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Biden Regrets Anita Hill Hearing and Says, Wish I Could've Done Something; Critics Say Stephen Moore is Wrong Pick for Fed Seat; Buttigieg on What it Would Mean to Be First Gay President; Second Parkland Student to Die by Apparent Suicide Identified. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 27, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: For weeks former Vice President Joe Biden has been hinting that he is ready to help lead Democrats into the future as a possible 2020 candidate. But before that happens, he will have to answer a lot of questions about his past. Namely, his role in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

Let's go back to 1991. Right. Those hearings pushed the issue of sexual harassment into the national spotlight after Thomas's colleague, Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment. Fast-forward to today, Biden who was in charge of the hearings as a Senate judiciary chairman is addressing those who have criticized his handling of that hearing.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Anita Hill came to testify, she faced a committee that didn't fully understand what the hell it was all about. To this day, I regret I couldn't come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved.


BALDWIN: Alexis Grenell is a Democratic strategist and co-founder of up Pythia Public affairs. And Arlette Saenz is a CNN political reporter who's been covering the former Vice President. So Alexis, let me start with you and your tweet. Biden supposed helplessness at the Thomas hearing and his apology to Anita Hill -- again, your word --nonsense. Why?

ALEXIS GRENELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. I mean, there's sort of a strange helplessness that the former committee chairman is now evincing. Which is that he couldn't have done anything. It's more appropriate to say he didn't do anything. Biden made conscientious choices. He had agency. He had power here, so in order to actually offer an effective apology it's important I think to take full responsibility for all of that. What he did last night is sort of, you know, continued to say he's sorry that she felt she didn't -- he's sorry he couldn't do more to save her. When, in fact, he didn't do more and that was a choice.

BALDWIN: As the chair of the committee to your point.

GRENELL: Right, and we know from not only a copious history from Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer and their fantastic book about the hearings. But lots of other reporting since then, the -- as chairman of the committee he had information about four women who were willing to testify. He suppressed those witnesses. They would have given her credibility and unfortunately, we know --

BALDWIN: He didn't allow that testimony.

GRENELL: They didn't allow that to happen.

BALDWIN: Let me come back to you on the apology piece of all of this. So, Arlette, here's my question, because this would be Biden's third official bid. He toyed with a presidential run in 2016. So he's basically had two and a half to three years to get a good response together, what is their approach to addressing this?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brooke, I mean this is not the first time that he's had to address the Anita Hill controversy and it's certainly not going to be the last. They are very aware of the implications that that moment has in today's current political environment, especially in the wake of the me-too era. And you saw from the Vice President about a little over a year ago, he came out and he said that he did owe Anita Hill an apology. He says that in an interview with "Teen Vogue".

And then over the course of that, the past year and few months, he's given other statements around the Brett Kavanaugh hearing. He once again was trying to explain that he felt he should've done more for Anita Hill. And then you heard those comments last night which are now coming just potentially a few weeks before he launches a possible presidential campaign, but it's clear as Alexis mentioned, there's criticism that he hasn't gone far enough in explaining why he handled the hearings the way that he did. And some do feel that he owes a more direct apology to Anita Hill. Right now it's unclear if they have ever actually directly spoken about this. Anita Hill last year said that they hadn't. We don't know if there's been any movement the past few months.

BALDWIN: That's the thing.

GRENELL: But more importantly, not only is she -- she has said that he's never called her and it's not like Anita Hill is hard to get a hold of. She's a professor of law at Brandeis. You can look her up. The Vice President can certainly get in touch with her. But she has said herself that the statute of limitations on apology to her personally have expired because she's sort of moved on. And I think it's important to make a distinction between apologizing personally to Anita Hill, which he has not done, and could have done as you point out in the years since the hearing.

But this is actually about understanding the larger structure he was part of and the other part of his non-apology last night is he actually absolved his Senate colleagues of responsibility. He said in that clip, these guys didn't know what the hell was going on. Of course, they did. It was a concerted Republican attack on her credibility. David Brock orchestrated a massive conspiracy to paint her a little bit nutty and little bit slutty. He wrote a book about it that he since disavowed. But this was concerted.

I think Part of Biden's MO is to paint bipartisanship as sort of a virtue, but really what it was here was a gentlemen's agreement to save Clarence Thomas embarrassment.

[15:35:00] BALDWIN: If he quickly -- if he apologizes publicly like a full-throated apology --

GRENELL: I think it would make a difference.

BALDWIN: It would make a difference.

GRENELL: Absolutely. There is an opportunity to do that. It's not beyond the possible.

BALDWIN: Yes, Alexis, thank you very much. And Arlette, ladies appreciate both of you on this Joe Biden conversation.

Meantime the President getting some heat for his new nominee to the Federal Reserve. My next guest battled Stephen Moore right here live on CNN many, many times. Why she says Moore is dangerous?

And some news just in on the fate of the Prime Minister Theresa May. Why she just offered to leave her post early. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: As soon as word spread that President Trump was considering federal reserve critic, Stephen Moore, to fill a vacancy on the Federal Reserve board, some pretty harsh criticisms started coming in. Among those questioning Moore's economic chops, is someone Moore has debated many times right here live on CNN "The Washington Post" columnist and CNN political commentator, Catherine Rampell. She has written three opinion pieces just this week on why she thinks Moore is unfit for the job. And so here is Stephen Moore and Catherine Rampell going at it. This is back in December over something referred to as the Volker Rule.


STEPHEN MOORE, ECONOMIST: Do you know what the Volcker Rule was? You know how he killed inflation. He followed commodity prices. Every time commodity prices went up, he raised interest rates and every time --

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN COMMENTATOR: That's not what the Volcker Rule was.

Moore: Yes, it was, that's what he did and that's how we conquered inflation. And that's why --

RAMPELL: Google the Volcker Rule, people. That's not what Volcker Rule is. MOORE: Yes, it was. Ask him, ask him.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The rule right now is that we're out of time.


BALDWIN: Catherine is with me now and the Volcker rule is something that actually has to do with these two reasons why you're saying he could be getting the job and why you say they're flat-out false. So what are they?

RAMPELL: Yes. So Moore was reportedly offered the job by President Trump after Trump had seen an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" that Stephen Moore had written in which he repeated basically two claims that we talked about in that segment and that Steven has talked about many times on CNN.

One, is that he says that we have deflation which means prices are falling. And two, is that the way we should deal with it we should follow what Paul Volcker famously in the 1980s to kill inflation at the time. Both of those things are falls. We argued about it in that segment and elsewhere. People are welcome to look it up. But basically prices are not falling. You go to the supermarket prices are going up. You know, you got pump, you go to the doctor, prices are going up. They are not falling.

And the second issue is this idea of the Volcker Rule. I had thought in that segment that maybe Moore hadn't misspoken. The Volcker Rule is an established other thing completely unrelated to prices. But then in that op-ed he again said that we should follow what Volcker did in the '80s. And he didn't call it Volcker Rule in that case, but he said Paul Volcker linked interest rates to commodity prices. So this sounds like some gobbledygook. But the bottom line is, I asked Paul Volcker, is what you did? Because I couldn't find it --

BALDWIN: You went straight to the source.

RAMPELL: Well initially, I looked at his autobiography, his biographies, transcripts from the Fed.

BALDWIN: That wasn't good enough for Catherine Rampell.

RAMPELL: I couldn't find anything on this. But Moore kept saying it and so it seemed bizarre to me. Maybe there's some part of Fed history I missed. But I did eventually contact Mr. Volcker himself who's still around. And he replied that he had no idea what Stephen Moore was talking about.

So my concern, of course, with Stephen Moore, he's a nice guy, you know. Perfectly amiable TV pundit but if he can't tell whether prices are going up or down and he seems completely misguided on a very important period of Fed history, he probably doesn't belong on the most important central bank in the world.

BALDWIN: Not only that, you took it a step further in writing that he could he could inflict more long-term damage than any other of Trump's other nominations.

RAMPELL: Yes, the reason why is, basically that the central bank really needs to be politically independent. It is crucial -- if the bank is going to credibly commit to stable prices, basically that we'll never have hyperinflation, the central bank needs to be seen as independent, not a tool of politicians. We don't want politicians in charge of the printing press. We had that in Venezuela or in Argentina or like pre-euro Italy or lots of other places. You want the bank to be seen as independent, autonomous, willing to do things that are politically unpopular including in an election year.

And if you have the bank scene as a tool of the President or of a political party that calls into question its credibility, its willingness to do those painful things that Paul Volcker actually did do in the 1980s. And I'm very concerned by comments that Stephen Moore has made here and elsewhere about the fact that members of the Fed should be fired if they do things that President Trump doesn't like.

He, of course, has also changed his tune multiple times about what the Fed should be doing. Depending on whether there's a Republican or a Democrat in office. When a Democrat was in office, and we actually did have deflation. He said we had hyperinflation, which would call for tightening. Basically squelching the recovery or at that time we were about to face a great -- potentially a Great Depression.

[15:45:00] So I'm very concerned about what he would do not only to help a Republican when they're in the White House, but these are very long-terms. He would probably be there long after Trump has left if he's confirmed. What might he do to punish a Democrat?

BALDWIN: Since you haven't been vocal about any of this, Catherine, have you -- I mean, we've had Steven on a bunch. Just a quick question. Have you heard anything back from him?

RAMPELL: Yes, we've exchanged emails on actually Monday because I was asking him questions about this Volcker Rule thing before I had heard back from Paul Volcker. Because again, I did all of this research and I couldn't find anything and so I wrote to him and I said, can you tell me what you're thinking of because -- I've checked all these sources, I can't find anything. And he sent me an op-ed from "The Wall Street Journal" from his frequent coauthor Art Laffer, which actually did not say any of this. It's sort of said the opposite. But in any case, we have exchanged emails.

BALDWIN: OK. Catherine Rampell, thank you.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

More anger today over Jussie Smollett after prosecutors dropped all those charges and said he -- also said he's not innocent. So what happens to the actor from here in the world of entertainment?

And we are now learning the identity of that second Parkland student in a week to apparently die of suicide. We're back in a moment.


BALDWIN: 2020 presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, is getting candid about what it would mean for the United States to have its first openly gay president. In an interview with "BuzzFeed" he says his experience as a member of the LGBTQ community, it can help his relate to other marginalized groups.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm proud of my marriage and proud of my husband. I'm also not running to be a candidate for any one constituency group. So I'm mindful of the historic nature being the first out candidate ever to compete for presidency or least the first out elected official ever to do that.

But also recognize that part of what I think identity in its best sense can do for us, is give us terms to have solidarity with others. Others who may have experiences that I can't quite personally understand or relate to. But at least I know a little something about being (INAUDIBLE) or being a part of a group that's on the short end of bias in our society. And I hope that will make me not only hopefully someone the LGBTQ community can take some pride in, if I can live up to that. So somebody who can relate to anybody that can feel marginalized for any number of reasons in our country and in our society at large.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And "The Washington Post" recently wrote that you actually wouldn't be the first gay President, that it would be James Buchanan. And I assume said the first out President. But this seems like the sort of thing that you would have a point of view on as a sort of a bit of a nerd. What do you think?

BUTTIGIEG: I think it kind of sounds that way. But my (INAUDIBLE) is not great to begin with. It doesn't work over long stretches of time. So I think we'll have to let the historians' figure that out.


BALDWIN: Vanessa Yurkevich is our CNN business and politics reporter following this for us today. Clearly, the man has a sense of humor. What are numbers in terms how Americans feel about having an out candidate?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: When I was looking Twitter to see responses to some of the things that he was saying nobody was talking about how is was a gay man running for President. They were talking about his platform, his policies, how authentic he was sounding. And that's very much in line with national polling. There is a "Wall Street Journal", NBC poll that came out that says that 68 percent of Americans are enthusiastic about or comfortable with a gay or lesbian president. And that is up from 2006 which had that number at 43 percent. So whether or not it's Pete Buttigieg or somebody else, it seems like Americans are a little more accepting of having a gay or lesbian president in the White House. BALDWIN: Speaking of LGBTQ and rights, he addressed the whole

controversy over at Chick-fil-A. You know, there are still a lot of groups that boycott the restaurant because of founders' views on LGBTQ rights. So what did Mayor Pete, -- as people refer to him as --what did he say about it?

YURKEVICH: While he was asked yesterday his viewpoint on Chick-fil-A. He said I don't love their politics but I do love their chicken. Sort of a very PC answer. But he went on today to talk about how politics should sort of remain in the political arena and peoples consuming behaviors and what they thought about different brands or different companies should be left up to them. So very much leaving it to the buyer or the lover of Chick-fil-A to decide. But he very much seems that he understands what the company has stood for in many ways and, you know, he is aware of that. But he didn't totally shun the company all together.

BALDWIN: Sure. Vanessa, thank you very much.

YURKEVICH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

We have new CNN polls just in on the special counsel Robert Mueller investigation as the mystery over his report continues to drag on. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: An update in this crucial day for Brexit. Lawmakers have finished voting on a list of eight possible ways to move forward. Ranging from leaving the EU with no-deal to holding a second referendum of some kind. Last hour British Prime Minister Theresa May offered to leave her post earlier than expected in order to get a Brexit deal done. Results are expected about two hours from now. We'll keep you posted on that.

Police in Florida have identified the second Parkland High School student who they say died over of an apparent suicide. His name is Calvin Desir and he was 16 years of age. It is not clear if his death is linked to last year's mass shooting at his high school. His death came just days after the suicide of a 19-year-old, Sydney Aiello. Her mother said that she suffered from PTSD.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me. Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD" starts right now.