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tv   Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield  CNN  February 15, 2016 9:00am-10:01am PST

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only on cnn. again, both nights at 8:00, wednesday and thursday, and don't forget, south carolina primary is saturday. wow, these are important events. you cannot miss them. thanks for watching at this hour with legal view starts now. on one sided democratic president, in his final year on office, on the other, republican-led senate determined to prevent an election year lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. and suddenly, a hypothetical issue in the presidential race got very real. five days out from the nation's first southern primary is not the only issue. gop front runner against rival's brother who happens to have been a former president himself. george w. bush returns to the trail for the first time since leaving office. hello everyone, i'm in for
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ashleigh banfield, welcome to legal view. we have a lot to talk about this week. we expect to learn details fairly soon regarding funeral arrangements for the longest serving member of the current supreme court. the body of anthony nineteen scalia returned to d.c. from texas where the 79-year-old associate justice passed away while on a hunting trip. scalia leaves a court transformed by his ieds lolg and sheer presence over 29 and a half years. placing him setting up a political bat that will may well be an epic, as his legacy. joining me now with more on all this is our cnn washington correspondent, joe, if i can ask you, just we lost a supreme court justice this weekend, any word on funeral arrangements with the memorial service will be. what are we learning today? >> reporter: not so far. and i have checked just
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recently. it's taking them a little time to get information out. i can tell you, we do not that justice scalia was a devout catholic. he attended mass at a church in falls church, virginia. and so, you would expect or you would think there would be a church service. as well, there have been services for justices here at the court. in fact, in 2005, there was memorial service inside the great hall here at the supreme court. and one of the palm bearers in fact happens to be the chief justice of the supreme court right now. we're waiting to hear details of how elaborate this process will be, and when it's going to occur, jim. >> now on the legal side of things, of course, very busy, it is in session now. what becomes of the current cases before the court? will they go on as scheduled, even though you only have eight of the nine justices?
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>> reporter: they are expected to go on as scheduled. the question is whether they can get a decision that becomes precedent. of course, there are supposed to be nine justices on the court, that's an odd number when you go down to eight, that's an even number, and that creates the possibility of 4-4 ties which can occur in the closest of cases. in the event that occurs, then the holding by the lower court is what will stand, and whatever the supreme court does is not press den shl. so that's one option. the other option is to hold off on cases until they get another nominee who's actually confirmed and placed on the court. of course certainly sounds like that could be a while because of the posture on the hill from the majority leader and others suggesting the president shouldn't move forward and the question would be weather they would even get a vote. so that's all in the future, jim. >> joe johns up at the supreme
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court, it took minutes for this to become a political fight. republicans of course warding president obama to not even come forward. let the voters decide in the fall. does the president have any leverage to push this? i mean one thing that gets mentioned, blue state center. >> he does have leverage, particularly he's got the bully pulpit, he will probably go and barn storm the country. i assume. of course not announced anything yet, certainly he can do that if he chooses to, he has the biggest microphone in the country and in the world. what i would assume democrats would do, what they are trying to do is make sure they do focus on some of the at-risk republican senators from blue states. ones who will feel pressure from voters about whether or not even to have a vote. the way that, if you're looking at the republican conference, people who are sort of in the caucus of no way, no how, should not be a vote whatsoever.
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then you have those moderate senators who are not up for reelection, but who would presumably, could be open to a moderate type of justice. people like susan collins of maine, patrick in from arizona, then you have the blue state republicans. those are the leverage points that democrats will almost certainly try to exploit, but it'll be hard to get enough republicans to break rank and overcome a likely filibuster. >> the context here is there's a presidential election under way. he's speaking in south carolina. he was just speaking about this topic. let's listen in. >> supreme court ruling that none of us have a first amendment right to follow our faith instead the federal government can fine us, imprison us, force us to knuckle under one justice away from the little sisters of the poor being told violate your fate or face crushing fines and be driven out of following the mission that god has sent you to carry forth. that's what the stakes are. so the people of south carolina
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are assessing the candidates and making a determination, who can i trust on this? i'll tell you this, a candidate who has spent 60 years of his life being very, very pro-choice and defending partial birth abortion is not a person who can trust to the u.s. supreme court. >> you're hearing senator ted cruz there, of course candidate for president, also a member of the judiciary committee which will have the first word on president obama's nominee to the supreme court. i want to bring in former advisor to four presidents, by my count, david girgin. you heard ted cruz laying out the decisions that the court will pipe in on and digs decisions that very important to the conservative base, and of course already issues in this election. as you hear that there, you
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really get a sense of how much a battle this is going to be. you've been around a lot of presidents before, is there a way for president obama to find a candidate, find a nominee that can break through this? >> oh yes, i think that possibility exists. he needs to find someone very attractive personally, who will not be doing a lot of television, but can be very effective for representing the president's cause. and would appeal to the country, well, that's a sensible choice, if not some far off left winger, that's a person who sort of well-respected, and you know, there are candidates like that around, including at least one on the d.c. court of appeals, jeff tupin we've been talking about for the last couple of days who won unanimous support. finding someone like that, jim, whom i think appeals is going to work. i would say one other thing
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about this. not only are we heading into an epic battle this fall over the court as well as the presidency and the congress, all three, all three branchs of government in play in this election now. it's also true i think that this gives an opening for ted cruz he has not had before. he's the most articulate and knowledgeable person running on the republican side now on these issues regarding the court. he could well step back here, maybe after south carolina, and give, and give a serious speech. not something just off the cuff to an audience, but a serious speech about what this all represents. and i think make himself seem more presidential, if you would, and get thims gravtized. there's somebody else against him who can speak as well as cruz can on these issues. and he obviously cares about them deeply. >> and appeal in a state like south carolina, evangelicals,
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these issues will be more typical and central to their voting. i want to ask you, we put up on the screen a couple of these candidates, mentioned some before, jane kelly, i mean, what's interesting about kelly and serena, both were unanimous ly approved. kelly has grassley, the chairman of the senate juice dish area committee because there was a personal connection there. i have to ask, does that precedent necessarily hold here because it's an election year, we're talking about the supreme court. we're talking about a lifetime appointment. is it possible that what happened then, television just a different ball game now for republicans? >> i think it's a different ball game, and look, i think we really don't know how the public opinion's going to break on this. which way it's going to go. . it may be divided. if the public come thes ut on president obama, it's going to
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put a lot of pressure on some of these republicans to show more respect to follow, you know, more traditions and that sort of thing. there is something out there though that hasn't gotten a lot of discussion, i think republicans will cease upon. in coming days on this argument. is there's an article in politico, back in the summer of 2007 when george w. bush still had about a year and a half left in his presidency. and chuck schumer, chuck schumer gave a very strong statement that it was time to put a block, put a hold on presidential nominees to the supreme court until the next president came in. and to only consider them under extraordinary circumstances, he felt very burned by the roberts and alito appointments that were managed to get confirmed. and schumer was trying to say no more because of the court is so important. isn't that really the argument that a lot of republicans are making now?
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they're going to cease on that schumer thing to say what's good for the goose is good for the gander. so this is, these arguments are going to take a lot of interesting turns in the days ahead. >> no question, certainly hypocrisy not in short supply in washington on capitol hill. >> it sure isn't, we both know that. >> hypocrisy and political advantage, manage that. great to have you. and coming up, laura and george w. bush making their first appearance on the campaign trail. will they be able to drum up enough support to put his president on the top of the pack? we'll bring you live to south carolina, that's right after this.
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see car insurance in a whole new light. liberty mutual insurance. digestive core.r so choose ultimate flora by renewlife. it has 30 billion probiotic cultures. feel lighter and more energized. ultimate flora. more power to your gut. gop candidate jeb bush is calling on his big brother to help give him a boost this president's day. since leaving office, president george w. bush is hitting the campaign trail. this comes as donald trump attacks george w. bush's legacy at the latest presidential debate. and trump is already tweeting today saying quote, funny that jeb didn't want help from his family in his failed campaign and didn't want to use his last name. then mommy, now brother. joining me now is athena jones,
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athe athena, what is the campaign saying about the timing. how do they explain bringing w. out to the campaign trail now? >> reporter: hi jim, good question. it's something that governor bush was asked on "state of the union," and he said now is the right time. when there's a high level of interest and a lot of people are watching. you could argue that people have been very interested in this gop race for the nomination for months a watching closely for months. the bottom line is bush finished sixth place in iowa, fourth place in new hampshire. he really wants to finish strong here, and they're hoping that george w. bush will help because he's popular among republicans and he's popular in the state. take a listen to governor bush talking on the "today" show this morning about the fact that be his brother is joining him on the campaign trail, listen to that. >> this will be the first time he's gotten involved. and i respect the fact that he has been out of the political fray. that's a good tradition, but like president clinton, i guess supporting his spouse, and, you
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know, he wants to help his brother. i don't have a problem with that at all. i'm proud of his service. i'm proud of my family's service. i'm running for president based on my own merits, but the fact that he's supporting me will add value to the primary in south carolina for sure. >> reporter: and so of course the big question is how much can w. help jeb here. the south carolina handed both bush primary victories. all that he would say on "state of the union" is that he expects to beat expectations here in this state. so of course, we'll be watching to see if that happens, jim. >> athena jones, in south carolina. let's talk more with mark. mark, part of this is the jeb bush needs something of of a boost, but it's also that w. has good popularity in south carolina. >> not only good popularity, but bush name as a whole is popular. why wasn't his brother brought out earlier? in some ways --
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>> earlier states or just earlier in advance of south carolina. >> certainly earlier in advance of south carolina. george w. bush wasn't beloved by democrats. a lot of the dependents had problems with him, but he was well liked by republicans, and with jeb bush having so much difficulty, jim, going from october, november, december, january, you know, into where we are right now. you wonder why he wasn't pulled out earlier. >> talking about south carolina, you have a cruz and trump at the top in most of the polls, does he have to surprise in third place, jeb bush, to keep going? certainly got enough money to keep going after this. what does he need to show from all of this to keep the race, give it a boost? >> he needs to show momentum. we've seen the last two debates he has fire in his belly. he's willing to take on donald trump. in the debate the other night, which was very similar to the debate we saw earlier, he steered down donald trump. not only did he have harsh words, but he stared him in the eye. we hadn't seen that in the past and that worried donors and supporters. the question is can he come out
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of south carolina in fourth place? why not? he has the money to do so. florida is on march 15th, that's the big battle. marco rubio and jeb bush fighting it out for all the delegates on the table in florida. anybody that says he's done right now for that matter that donald trump is done right now, marco rubio's done right now or ted cruz down right now is clearly not looking at the race. >> donald trump's listening. he was taking his shots at jeb's brother in the latest debate. let's listen to his latest jab against jeb push. >> george bush made a mistake. we can make mistakes, but that was a beauty. we should have never been in iraq. they lied. there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none and they knew they were none. >> i could care less about the insults. i'm glad he's happy about it, but i have -- i am sick and tired of him going after my family. >> world trade center came down. >> hold on, let me finish.
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>> that was a tough exchange there. i just wonder on the iraq war issue, democrats, you bring up the iraq war, that's money for you, but with republican voters, is that, is that a good line of attack for donald trump against jeb and against his family's legacy? >> no, but when we think about conventional wisdom with donald trump, we're always wrong. went after john mccain, wrong, megyn kelly, we were wrong, everything he has done, he has continued to grow support, or at least the support stays with him. the problem for jeb bush right now, he did stumble over the iraq war vote, and whether his brother was right or wrong when he started his campaign, but now, he's embracing his family. it's interesting during that exchange he said, you know, it doesn't bother me that donald trump is saying things about my family, but clearly it is bothering him. perhaps if he had come up on that, people -- >> you heard some of it come out. don't go after my family, this is personal. thanks as always for helping break it down for us. still ahead, the hits just
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keep coming as gop candidates trade jabs in south carolina. coming up, we'll see how the latest gop debate is fueling new rhetoric with just five days to go until the first in the south primary. here's a little healthy advice. take care of what makes you...you. aveeno® daily moisturizing body wash and lotion with active naturals® oat. used together, they provide 2x the nourishment for beautiful healthier looking skin. aveeno® naturally beautiful results® without looking at cable wires and boxes in every room. mother, we are settlers. we settle for cable. and the simpler things in life. like our drab clothing. that's right, daughter. and homemade haircuts. exactly, boy. besides, if it weren't for wires, how would cousin tobias get his privacy? hey - shut the blanket! i need my privacy! (vo) don't be a settler. get a $100 visa prepaid card when you switch to directv.
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ted cruz and marco rubio spoke just a short time ago. all of this comes after a heated debate on saturday, joining us no tow talk about this is cnn political commentator ryan along
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with former south carolina state representative. for both of you, i want to play one of the most contentious exchangings from the debate on the weekend between ted cruz and donald trump. i'm sure it's familiar to both of you. have a quick listen. >> you are the single biggest liar, probably worse than jeb bush. you are the single biggest liar. >> donald has this weird pattern. when you point to his own record, he screams liar, liar, liar. >> it got ugly in that debate, bacari, if this was any other election, voters are going to run away, it doesn't seem presidential, it's getting nasty, but all those predictions have fallen flat. as you look at that, and at getting, seemingly nastier and nastier, what kind of effect does this have on the race moving forward on the republican side? >> well, i have to tell you, jim, is welcome to south carolina. because this is how we play politics down here.
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this isn't new to south carolina. i once said that new hampshire was a very clean state where these types of games, language, and rhetoric wouldn't play well. but we do anticipate this playing very well. we have a southern charm with elbows here in south carolina. and i think that people are starting to dig their heels in. and one of the things we're starting to see is a new line in the playbook where people are staring donald trump in the eye and taking him on. whether or not that works or not, we saw jeb bush this point. >> side of the screen that donald trump has begun speaking there. we will be monitoring those events. let's have a quick listen in to listen to what he's talking about right now. >> they are the most dishonest people i've ever met. oh really. i mean, really. and thing, i mean, jeb is just jeb. but this guy, ted cruz is the
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most dishonest guy i think i've ever met in politics. he will say, like for instance, many of you have heard my speeches, you've seen on television, my whole thing is we will repeal and replace obamacare. so he comes out today and says donald trump loves obamacare. what am i going to do? we have four days left. so he says donald trump, he took an ad, somebody said he's putting up an ad that i'm pro-choice, now, i'm pro-life. donald trump is pro -- well, but -- now how -- because fox just reported, well cruz said he's pro this and pro that. and everything is the opposite. now, nobody stronger in the second amendment. you've heard me talking about california, you've heard me talking about how if paris and paris have the strongest gun laws in the world, if they had guns with the bullet flowing the other word. i stay constantly. i am the strongest person for the second amendment. the strongest of the group.
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>> you've been listening to donald trump there, and ryan, almost on cue, we were talking about the allegations of he's a liar, right there you saw donald trump again take aim at jeb bush but also ted cruz saying he's the most dishonest. i wonder, in this race, do those allegations, those accusations of lying move anyone or are the supporters on each side convinced that the other one's lying or just sort of makes them harden their position? how much does it move the voters when they make those charges? >> that's a great question. we'll find out more in south carolina. frankly, the case against trump has not been made very beforefully or with a lot of money behind it until very recently. right? remember what ted cruz's strategy was up until just days, almost hours before iowa voted. his strategy was that he described it, hug donald trump. because he assumed, frankly like everyone else did that trump doesn't have staying power and trump's candidacy would fall
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down to earth with its own weight. and cruz didn't have to attack him. well, what did cruz do by hugging him? he validated donald trump as a real conservative. now, cruz is playing catch-up and doing 180 degree turn and saying wait everyone, look at his record, he has a record of being pro big health care program, record of being pro choice, not a good record on the second amendment, he's trying to liberalize trump, he's trying to point out that he's not a rel conservative. frankly it's a success that he's defending himself against those allegations, that has not been what trump has had to do with most of his campaign. >> still four days to go, and it's going to be a tough fight before south carolina. great to have you on the story. this week, a unique two-night event you'll only be able to see here on cnn. all six republican candidates for the very first time in this entire campaign they will answer
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questions from the voters of south carolina. ben carson, marco rubio, and ted cruz kick it off on wednesday night, john kasich, jeb bush, and donald trump on thursday night. we'll have both events live beginning at 8:00 p.m., wednesday and thursday nights only on cnn. suddenly all three branches of government are caught up in the 2016 elections a a litany of hot-button issues now pending before the supreme court. after the break, how the death of antonin scalia can change the court and the very nation. man: you're not coming. i took mucinex to help get rid of my mucusy congestion. i'm good all day. [announcer:] mucinex keeps working. not 4, not 6, but 12 hours. let's end this i accept i do a shorter i set these days.22. i even accept i have a higher risk of stroke due to afib, a type of irregular heartbeat, not caused by a heart valve problem. but i won't play anything less than my best.
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antonin scalia who was for almost 30 years a conservative thai tan on the supreme court. i'm joined bay constitutional titan, jonathan turly. a lot of politics involved, that's the understatement of the years. with the politics, there are charges going back and forth as to what's truly unprecedented. let's go over a couple of them. on the one side, the democrats would say it would be unprecedented to have several months, as long as as a year, really a year until the next president to have a vacancy. subpoena that truly unprecedented? >> no, that's not true. there have been vacancies that have in fact been longer, i mean the most unfortunate was john tyler. his was about 27 months. >> that's going back to the 19th century. more recently? >> 391 days with a vacancy in 1969 with abe portis. a lot are complex because they
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involve different issues. for this case, someone whose been nominated from the court to the chief justice position. but it's -- the point is that it is not unprecedented, the court would not stop functioning. it would not be as dire as all of that -- >> but it might be tied on a lot of the most contentious issues. >> we have a bunch of historic cases that would become less historic because the lower court decisions -- >> one of the ironies, this union case, the lower court has ruled that in effect a victory for the liberal side -- >> both sides win or lose, depending on the case. some would go with the conservative, some with liberals. >> the other charge then from the republican side, and we heard this from marco rubio and the debate on saturday, that it would be unprecedented to have a president so close to the next election to make a nomination like this. is that a true statement? >> no, it's not entirely accurate in the sense that we did have -- i mean the most obvious lame duck president
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would be johnson who decided he was not going to go for a second term. that was before this business. aspects are unique in that. two other presidents in the final year that proved to be lame duck because they lost reelection. but this is, where it's accurate, it is relatively rare, it is also accurate to say that whenever you're within two years of the end of a term, it's problematic. it becomes more difficult. there's no rule against it, and it's not unprecedented in that sense, but it is more difficult. you also have to keep in mind, it's relatively rare for a justice to die in the middle of a term. so -- >> a lot of the other vacancies were retirements. they could stick around during that time. final question, just for you, we're in washington, so politics are just a little bit involved in all of this. a lot of names are thrown around. where the president could nominate and get over the hurdles, sri, unanimously confirmed, kelly, for instance
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who has a tie to center grassley. you follow this kind of stuff, is there a nominee to put forward? >> it is possible that he could bend this like beckham and get it through, but i wouldn't bet on it. the fact is you're replacing a conservative icon, not since thomas replacing marshall have we had a breakneck change. any moderate nominee is going to move this needle to the left on the court. and it's going to be a battle royal. >> no question. and you know, not the only one happening this year, right? jonathan turly, great to have you breaking it down. democrats are positioning themselves to earn the african american vote in south carolina. how support for a crime bill in 1994 is affecting hillary clinton and bernie sanders' strategy. ...why settle for this? enter sleep number and the ultimate sleep number event, going on now. sleepiq technology tells you how well you slept and what adjustments you can make. you like the bed soft. he's more hardcore.
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the only way to win south carolina's democratic primary is to win the african american vote. and both hillary clinton and bernie sanders know this well. how big a role does the black vote play there? 2008, 54% of the voters in the dimmic primary were black.
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they decide the election. both campaigns continue to court black leaders and tomorrow hillary clinton is meeting with civil rights groups in new york city to quote, discuss the unfinished business that our country faces, including voting rights, poverty, unemployment, mass incarceration, and racial inequities. the national urban league has a seat at the table and joined by their president and ceo, mark moral. thank you for taking the time to join us. >> thank you, jim, good afternoon. >> so this is a key meeting, any day of the year, but particularly in advance of the south carolina primary. you have not endorsed anyone yet. your organization has not, what are you going to ask hillary clinton for tomorrow and what are you going to press her on these issues? >> so we've invited hillary clinton and we've extended an invitation for the record for every candidate to participate in a similar briefing. and we'll be talking about the issues of the economy, jobs, and
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poverty. voting rights, criminal justice, education, we'll also be talking about foreign affairs and with me will be an array of leaders of historic civil rights organizations who work together and who put together a 21st century agenda three years ago. we'll be sharing with her our agenda, our policy prescriptions, our ideas on a wide range of very important issues. >> you say just to confirm there that you have extended the same invitation to bernie sanders. >> we've extended it to bernie as well as all of the republican candidates. we aim to be -- >> has bernie -- >> -- to discuss dialogue. >> we're in discussions with bernie's campaign and we're in discussions with other campaigns and we hope in the next several days to announce who and where we will be meeting with other campaigns. sop it's really important that everyone understand that these briefings, this meeting was not
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arranged by the clinton campaign, it was arranged by the civil rights organizations and we'll be hosting at the urban league's headquarters in new york. and same thing across the board because we think the issues that we want to share are important to everyone who ultimately want to be president of the united states. >> so let me ask you this, the conventional wisdom has been that hillary clinton owns the black vote and that bernie, partly from the part of the country's he's from but his history that he doesn't have a shot there. now bernie sanders has argued that the black community just hasn't heard enough about him and once they do, that they will support him. let's look want a the poll numbers, according to a poll, 31% of registered black voters have not heard enough about him, but of those who have, 55% do have a favorable opinion of him. look at that, it's a big advantage favorable over unfavorable. do you believe that bernie sanders has a chance to make serious enrows in the black vote
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beginning in south carolina? >> this is what's important, no one owns the vote. the black community like any other community should not be taken for granted. the fact of the matter is that hillary clinton has a track record and a history and a familiarity and a set of relationships that bernie sanders does not have the. the other fact is that bernie sanders has with his messaging, things that appealed is not well known even though he's been, if you will, in politics for some 30 years. so, for, i think african american voters like many voters, it's not just message, it's also whether the messenger is credible, and whether the messenger can be, if you will, a strong general election candidate. i think african american voters are very sophisticated, and can like a lot of candidates, but the issue is really going to be who they believe, who they trust, who they feel can truly carry the banner in the fall
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election. >> just very quickly, are you open to nominating bernie sanders? if he impresses you and accepts and impresses you in the meeting. >> well my organization is non-partisan and will not endorse anyone. i will say that having a competitive conversation with candidates competing for the african american community's support is in the best interest of the african american community and if you will, the general election, the general electorate. i think people's minds are open, but it's important to recognize that hillary clinton starts with the advantage of history, familiarity, and royals, and that for bernie, he has a catch-up game with respect to a community with whom he's not had a lot of contact over the years, even though we certainly appreciate anyone who has supported the issues of voting rights, economic development for urban communities, and those issues over the years. >> all right.
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mark moral, thanks for having you on, it's good to talk. coming up, it has been more than two years since cnn uncovered deadly wait times at veteran's hospitals across the country. despite billions of dollars, nothing has changed. cnn investigates, that's right after this. you both have a perfect driving record. >>perfect. no tickets. no accidents... >>that is until one of you clips a food truck, ruining your perfect record. >>yup... now, you would think your insurance company would cut you some slack, right? >>no. your insurance rates go through the roof.
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it is becoming a big topic on the campaign trail, who will fix the va, despite billions of dollars in emergency funds, veterans across the country still have to wait sometimes months for essential medical care. cnn investigative correspondent drew griffin again brings us the story. >> reporter: el paso's va clinic had one of the worst wait lists in the entire country with one of the worst waitless stories we've ever heard. >> he just turned 45. we had one psychiatrist, and she
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wasn't available all the time. >> reporter: and wasn't available to him. >> at all. >> reporter: bonnie's son nicholas was an army vet diagnosed with ptsd. he was living in phoenix and getting some care at the phoenix va. but his illness forced him to come home to el paso. and on to the wait list for care at el paso's va clinic. four months? >> four months before he could see, not a psychiatrist, but he could see a primary doctor. the appointment was cancelled. and made for another one. and he got angry and said, you know what, six months i'm waiting to see somebody. >> reporter: nicholas grew angry, depressed, and violent his mother says. he finally got an appointment, was given medication, and told to come back in nine months. >> that was the point, june, july, august, september, october, november, december,
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there are guys that have to wait a year. i mean, this is really, it's a sin. >> reporter: february it turned out just became too long of a wait. >> he killed himself. >> reporter: you still wear his dog tags. >> i do. he's with me. this is him. he's my angel. >> reporter: days after his 45th birthday, nick diamico tucked wallets, house key, phone into a desert combat and drove his jeep above el paso and drove over a cliff. what would you like to say to these va officials who ignored this problem for so long? >> i think some people need to go to jail. they knew what they were doing. they treated these men and women
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like they were doing them a favor. to give them an appointment. >> reporter: the congressman serves on the veteran's affairs committee and back home, he was hearing about the long wait times, especially in mental health, and soldiers committing suicide. he thought he would get straight answers from the va administration in washington. >> they would tell me look, you certainly have some disgruntled ornery veterans in el paso and we have them all over the country, but our numbers tell us confidently, that we're seeing veterans in your community within two weeks. >> reporter: he did what no other congressman bothered to do, he did his own survey of vets in his own district. how are you? and proved to himself the va was lying. >> i was very frustrated when it became obvious to be me how bad the problem was. and how little support we had within the leadership of the va to transform el paso.
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the secretary's, the interim, and then the new sec toir bob mcdonnell all made visits here, but nothing seemed to turn around the problem with access. >> reporter: he holds town hall meetings like this every month, and he was hearing more and more va horror stories including nick's. he had heard enough from washington. >> that's unacceptable. absolutely unacceptable. >> reporter: so he came up with his own local plan, that if it works could save the va nationwide. the va clinic will focus solely on combat and military service-related health issues. >> that could be a traumatic amputation, a loss of a limb. military sexual trauma. traumatic brain injury or posttraumatic stress disorder. diabetes, cold, flu, getting their teeth fixed, there are confident and excellent doctors who are able to take care of them. >> reporter: it's just getting started, but vets here seem to think the plan's working.
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congressman in part credits a new interim va director in el paso, gail grant. >> we were certainly trying every day to make improvements to increase our collaboration with the community to get the right provider into place in the facility. >> reporter: it's more than he can say for the politicians back in washington from both sides of the aisle. whom he says have mostly moved on from a crisis that hasn't gone away. >> if congress was doing its job, it would have taken action much sooner than now. the same goes for the president and his predecessors. i don't know from his public comments that he fully appreciates the severity of the crisis, especially in mental health. >> reporter: the new va treatment plan comes too late for bonnie. what keeps her going is the hope her son's tragic end will be a beginning of a better va. >> cnn senior investigative correspondent drew griffin joins me now. you've been covering this from the beginning. powerful to hear the stories. this solution in el paso sounds
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like it has potential, have the va focussed on combat related both psychological and physical injuries? does this have a potential to be applied more nationally? >> you know, it's really sizing down what the va does to try to expand and get these times in better, will it work in el paso is the question. he is only focussing on that. jim, like many other critics of the va, he is concerned that all the va has been doing is tinkering with the edges of an organization that needs a massive restructuring. we have been asking the va now in washington, d.c. for two weeks for a comment on this story, and we have yet to receive comment on what's happening in el paso. i think that is telling as to whether or not this spreads nationwide. >> just very quickly before i let you go, who's failing here? is it the va itself? is it oversight from the hill? >> i think the va internally cannot handle the job that its supposed to be doing because of
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all the bureaucracy wrapped around this megaorganization that is so stuck. i think it needs pressure from the outside, particularly from the white house. >> drew, good to have you on the story and thanks to all of you for watching today. wolf starts right now. hello, i'm wolf blitzer, it's noon in mexico city, 1:00 p.m. here in washington, 8:00 p.m. in damascus, syria, wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us. we're keeping an eye on two major developing stories right now. first the fallout from the surprise passing of the u.s. supreme court justice antonin scalia, and the battle between the white house and republican-controlled senate over replacements. former president george w. bush makes a much-anticipated

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