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House Passes Resolution Condemning President's Racist Tweets; House Resolution: President's "Racist Comments Have Legitimized Fear And Hatred Of New Americans And People Of Color"; Billionaire, Democratic Candidate For President Tom Steyer On President Trump's Racist Remarks; Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Dies; House Passes Resolution Condemning President's Racist Tweets; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is Interviewed About House Resolution Condemning President's Racist Tweets. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 16, 2019 - 20:00   ET


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

On the 50th anniversary of the launching of the first mission to the moon, another bit of history -- members of the House of Representatives tonight passed resolution condemning the president of the United States for racism, specifically President Trump for his recent Twitter attacks on four non-white congresswomen.

Now, just to refresh your memory, he told them to go back to their home countries, even three are from this country and the fourth is a nationalized American citizen, just like First Lady Melania Trump is and his first wife as well. So, 50 years ago, the first human being set foot on another celestial body and 50 years after that, pioneering American accomplishment for all humanity, this, one a giant leap for mankind.

Only four Republicans broke ranks and supported the resolution, in the meantime, whatever efforts most Republicans or the White House are making to change the subject, to pivot in Washington speak, they are not getting much help from the president himself or frankly from one of his key advisers, Kellyanne Conway.

Here's what the president tweeted this morning. Those tweets were not racist, he wrote. I don't have a racist bone in my body. The so- called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game.

Now, the president may know a lot about con games but it's not clear how in touch with his body he really is. A short time later, a man without a racist bone in his body allegedly again told a four non- white congresswomen, three of whom were born in America, to leave.


REPORTER: Mr. President --

REPORTER: If the Democratic congresswomen should leave if they're not happy, where should they go? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's up to them,

wherever they want, or they can stay. But they should love our country. They shouldn't hate our country.

If you look at what they've said, I have clips right here, the most vile, horrible statements about our country, about Israel, about others. It's up to them, they can do what they want. They can leave, they can stay, but they should love our country and they should work for the good of our country.


COOPER: So those are two of the administration's three fallbacks, the president elsewhere has also called the women socialists or communists, and here you heard the other two, essentially, America, love it or leave it, which in itself has a pretty ugly history, and I'm not a racist but you are all anti-Semites.

And to be fair, one of the congresswomen, Ilhan Omar, apologized earlier this year for accusing Israel wielding too much power in Washington and for suggesting that Jewish-Americans have dual loyalties, her exact words, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it's OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.

Now, that said, the president has a long history of conflating any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and presuming, as he did, after the Tree of Life massacre that Israel's ambassador somehow speaks for all Jewish-Americans. In any case, if he is really truly trying to make this about anti-Semitism, perhaps it is not a good idea for one of his top advisers to have the following exchange with a reporter named Feinberg.


REPORTER: Following up on the previous question. If the president was not telling these four congresswomen to return to their supposed countries of origin, to which countries was he referring?


REPORTER: Why is irrelevant?

CONWAY: Well, I'm asking a question. My ancestor is from Ireland and Italy.

REPORTER: Kellyanne, my own ethnicity is not relevant to the question I'm asking.

CONWAY: Well, it is, you are asking about -- he said originally, he said originally from. And you know everything you said sense and to have a full conversation.

REPORTER: So, are you saying that the president was telling Palestinian-American --

CONWAY: The president already commented about that.

REPORTER: -- to go back to the Middle, to go back to the occupied territories?

CONWAY: The president has already commented on that and he said a lot about --

REPORTER: It's a yes or no question.

CONWAY: He's put out a lot of tweets and he made himself available all day yesterday.

REPORTER: He has not. No, just to the pool.

CONWAY: He's tired. We -- a lot of us are sick and tired of this country, of America coming last, the people, the sworn oath to office, sick and tired of our military being denigrated, sick and tired of the Customs and Border Patrol, protection people I was with who are overwhelmingly Hispanic, by the way.


COOPER: OK. Kellyanne Conway there asking a reporter his ethnicity. Now why she would do that, who knows? The reporter has since tweeted, quote, I don't think she was being anti-Semitic.

And she tweeted quote: This was made with no disrespect. We are all from somewhere else originally. I asked the question to answer the question and volunteer my own ethnicity, Italian and Irish. Like many, I'm proud of my ethnicity, love the USA, and grateful to got to be an American.

[20:05:01] All right. If anyone can tell me what she actually cleared up with that tweet, I would happily hear from you. She meant no disrespect she claims, we are all from somewhere originally, she says. And she says she asked the question to answer the question.

I honestly have no idea what that means, if you are looking for more clues to her intent, at the same press event, she said the four congresswomen of color representing -- and I'm quoting -- a very dark element in this country, unquote, what she is sick of. And also this morning on Fox News, she said something similar.



CONWAY: We are tired, sick and tired of many people in this country, forget these four, they represent a dark underbelly in this country of people who are not respecting our troops, are not giving them the resources and respect that they deserve.


COOPER: It's not just these four women of color, they represent a dark underbelly in Kellyanne Conway's. And somehow, she brought in the troops and that they're being disrespected and underfunded by these four women and this dark underbelly.

Has the president ever told Bernie Sanders, you know, arguably a real socialist, a democratic socialist, and occasional critic of Israel government who's obviously male and obviously white, to go back where he came from? No, he hasn't.

A lot to talk about right now. Two Republicans join us shortly with their take. But joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee, you voted yes on this resolution tonight condemning the president's comments. When the president says he doesn't have a races bone in his body, you know -- I always wonder how anybody can say that. We all have biases. We all have things that we need to work on.

What do you make of what is going on right now?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Well, Anderson, I'm hoping by the 400, 240-person vote today, that there is some sense of calmness and harmony brought to the American people and to the United States Congress. It was a bipartisan vote, and it rejects really the president's own interpretation of himself and the distortion that he has given to Americas values, and it takes away the distraction and then he always seems to want to put in place. I don't know whether he wants to call himself racist or whether he has a racist bone. But his words and many of us know, that words can be inciting and they can provoke war over peace.

How do you say that a federal judge of Hispanic background is of Mexican and cannot be fair? How can you say that five boys, vindicated in New York for a crime that he did not do are still guilty or me part of a hanging crowd that puts a "New York Times" ad that says execute them? Or how do you talk about s-hole countries?

I think the president has to look inward and that's why this resolution, H. Res. 489, and the rest that I put in, H. Res. 494, captures the words but also captures the essence of the goodness of America.

So, Mr. President, let me just say, I don't know what the definition of racism is, but I do know that your words, your words that you have offered to the American people are racist?

COOPER: You said this was a bipartisan vote. The truth is that only four of your Republican colleagues supported it.

JACKSON LEE: Well, I think we had four and one independent, that's a good number because obviously my good friends unfortunately rather than seeking to bring us together, they chose to walk in the drumbeat of President Trump and that's unfortunate but I will never give up on reaching out for them to have a better understanding that the nation should be promoted over the wishes of the president.

COOPER: You know the word demagogue is a word we used last night and basically mean someone who uses other people's, you know, prejudices or biases for political purposes and it seems like whatever is in the presidents head or in his heart, he is playing with very dangerous themes, very, you know, raw, dangerous themes that have a terrible history in this country and there is a real danger into this. And then to categorize it adds this dark aliment and they don't want to support the military and they are sending messages to the military that it is only the White House and the Republicans who are supporting them and funding them, does it worry you?

I mean, these are deep waters here.

JACKSON LEE: Well, interestingly enough, Anderson, as I was coming here, I heard some commentary about the fear of an individual who said the next step is violence.

[20:10:04] We must not suffer violence. When I spoke in the floor today, I indicated what my colleagues said, why are we doing this? We could be voting on education bills or infrastructure bills. I said, Dr. King said, why we can't wait.

We cannot wait to stifle out the violence and it is a concern and the reason it's a concern, we know the era of Germany in the 1930s and we know how the history suggests that individuals who felt that they were left out were provoked by those who want to use that for their own advantage. The president now has one distraction at the border where he thought immigration was going to be his selling tickets for victory in 2020. Now, he sees the American people appalled by the way children are being treated and just plain human beings are being treated at the border, and he is not anymore successful in that narrative as he was with the border wall.

So what else does he do? Then he begins to characterize four very fine women, distinguished members of Congress, who I believe are as patriotic as any others and love the country, because they have backgrounds that would suggest that this country is a place that they could work with and make things better. How would he characterize them as hitting the military? Absolutely absurd.

But it is a distraction and a narrative, the same one that he used --


JACKSON LEE: -- for the birther movement of President Obama. So, it has to be that good people stand up. And though, Dr. King is no longer with us and other peacemakers have worked through the various movements of this nation, it is our responsibility and that's why we took that vote, 240 members of Congress, I wish there were more on the other side of the aisle, but we made a statement on behalf of the American people.

COOPER: Yes. Congresswoman Jackson Lee, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: Coming up next, a live report on how this all played out behind the scenes and dramatically at times on the floor. And later, my conversation and you probably know from all those impeachment commercials, Tom Steyer, why he is now entering the race to become a Democratic nominee for president.


[20:16:08] COOPER: We are talking tonight about the vote at first to condemn the president for racist tweets. At the outset, we were interested in how many, if any Republicans would vote for it. In the and, as I said, four did, two from swing states, two from the red states, one African American, independent Justin Amash, a former Republican. Also voting, yes, he voted.

Coming up shortly, how some Republican voters see all of this. But, first, CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now from the capitol.

So, you have four Republicans voted for the resolution. Is it a surprise there was that small, or a surprise that four actually did?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's interesting Anderson. Over the course of yesterday, some scattered number from Republicans rebuked the president, asked him to pull back his tweets, say the tweet -- asking for Democratic members to go home was wrong.

That shifted today, this morning. President tweeting that all Republicans should line up against the resolution of condemnation. House Republican leadership showing a united front behind the president. And I'm told behind the scenes, House Republican leaders made clear to their rank-and-file, they should support the president.

They called the resolution a distraction. They said it was a personal attack on the president. And what we saw over the course of the day is what we're seeing repeatedly over the course of the last two and a half years, when issues become partisan, when it comes become Democrat versus Republican, Republicans line up behind President Trump, going into the vote, Anderson, I was told five at most, maybe as few as three. It ended up with four, and one independent.

The reality is, when it comes down to it, regardless of the tweets, the public comments or the doubling down, the Republican Party is a party of President Trump and Republicans will line up behind him just about every time.

COOPER: Yes, we've seen that over and over.

Phil Mattingly, thank you.

Of the many questions being asked over the past few days, one of them has been, what is all this mean for the Republican Party? For that part of story, two conservative CNN political commentators, former Republican National Committee chief of staff, Mike Shields, and Amanda Carpenter who serves as communications director for Texas Senator Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

Mike, what does it say that four Republicans voted to condemn the president? MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that it says that

most of them didn't and I think that they saw what Kevin McCarthy said today, that this is about politics. The House Democrats want to condemn some things they think are racism, but not other things they think are racism in their own caucus.

I think this is where we are. This is the partisan place that we are. The Democratic Party is now essentially the "we don't like who Donald Trump as a person is" party. They've won control of the House. They have no real agenda.

Their candidates in the primary debates try to talk about policies. Here comes the squad and Nancy Pelosi to bring us right back to let's just hate on Trump every single day. That's what's filtering down to the American people.

And so, what it says to Republicans is, that this is all politics. And the country doesn't care and they just want to make their lives better.

COOPER: Amanda, is that what it says to the country?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it says something different. Listen, I understand Washington, I worked there and how party politics work and everybody holds hands and jumps together on tough votes.

But what about just normal people? I know that if I were in a supermarket or my children's playground or in my church, and somebody came in and pointed at some minority and said, get out of here and go back to your country, I know where I would stand. And it wouldn't be with the person who said that horrible thing. I would tell him to get out and say it's time to leave, sir.

We can't help the president to leave, we fully understand that. The resolution isn't going to make him leave. The only thing that's going to make him change is when he's threatened by political power and Republicans have lined up behind him and it's really hard to watch. A lot of people just turned into monsters defending this guy.

And so, it's fine for the Democrats to realize this resolution. It's not going to do anything. I think every time he says one of these horrible racist things, there should be a nationwide petition drive for every person to commit to registering 10 new voters. That's the only way that I could think to tame him. And it's the only thing that could possibly discipline people who keep falling in line.

[20:20:05] COOPER: Mike, I mean, you say, you know, that the Republicans interpret this as just about politics. You know, Kellyanne Conway is now saying that they enter this dark element widespread, it's not just these four, ands that they hate the troops and that they're trying to defund the troops and they don't support the troops.

I mean, isn't that just pure politics? I mean, there's no -- I don't know where she's pivoting to this? SHIELDS: Well, look -- yes, and look, let me be clear. I don't think

the president should tweet what he tweeted. I think it's wrong, I don't think it's the right thing to do and I'm glad he at least clarified that today and sort of said, people who don't like the country are trying to cast it is at. I think Kellyanne was also trying to get to that conversation.

There's a cultural conversation going on right now. We have people that are kneeling during the national anthem. We have people that erected a Mexican flag over at an Ice facility. There are conservatives who think America is great and needs to be better, and there are some people on the left who think that America is as a sum bad.

Michelle Obama said that the first time I've been even proud of my country is when Barack Obama got elected. And there are some people on the left that culturally believe that. They want to change what America is and there's people on the right that want to make America better.

That's a cultural clash. That's a conversation the president is trying to have. I think the squad is playing into it. They want to have the same conversation as well. That's the real political conversation that's going on here.

CARPENTER: I guess it's just hard to watch every day now because of Donald Trump, we are debating whether he's a racist. I think it's pretty clear he is. We were talking about the rest of the country --

SHIELDS: I don't agree with that by the way.

CARPENTER: Yes, that's fine. I'm not going to debate you on it. I know what he says. I know how he acts.

I know when I go to a parking lot in very red places in America and there's the Trump sticker on the back of the truck and a minority walks by and sees it, and takes a step back. That is the connotation that Donald Trump has in America.

So, if you want to talk about the trickle down effect and the cultural wars, there are people who are scared of. And there is no debating whether he's a racist. They don't care what you think. They know what I know. I know what I know. I know where I would stand, if someone in my regular life said the things he said. And it would never be with him.

COOPER: Mike, you know, as somebody who -- you know, you worked for the Republican Party, you love -- you know, this is something you devoted your life to -- do you believe that Donald Trump is a demagogue? That he is basically -- whether he believes this stuff or not, whatever is in the his head or in his heart, that he is using people's, you know, biases or their deep-held prejudices or fears, and playing on that to maintain power? That is the definition of a demagogue.

SHIELD: Yes. Two things, first of all. I think the president, regardless of your race or background, loves you if you agree with him. And I think the president, regardless of your race or background, doesn't like it if you don't agree with him.


COOPER: He does seem to be able to go after people with a particular enthusiasm. I mean, it's calling African American football players the sons of bitches, you know, people who -- he says that people in Nigeria live in huts and they have come from S-hole countries and they have AIDS.

I mean, he does seem to have a particular zest for going after people he perceives as different and weaker in some way?

SHIELDS: And yet there are people of color that are his supporters, that he holds up and praises and talked about all the time.

COOPER: Sure, Diamond and Silk and other people, there are plenty of people who support him.


SHIELDS: And what really matters to him is what (INAUDIBLE).

Look, I think Barack Obama was a demagogue. I believe Nancy Pelosi is a demagogue. I believe there are Democrats -- where we are in the polarized politics that we are in, the country is leading us to a place where this is the kind of rhetoric we have and both sides are playing into it. We saw it today, the House floor voting on this is a completely demagogic thing.


SHIELDS: The fear that Amanda is talking about Democrats stoke it because they think they benefit from it.

COOPER: All right. We got to leave it there.

Mike Shields, appreciate it. Amanda Carpenter, thank you.

Still to come tonight, why President Trump seemingly cannot quit attacking those for female lawmakers and the reaction to those racist attacks from some female members of his base.


[20:23:09] COOPER: What's going on at the White House and on Capitol Hill is not the only part of today's story. The House vote condemning the president's tweets.

Next year, voters are, of course, going to have their say. So, we were curious whether the president's base was still behind him particularly his female supporters. Did they object to his racist attack on the four female lawmakers, or such is it all just politics, as Mike said earlier?

360's Randi Key spoke some of them in Dallas.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How many of you don't think what the president said was racist, raise your hand?

(voice-over): These eight Republican women from Dallas don't see anything wrong with President Trump telling four Democratic congressman to go back where they came from.

DENA MILLER, REPUBLICAN: He was saying that if they hate America so much because we are seeing out of them, we're hearing out of them is that they hate America. If it's so bad, there is a lot of places they can go.

SHARON BOLAN, REPUBLICAN: I'm a brown-skinned woman. I am a legal immigrant. I agree with him

KAYE (on camera): You don't think that's racist to say it?

BOLAN: No, not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a demonstration of how their ideology spills over. Even though they are American now so to speak, they are not acting American.

GIAN O'BRIANT, REPUBLICAN: I'm glad that the president said what he said because all they are doing is they are inciting hatred and division and that's not what our country is about. We -- it is not about that at all.

KAYE: Isn't that what the president does out with some of his own comments, his own racist comments?

O'BRIANT: But he didn't say anything about color.

CAMI DEAN, REPUBLICAN: We know the president is not racist. He loves people from likes Hispanics and white people all across the board.

KAYE: Let me just share with you the definition of racism from Merriam Webster dictionary. A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produced an inherent superiority of a particular race.

Base on that definition, do you not think what the president has been saying --


O'BRIANT: No, he dated a black woman for two years. Two of his wives are immigrants. He is not a xenophobic racist.


DENA MILLER, REPUBLICAN: First, the black billionaire is endorsing President Trump. O'BRIANT: Yes.

MILLER: How can you call him racist?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): So these congresswomen, who said they ran for Congress, ran for office because they explicitly love this country, you're saying that's a lie?



MILLER: Yes, that is a lie.

KAYE: You're saying they hate this country?


KATHLEEN LIEBERMAN, REPUBLICAN: Do you ever (INAUDIBLE), it's claiming that they're very manipulative to accuse as a -- instead of extracting the truth.

KAYE: It's a tactic.

LIEBERMAN: Because when you say, you know, don't you think he's racist? You're accusing us. You're accusing him.

KAYE: I'm asking. I'm not accusing. I'm asking you what you think.

LIEBERMAN: But you're being tough. OK, it's no relevant. It has nothing to do with the real issue. It has nothing to do with the premises of issues here.

KAYE: Exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And whenever someone --


KAYE: The color of the four.

PEACHES MCGUIRE COATES, REPUBLICAN: Why do you keep bringing that up?

KAYE: Do you thing it's just a coincidence that these four congresswomen that the President is going after, none of them are white?


O'BRIANT: They're going after him.

COATES: It's the ideology.

MILLER: Exactly.

COATES: I don't think it matters. O'BRIANT: Yes.

COATES: But it's idiotic, what they're saying. So, it doesn't matter whether they're white, man, woman, brown, yellow, anything.

MILLER: I wish that there was a white one that they -- I'm wondering, if they're not racist, how come they haven't befriended one of their white female congresswomen colleagues and let her join --

O'BRIANT: Because they won't.

MILLER: They don't like white people, come on. They're racist.

KAYE: How many of you still plan to vote for President Trump?

O'BRIANT: Absolutely.


KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Dallas.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Wow. Perspective now from Maggie Haberman, "New York Times" White House Correspondent and CNN Political Analyst, also CNN Political Director David Chalian.

First of all, I don't know how the last lady knows who they are friends with and not friends with. The idea that they have no white friends seems odd to me and that she would project that on to them.

David, the President going out of his way to make these four liberal progressive congresswomen in the face of the Democratic Party clearly -- or become the face of the Democratic Party, from what we saw on Randi's piece, that strategy certainly seem -- I mean if that is actually part of a strategy or if it's just, you know, part of the add on effect of his going after them, it certainly seems to be having success with, you know, the women of that room.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No doubt about that. And we should also mention, Anderson, this is a tried and true tactic from previous presidents of both parties to take in terms of trying to create boogie men or women, right?

It used to be Teddy Kennedy and Hillary Clinton that Republicans -- or Newt Gingrich's conservatism would be used and held up, but it was all policy based. It was all ideological differences. That is what the scare tactic was, if you will, for political currency.

What Donald Trump is doing that is different here is he's doing it all as those tweets indicated based on race and gender and religion, not about policy. Now, I know he's trying to correct that in the days after his team is trying to spin that in a way in the days after, but that tweet, that -- what he was doing there was not based on policy at all. That's what made this -- as you said, if this really was political strategy, different this time around. COOPER: But, Maggie, you know what, this isn't really any different than when Irish immigrants were here fleeing the famine and they weren't allowed into restaurants. They weren't given jobs. They were told to go home then a wave -- you know, Italian immigrants came and they were castigate and told to go back to their home and that they weren't loyal.

Catholics were told -- you know, my dad grew up in Mississippi believing that, you know, a catholic in his neighborhood had a secret tunnel in their backyard that went to the Vatican so that they could convene and have secret instructions from the pope. I mean, there is -- we have a history of other rising people and that's what the President is playing on.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. This is a President who grew up in a certain moment in time in New York City where all politics were tribal and race based and almost every politician in New York City in the '70s and '80s used race in someway or another and it worked and that is where Donald Trump learned what he knows about politics that is not a defense by any stretch of the imagination of what he is doing, but that's why it is a tactic.

I don't think it is a strategy. Strategy implies that he's got some drawn out plan I think that he just kind of stumbles into these things after he reacts and then he finds a way why they can be good for him.

There is a long history of ordering (ph) in this country, three of these women are -- were born here. One was not. And telling three women -- I mean, I still have to keep coming back to the reality of him trying to say over several days he wasn't really saying that.

We have heard Donald Trump and his aides say for four years when he says something that is controversial and he usually leaves himself in and out. They say he wasn't really saying what the media said. He is clearly saying what we all said he said. He repeated it repeatedly and then he then tried to turn it into socialism.

[20:35:03] The difference here is the President of the United States saying it this way. I don't really recall anything certainly not since World War II of a President of the United States saying go back to your country.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, David, when -- you know, when you're in a bar and some drunk person is yelling at somebody else saying go back to where you came from, you know, you can address that person, you can walk away, you can just throw your hands up and say, OK, this is some drunk idiot. When somebody, you know, rolls down a window and screams at somebody on the street, go back to where you came from.

But this is the -- I mean, this is the freaking President of the United States. I just find it so depressing that we're sitting here actually just like politely discussing, you know, the President of the United States telling Americans, naturalized or, you know, in the majority of the case of these four, actual, you know, born here, native born Americans. And you know what, naturalized Americans are just as American telling them to go home. CHALIAN: Right, they're Americans too, stay.

COOPER: I mean, it's just depressing. I mean, I don't care if it's politics. I don't -- you know, whatever it is, I just think it is a really, really depressing time.

CHALIAN: I totally agree with you, it is depressing. And that's why I think it's so important, Anderson, that while we are, as you say, politely discussing this, that we do separate out. The President's behavior here has nothing -- it's not partisan, it's not politics. That racism deserves its own attention of what it is and it is not in a bar.

You are right, this -- but -- and of course, that should not surprise us because Donald Trump has not treated the office of the presidency as someplace to behave differently than he did as a private citizen, never. That has not been the case.

He's taken how he's behaved as a private citizen into the Oval Office seeing no reason it shouldn't exist in that context as well. But to insert what he's doing into the typical sort of back and forth cable news partisan lens I think misses the point of this moment entirely.

COOPER: I agree -- I mean, this goes much deeper and these are fault lines in America and American culture in history. They are very dangerous to pry open deeper and deeper. And for Kellyanne Conway who campaigned against him before she was with him, you know, to now be saying, oh, they're against the military. They don't support the military. I mean, again, it's just -- it's really depressing. Maggie Haberman, thank you, David Chalian.

Just ahead, my one on one with time Tom Steyer, the billionaire running for president as the outsider populist. His reaction to the President's racist remarks and why he thinks he is the one to beat Donald Trump.


[20:41:16] COOPER: The latest candidate to enter the race for the Democratic nomination for president is Tom Steyer. He's a billionaire, one time hedge fund investor. Most recently, he spent millions on impeachment ads against the President but his focus is bigger than that he say. We began our discussion with the racist remarks President Trump first tweeted on Sunday.


COOPER: First of all, these new tweets from the President, I hate to start with this, but do you see him as racist? Do they surprise you at all?

TOM STEYER (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, they're obviously racist and he's obviously going after some of the most progressive important leaders in the Democratic Party. But this is what this President does is he creates a fuss, he creates a confrontation. He in effect has a big circus going so people don't pay a lot of attention to his failed policies. That's what he does. He tries to get attention away from what actually matters to him and his bluster and his racism.

COOPER: Do you feel like you know how to run against him? I mean, do you -- have gone against people like this in your life?

STEYER: Of course, I have.

COOPER: Because there was, you know, what 16 Republicans in 2016 who thought they knew how to run against him and didn't.

STEYER: Listen, Donald Trump is a failed businessman. If you look at, he has a path of bankrupt casinos and bankrupt businesses that he's left. He's following the exact same strategy in the United States of America. For 27 years, 30 years, I was in the private sector very successfully building a very small investment business into a very large investment business.

COOPER: So if you're running against him, do you go tweet for tweet, do you ignore? What --

STEYER: No. I think the right thing -- there are two things you need to do. One is it can't be about him. The question for the American people is what is the vision of what we can do together going forward? What do we need to do to get this country back on track?

We have a broken government. It's basically corrupted by corporate cash. How do we return power to the people of -- buying for the people? Everybody -- that's actually the question in front of us, Anderson.

COOPER: But you -- so far, I mean, the question that has brought you into most people's consciousness lately has been the impeachment question, which is what you put a lot of money behind running ads for. It brought you, you know, into headlines. You're saying you're running on more than just getting rid of Donald Trump?

STEYER: Oh, absolutely. Look, the question for the American people is not Donald Trump. The question for the American people is what do we do to get this country back on track to retake our government?

Actually for the last 10 years, Anderson, what I've been doing as an outsider is trying to get power back to the people directly in every way I can. I mean, I've run propositions across the United States where you go around the legislature that is controlled by corporations and go directly to the people and have a vote.

And I also started the biggest grassroots organization in the United States of America, the NextGen America. This is about an outsider taking on and breaking the corporate stranglehold on her government. That's the question in America.

COOPER: That's certainly how Donald Trump positioned himself whether you believe he was a good businessman or not, that was -- he was the outsider. He was going to drain the swamp.

On these tweets, does it -- do you think that this kind of stuff works? Because, look, there's a lot of people who, you know, sitting in a bar might say, you know, these people should get out of America if they don't like it, they're not from here. He is echoing something that's out there, no?

STEYER: He wants to frame this election in the way he wants. But what's really important for the American people is something completely different. If you listen to the Democrats, you know, you have a series of policies, all of them important and nuance, which health care policy, which Green New Deal and on.

The real question, though, is we have a broken government. We can't deal with the basics of what's going on. The question is how do we break that? That's what Americans need to know.

[20:45:08] COOPER: Right. You talk about broken government, though, but just being elected president, which is obviously a big step, that doesn't unbreak a government.

STEYER: We need to go to the people in this election. This is going to be a huge turnout election. It's going to be a generational change election and the question is, what is the vision we're going organized around? And the vision has to be, in my opinion, only two things. We only need two things. We need to break the corporate control of our government and we need to deal with climate change on day one.

COOPER: Are you the person, though, to do this? I mean, talk about generational change, you know, no disrespect, but you're not the youngest person in the race. You're also wouldn't be the oldest, certainly. But, you know, the criticism has been at Bernie Sander and Joe Biden. You know, Joe Biden has been out of the game. You really -- you haven't been in the rough and tumble in this way. You're a major funder of Democrats over the last 10 years.

STEYER: I respectfully disagree. For the last 10 years as an outsider I have been taking on the corporations and winning.

COOPER: Bernie Sanders has said, look, do we -- let me get the exact quote. He said, "I'm a bit tired of seeing billionaires trying to buy political power." Elizabeth Warren has also sort of incubated (ph) the same kind of thing. How do you respond to that? Is a billionaire really what America needs?

STEYER: Look, I think the question here is whether or not America needs an outsider. The real question is who is going to connect with Americans and who can actually do what I'm talking about, which is to break this corporate stranglehold.

Let me say one other thing, if you look at the four people who are the top candidates in the polls, they are all either senators or former senators. They have been there for a combined over 70 years.

So the real question is, if you want -- if you realize this is the point that to get any health care plan, to get any Green New Deal, to get any of the things that we want, we're going to actually have to break this corporate stranglehold. Should you go with an outsider who's been doing it successfully head-to-head with corporations or should you go to somebody from Washington? COOPER: Right. If you enter the race, you run a tough race, you don't get the nomination, would you -- are you pledging to support whoever the Democratic nominee is?

STEYER: Absolutely. But there's no --

COOPER: Support financially, support with your time, with your --

STEYER: Look, it's not that. We're the biggest grassroots organization of the United States. We were on 420 college campuses just as a number. You know, we knocked on tens of millions of doors.

COOPER: So you would get all of that behind --

STEYER: I've said -- look, I've told the people in this organizations full speed ahead. We're going to do that. There is no question here this is an emergency. I mean, I think one of the big differences, I think we're in an emergency, Anderson, that's why I'm running. Because I think we have simple things to do but they are hard, we better name them and go after them and do them.

And so, you know, when someone says why are you running? It's because I've got four kids. I felt like I cannot sleep unless we deal with this now, because the other thing that's true is if we solve those things, we are in a great position as a country. We can do all the things we want.

We can get health care for everyone. We can get quality public education from pre-K through college with skills training for your life. We can guarantee clean air and clean water as a right for every American. We can have a living wage for every American. We have -- we're the very rich.

People keep acting like we're broke. We can't afford to do anything. We're a failed society. That's absolutely wrong. We can put ourselves by doing those two things in the best position of any people in the history of the world.

COOPER: Do you pledge to, if you don't get the nomination, to not run as a third party?

STEYER: Absolutely not. I'm a Democrat. I would never do that.

COOPER: So absolutely you're not -- you would not run as an independent?

STEYER: No chance. No, I would never do that. I'm a Democrat. I will support the Democrats.

COOPER: Tom Steyer, appreciate your time.

STEYER: Anderson Cooper, what a treat.

COOPER: Thanks very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: The interview run a lot longer than that. You can see the whole thing online. Sad news to report -- at or We also have sad news to report right now, breaking news, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has died. We're going to look back at his legacy and quite a legacy it was. He was the third longest serving Supreme Court justice when we come back.


[20:53:28] COOPER: There's breaking news and it is sad news, even more so given the rest of the news today. Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens had died following a stroke in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 99 years old.

I want to check in quickly with Chris to see what he's going to be working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." No doubt he'll be covering this as well. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Well, look, it's hard to argue with a 99-year life, but the legacy will extend even farther than that. And as a reflection of a time gone past for the Supreme Court, frankly, we are in a hyper partisan period. We see it with these tweets. Can you believe that only four members of the Republican Congress would openly condemn what this President said as racist? I got to tell you, I'm a little surprised.

COOPER: Really?

CUOMO: But, we're going to go through -- I am a little surprise. I really believe that this was bigger than politics. I really do. There is no other way to look at what he said. Everybody knows what it's about, especially this President, but we are where we are and we will show you in the numbers why the Republicans were so afraid to acknowledge what everybody knows to be true.

COOPER: All right, Chris, we'll be looking at that in about six minutes from now. John Paul Stevens was a true voice of moderation and a true champion of the law. Our Pamela Brown has a look back at a remarkable life and career.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Paul Stevens was a conservative Republican when President Gerald Ford nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1975, but he stepped down more than three decades later as a leader of the liberal side of the bench, arguing the court changed, not his judicial philosophy.

[20:55:00] JOHN PAUL STEVENS, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: It has moved dramatically, that's right. And I guess a radical word may well apply.

BROWN: Stevens grew up in his family's Chicago hotel during the roaring twenties. In World War II, he analyzed radio signals for the navy before becoming a lawyer, judge, and Supreme Court justice. He retired at 90 years old, replaced by President Obama appointee, Elena Kagan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice Stevens is probably one of the least known justices publicly. And it's ironic because he has had as big an impact on the Supreme Court and on American society as any justice.

BROWN: In his career, Stevens voted in favor of abortion rights, affirmative action and gay rights, long before it became mainstream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1986, when I was clerking for him, the Supreme Court issued an opinion that said that it was OK to have criminal penalties for gay consensual sex. 17 years later, the Supreme Court reserved that opinion and said Justice Stevens was right in his dissent in that case.

BROWN: Near the end of his tenure in 2008, he strongly opposed the death penalty.

STEVENS: I firmly believe its unwise policy, but I think it's a more difficult question as to whether it's a constitutionally permissible punishment.

BROWN: When Stevens viewed did not carry the day, he crafted powerful dissents and citizens united, a land mark 2009 campaign finance case, the majority ruled the government could not ban political spending by corporations. In his dissent, Stevens accused the majority of rejecting, as he put it, "the common sense of the American people."

He also didn't mince words about the 2000 decision that cleared the way for George W. Bush's presidency, writing, "The identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What are some of the other areas where the court ruled in a way you wish it really hadn't?

STEVENS: Well, do we have just an hour?

BROWN: Stevens also disagreed with his liberal colleagues when the court ruled burning an American flag was considered protected free speech. He said, "Sanctioning the public desecration of the flag will tarnish its value, both for those who cherish the ideas for which it waves and for those who desire to don the robes of martyrdom by burning it."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anybody who heard him read that dissent, the passion with which he looked at the flag and what it meant for him could really ever think about the American flag the same way when you look at it, whatever you thought about the legal issue.

BROWN: On the bench, he was known as a soft-spoken Midwesterner with a serene intellect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Extreme gentlemanliness, a courtly manner with one of the most acute raise of sharp minds, frankly, that's ever sat on the court. BROWN: Stevens retired in 2010, receiving a presidential medal of freedom two years later. And in 2018 after a school shooting in Florida, he pinned an op-ed calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. He was 97 years old at the time, but John Paul Stevens' mind and his words were still razor sharp.


COOPER: Well, joining us now by phone, CNN Legal Analyst and Supreme Court Biographer, Joan Biskupic. Joan, you know the history of the court as well as anyone. Let's talk about John Paul Stevens, his legacy.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (on the phone): You know, Anderson, just what Pam said right now about how razor sharp he was, I just talked to him about a month ago. He had just finished his latest book, and he still wanted to be so much a part of the dialogue in America.

And I think one thing he did was offer exhibit A to the kind of promise that Chief Justice John Roberts has said, there are no such thing as Obama judges or Trump judges because -- (INAUDIBLE) of Republican Gerald Ford in 1975, and he certainly couldn't have been predicted as someone who voted along the Republican Party lines.

He offered such a moderate to liberal-leaning view at the end of his life. He wanted to ensure greater protections for free speech, although he really fought free speech. He really fought the conservative effort to lift regulation of campaign finance.

He continued to argue for (INAUDIBLE) or gun rights. He opposed the Supreme Court's ruling, broadening the ability to have gun ownership rather than regulation. So across the board, more than 30 years influencing all areas of American life.

COOPER: Yes, just an extraordinary legacy. Again, the third-longest- serving Supreme Court justice. Joan Biskupic, appreciate it. Chris will have more on the life and the legacy of Justice Stevens. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CUOMO: Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time." Even condemning racism.