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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

McCabe Speaks Out; Bernie Sanders Announces Presidential Bid. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 19, 2019 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:01]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: About the investigations into President Trump, all eight of them, and not one of them objected, he said.

CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has more on McCabe's explosive revelations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Andrew McCabe making it clear that in the day surrounding James Comey'S firing AS FBI director, McCabe and others within the Justice Department explored the possibility the president was working as a Russian agent.

QUESTION: Did you suspect the president might actually be working for Russia?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: We thought that might be possible. We had information that led us to believe that there might be a threat to national security, in this case that the president himself might in fact be a threat to the United States national security.

SCHNEIDER: That fear prompted McCabe to launch a counterintelligence investigation into President Trump in May 2017. McCabe said, while Comey's firing sealed the deal for a decision to launch a probe, the case had been building for sometime, telling "The Atlantic": "The fact is we were building to this point four months before Jim was fired."

McCabe now says he briefed the top members of Congress, the so-called Gang of Eight, on the same day Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel, to alert the top Democrats and Republicans that he had launched probes into the president.

MCCABE: I told Congress what we had done.

QUESTION: Did anyone object?

MCCABE: That's the important part here, Savannah. No one objected, not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts.

SCHNEIDER: The White House again today reiterated its rebuttal of everything Andrew McCabe has asserted. MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: He's someone who has -- as we know, has been a political hack, and you shouldn't put politics into the FBI.

SCHNEIDER: As McCabe makes the media rounds on his book tour, he's also talking about what's not detailed in his new book, his discussions with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about invoking the 25th Amendment and Rosenstein's alleged offer to wear a wire to record the president.

MCCABE: No, it wasn't a joke. He was deadly serious.

SCHNEIDER: But McCabe later stressing no plans were ever set in motion.

MCCABE: It's something that we talked about, but never seriously considered. It seemed like such an overwhelmingly risky and unnecessary thing to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And no comment yet from the Gang of Eight members about McCabe's claim that he briefed them on that counterintelligence probe.

But McCabe has now confirmed what we have previously reported, that he has sat down for an interview with Mueller's team. And, Jake, that detail comes as all indications point to the probe winding down and as a Justice Department official announced the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he will likely be leaving the DOJ around mid-March -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Bill, let's just start with the detail that the Gang of Eight -- that's the congressional leaders in the House and Senate and the Democrat and Republican on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees -- they were -- they were briefed on this and according to McCabe no one in the room objected.

That includes Mitch McConnell, that includes Paul Ryan, includes Devin Nunes. Is that significant to you?

BILL KRISTOL, FORMER EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": That may suggest that whatever evidence they shared with the Gang of Eight that launched -- was used -- thought to make an inquiry appropriate, wasn't obviously so insufficient as to cause them to object me, to put it minimally.

I mean, the whole thing, if you put together the time -- what McCabe is now saying and "The New York Times" story today, does seem to be -- and with a new attorney general and new deputy attorney general coming in -- does seem to be prudent for Congress to pass the bill, A, protecting Mueller and the investigation, and, B, making sure the Mueller report is made public.

I mean, those are two pieces of legislation that are sitting out there. McConnell refused famously to bring the first one to the floor forever at the end of the last session and still seems to not be bringing it to the floor, though Lindsey Graham had once supported it, now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

The other bill, the House could pass. So that would seem to be Congress does have some role to play here to help the institutions of the executive branch resist these attempts at politicization.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I also think we have to remember, I mean, much of the conversation of the last 24 hours, 48 hours, it's not as if this Russia investigation started at that point, right?

It started back during the campaign.

TAPPER: George Papadopoulos.

FINNEY: Well, but also it started with the supposition of Russian interference in the election. We had -- I mean, that's where we started.

TAPPER: Sure.

FINNEY: That was really -- so when I hear McCabe say this was months in the making, I don't think he just meant it's been since the time that the president was inaugurated.

No, this started -- during the election, there was evidence the intelligence organizations in our country believed, saw, told us there was Russian interference. Then you have a president -- now, what is it? It's up to 34 people I think that have been indicted, six of whom were former Trump staffers.

And we have multiple points of contact, as McCabe points out. We have multiple lines of inquiry. And we have both the president's public and private statements.

I mean, if the president himself wasn't changing policy to benefit the Russians, saying things -- I mean, we don't have to just take McCabe's word for it when he says he trusted Putin. The president has said himself.

So I think we need to give this a lot more credibility, given that this goes back a lot farther than just what McCabe is talking about.

[16:35:00]

TAPPER: Early 2016, yes.

And listen to this. This is when he was asked about -- McCabe was asked about Mueller's ongoing investigation into the president. He said -- quote -- "There's absolutely no reason for me to believe that it's closed, the investigation. And you can certainly look at what Mueller has done so far to say he's doing exactly what we would do with the investigation of a cartel for an organized crime family." This is not the first time we have heard a former FBI official compare investigating the president or dealing with the president in the same way as dealing with somebody in organized crime. I think Comey made some of the same comparisons as well.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Please tweet about my book. Please tweet about my book.

(LAUGHTER)

HAM: He probably will.

Look, there is a part of this where we -- I want to make the same point you made about Cohen earlier, which is we talk about how the president has credibility that he's insistent on frittering away at all -- at all times.

McCabe has a credibility problem as well. There's a disciplinary report that found he lied under oath several times and that was why he was let go. So, given that he is selling a book and that, I'm going to take some of this with a grain of salt, which is the whole problem with all this, which, as I say again, I don't know who to believe, because a lot of people have proven themselves to be untruthful at times, or exaggerate at times.

And Mueller's the guy who actually knows what's going on. But if you are to believe McCabe, I do think that these meetings, if they did have them about the 25th Amendment, which, again, I don't know whether to believe him, and removing the president, that the president has some right to be a little miffed that there might be an intelligence gathering of people and cabal intent on taking him out of office with extraordinary measures.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: The 25th Amendment part that McCabe has talked about repeatedly is not actually in the book. He said he didn't want to put it in the book because it was so explosive, but he's talking about it anyway.

I want you to take a listen to McCabe talking about opening the investigation, because it's really stark. Let's play that tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Did you order a counterintelligence investigation into the president?

MCCABE: I did. We had information that led us to believe that there might be a threat to national security, in this case that the president himself might in fact be a threat to the United States national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I mean, that's a stunning statement. PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. And yet you have to take it seriously. You could never say that about George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton.

Any president in our lifetime, you could never say that. And yes, to Mary Katharine's point, Mr. McCabe has credibility problems, been accused by the inspector general of lying about a story he put in "The Wall Street Journal" which was an anti-Hillary story in the closing days of the election.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: He was under oath.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Absolutely.

But I just want to point out, if he -- if this is some sort of a cabal to undermine Trump, Comey, violating all sense of ethics, attacked Hillary during the campaign. McCabe, I think unethically, plants a story.

TAPPER: But you're making her point, though. Who do you believe?

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, no, my point is, they're not out to get Trump. They were out to get Hillary. And they got her.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: The fact that then they take office and they see this president ask the FBI director go easy on Mike Flynn, who is being investigated for contacts with Russia, Comey refuses, Comey gets fired.

Trump says, I fired him because of this Russia business. Then, days later, the president takes Sergey Kislyak, a Russian spymaster, into the Oval Office and gives him classified secrets, which, if I had done, I would still be in Gitmo.

He is acting just like a Russian asset. That's why they're investigating to see if he is one.

TAPPER: Except we should point out he has done things against Russian interests, including lethal arms to Ukraine, including opposing Maduro in Venezuela.

There are things that he has done. But we will get to those in the next segment.

I want to do this programming note. Be sure to tune into CNN tonight. The former FBI acting Director Andrew McCabe will sit down with Anderson Cooper at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. That's not true. He's been talking to lots of people, but he will be doing it at CNN at 8:00.

Senator Bernie Sanders giving it another go, but this presidential run could be very different, even though he's sending the same basic message.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:43:12]

TAPPER: Bernie is back.

Senator Bernie Sanders taking a second shot at the Democratic nomination for president. Sanders was once viewed by the Democratic establishment as political fringe. But now many of the Democratic candidates in the current race have embraced his progressive policies.

So the question is, can Senator Sanders lead the Democratic Party's progressive base towards the nomination, or has he been so successful in helping to shape the party's agenda those voters now have several progressive candidates to choose from?

CNN's Ryan Nobles is digging into that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bernie Sanders is back.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi. I'm Bernie Sanders. I'm running for president.

NOBLES: This time around, though, instead of serving as the foil to an establishment front-runner, he enters the Democratic primary as a top contender.

SANDERS: This country needs a political revolution.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOBLES: And those policies that made him unique the last time, like Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage and free college tuition, are more widely embraced in the Democratic Party of 2019.

SANDERS: You know what's happened in over three years? All of those ideas and many more are now part of the political mainstream.

NOBLES: But even though Sanders may have laid the groundwork, the progressive lane of candidates is filling up quickly. And with plenty of options for liberal voters, the problems with the previous Sanders run are becoming more apparent.

Sanders was trounced by Hillary Clinton in the South, in large part due to a lack of support from African-Americans. He has already visited the key early voting state of South Carolina, making a specific pitch to black voters. SANDERS: We have a president intentionally, purposely, is trying to

divide it up by the color of our skin.

NOBLES: He is also making an effort to change his campaign's culture, after accusations of sexual harassment into 2016.

SANDERS: I certainly apologize to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately. And, of course, if I run, we will do better next time.

[16:45:00]

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Meanwhile, the growing field of his opponents are finding ways to contrast themselves with the Sanders campaign. Elizabeth Warren applying pressure from the left by pushing a plan for universal childcare.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We're going to be talking a lot about child care and early childhood education. That's how we make real change in this country.

NOBLES: Kamala Harris making sure Democratic voters know she, unlike Sanders, is actually a Democrat.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I will tell you, I am not a Democratic Socialist.

NOBLES: While Amy Klobuchar pitches pragmatism over purity on causes popular with a progressive base.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: If I was a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would.

NOBLES: All reflecting the new dynamics Sanders faces as he mounts presidential bid number two when he hopes this time will end with a different outcome.

What's going to be different this time?

SANDERS: We're going to win.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: And Sanders today had some pretty harsh criticism for President Trump. He called him a racist, a sexist, and a xenophobe. But when asked about Sanders, the President took a softer tone. He said the two may actually agree on some issues like trade. But Mr. Trump argued that Sanders missed his chance in 2016. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Ryan, thanks so much. I appreciate it. Let's a chat about this. So Karen Finney, this election Senator Sanders, he doesn't have the liberal lane all to himself. There are a lot of candidates there, very progressive candidates. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, to say nothing of a Kamala Harris, Cory Booker. So what does the Sanders path to victory look like with all these people who are embracing his ideas like Medicare for all? KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that is part of what his campaign is going to have to figure out. I mean, they're going to have to make an argument. It would be much harder for him when he doesn't. Because if you look at how he's run his races in the past, he sort of triangulates bringing that back against sort of the establishment in this instance where you have ten or potentially fifteen other people.

All of whom represent different parts of the Democratic Party coalition different parts of some of these ideas, not to mention that some of these ideas are actually more mainstream than they were even in 2016. I think he's going to have a very hard time convincing voters that he's the one to deliver over -- versus others who can deliver. And I also think that you know, he's going to find some challenges in that.

There were a lot of parts of the Bernie record that were unexamined shall we say in 2016 that I think he'll get a lot more scrutiny and he has does not tend to like scrutiny.

TAPPER: There's also Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota who last night a town hall with our own Don Lemon and clearly seemed to be positioning herself as more of a moderate Democrat. Take a listen to some of what she had to say.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, no Medicare-for-all.

KLOBUCHAR: It could be a possibility in the future. I'm just looking at something that will work now.

LEMON: Yes or no, would you support free college for all?

KLOBUCHAR: No. I am not for free four-year college for all. No. I think that they are aspirations. I think we can get close. I don't think we are going to get rid of entire industries in the U.S.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, I could hear you know, a million reporters in Washington panting over pragmatist, pragmatist, but does that play with progressive voters in the primaries?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they're not all progressive in the primaries. After the midterm elections, Gallup did a survey and they asked both parties if you want your party to be in the Democratic Party, more moderate or more liberal. By 54 to 41, a 13-point margin, Democrats say they whether party be more moderate.

By the way, by a 20 point margin, Republicans want to be more conservative. So it's the Republican Party that's -- the problem is that -- free advice for these candidates. Most of them seem to be chasing those Bernie voters who are numerous but they are a minority. Bernie got 43 percent last time against just one opponent. And it seemed to be four or five, six, eight. The first 38 are all seemed to be chasing that. So I think -- I think Senator Klobuchar did a very smart thing. Democrats aren't looking for purity, they're looking to win. And if

they can win with somebody who's pure that's great. If they can't, that's great too. They just want to beat Trump.

TAPPER: Just technically, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee were also running in the Democratic --

BEGALA: (INAUDIBLE) about five minutes.

FINNEY: Yes they were.

TAPPER: Well, they were -- they say it wasn't one against one. It was --

BEGALA: For the vast majority of the contest it was one.

TAPPER: Now there is this kind of rap on Bernie that he's not good when dealing with the diversity issue. And the truth is that he does view the world -- he seems to view the world through a prism of class, not race, not her not intersectionality, etcetera. Take a listen to the question of diversity that he was asked. There's was a record number of women and minorities elected in November. Senator Sanders, 77 years old, asked about this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: This could be a message which says that we have got to end institutional racism, got to pay special attention to those people who have been target economically. We have to invest in urban communities and we have to deal with all of the massive disparities that currently exist in American society.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So that's Bernie Sanders trying to talk about racial issues. But again, he doesn't largely through a prism of economics in class.

[16:50:03] MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think a couple things for Bernie. There was the fact that it was just him against the establishment last time is more what it felt like. He's best when his authentic self and talking about things that he cares about more than intersectionality which is the class issue. And so I don't think he will play as well trying to be something else.

For Klobuchar, that lane is pretty open but I think she might find as Republican candidates founded that tough-love candidacy when you're up against say Trump or someone else who's promising a lot of things that aren't necessarily going to come true, that that doesn't taste that great even to primary voters.

TAPPER: And Senator Elizabeth Warren introducing a universal childcare plan today, guaranteeing childcare from a child's birth until they enter school. Listen to how she would pay for this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WARREN: Two percent tax on everybody who has more than $50 million in assets. And here's the deal. We'll generate enough money to be able to pay for universal childcare four times over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think? The truth of the matter is that proposals like that pull really well not just among Democrats but among Republicans as well because most people don't have $50 million in assets.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think those proposals pull well individually. But if you put them all together and somehow it's the government that's going to do everything for you. We've got Medicare for all, we've got universal health -- child care, and we've got everything else, free college tuition. I mean, I do think at some point voters say I don't know. You know, is it really just going to be the $50 million plus people who pay for this or are we going to get whacked with the tax increase.

And I think it's not the way to appeal to the voters they need to win back over and the way. And Democrats ran in 2018 and took back the House and I don't think -- they were for reasonably liberal policies, obviously. But they were mostly about restoring like the rule of law and normalcy and sensible government. And I think they'd be better off running on that obviously.

FINNEY: Yes. But again, I think you can't underestimate the power of some of these economic issues. I mean, talking about childcare is an economic issue. If you're a working parent that is you know, you can't afford -- a lot of families cannot afford childcare. So I think this is another way to have a conversation with families. And frankly, it's an issue that cuts across you know, rural, urban, suburban, you know, and race in a way that some of the other issues -- other issues may not.

So I think it's very wise on her part because it does sort of say, I understand some of the challenges that working people are facing. It also helps her you know, focus back on the core issues that people really love her for which is her focus on the economy. So I disagree and I think that there are going to be a number of other issues though where candidates are going to have to show that they understand what people are facing.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, thanks so much. On Monday, Senator Bernie Sanders will join CNN for a live Town Hall hosted by CNN's own Wolf Blitzer. That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday night. It's the primary season. I love it. Very exciting. Coming up next, that didn't take long. Sixteen states now suing President Trump over his national emergency declaration to build the border wall. The president's next -- new reaction to the lawsuit next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. President Trump taking aim at those now challenging his national emergency declaration. The president tweeting in part, "As I predicted, 16 states led mostly by open border Democrats in the radical left have filed a lawsuit in of course the Ninth Circuit. Attorneys general in 16 states from California to Connecticut are indeed suing the President arguing that his emergency declaration violates the Constitution's separation of powers.

CNN's Pamela Brown now picks up the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump's self-declared national emergency getting its first big challenge in court today. 16 states filing a lawsuit exactly as the president predicted.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit even though it shouldn't be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we'll get another bad ruling, and then we'll end up in the Supreme Court.

BROWN: And the court that could hear the case, the Ninth Circuit which often rolls against the President on some of his most controversial policies.

TRUMP: I think I called it exactly, right, including the fact that they would put them into the Ninth Circuit. That's where they put them in and I think will do very well. We have absolute right to do that. I have an absolute right to call national security. We need strong borders.

BROWN: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is taking the lead in the case arguing Trump is circumventing Congress and illegally taking money allocated to States to fund the wall along the U.S.- Mexico border.

XAVIER BECERRA, ATTORNEY GENERAL, CALIFORNIA: We're going to try to halt the President from violating the Constitution, the separation of powers, from stealing money from Americans and states that has been allocated by Congress lawfully.

BROWN: New Mexico's Attorney General is taking it one step further.

HECTOR BALDERAS, ATTORNEY GENERAL, CALIFORNIA: The president cannot lack like a king.

BROWN: And a new poll out today by NPR shows only 36 percent of registered voters approve of the President's national emergency declaration to build a wall, while 61 percent disapprove.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And White House officials I've been speaking with today say as of now the White House is moving forward with building the wall using those funds announced on Friday despite all of these lawsuits, Jake. The strategy right now is to first dip into the treasury forfeiture funds, the counterdrug funds, and then at a later date dip into the military construction funds.

Those are the funds that can only be used under the national emergency and are at the highest legal risk as opposed to those others. And all this money will eventually be funneled into Army Corps of Engineers. Jake?

TAPPER: And political risk too, taking away projects from the military construction. Pamela Brown, thanks so much. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER.