tv S.E. Cupp Unfiltered CNN December 15, 2018 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
welcome to "unfiltered." tonight's headline. mass exodus? after abruptly announcing that white house budget director and omb chief mick mulvaney will take on a temporary third job as acting white house chief of staff just yesterday. today, the president, again, abruptly announced the departure of white house interior secretary ryan zinke. secretary of the interior ryan zinke will be leaving the administration at the end of the year, after having served for a period of almost two years. ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and i want to thank him for his service to our nation. the trump administration will be announcing the new secretary of the interior next week. by his own admission, zinke's departure is a result of looming violations of ethical violations in the trump cabinet. zinke said in part, after 30 years of public service, i cannot justify spending
thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations. zinke's resignation comes weeks after house democrats set to gain control of the house committee on natural resources. in charge of oversight of the interior. not an ideal situation for a cabinet secretary who's been the subject of at least 15 investigations during his tenure. here's the deal. this is what they call in hollywood foreshadowing. zinke may have used taxpayer dollars to fund expensive charter flights around the country but ain't dumb. can see the writing on the wall. democrats are coming for all the ethics violations and he's not the only one they're coming for. treasury secretary steve mnuchin, ben carson, commerce secretary wilbur ross and rick perry, all of them have already faced varying degrees of scrutiny and could be looking at ethics probes in the new
congress. this after ethics violations have already seen the departures of hhs secretary tom price, the secretary and epa administrator scott pruitt. trump's white house isn't just a revolving door. it's political. you might come in but you'll come out. i want to go to boris sanchez with more on the latest of all of these developments. >> reporter: hey there, s.e. the white house has been closely watching these developments with ryan zinke. the reports out there he was asked to leave the administration. cnn still working to confirm that. obviously, as you pointed out, with an incoming democratic majority headed to the house, there is a potential for zinke to have to testify in regard to some of his business dealings. to give you an idea of what that may look like, though zinke has left the administration, some
are still calling for him to testify and last month, had an exchange with representative raul of arizona. he leaves the department of natural resources who oversees the interior department. he called on zinke to resign over these allegations. zinke, in return, called him a drunk and today, a spokesperson put out a statement saying, quote, it is safe to say that our oversight of former secretary zinke has not even begun yet. we'll extend the invitation to testify and still take it from there. so it appears that democrats are licking their chops hoping to get him to still testify. you can imagine why the white house would want to put some distance with themselves. there's been tom price and others who have had questionable ethics behavior. the coverage the president is not a fan of. >> it's not off ryan zinke yet. thank you, appreciate it. a lot to get through here. let me bring in cnn political
commentator. hilary rosen. what a day. o news. doug, i'll start with you. you have background on zinke's departure. >> this has come out of nowhere, at least the announcement. it's a saturday, which means this is all the focus of the media and the staff was caught by surprise. they were not expecting this to come first thing saturday morning. >> his staff. >> there has been no official communication with the secretary to the staff. there will be a meeting monday with the political staff. so they're still flying in the unknown world right now. what exactly has caused this to happen now and there's a lot of questions. it also means the news stories are filled with staffers making things up as they go along because they've been left in the dark. >> that's not a good spot for anyone to be in. do you think other cabinet members, doug, are looking at what's happening with zinke and considering doing the same? like, i should bounce before the heat really gets to me. >> they are, and this is to some extent, you can't fire me because i quit moment but it's clear the decision was made by the white house, we're hearing
more and more but it's not just other cabinet members but there are senior staff at the interior department. this will be a big problem and who's done a lot of the heavy lifting on policy is then elevated to the next secretary who has good relationships with congressional democrats, especially for trump administration staffers that some of those staff may leave as well out of loyalty to david. >> hillary, do you think other cabinet members are watching and thinking, the democrats are coming, the democrats are coming? so want to exit. >> you have to step back and look at the hubris of the trump administration officials two years ago when the republicans controlled all branches of government and decided that they could run amuck and do whatever they wanted to. that's been sort of the trigger here that's led to us to this moment and i think that people are kind of, they didn't seem to anticipate the party would be over. there would be scrutiny and i
think that you have democratic members now at every, on every issue with every cabinet level, with every cabinet saying, i want to look at this. i've been ignored for two years. now i've got my chance. >> so i'm reminded of something that rahm emanuel told david axelrod in an interview a couple of weeks ago on cnn. he said democrats should leave trump to mueller and they should focus on all the ethics violations. do you think that democrats are taking that advice? >> i mean, i think they'll walk and chew gun at the same time. >> they'll do it all. >> i think we've already heard that adam shiff at intelligence is going to look at taxes. you know, donald trump is going to have his share of problems and subpoenas and document requests as well. but do think some of the areas the democrats look at and zinke is critical here, it really isn't just that he used government resources to fly to a party in las vegas.
it's that he unleashed more federal lands into the private sector than any secretary the interior did in the last 30 years. >> so that's political. are you saying there's a political motivation? >> it's substance. and so what you're finding is the epa rules that have been lessened that people are unhappy about, the access to housing subsidies. democrats will really say you've raped and pillaged the government and hurt people and we're going to get to the bottom of it. >> they'll still need trump on that sort of stuff but mick mulvaney we know. he once called the president a terrible human being. we happen to have sound. take a listen. >> i've supported donald trump. as enthusiastic, i think he's a terrible human being. >> i mean, he went from reluctantly supporting a terrible human being to now becoming the president's chief
of staff. there's no one closer maybe other than the vice president to the president. what do you make of this? >> that was then, this is now. welcome to politics in donald trump's washington. it shouldn't be a surprise because mick mulvaney is loyal, about 18 different hats, all a red one for donald trump. and this is also another move for donald trump and help unify. they like mick mulvaney. >> chief will be politically savvy. >> there's no question that john kelly was not the chief of staff going into a reelection, dealing with the problems that he's about to have with mueller. he needed a politician and guess what? there just weren't that many options. mick mulvaney said pick me, pick me. >> ron claimed a friend of yours
and mine and the verbat, tweete interesting earlier. a senate confirmed as chief of staff not quitting as omb chief, trump blunders into being the first president to have a chief of staff called to testify before congress. was this a gift to democrats? >> well, look, i think really, it's open game. if he doesn't leave the omb job, which i'm sure now he's going to have to because there's not going to be, you know,ville h t have an acting head of omb which they'll do for a year without a problem. there's no way he'll keep that job. >> it will be so interesting. this is a job remarkably that as you mentioned, only mick mulvaney seemed to want but we believe, according to some reporting, he insisted on the acting part because he didn't want this for a long time. what do you make of that, doug? >> i think it was one thing. a lot of jobs in the trump
administration are very tempora temporary. if you define yourself. >> default or design. >> you weren't promoted or fired at the end of the day. >> it's instructive that trump agreed to that because that's exactly what nick wanted. >> the vice president's current chief of staff wanted a temporary position and the president didn't, but he ran out of options pretty quickly. >> he ran out of options and the field sort of whittled i.tself down. hillary, doug, thank you so much for joining me. a lot of stuff to cover. i appreciate it. up next, more. connecting the dots in the ever expanding investigations into trump world and a bit later, is joe biden the man for the job in that's what democrats seal to think for now. only half the story? at t. rowe price our experts go beyond the numbers to examine investment opportunities firsthand. like e-commerce spurring cardboard demand. the pursuit of allergy-free peanuts.
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fronts. in addition to this special counsel's office, the president faces investigations from the u.s. attorney's office from the southern district of new york and the new york/new jersey and maryland attorney general offices and come january, you can add the united states congress to the list as well. so many investigations happening simultaneously in fact, that turns into white noise but important to remember, this is not normal. things are not okay. the president of the united states is in serious trouble. so let's break it down. trump is facing legal jeopardy on at least four distinct fronts. first, there's campaign finance violations. the president's former lawyer, michael cohen, made news this week. he has admitted to criminal violations of federal campaign finance law when he paid off two of president trump's mistresses. he alleges and prosecutors
believe him that those payments were made at the direction of then candidate trump in order to influence the election. he said as much in an interview with george stephanopoulos this week. unindited c unindicted co-conspirator in two separate crimes. the president to impede investigations against him and close associates. his firing of james comey, tweet and other statements, dangling pardons to potential witnesses, attacks on witnesses who have flipped like michael cohen and his praise for those who have remain silent like roger stone. his replacement of jeff sessions with a more sympathetic matthew whitaker. it seems every step trump was using the process of the president to be tipped in his favor. that's looked at too. next, the investigation into russian collusion and interference into the 2016
presidential election. the thing that started all of this. most recently, investigators have been digging into whether or not trump allies, roger stone, jerry corsi, with wikileaks, a russian cutout, to release damaging e-mails with allies of hillary clinton. this would also include efforts to gain dirt on hillary clinton during the now infamous 2016 trump tower meeting. okay, finally, we have investigations into trump's financial entanglements with foreign entities and governments. perhaps most notable, questions about the trump organization's efforts to build a trump tower in moscow for which he'd need approval from the russian government. michael cohen has admitted to lying to congress about the timeline of those dealings. in addition, there are questions about foreign governments buying blocks of rooms at trump properties. potentially with the institution's emollient clause.
we have new investigations into trump's inauguration spending now with crimes like bribery, tax fraud, and misuse of non-profit status. it goes on and on. that's not even an inclusive list. this represents an avalanche of legal jeopardy for the president and the people around him. okay, to get all of these threads together, bring in former assistant u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york, cnn legal analyst, honig. great people for a complicated 30,000 foot view of all the things that are going on in trump's universe. eli, i'll start with you. the trump battles are so numerous and oftentimes interconnected. it's hard to keep them all straight. from where you sit as a former u.s. attorney, which of these buckets of legal problems do you
think poses the greatest threat to the president? >> i think the southern district investigation poses the most immediate potentially criminal threat. i think the russian piece is the larger threat. if you told me as a prosecutor, go into a grand jury tomorrow armed with only what's publicly known, i'd choose the campaign finance violations. there's the most developed factual record. ami, which flipped in last week. the tape between cohen and trump. >> potentially a vault at the "national inquirer" full of trump stuff. >> you have that. and that said, i think there's a separate political question. certainly a question as to whether doj candidate will indict the president and even if that case is proven conclusively, will that move the needle enough for democrats to impeach and republicans to move
off of him and take a hit on either the entanglements with russia or the hacking to get that done. >> rudy giuliani though, one of trump's many lawyers, has said of the campaign finance violations, so what? no one died. is a judge likely to agree? >> so what, is a terrible legal defense. a crime is a crime. people get charged and convicted. he's a president. so special rules do apply to some extent, but i don't think any judge or juror would at all care about a "who cares" defense. >> over to you, josh. robert mueller slammed michael flynn, trump's former national security adviser for suggesting the fbi tricked him into lying about his contact with russians. mueller wrote, in part, the defendant, that's flynn, chose to make false statements about his communications with the
russian ambassador weeks before the fbi interview when he lied about that topic to the media. the incoming vice president and other members of the presidential transition team. when faced with the fbi's question on january 24th during an interview, that was voluntary and cordial, the defendant repeated the same false statements, the court should reject the defendant's attempts to minimize the false statements to the fbi and then here's the final blow. a sitting national security adviser, former head of an intelligence agency, retired lieutenant general and 33 year veteran of the armed forces, knows he should not lie to federal agents. that is scathing. what did you make of that, josh? >> very scathing and a dramatic development. reading through the document, it reminded me. remember the movie "a few good men." >> very well. >> kl knehe launches into the s monologue, telling all these ingrates they can't handle the
truth. that's what i was kind of expecting. all the service to the nation, how dare you. he went the opposite and said, not only not handle the truth. i didn't know i was supposed to tell the truth and robert mueller said that's a garbage argument and systemically picked that apart in this document. i tell you, knowing bob mueller, he's a very impatient person and i think when he sees someone like michael flynn trying to have it both ways saying i'm cooperating and providing information and then taking a page from president trump's play book saying i'm a target of law enforcement and the fbi, that's not something that sat very well and we saw through the document, picking apart this document and said, you should have known better. a 33 year veteran of the united states military. this is nonsense. >> did you order the code red? you bet i did. so what about these financial entanglements? the emollients. trump ties to saudi interests, for example, are being investigated on multiple fronts. not just by mueller but house
democrats plan to investigate that specifically. >> it is so swampy, s.e. and as much as a president likes to attack fbi agents, gosh, is he giving them job security. you look at these lines of effort they haveregulators. it's a cascade of potential corruption and one thing that struck me today. our friends at the "washington post" had this dramatic lead in one of their stories that said two years after donald trump won the presidency, nearly every organization he led is now under investigation which if you think about that, the inauguration, the foundation, i mean, it goes on and on and on. so obviously, that poses legal challenges for the president and i think the last thing i would say on that, obviously, political challenges. i talk to a lot of my friends who are republicans who run in republican circles and this is this argument who say, they know what they got when they signed up for the president and they know his demeanor and his bluster, all of that. a lot of people really didn't
know that it got this swampy when it came to these allegations and posing challenges from a political lens because the quote unquote party of law enforcement has someone at the top of the ticket now facing so much scrutiny from law enforcement. it's a really troubling time. >> and we're going to talk more about the political implications of this in the next segment. elie, back to you. the ultimate prize here for democrats anyway would be proof that somehow trump colluded with russia before the 2016 election. how does that look? >> that is to be determined. i think that's the next chapter or the phase we'll see. this week was so taken with the people who've already been charged and with the campaign finance but let's not lose sight. there's two big fronts, i think, in the collusion battle. one is wikileaks. remember, we know for sure, the russian state hacked into hillary clinton's e-mail servers, the dnc e-mail servers and looks awfully like there was coordination between roger stone, corsi, some combination of these weird guys. >> i know what you mean. >> they're all characters. and if that comes to fruition,
if there's a connection back into the inner circle and we know that stone was talking to steve bannon, that's going to be a heavy hit. the second piece is the financial entanglements and the moscow project. what was so important, what jumped out to me, is it answered the "why" question. trump is trying to build hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment in moscow. he needs russian government approvals to do that and he's doing it way into the election. once he's even in the summer of '16, the presumptive nominee and michael cohen lied about it. why did the russians want trump to win? would have been indebte to them financially and otherwise. why did they offer this election assistance? why were trump's people eager to get it and why was everyone lying about it? >> josh, elie, thank you so much for this analysis. appreciate it. next, a look at how this mueller mess could reshape trump's political playing field and a judge strikes down obamacare but the president and his supporters
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battles, how are democrats likely to seize on the scandals? the investigations? >> just on the pure politics, if they were smart, they would get out of the way. just allow these investigations to go on. my old boss john boehner used to say if your opponent is about to jump off a bridge, whatever you do, don't push him. >> right. >> but there's going to be an enormous amount of pressure from democrats and their most active part of their base to hold this president accountable and forget about the politics of it. many of these democrats do feel that this is in their job description. their job is to administer oversight, to hold this administration and the executive overall accountable. so they are very likely to play an important role even as all of these investigations go on the legal side. you can bet the political part will come into play as well. >> turning the screws, yeah. the republican side though, you know, nixon's allies in congress stood by him for a long time
until that became untenable. do you think there's a point at which republicans decide, enough is enough or would that have happened by now? >> i think we will find that point, but we're nowhere near to it yet. i mean, this is a president who has an enormous level of support amongst the most conservative, the most active part of the republican base. i would look at that support and many of these congressional allies a lot like a dam. there are going to be cracks in the dam and structurally unsound. they will try to prop it up as long as possible but it's very likely to come crashing down on them and i think politically, that could come at the very last minute when it's too late. >> well, so speaking of very last minute, should the rnc be worried that this would affect 2020 fund raising, for example? >> it's no doubt it's going to have an impact but i think one of the things that the rnc has done with the support of trump
is really build and mine a much broader, deeper small donor base. so trump supporters out from across the country, the 10 or $25 a month to support the rnc and the president, i think they're likely to support this president to the very end. bigger donors though. they are much more risk averse. as a lot of these problems continue to mount and the investigations continue to take sist center stage. they're likely to open up big wallet donations. >> the president's job approval, hovers around the average of 40%, according to gallup. the impeachment of bill clinton only helped approval numbers. could sustained attacks by democrats, could they play in his favor? >> it's a very big risk and obvious risk that the democrats have that essentially they look
like they are, you know, trying to take political advantage of this president in a way that, you know, and one of the problems there is it could look like a soft coup or overturn the results of the 2016 election. >> right. >> but i think the president's support, what really matters is where the 40% is. i mean, we look at the national numbers, 40%. that's not as bad as if he's hovering around 50% in the states that were crucial to his electoral victory, places like wisconsin and pennsylvania and michigan as well as other states that are going to be swing states where we have a lot of 2020 activity like north carolina and florida. can maintain the level of support there, he may be able to survive that, keeping that m middling number of 40%. >> thanks for coming in on a saturday to talk to us, appreciate it. >> great to be with you. up next, he's the front-runner for democrats right now, but is joe biden the party's best bet to topple
third time is a charm? former vice president joe biden is seriously considering a 2020 run, all signs point to yes, according to the "associated press," biden's advisers floated the idea of teaming up with a younger running mate like beto o'rourke and meet with family over the next several weeks to discuss running. he's been making rounds on the speaking circuit as well, even telling the montana crowd this month he's the most qualified person in the country to be
president. now, he could be in a good position too. according to a new cnn poll, biden is currently the favorite among democratic voters by a wide margin as a 2020 presidential candidate. 30% would support his nomination. vermont senator bernie sanders at 14 and beto o'rourke at 9. trump already weighed in on what he thinks of that match-up. >> i dream about biden. that's a dream. look, joe biden ran three times. he never got more than 1% and president obama took him out of the garbage heap and everyone was shocked that he did. i'd love to have it be biden. >> i want to turn now to a man who knows joe biden very well. his former 2012 campaign deputy chief of staff, scott mulhauser. >> first, thanks for having me. one of the best things about the
vice president is he is pretty similar in private and public. that said, look at the recent piece in the atlantic last week where voters not only encouraging and asking him to run, they were demanding it and it was folks from california and across the rust belt and republicans and democrats. you have to hear that and think about it and say, it's hard not to at least contemplate it. >> so what about this biden/beto ticket? it sounds good, catchy. it's alit ra tiliteratioialitte. >> i think one of the lessons is voters want authenticitauthenti. candidates like beto and andrew, even when you lose a close race, there's resonance. i think they get along well.
do i think it's muddy for vp speculation and anyone in the race yet and without the nominee, it sure is. >> well, whoever runs against the president will have to be prepared for trump's blistering attacks. in fact, my colleague, van jones, just asked kristin gillibrand about the earlier interview that's going to run following us. so stick around, and watch that. here's what gillibrand said about that. >> you fought right back. is that kind of nastyiness though a deterrent for you? >> i'm not afraid of him or his nasty language or name calling. >> biden famously said he'd like to take trump behind the gym and beat the hell out of him. i think he'd be up for the task but is that what the country wants to see, two 70 something guys swinging fists around? >> i think what voters right now
want is a contrast to what they're seeing in washington and that authenticity we're talking about, it's the populous message he's carrying. think about what democratic voters and i'm not sure they know. this long sort of fun battle over the next several months part of the year and i think he's going to be a part of that. whether it's a candidate or someone who sort of stands on behalf of others and jumps in the fray either way. >> so what about me too? a lot has changed since anita hill. the clintons have not been able to navigate me too very well. do you think biden is prepared for this world? >> looking at his foundation, he was the author of the violence against women act and takes these issues seriously. i think he's a guy who's been pretty darn progressive his
whole life and stood up for his values and moments and i think we'll see where it goes and i think he's ready to be a part of this conversation and make sure those issues stay front and center. >> quickly, can he win a primary? that would be my concern. he's got sort of a populous message and that party is moving far left. can he prove his progressive bona fides when he's up against sanders? >> i think there's a sanders wing of the party that will be further left but is that where the bulk of the party is? we'll see. if you look at the record, while there's sticking up for middle class voters, pretty forward leaning pieces from lgbtq. >> gay marriage, for sure. >> he was out there earlier and certainly controversial. >> welcomed for a lot of us who have defended gay rights. it was a nice moment. >> it was pretty special but he's taking on those fights and not afraid to do it again. >> scott, we'll to have you back because i have a feeling he might actually do it.
late last night, a federal judge in texas dealt a major blow to the affordable care act, aka obamacare, ruling it's unconstitutional. the ruling could affect millions currently covered under obamacare and threatens to end protections for those with preexisting conditions. u.s. district judge reed o'connor, a george w. bush appointee, overturned the healthcare law and president trump considered that a victory
and said this while visiting arlington national cemetery earlier today. >> it was a big ruling. it was a great ruling for our country. we'll be able to get great healthcare. we'll sit down with the democrats if the supreme court upholds. we'll be sitting down with the democrats and we will get great healthcare for our people. that's a repeal and replace handled a little bit differently, but it was a big, big victory by a highly respected judge. >> so, the ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by 20 states and cites a recent change to the federal tax law. the tax overhaul spearheaded by republicans in congress last year eliminated an obamacare penalty that's imposed on americans who do not have health insurance. according to judge o'connor's opinion, that individual mandate is unconstitutional, therefore making the entire affordable care act unconstitutional. in a statement last night, the white house said, we expect this ruling will be appealed to the supreme court pending the appeal process the law remains in place.
so, it's 2012 all over again. now, listen, i'm no fan of obamacare the way it was written or the way it was passed, but let's not gloat about the possibility of millions of americans suddenly finding themselves with no health insurance. so, what's happening next? let me bring in national reporter for the "washington post," cnn contributor wesley lowry. so, wes, in the near term, what will happen to people who are already currently covered under obamacare? >> so, the easy answer to that, and it seems like basically nothing, that things should function the way they would have otherwise under the affordable care act, because this is unquestionably going to come to an appeal first to the circuit court and then very likely up to the supreme court that right now the affordable care act remains the law of the land and people who have signed up for it, who are receiving health coverage through it should still be able to -- nothing should change with the way their healthcare works
which i think everyone can agree is probably a good thing, right? you don't like to wake up on saturday morning and wonder if you have health insurance or not, no matter what your politics are. >> yeah, and so what about the deadline to sign up is affected by this as well or no? >> well, no. so there was a deadline tonight, i wanted to say, in every state except massachusetts and that still goes on as is. former president obama actually posted on facebook, maybe just an hour or two ago, saying essentially, look, nothing changes in the short-term. if you are a -- >> you can still sign up. >> you can still sign up and you should still sign up. as we know, these exchanges only work if people go out and sign up for them. otherwise, the premiums rise for a lot of other folks, and so there is still a push from both the dnc, from president obama, to try to make sure that people are still signing up and they don't think, wait, it's all over and pull out of the exchanges. >> that's been a problem inherent in the law from the beginning. okay, talk about the political stakes. the president tweeted at senator
majority leader mitch mcconnell and soon to be speaker of the house nancy pelosi to get a new deal done. he tweeted, as i predicted all along, obamacare has been struck down as an unconstitutional disaster, now congress must pass a strong law that provides great healthcare and protects preexisting conditions. mitch and nancy, get it done. sure, why not? get it done, right? i mean, it's only one of the most seminal pieces of an obama administration policies. it's wildly controversial. i'm sure they can just get something done, right? >> yeah, it will be real simple, real easy. they'll get it done by, what, martin luther king day, valentine's day, and we can go on to something else. it's complicated for two different reasons. the first is that the affordable care act is still the law. this is going to get appealed. this could get stretched out for months, if not years. and so now, if you go pass a different law, you have to deal with how those laws intersect and then what happens if the supreme court eventually decides
that, no, overturns this lower judge's ruling, right, and so there's some complication there. the second thing is that republicans in 2018 campaigned on the idea that, on one hand, they wanted to protect people with preexisting conditions but on the other hand, they were going to continue this lawsuit which could imperil people with preexisting conditions. >> they'll have to figure that out. >> eventually, maybe, right? but so what you could potentially see would be some type of piece of legislation that could go through the house and the senate that would explicitly add additional, you know, additional protections for preexisting conditions. do i think this is going to be the thing that crafts some type of massive bipartisan healthcare agreement? of course not. nancy peel is n nancy pelosi is not going to -- we'll see what happens. >> thank you, wes. it's incredibly complicated. more to come, i'm sure. thanks for breaking it down. that's it for us tonight. coming up, van's got new york senator kirsten gillibrand
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and accessoriesphones for your mobile phone. like this device to increase volume on your cell phone. - ( phone ringing ) - get details on this state program visit right now or call during business hours. good evening, i'm van jones, welcome to "the van jones show." we got a powerful show for you tonight. we got two big stars in the democratic party. both have got some 2020 presidential buzz going for them. tonight you're going to hear from new york senator kirsten gillibrand and the democratic nominee in the 2018 florida
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