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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Senate Briefed on North Korea Nuclear Summit; Will Joe Biden Run? Sens Paul, Udall Announce Bill Declaring Afghan War Victory; No Women's Championship Team Made Solo Visits To Trump's W.H.; Sen. Rand Paul (R), Kentucky is Interviewed About Their Legislation Which Would Effectively End the U.S. War in Afghanistan; Sen. Tom Udall (D), New Mexico is Interviewed About Their Legislation Which Would Effectively End the U.S. War in Afghanistan. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 5, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:31:22]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we're back with our 2020 lead.

We just learned that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not going to run for president. This morning, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley also said, no thanks. He's going to focus instead on his Senate reelection campaign.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does not think the third time's the charm. She bluntly said last night -- quote -- "I'm not running."

Former Vice President Joe Biden says don't be surprised if he does enter the race, however. But as he waits to make a decision, even though he enjoys support in polling, some Democratic voters told CNN this morning he's missed his chance.

CNN's Jessica Dean reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to 2020, we know one thing for sure. The Democrats will have a new nominee.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not running, but I'm going to keep working and speaking and standing up for what I believe.

DEAN: The question is, who will that nominee be? As he mulls his decision to run, Former Vice President Joe Biden has seen high poll numbers. A recent CNN poll showed more than six in 10 Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters want Biden to get in the race.

But that wasn't the case with a Democratic focus group on CNN this morning.

QUESTION: How many of you would like to see Joe Biden get in, show of hands? What's happening?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His time is done.

QUESTION: Biden's decision directly impacts former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. A source close to McAuliffe told CNN Biden is a factor because the two would likely be speaking to the same voters.

A prolific fund-raiser himself, McAuliffe has a number of top donors waiting for his decision before they decide which candidate to back. It won't be Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who announced today he will not be seeking the nomination, but will instead run for reelection to the Senate.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: I believe that there are Democrats now in the presidential race who are speaking to the importance of tackling the big challenges we face.

DEAN: Merkley was the only U.S. senator to back Bernie Sanders in 2016.

As for a wild card, here's one.

QUESTION: Are you a Democrat or Republican?

MARK CUBAN, CO-FOUNDER, HDNET: I'm fiercely independent.

DEAN: Billionaire businessman, reality TV star and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban telling "The New York Daily News" he's considering a run as a third-party candidate. Cuban is a former friend of President Trump's turned outspoken foe who once called the current administration:

CUBAN: I call it political chemotherapy.

DEAN: Cuban's message to voters? Rich people are stupid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: Obviously, a Cuban candidacy is far from a sure thing.

But, in that same interview, he said there's a lot of uncertainty with the Mueller report and where 2020 is going. He added that when it comes to running -- quote -- "It's something that, if the circumstances were right, I would do" -- Jake.

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

Bakari, you heard the voters say Biden's time is done. But then there's the recent CNN poll showing 60 percent of Democratic voters want him to run. He leads or is in second place behind Bernie Sanders in several others statewide polls.

What's your reaction? Do you think that the Democratic Party, Democratic voters want him to run?

BAKARI SELLERS (D), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I think -- I think -- I'm not sure. I don't know the answer to that question. That's a tough one, because I want Joe Biden to continue to have that posterity, to continue to have that luminary status that he has in the Democratic Party.

If he runs for president, I think he's looking at what happened with Hillary Clinton. She left the State Department with 80 percent approval rating, and now she gets heckled when she goes to buy sweat tea. So those things those things have changed.

I think Joe Biden, if he runs for president -- and I have said this to you before, Jake -- I believe it was on "STATE OF THE UNION." I will say it again, that if he runs for president of the United States, he has to do two things extremely quickly. He has to admit and understand his role in the '94 crime bill, figure out how he's going to unravel that.

[16:35:02]

And he has to look into a camera somewhere and he has to apologize to Anita Hill. I will say that until I'm blue in the face. But if Joe Biden wants to make it out of the starting blocks, he has to do those things.

TAPPER: Kaitlan, take a listen.

CNN asked the same Democratic voters if the party should nominate somebody who's more moderate, a centrist or somebody more progressive, a lot of energy with the progressives, obviously. Listen to one man's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MILISITS, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: We had the standard-bearer for the kind of pragmatic, centrist candidate IN Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Donald Trump is now president.

He is not your average political candidate. So we really need to try to think outside the box.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I think that's how the base of the left feels. They need someone who can be essentially their version of Trump, which they don't want them to be anything like Trump, but they want someone who can go toe to toe with him, and they think a more moderate candidate can't do that.

And that's why you see some of these candidates going out, and you very rarely hear a candidate saying, no, I won't support Medicare for all, or, no, I don't support the Green New Deal, because they know that's what the base wants.

And that's exactly what the Trump campaign is hoping for, too, though, because they want to frame this, of course, as the choice between the president and socialism. And so they hope that the further left the candidate that the president is running against, that that works out for them. Someone like Bernie Sanders is essentially their dream candidate to run against.

TAPPER: And, David, I know you like to say that Democrats have lurched too much the left.

A recent CNN poll showed 39 percent of Democrats and Democratic- leaning voters consider themselves liberal; 43 percent consider themselves moderate; 15 percent consider themselves conservative.

Now, I realize a lot of the energy is with the progressives, with the liberals, but that poll at least suggests that most Democrats are not part of the progressive left.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, true.

So if you think about it, look at the 40 Democrats that came into this Congress, 2018 Congress -- 33 were backed by New Dem, the New Dem group, right, which are kind of centrists. The group that was the Bernie Sanders-backed candidates failed miserably, they lost.

So you're right. The party in the House is very conservative. And you're seeing that battle now with AOC and some of the other folks on these rules, close rules, very technical things about how you're going to vote, you going to vote with the party, you going to buck the party in the House?

And so I think you're going to see that tension continued. In these congressional seats, they're very conservative, but the party base wants a very liberal candidate, and so they're going to have that tension.

TAPPER: And Bernie Sanders recently said that he doesn't need to get any advice from Hillary Clinton, but a lot of the other Democratic presidential candidates are seeking advice from Hillary Clinton.

Take a listen to what she had to say she's telling some of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: And I have told every one of them don't take anything for granted, even though we have a long list of real problems and broken promises from this administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think her role is going to be like in the Democratic primaries?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's to be determined, because while a lot of these hopefuls have met with her, I don't know that they're going to want to bring her on the campaign trail with them or have her be a real presence, because of -- you had some of those folks on the panel say she really should stay out of it.

And while there are people who really like her and still make the point that she won the popular vote, which is true, I don't know that they're going to want kind of the ghost of Christmas past around. TAPPER: And, Bakari, you were talking during the break about you were I guess impressed by Governor Jay Inslee from Washington state who just announced he's running for president. He has raised more than a million dollars since he entered the race on Friday.

He's not one of the best known candidates, but you think he has a shot?

SELLERS: No, but I think that that issue of climate change is one...

TAPPER: That's the issue he's really embracing, yes.

SELLERS: The issue that he's embracing -- shows that there's a lot of energy behind that in the Democratic Party.

And I know that we want to get to a Green New Deal, but there are a lot of Democrats like myself from South Carolina, the Joe Cunninghams of the world and others, who believe there's nothing wrong with being a pragmatic progressive, and making sure you have policies that inch toward that.

So I honestly can say that there have been two people who have been extremely impressive. One is governor easily and the amount of money he's raising and the way he's been able to articulate with some depth the issue of climate change. The other is Sherrod Brown. Sherrod Brown actually has spent time in some of these early states.

He's come to South Carolina. And in South Carolina, they looked at me and they're like, I'm not sure, but I don't know. I don't know his name, but that's a white boy who I can hang out with. That's a pretty cool guy. So Sherrod Brown is actually picking up some steam and doing some good work, both of them.

TAPPER: All right, thanks, everyone.

President Trump loves winners, so why our top women's sports teams, champions, still waiting for their invitations to the White House?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:08]

TAPPER: In our world lead, just moments ago, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrapped up a closed briefing on the failed U.S.- North Korea summit, a meeting the president walked away from without a deal to curb and ultimately end North Korea's nuclear program.

This as a new report states that North Korean hackers remain actively targeting critical infrastructure in the United States.

CNN's Manu Raju joins me now.

And, Manu, what happened in the briefing? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Stephen Biegun,

who is the top diplomat leading these negotiations, just gave what both parties are saying was a very detailed and substantive briefing about exactly what happened in North Korea.

And one thing is clear from hearing from Republicans and Democrats. They believe it was the right decision by the president to walk away from what they view was a bad deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: I think it's more likely than not that Kim is just playing the time. History repeats itself.

And he probably is just hoping that he will get a couple good photo- ops, he will weaken the sanctions, and then he will go back to rebuilding his nuclear program.

[16:45:00] But I think -- I think the President walking away was a good step and I think that it was the only way to force the North Koreans to come back to the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So something rare there. A Democratic senator saying that the President made a good decision on foreign policy, and Chris Murphy there acknowledging this is a rare area where he thinks the President made the right decision. He's been critical about other things the president has done in handling of North Korea, but the fact that you've not cut a deal was something that had proved that not just Democrats but Republicans also saying that was a good decision by this President.

The question though, Jake, will there be more bilateral talks. They expect his decision to happen on the staff level. But will Kim meet with the President Trump? That's something they did not disclose here in this meeting. Wolf -- I mean, Jake, back to you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Manu Raju, thanks so much. Joining me now are two senators who just got out of that briefing, Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senator Tom Udall. They're here to talk about a separate world affairs issue. But before we get to that, Senator Paul, from what you learned in the briefing, would you recommend that there be a third summit without Kim Jong-un having committed to a step for denuclearization?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I think discussion and diplomacy is always good and I think the President has been brave to have an opening to a discussion when many people said that he shouldn't talk to Kim at all. I've always been a little bit wary and in disbelief that Kim would actually negotiate away his nuclear weapons. That is the ultimate goal and I think discussion is good. So if it meant another summit, yes, I would continue to have talks but I have my doubts as to whether or not Kim will give up his nuclear weapons. TAPPER: All right, let's talk about the reason while you're here. Senator Udall, you and Senator Paul are introducing new legislation which would effectively end the U.S. war in Afghanistan. It would among other matters declare victory, withdraw troops, U.S. troops from Afghanistan within a year. It suggests the payment to service members who fought a $2,500 bonus. Senator Udall, do you think Democrats are going to come on board this bill and if so how many?

SEN. TOM UDALL (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, I've heard many Democrats that feel this way about Afghanistan. They believe the AUMF has been in place too long. It should be reviewed and they believe we should be moving in the direction of pulling our troops out and we think this is a really orderly way to do it. And so I'm going to work hard live with Senator Paul to make sure we try to round up a coalition to move in that direction.

TAPPER: Senator Paul, just two weeks ago a U.S. intelligence official told CNN that ISIS's Afghanistan based affiliate is now able to carry out direct attacks on the United States. They're capable of doing it, they haven't done it, but they're capable of doing it. You're going to hear from your fellow Republicans that your bill would allow ISIS's affiliate to strengthen, to become an even bigger threat. You're going to hear all sorts of arguments, what will your response be?

PAUL: I think if we're going to wait for a time when the Middle East is completely peaceful and there is no jihadist philosophy and no radicals there, we'll wait forever. But I do think we should also ask the question, what is the vital national security interest of the United States now there and what is our military mission.

If you ask Republican, Democrat, or Independent, you can't find anybody -- you can't find a general period who will tell you that we have a military solution in Afghanistan. We have completed our mission. We won we've killed or taken capture of everybody that anything to do with 9/11. There's no one left. I asked all the time. Name me somebody left who we need to kill or capture and I'm for it. The mission is over. We need to come home.

TAPPER: Senator Udall, as you know, Democrats have largely been supportive of the war in Afghanistan as well and the argument is we have to kill them over there so that they don't kill us over here. How would you respond to that Senator Udall?

UDALL: Well, I would say that we have gone into Afghanistan under an AUMF and with objectives that have all been accomplished. What we've had to happen is mission creep and we accomplished everything long ago. We should have pulled back and allowed Afghanistan and the parties in Afghanistan to work with each other and support them to try to find a peaceful solution.

TAPPER: Senator Paul, I asked the President's National Security Adviser John Bolton about Afghanistan this weekend. Take a listen to what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: What the President has decided is that it's going to be important to try and keep a counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Would you be OK with most of the U.S. troops leaving but some counterterrorism forces, Navy SEALs, Green Berets, etcetera staying in Afghanistan?

PAUL: I think when you leave small contingents of forces whether it's in Syria or in Afghanistan they become basically a target and a tripwire for a disaster. So no. If you want to leave 200 troops in Syria and 500 troops in Afghanistan, I think it's a terrible military judgment because you're setting them up for possible massacre, and then all of a sudden we're back involved. You know, they become sort of a target at that point. So no, I think it's a bad idea.

I think we need to reassess the war. We now have soldiers that are born after 9/11 being sent to fight over there so there's a real problem. And Congress hasn't approved this war in 17 years. Really the constitutional point is Congress needs to be involved. We can't just let presidents of either party keep fighting these wars forever.

[16:50:33] TAPPER: Senator Paul, before you go. You're an ally of the President's but you are going to vote to block his declaration of a national emergency to get those border funds. How many Republicans do you think are going to join you and have you heard from the President on this?

PAUL: This is kind of interesting because this is something Senator Udall and I are in agreement on also that the money that is spent under the Constitution it's very specific is spent by Congress. In fact, the Constitution says only Congress can make a law and only by law can you take money out of the Treasury and appropriation to an act of Congress.

I think there'll be probably ten Republicans, at least six beyond the four that are going to vote for it have told me they will, and it could be -- it could be higher than that. What I keep telling them is if we can get to a high enough number, maybe someone could run over to the White House and say hey, this could be worse. This could be 65, this could be 67.

And I know that's very optimistic. It might only be 57 to 60 but that's still a lot of dissent and in a rebuke that could be avoided if the President would simply rescind the emergency part.

UDALL: From the Republicans I talked to I think his -- the accuracy of his prediction is pretty good that were we're at about ten but I think we can grow.

TAPPER: All right, Senators Paul and Udall, thank you so much. Good to see people working in a bipartisan way. Thanks for being with us.

UDALL: Thank you. PAUL: Thank you.

TAPPER: It's a White House tradition dating back decades, but up next what why many women are wondering what about us. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "SPORTS LEAD" today, President Trump wined and dined the North Dakota State College football team with an assortment of Chick-Fil-A and McDonald's. The first time in over 20 years at the White House has hosted a champion from college football's second tier of teams. Do you know who hasn't made a solo visit to the White House since President Trump took office? A single women's championship team unlike in the five previous presidential administration.

CNN's Sports Analyst Christine Brennan joins me now. And Christine, just to go over this, the 2017 NCAA women's basketball champions, the South Carolina Gamecocks were invited to the White House but they declined because the White House waited more than seven months to invite them. 2017 WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx not invited, 2018 NCAA basketball champions Notre Dame Fighting Irish not invited. WNBA's 2018 champions the Seattle Storm not invited, said publicly after then that they had no interest in going. What's going on here? Why not invite these women champions?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: And it's crazy, Jake, because this is the time in our country when people love women's sports and girls sports more than ever before. Today is the greatest day in girls and women's sports until tomorrow and the next day. Title Nine working his magic 46 1/2 years. You could make a case, I could make the case that red states care even more about their girls sports than blue states.

So it is mind-boggling that the president would choose to be mired back in the 1950s pre-title nine for no reason whatsoever at a time when the nation has absolutely fallen in love with Title Nine and girls sports.

TAPPER: The ceremonial White House as it used to be pretty non- controversial, now I don't want to -- I'm not defending President Trump but the reality is there are a lot of players who have individually said that they don't want to go to the White House because of President Trump. Steph Curry, for example, expressed concern in visiting the president, tweeted, going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stefan Curry -- Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn.

There was also the whole brouhaha with my beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Is the Trump Whitehouse perhaps just getting ahead of the rejection?

BRENNAN: They could be, but you still it seems to me you invite the teams and let them then turn it down. And I would be -- I wouldn't be surprised to some teams say, hey, we're going to come because I've covered a lot of these. I'd probably cover, Jake, over my career at least two dozen White House visits, Olympic teams, NFL teams, etcetera. And it is such a great honor. And each and every time to a man or a woman, the players, the athletes talk about going to the White House.

It's not about this particular president. Now, absolutely, a man who is bragged about sexually assaulting women, you can understand why women might not want to go. But you invite them and let them turn it down. I mean, that would be the way to do and that's the way that it's happened with W -- George W. Bush, with Barack Obama, going all the way back even to Ronald Reagan.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to Cheryl Reeve. She's the head coach for the Minnesota Lynx, the 2017 WNBA champions. She said despite the controversy, she would have brought her team to the White House if President Trump had invited them. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHERYL REEVE, GENERAL MANAGER, HEAD COACH, WNBC MINNESOTA LYNX: This isn't just about this sitting president, this is about -- this is what champions do. They visit the White House. And it would have been important for us to you know, maybe put that political part aside and make a bigger statement for girls and women around the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's the point that you just made which is this isn't about who occupies the White House, it's about the fact that this is the White House, all of our White House.

BRENNAN: Well, and you know, Title Nine signed by Richard Nixon in June of 1972, signed by a Republican. I could make the case, Jake, that Title Nine is the most important law in our country over the last 46, 47 years. Now, there's a lot of competition for that, but I think it's that big of a deal.

So for Donald Trump to not celebrate that and to say bring women's teams in, you can also have them all there in the East Room as I've seen where you have eight or ten teams all at the same time. It just -- it's mind-boggling especially in 2019 for him to be making this decision.

TAPPER: And it's a fixable one. It's one that they can fix right now. Christine Brennan, thanks so much.

BRENNAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.