonymity and was clearly haunted by the reality of what so many people are only now just learning about.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I feel like, you know, multiple times during our interview, you've sort of stared off in the distance and you've thought about some things that you've seen. I mean, it seems as though there are things that you might take home with you.


VALENCIA: Like what?


VALENCIA: What about the kids?

ANONYMOUS BORDER AGENT: You know, they just want hope. They want to believe in something. They want a future.


COOPER: Well, today, we got a look into some of those kids' lives. The pictures you're seeing were drawn last week by three children, ages 10 and 11, at a Catholic Charities Center in McAllen, Texas, after being released by Customs and Border Protection.

The staff at the center asked the kids to depict their time in custody and the social worker gave the drawings to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which gave them to CNN. They show cages or bars with unhappy looking figures inside. Some of them show people outside the cages staring at them. Appears to be kids sleeping on the floor, and sadly, they're not just silent testimony to what it's like to be a child in detention, they also represent the memories these kids may always carry with them of overcrowding and disease and lack of drinking water and shortage of medical care.

The president tweeted, quote: If illegal immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detention centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!

So, that was about 45 minutes after a string of other tweets that began -- and again, I'm quoting from the president: Our Border Patrol people are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses. Many of these illegals, aliens, are living far better now than where they came from and in far safer conditions. No matter how good things actually look, even if perfect, the Democrat visitors will act shocked and aghast at how terrible things are.

The president's words, as we all get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Now, we mentioned that DHS inspector general report. Take a look at these photos, because these photos are from the DHS report. These photos are from the government, and this report describes dangerous overcrowding, standing room only in places, children packed side by side on the floor with no space between them, unsanitary conditions.

And I'm quoting now from the inspector general, the Department of Homeland Security, I'm quoting: Most single adults had not had a shower in CBP custody, despite several being held for as long as a month. At some facilities, Border Patrol was giving detainees wet wipes to maintain personal hygiene. Wet wipes.

Again, that's not coming from partisan politicians or activists or anyone with preconceptions or axes to grind. That's a direct quote from the inspector general's office at the president's own Department of Homeland Security.

And the report is not titled, as the president suggests, illegals: they've never had it so good. The actual title is -- listen to this -- Management alert: DHS needs to address dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande valley.

That's due in no small part to the influx of asylum seekers from Central American countries where conditions are certainly bad, but the Trump administration policy has also played a big role. Instead of finding ways to process more asylum seekers, bring more judges on, the administration has taken steps to make it harder for them -- longer waits, less chance of actually getting asylum. When death row inmates in federal prisons get better medical care than a 5-year-old in a federal detention facility, when prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention get better toiletries, when conditions are bad enough for a senior manager at a border facility to call it, quote, a ticking time bomb, there is a simple humanitarian problem.

It has nothing to do with the complexities of what ought to be done about immigration and asylum and partisan politics or building a wall. This is in the end about human beings and how we treat them.

Joining us, Dr. Colleen Kraft, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which we have mentioned, obtained those drawings you just saw a moment from those three migrant kids.

Dr. Kraft, when you see these drawings as a professional, what do you see?

[20:20:02] What do they tell you about what these kids are going through?

COLLEEN KRAFT, FORMER PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: Well, Anderson, we use art therapy as a way to help out kids who have been through traumatic experiences. And kids will draw what they see, and they draw what scares them, and they draw you the reality of what's happened in their lives.

So, this really gives a very distinct picture of what these kids have been going through.

COOPER: So kids at that age -- 10, 11 is the age of these kids, I believe it was -- they can't necessarily express their feelings, but they can draw them out?

KRAFT: Absolutely. Even younger kids can draw out their feelings, and they can, depending on their own skill and artwork, can really put forth some very powerful images.

COOPER: You know, there's a lot of people who see this and say, look, kids are resilient. Kids go through bad things all the time and they're able to bounce back, they're resilient.

Is that the case here? I mean, does this really have some sort of long-lasting impact on a child, being detained in a cage with lots of other people, not knowing where your parent is?

KRAFT: So, you ask a really very important and fundamental scientific question. What we know is that different types of stress affect the brain and can cause resilience or can cause trauma. So, what these kids are experiencing is something called toxic stress, and that is unmitigated cortisol, fight-or-flight hormones, the types of hormones that actually disrupt brain development.

And for a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old, they're just beginning to develop their frontal lobe, their executive function, their ability to work through complex problems, and their basic mental health. And so, this can lead to a lot of trouble in learning and to mental health problems.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting, because in adults, you know, if you're a marine and you go through an incredibly traumatic experience overseas, you may end up with post-traumatic stress disorder, and goodness knows we've certainly seen people with that. And if you, whether you've seen loved ones die or you've -- just, whatever the traumatic experience is, it can affect an adult for the rest of their life.

You're saying kids' brains are still developing, so does it have more of an impact or -- I mean, you're -- essentially, it sounds like what you're saying is this experience could be, you know, traumatic enough that it stays with a kid or changes the course of their life.

KRAFT: You're absolutely right. So, we know that a traumatic experience for a child -- if that child is with an adult who can provide safety and security, they often will become resilient. But when children go through these traumatic experiences alone, that is when toxic stress can affect their brain development and cause post- traumatic stress disorder as well as other mental health and learning problems.

COOPER: The American Academy of Pediatrics worked with Customs and Border Patrol, I understand, on a series of recommendations intended to help the children in these shelters. Can you just walk us through what those recommendations were as well as, you know, tell us, were they actually implemented?

KRAFT: So, we recommended that there be pediatric expertise to train and monitor the health care workers at the border and that we have unfettered access to the centers to look at the conditions, advise on the conditions, and keep a check on the health and safety of children. One of the things that did happen was that the American Academy of Pediatrics was asked to put together a training videotape for the Customs and Border Protection medical workers, and we did that. And that is part of their training.

But we're asking for more. Pediatricians need to be there in these centers taking care of these children, monitoring the conditions and training the personnel who work day to day with these kids.

COOPER: And that's not happening?

KRAFT: That hasn't happened.

COOPER: So, they're not allowing pediatricians, doctors, in the centers full time to help the kids and help train people?

KRAFT: They have not. We have worked with them, and they recently had a group of our leadership go down and tour one of the centers, and that's where these drawings came from.


KRAFT: But we're not on the ground taking care of the kids or training the people who are.


KRAFT: And we need to be there.

COOPER: Dr. Kraft, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

I turn next to the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Julian Castro. He's also former HUD secretary and currently Democratic presidential candidate.

Secretary Castro, you just heard what Dr. Kraft said. Does it make any sense that the administration would not take all of the recommendations and not have pediatricians, you know, available for these kids full time, if they're willing to go? It seems nuts.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it absolutely does. Just like the other day when we found out that a lot of these kids are not being given something as basic as soap or a toothbrush, even though a few months ago the president had found, all of a sudden out of nowhere, an extra $1 billion that he wants to put toward a wall, but now they're saying that these little children can't have soap or toothbrushes.

[20:25:04] None of it makes sense. And this comes from a dark heart of cruelty of this president and the administration.

And so, folks might wonder, what can we do right now? Folks can support organizations that are representing families tied up in this entire process, but ultimately, we need to end the detention of these children and these families.

But right now, the government could invest more in making sure that they locate family members. Because remember, a lot of these children have family members that live in the United States somewhere. They can locate the family members and vet them a lot more quickly to place them with those family members so they're not staying so long in these facilities.

COOPER: In terms of the president today saying that migrants in custody, quote, are living far better now than where they came from, I'm wondering what went through your mind when you heard that?

CASTRO: That's not America. Think about throughout the generations. Think about what this president is saying.

A lot of these migrants are from Central America, but if we went back in our history, these folks are fleeing desperate circumstances. That's the same with people who were fleeing a famine in Ireland or fleeing danger in Europe during World War II or Cubans who were fleeing the Castro regime.

People are fleeing desperate circumstances, and this country has been at its greatest when it welcomes them in. And he always talks about, you know, trying to make America great again. I guess what he's talking about is going backward.

Well, what they did in the past was that we had this checkered history of how we treated people that were trying to come here, but when they got here, those waves of immigrants made this country stronger and stronger and made it the special nation that it is, and those little children and their parents are no different, no different with the same hopes, the same dreams, the same ambition. And also, they look at America the same way, as a land of opportunity, as a place that can help make them safer and where they can pursue their dreams.

That is what's added to the greatness of this country. And so, this president is making a terrible mistake. He has completely failed in terms of moral leadership, and we need to end with his cruelty and choose common sense and compassion instead. COOPER: The former acting ICE director, Ronald Vitiello, spoke to

Wolf earlier today about the situation on the border. I just want to play some of what he said.


RONALD VITIELLO, FORMER ACTING ICE DIRECTOR: I believe Congress has to act. We need to put ourselves in a situation where people can have their due process while they're in custody so they can be removed.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Congress has to act, but the president has to act as well.

VITIELLO: The president's done everything -- he's used all the tools he has at his disposal.

BLITZER: There's nothing else he can do?

VITIELLO: I don't believe so.


COOPER: What do you make of that? How much of this responsibility of this does fall on the shoulders of members of Congress?

CASTRO: Well, I think that Congress is trying to do what it can. This president is absolutely dead set on making conditions worse for these children and for their families, has no interest in making it better. And the reason for that is that he's using them. He's using them as a political pinata to try and shore up his base as he gets ready for re-election.

He thinks that demonstrating this kind of cruelty is going to rile up his base and stoke the fear and the paranoia that he wants to ride to re-election in a narrow Electoral College victory in 2020. That's how he started his campaign in 2015. It's how he thinks he won in 2016. And that's his strategy for 2020.

So, I don't think this president has any interests in making it better.

COOPER: To those who, you know, heard you at the debate talking about, you know, not making a criminal offense but a civil offense. Some people have said you're for open borders.

What would your answer be to that? I mean, how do you stop people from crossing illegally into the country? How do you stop so many people from trying to get asylum?

CASTRO: Well, we would treat it the way that we treated it from the late 1920s until about 2004. This is not something that's radical. This is the way that we used to do it. We used to treat this as a civil violation instead of a criminal.

Open borders is just a right-wing talking point. We still have 654 miles of fencing. We have thousands of personnel at the border. We have planes, we have helicopters, we have boats, we have security cameras, we have guns.

Texas, my home state, puts an extra $800 million into border security. So, by no stretch of the imagination can somebody call that open borders. That's just a right-wing talking point.

Instead of his failure, this president's failure, though, what we need to do is, of course, maintain a secure border, but choose common sense and compassion and not this cruelty toward children.

[20:30:00] They don't deserve it.

COOPER: Secretary Castro, it's to be continued. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

CASTRO: Good to be with you.

COOPER: Coming up next, the President's military event tomorrow and what some military commanders are saying about it. Maggie Haberman is back with that reporting in just a few minutes.


COOPER: Washington is now just hours away from the kind of display that another president, one time Five-Star General Dwight Eisenhower, did not approve of. He didn't believe in showing off missiles and tanks the way the Soviet Union did.

In a radio address on Independence Day in 1959, he told the nation, and I'm quoting here, "If my message to you on this 4th of July could be put into one sentence, it would be this. State the facts of freedom and trust in God as we have ever done."

60 years later, President Trump tweeted, "The cost of our great salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it's worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door, Andrews, all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice."

The problem though has nothing to do with owning the tanks or not, critic say it's the message they send along with the presence of troops and commanders at the President's event tomorrow, something a number of General Eisenhower's successors, including active-duty officers, have been talking about, including to "The New York times."

[20:35:10] Maggie Haberman is back with us. She shares a byline on the story. She's also a CNN Political Analyst and joins us now. So, what are you hearing? I mean, is there concern in the White House about this event at all?

HABERMAN: The concern in the White House is not so much about the use of military or about the fact that the President has been focused on this kind of a display, basically since the Bastille Day celebration two years ago in France that he saw. It's that there won't be crowds.

He wants there to be a huge turnout. He wants this to be, you know, a mega event. And as of a week ago, week and a half ago, I was hearing from people that the planning was very behind. There's already a lot of finger-pointing in advance going on in anticipation of problems.

So, there might be bad weather. There might not be as many people who would come by as they might otherwise because of the security concerns. And so there's --

COOPER: I mean, traditionally, a lot of people go out to the mall for 4th of July in Washington. It's legendary.

HABERMAN: It is. It's not traditionally like this. And so the concern for some within the administration is -- or the White House is, is this going to be the inauguration all over again where the President wants historic crowds and then is somehow disappointed?

COOPER: And the President, you said, has been focusing on this since he was in France two years ago. I mean, how much time is he devoting into this?

HABERMAN: I mean, he's devoting a lot. Look at the proportion of his tweets compared to other topics. He's been incredibly excited about this, talking about it with a lot of people, very involved in the layout and the design. He likes putting on shows. This is what he's doing.

Remember, he's wanted, actually, some form of a military display since his inauguration. He looked at the possibility of that being part of the inaugural parade. He was told no, the streets couldn't take it in D.C., that the military equipment. This is some compromise version of it. He's very excited about this.

COOPER: In terms of the -- the military is thrilled, the President claiming that, being ordered to participate in this. Is that what you've found?

HABERMAN: No. I mean, what we've heard is that there are a lot of people within the military who have concerns about this, for all of the reasons that you just cited. This is not the first time in U.S. history that somebody in authority has used aspects of the military.

But this is a very dramatic display by a president who has flouted all kinds of norms and laws, in some cases, and who has, you know, played very nice with autocrats who often use similar displays of military power and that is what sets off concerns.

COOPER: Right. I mean, those autocrats often are sending a message not only to the world, but to their own people about their power. I'm not clear exactly what the message of the President hopes to send is. Is he still planning on having military leaders sort of stand next to him during these flyovers?

HABERMAN: It's not clear exactly where that is going and I'm not going to -- I don't think we'll have clarity on that until closer to the event tomorrow, because I think there is a lot of resistance to it. But it's not clear what the message he is sending other than something about strength, which is an attribute that he values above all else. COOPER: And the -- you know, he gave a speech in South Korea recently, which was supposed to be not a political speech. It was to troops. And yet, he went into politics, bashed the Democrats, said that they were against the military and for open borders. This is supposedly going to be a non-partisan speech, but I mean, who knows?

HABERMAN: He has one speech that he gives in basically every setting, whether it is in front of the wall of stars at the CIA or whether it's at a Trump rally, and he tends to -- you know, he has the teleprompter and he switches back and forth. He has been urged by aides to stay on script. I suspect we will see what we often see with him.

COOPER: Maggie Haberman, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: If you're a 2020 candidate, there is one place you want to be this 4th of July in Iowa, first state in the nation to get a say in the Democratic primaries. That's where Kamala Harris has kicked off a three-day sprint after rocketing straight up in the polls post debate. We got some new national numbers for you, plus a special sit-down with voters in another key election state, next.


[20:42:31] COOPER: It's been a rough go for Joe Biden since last week's kickoff debates, but a new national "Washington Post" ABC News poll is telling a better story for him and Bernie Sanders than some of the others in recent days. It puts Biden, again, these are national numbers, at 30 percent among registered voters with Sanders in second and Kamala Harris in third at 13 percent.

Our new CNN poll shows Harris in second place, just five points behind Biden. She's now in Iowa for the next three days and will head to another early voting state, South Carolina, this weekend.

Randi Kaye made her way there to speak with group of African-American voters in Charleston to try to get their reactions to last week debates to Harris' performance and whether race will play a role in who they vote for.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Show of hands, how many of you are considering voting for Kamala Harris? One, two, three, four, five.

(voice-over) More than half of these voters in South Carolina like what they see in Kamala Harris, more so after the Democratic debate.

CHANEL MARIETTE, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I mean she's very commanding. I think that that's important for little girls that look like her and look like me to see that on the big stage.

KAYE: Michelle Hilton wasn't even considering Harris until the debate. MICHELLE STENT-HILTON, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I like the fact that she's an independent thinker and that she's a strong woman and she's touching on those things that as a black woman I need to hear.

KAYE (on camera): What specific policy is it that you -- that draws you to her?

HILTON: I like the fact that she wants to stand up for African- American rights. She wants to make sure that I get the same pay as a white woman as a white man.

KAYE (voice-over): Harris is now on Faye Allen's radar, too.

FAYE ALLEN, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: She's very strategic in what she says and how she does it. She has a lot of grit and it takes that when you're a woman.

KAYE: Voter John White, though, isn't all that impressed, even post debate.

JOHN WHITE, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: To me she is one-dimensional. She's a reactionary. She doesn't have any global or international policies that I've heard, no financial policies.

KAYE: Harris' exchange with Joe Biden turned this voter off completely.

JOHNNIE MITCHELL, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: And at the debate, I definitely decided that I am -- it's questionable whether she would be able to get my vote.

KAYE (on camera): Was anyone here uncomfortable with how she handled Joe Biden on stage?

QUINTON GLOVER, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I do believe her attack on him was -- wasn't warranted by any means. She basically brought the fight to him.

[20:45:01] KAYE (voice-over): The issues most important to this group, education, the economy, and immigration.

MARIETTE: I like what her policy about the immigration. I just think that that's another way kind of that Trump is using to tear brown people down.

KAYE: One thing this group agrees on is that it's wrong to question Kamala Harris' race, as many are doing online since she's the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother.

GODFREY GIBBISON, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I mean, is that really the thing that bothers people at night?

KAYE (on camera): How do you feel about the President's son retweeting a tweet about Kamala Harris' race and questioning it?

WHITE: It's a sign of the times. We are so caught up in rumors, gossips, celebrity, things that are nothing but smoke that obscure the real issues.

KAYE: Does this feel like echoes of birtherism to you? Does it feel racist to you?

GLOVER: It's the same thing that has been done to black people for years. You are being degraded. You're not human. You're subhuman. You're not as good as us. Are we going to continue to knock her because of her background?

HILTON: What matters is, was she born in America? Yes. Does she meet all of the other qualifications for President of the United States? Yes.

KAYE: Is race a factor for you in this or you just want someone who can -- who is electable and can beat Donald Trump?

GLOVER: Race is a thumbs up. It's a cherry on top. However, the cake itself have -- it has to have the qualifications. We have to be cognizant of what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. Your race, your background, your color is just, again, the cherry on top. It's just a plus.

GIBBISON: Race is a complete non-issue for me. I literally don't care. I would vote for any candidate who shows that they have solid policies that will actually impact people's lives.

KAYE: In 2020, could a black woman win the Presidency?

MARIETTE: And that's what I've been going in my head. Like, I really want it. I really would like to see it, but is it going to happen? I don't know. I don't think so.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.


COOPER: It's an interesting discussion. We're going to pick it up on the other side with one of Kamala Harris' top surrogates from South Carolina. We also have a Biden supporter who argues he needs to sharpen up his responses on race. The question is, how, next.


[20:51:34] COOPER: Back now in the new 2020 landscape following the first Presidential debates and the road ahead for Vice President Joe Biden on the subject of the race.

I want to bring in two CNN Political Commentators. Bakari Sellers is a former South Carolina House Member who's endorsed Harris for president, and Biden's supporter, Tara Setmayer, former Communications Director for Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

So, Tara, you heard the voters in Randi's piece. I'm wondering, were you surprised by their reaction all to Senator Harris?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, because, you know, we know Joe Biden has -- his whole career, he's really gotten a lot of support. He has so much good will in South Carolina and other places in the black community over the decades of service that he's had with this country and also as vice president to Barack Obama, which was a history presidency.

So I wasn't surprised that so many people were willing to say that, you know, we'll take another look at her but also they felt like her attack on him was a bit much. And we've seen that come from the older voters as well, which are a more reliable voting demographic that still support Joe Biden because they understand where he's coming from and they know that his record of civil rights support speaks for itself.

So, I'm encouraged to see that even though in some of the polls, there are snapshots in time, and her performance was one that was noteworthy, yes, but does she have lasting power? Does that have staying power? Does the issue of bussing matter to the voters in states like the Midwest that the Democrats need to win back to win overall?


SETMAYER: I just think that, you know, the initial reaction to it was, "Oh, wow, she really got him." But then her record is going to come under more scrutiny as well, so Biden campaigns got to capitalize on that.

COOPER: Yes. And also, Bakari, I mean, the polls we're seeing are national polls and of course what matters is Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, initially. The fact that two of the voters in Randi's piece took issue with the way that Harris confronted Biden during the debate, I'm wondering what you make of that because Tara raises the point among older voters, you know, there's still a lot of support.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And Nevada matters as well, Anderson.


SELLERS: But, you know, I also want to say that, yes, those voters had some issues with the way that Kamala was prepared, that the Senator not only was prepared but execute it and she got into an issue or confrontation with Senator Biden, Vice President Biden.

But what I say to that is that it's very simple. I was in a spin room when Donald Trump wrote out five alleged accusers of Bill Clinton prior to the debate with Hillary Clinton. And so my retort to those voters would be that if you have a problem with the debate tactics of Kamala Harris, imagine when Joe Biden has to stand toe-to-toe or if Joe Biden has to stand toe-to-toe with Donald Trump.

What I got from that focus group is that all of those voters believe that Senator Harris is a fighter. And I think that all of those voters realized and those who got a chance to see her, you saw an overwhelming majority or a majority of those individuals raise their hands and say they will consider her, so that's a plus for the senator.

COOPER: Well, Tara, I mean accordingly (ph) to CNN polling Biden still has a healthy lead among black voters, 36 percent, Kamala Harris 24 percent. But as you said -- I mean the vice president can't simply rely on that support. He has to work hard for the -- for votes.

SETMAYER: Absolutely. I mean, you -- to hit the football --

COOPER: Do you think he gets that?

SETMAYER: I would think that watching his support drop by double digits from that debate to now should be a wakeup call, that he cannot have a performance like he did last week in the CNN debate coming up this month. Because people, you know, momentum matters and we live in a visual age.

[20:55:03] And when people see you and they want us -- and they think that you're bloodied, they're going to go with the candidate that has momentum.

I mean, that's what happened with Hillary Clinton. He needs to take a page out of Hillary Clinton's mistakes in 2008 to Barack Obama and make sure he does not repeat them, because that can happen. Hillary was winning overwhelmingly with black voters then too and then Barack Obama won Iowa and then we know the rest is history.


SETMAYER: So, he really needs to pay attention to that and sharpen up and explain to people why he can't take it to Donald Trump. Since when did people question that Joe Biden's a fighter or not? He's always been known as that. And so the fact that narrative is being questioned, they need to wakeup and grab that narrative back.

COOPER: Bakari, how much of the support for Biden do you think comes from name recognition at this point and association from Obama?

SELLERS: I mean, it -- I've always said and I'm saying it to blown in the face that the support for Joe Biden is very, very wide but it doesn't have much depth. And that's we're seeing. That's why 36 percent support in the African-American community right now, it's steadily eroding, it's steadily going downhill. Kamala Harris is at 24 percent. That is not a good number for Joe Biden.

If we look at 2016, Hillary Clinton had 68 percent support and I'm sure it won't be as high because there are so many candidates. But she still had overwhelming support from the African-American community. So he is in trouble with that black of voters.

COOPER: Right.

SELLERS: And just to go back to 2008, just briefly, I was the chair for Barack Obama in 2008 in South Carolina. He was in the exact same position and African-American voters came to him late. The more they learn about Kamala Harris, the more they'll come forward.

SETMAYER: We'll see.

COOPER: Bakari Sellers, Tara Setmayer, appreciate it. Thanks.

Stay with us. A lot more ahead on the special two hour edition of "AC360," including the Department of Justice flip-flop on the citizenship question for the upcoming census hours after a presidential tweet.