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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

FAA: Software Update To Fix Grounded Boeing Jets Will Be Delayed For Weeks; Clooney, Elton John Protesting New Anti-Gay Law In Brunei; Alex Jones Confronted With, Struggles To Defend Lies Calling Sandy Hook A Hoax In New Deposition; Joe Biden Under Fire; Boeing Tries to Get Planes Back in Operation. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 1, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:31:01]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news in our 2020 lead.

There is another woman making an accusation that former Vice President Joe Biden inappropriately touched her, not sexually, not violently, but, in her view, inappropriately.

"The Hartford Courant" newspaper reports that, at a 2009 fund-raiser, Amy Lappos said the vice president put his hand on her neck and pulled her in to rub noses. Lappos tells "The Courant" she was afraid he was going to kiss her, but she never filed a complaint because he was the vice president and she was -- quote -- "a nobody."

CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz covers the vice president, former vice president, for us.

Arlette, what are you learning about this new accusation?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, "The Hartford Courant" says Amy Lappos posted the alleged incident on Facebook yesterday, responding to an account about Joe Biden's first accuser, Lucy Flores.

Now, Biden's team didn't have a direct response to this latest allegation, but pointed to a statement yesterday, when Biden said he didn't believe he acted inappropriately in his public interactions, but is ready to listen to women's experiences.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ (voice-over): A new stop in the growing Democratic apology tour, Joe Biden in damage control mode today, defending himself after a former Democratic Nevada lawmaker alleged he made her feel uneasy, gross, and confused during a 2014 encounter.

LUCY FLORES (D), FORMER NEVADA STATE ASSEMBLYWOMAN: Very unexpectedly and out of nowhere, I feel Joe Biden put his hands on my shoulders, get up very close to me from behind, lean in, smell my hair, and then plant a slow kiss on the top of my head.

SAENZ: A day-and-a-half after the allegation first surfaced, Biden reacted. "In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort, and not once, never did I believe I acted inappropriately," adding: "If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully, but it was never my intention."

FLORES: I'm glad that he is clarifying his intentions. Frankly, my point was never about his intentions. And they shouldn't be about his intentions. It should be about the women on the receiving end of that behavior.

SAENZ: Also speaking out, the woman at the center of this viral photo. Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, says the photo of Biden with his hands on her shoulders was misleadingly extracted from video of her husband's swearing-in ceremony in 2015, writing: "The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful."

Over the weekend, some of Biden's possible Democratic rivals said the allegations by Flores should be taken seriously.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no reason not to believe her.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe Lucy Flores. And Joe Biden needs to give an answer.

SAENZ: It's not the first time Biden's had to reckon with his past. Just last week, Biden offered this mea culpa on Anita Hill:

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To this day, I regret I couldn't come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved.

SAENZ: And other 2020 hopefuls have embarked on apology tours of his own, from Beto O'Rourke saying he's sorry for these comments:

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just got a call from my wife, Amy, who's back in El Paso, Texas, where she is raising, sometimes with my help, Ulysses, who is 12 years olds, Molly, who is 10, and their little brother, Henry.

SAENZ: To Bernie Sanders responding to staffers' sexual harassment claims on his 2016 campaign.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was very painful. Very painful. And it will not happen again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: Several former female staffers have come to Biden's defense in recent days, including his former press secretary, Elizabeth Alexander.

She wrote in a "USA Today" op-ed -- quote -- "Joe Biden thrives on personal connections. He emotes and he empathizes like no other, and when he reaches out to you, man or woman, he's reaching out to touch your heart."

She added, "If that's a failing, I will take it" -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.

[16:35:02]

You just heard there's a second woman who says that the vice president touched -- the former Vice President Biden touched her inappropriately. We need to point out, again, they are not alleging that it was sexual, they are not alleging that it was sexual violent, but they're saying it's inappropriate.

What do you think? I mean, is he in trouble? He hasn't even declared yet.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this is the kind of world that we live in now. And a 76-year-old candidate like Joe Biden is going to have to face these allegations and he's going -- and we're in an era of MeToo, where women now are coming forward at a record rate, talking about the mistreatment they face from men.

And I think that's something he's going to have to take and he's going to have to walk a fine line of believing the woman, but also responding to the allegations made against him. But I just think it's funny. These allegations are rarely made against women candidates.

Why do you think that is? None of the women candidates so far have been accused of anything like this. Very rarely do female politicians ever have issues like this. And so you see Joe Biden entering this world in a very sensitive time, where so many people have lost their jobs because of allegations made against them.

And I think that's something he's going to have to deal with. One aspect that I do think is interesting to this is that if he does enter the race how the White House will weaponize this, because you already saw Kellyanne Conway trying to do so yesterday, but, of course, we have a president himself who's been accused of sexual assault by multiple women and is on tape that came out right before his election bragging about grabbing women.

So I don't think the White House is going to be able to turn the tables around on Joe Biden here and try to say something about that.

TAPPER: I want to turn to that Kellyanne Conway sound in a second, but first, Ayesha, I do want to ask your opinion, because I have to say, if any of the men around this table behaved this way at our places of work, we would get reprimanded, we would get potentially even fired.

You are not allowed to touch women inappropriately. Again, it doesn't matter if your intention is sexual or just friendly. You can't massage a woman's shoulders and sniff her hair and kiss the back of her head. That's not appropriate. AYESHA RASCOE, NPR: I think we should be clear, too. Even though,

you know, we always say, this is a new era, but it is a new era in the way that women are talking about it, but women have been feeling uncomfortable and have been put in uncomfortable situations for decades, for eons, right, since the beginning.

TAPPER: Forever, yes. Yes.

RASCOE: Forever.

So, that is -- so the difference is that women are speaking up about it. I think, for Joe Biden, having one person come out and say they felt uncomfortable is one thing. Now you have two. How many more stories are going to come out? And what is really sustainable if you're going to go get into a race if you're going to have stories coming out every other day from a woman saying she was made to feel uncomfortable?

And when he says he's going to listen, OK, you're going to listen to these women, and then are you going to dismiss them, are you going to apologize? What happens after the listening? After the women have been heard, what happens next?

TAPPER: Jamal, one of the things that Lucy Flores said, former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores said in the interview yesterday I did with her is along the lines of, this has been going on for a long time, and this has been a meme on the Internet for years.

Has no one said anything to the vice president? And it is important to have people around you that can say, you know, maybe not so much with the hands.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I don't know if anybody said anything who worked for him.

There have been some stories. You know, that time he was touching people during the swearing-ins, he was getting stories about that. But here's the thing. I think the vice president's learning this, men across America are learning this, obviously, the Democratic Party is dealing with this a lot. The things that men thought were OK, that women gritted their teeth through, are no longer sort of being tolerated.

And so, for men, particularly someone like Joe Biden, who has been around for so long, there are all of these eras of things -- if you go back to his public statements, you go back to his public interactions, he's going to have to answer for all of these things in a modern context, which, if I'm in, I'm just wondering if this is something I really want to subject myself and my family to.

And maybe he should spend some time kind of reckoning with his behavior and learning how to behave differently.

TAPPER: Now, Scott, let me play for you -- you're the lucky one -- the Kellyanne Conway sound talking about former Vice President Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: If anybody just types in creepy uncle Joe videos, you come up with a treasure trove.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: OK. So that's fair enough. But as Kaitlan pointed out, President Trump has been credibly accused of sexual harassment and/or assault by about a dozen women.

And, of course, there's the "Access Hollywood" tape, which is, inarguably, far worse than what Joe Biden is accused of doing, if he actually carried out those actions.

So, I mean, shouldn't the White House just maybe like sit back and let Democrats sort this out?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, there's no reason for the Republicans to engage here.

It strikes me that Democrats are going to tear Joe Biden apart over the next several months. You already saw Elizabeth Warren, who's struggling, she needs somebody to get out of the way. She's on the attack. And that's going to continue.

What I find amazing is the question you raised, which is, these sorts of behaviors aren't OK in the workplace. Well, it wasn't so long ago that Joe Biden's workplace was the White House. He was the vice president of the United States. And we all knew this was going on.

[16:40:00]

And at that time, it was, oh, he's our well-meaning goofy uncle Joe who is helping out the president. Now, all of a sudden, he's this creepy personal-space-invader, hair-sniffing, lecherous whatever.

That all happened in a span of just like that. And I wonder, were the Democrats during the Obama years, during the Senate years when this was going on and everyone knew it?

COLLINS: Well, and it's interesting you say that. You're framing that as, why weren't Democrats -- where was the outcry then?

But for women who have experienced this, and experienced uncomfortable situations, not just in work, but in everyday life, it's never been OK to greet someone like that, to smell someone's hair, to touch them inappropriately.

And I just think it's interesting that, time and time again, it's the men who are in trouble for inappropriately hugging, touching, kiss, but very rarely do you ever see a woman who does that.

And I don't think it's just because Democrats are talking about it now. It's a problem that women have faced, as you pointed out, for decades and hundreds of years.

SIMMONS: But, Jake, it is important to remember this is about gradations of behavior, right?

So, the vice president -- nobody is saying the vice president was intending...

TAPPER: Vice President Biden.

SIMMONS: Vice President Biden was intending harm to someone. But the perception of what he was doing was harmful to people.

And so this is part of this conversation that I think men are sort of wrestling through, is, it seemed like it was OK to me. That doesn't make it OK.

TAPPER: What about Stephanie Carter, the former defense secretary, Ash Carter's wife, who's in some of the famous photographs and videos where he's rubbing her shoulders?

She wrote a post on Medium, saying, this was my friend, it was totally fine, stop using my image that way.

It's her story. She can own it.

RASCOE: And that's very important to point out, because it's not that you want -- it's not that every interaction that Vice President Biden had was uncomfortable.

And that's clearly an example of a woman who says, no, that was fine. I was totally fine with that, we are friends, and I appreciate it as comfort in that moment. The problem is those women who didn't appreciate it and whether he knew what that line was or who appreciated it and who didn't.

TAPPER: You talked about Elizabeth Warren. I just want to bring up one thing. CNN has learned Warren's campaign finance director has resigned after she announced she would no longer hold -- after Warren announced she would no longer hold big money fund-raisers or seek out wealthy donors.

"The New York Times" reports: "Her rivals on either ideological flank will raise substantially more money in the first quarter than she does and her focus on policy has not yet translated in the polls."

As a campaign veteran, do you think that she should have made that pledge against big money donors?

JENNINGS: Well, I understand why she did it, because that's the politics of her primary, but it's hard to get in a race when you have got so many well-funded operations and hope to break through.

She's already running sort of behind Sanders on trying to capture the socialist flank. And she's, you know, maybe missed her moment in some eyes back in 2016. So I think, if it were me, I would have opted to have the resources, because being able to communicate your message -- and I think it's true -- she's arguing more policy substance out there than most candidates.

But who will ever know about it if you don't have the money and the resources the to communicate it? So, probably a mistake.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

More breaking news coming in, this time on Boeing, and the process to try to get grounded airplanes back in operation. We will have that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" right now. The FAA now says it will take longer than expected for those grounded Boeing 737 Max planes to get back in the skies. CNN's Drew Griffin joins me now. Drew, what are you learning?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely a blow for Boeing. An announcement that comes out I should say, Jake, just after the markets closed this afternoon. The FAA is saying that the software package that Boeing was supposed to be delivered to FAA last Friday is still weeks away.

Why? Because according to the FAA, time is needed for additional work by Boeing as the result of an ongoing review of the 737 Max flight control system to ensure that Boeing has identified and appropriately addressed all pertinent issues.

This is just the software package that is going to be delivered to the FAA and then reviewed by the FAA before any of these planes get approved to fly again. So this is definitely a setback in the timing of that fix. Of course, the 737 max grounded worldwide. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Drew Griffin, thank you so much. In our "WORLD LEAD" today, the United Nations is joining actor George Clooney and singer Sir Elton John against a strict new law targeting people who are gay.

In a matter of days, the small Asian Islamic country of Brunei wants to punish gay sex as well as adultery, and the punishment is stoning. The United Nations called the law draconian and as CNN's Alexandra Field reports, Clooney and Elton John hope a boycott of hotels tied to Brunei can call attention to this violation of Human Rights.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A tiny Southeast Asian nation Brunei now the target of international outrage. This week it will fully implement their plan for Sharia law punishing adultery and homosexuality with death.

SHAHIRAN SHAHRANI, BRUNEIAN REFUGEE: It's hard to think that just being who you are could get you get stoned to death.

FIELD: George Clooney leads a pack of global superstars speaking out. He says Brunei will begin stoning and whipping to death any of its citizens that are proved to be gay. Let that sink in. In the onslaught news where we the world backsliding into authoritarianism, this stands alone. And from Elton John, discrimination on the basis of sexuality is plain

wrong and has no place in any society. Both now urging the public to boycott hotels around the world controlled by the Sultan of Brunei who defends his country's right to impose its laws.

The government issuing a statement that says Brunei is a sovereign Islamic and fully independent country. And like all other independent countries enforces its own rule of law. A transgender woman whose identity we're protecting fled the country to be able to live freely in Canada.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want my LGBT to safe and if possible get out of Brunei. If not, get a place to have your freedom (INAUDIBLE) you're human rights not being (INAUDIBLE).

FIELD: Shahiran left Brunei after he says he was charged with sedition for criticizing the government. He hid his sexuality until he was safely in Canada. He sends this message home.

SHAHRANI: Stay safe and please watch out for yourselves. If you feel that you're in danger, I made it out, you can too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD: A lot of questions have now been asked about whether a boycott of hotels would be effective in moving the government of Brunei's position on imposing Sharia Law. You've had activists inside the country and outside the country saying that hitting the hotels hard won't have much of an impact on the government.

George Clooney has now written a second op-ed clarifying his first and responding to some of that criticism. He has reaffirmed his position. Activists have been quick to say that boycotting the hotels might not hurt the Sultan directly but it is doing its part to raise international awareness of a terrifying situation frankly inside Brunei, Jake.

TAPPER: And what about the United Nations? What else did that organization have to say about this controversy? We have had a station from the U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner it's saying that Brunei must keep this law from being imposed, that they must act now.

Again, as we talk to people in the LGBT community, they say that time is running out now. There's a clock on all of this. The deadline is April third. That's when the country plans to impose the law. They do not believe that it will be stopped but they have mounting questions about the extent to which Brunei is actually willing to enforce these brutal laws. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Alexandra field thank you so much. He's peddled outright lies to his followers for years. And now conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is explaining himself after swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth under oath. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:45:00] TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. After years of peddling the vicious and evil lie that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, Alex Jones is now struggling to defend himself from lawsuits. In a newly released deposition for one of those defamation suits from some of the families of the victims, we're seeing for the first time the Infowars host on tape and under oath struggling to demonstrate any remorse to the loved ones of those who were killed and even offering more by way of deluded conspiracy theories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX JONES, FOUNDER, INFOWARS: I am not the only person to questions Sandy Hook.

TAPPER: Conspiracy theorist and professional liar Alex Jones swore to tell the truth in this recent three-hour deposition. It was seemingly an uncomfortable spot for the Infowars founder who shared the revolting lie with millions of his followers that the deaths of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was a hoax. Prompting his followers to harass the grieving families whom he smeared as coached actors.

JONES: Don't ever think this couldn't be staged.

TAPPER: Jones is now being sued by some victim's families. He's talking to lawyers instead of fans and it seems he's struggling to explain.

JONES: What does "staged" mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just asking you what you were telling your audience.

JONES: No, no --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not answering your questions, Mr. Jones. You're going to tell me what's "staged" means when you said it.

TAPPER: Some of the grieving families were harassed so much they were forced to move homes. And last week one of those harassed Sandy Hook parents Jeremy Richman father of Avielle took his own life. A conspiracy theorist boosted by Jones repeatedly falsely claimed Avielle was still alive. Jones in his March 14th deposition blamed his false conspiracy theory on psychosis.

JONES: And I, myself, have almost had like a form of psychosis back in the past where I basically thought everything was staged, even though I'm now learning a lot of times things aren't staged.

TAPPER: Whether you think his is the face of evil or delusion, Jones has made a fortune with lies such as these claiming Sandy Hook and 9/11 were inside jobs, attacking mainstream media outlets, millions of dollars earned by feeding people's worst fears with lies.

And through it all, Jones has managed to host more mainstream figures from Lou Dobbs -- JONES: Majority in this country simply ignored.

TAPPER: -- to in December 2015 in the midst of Jones's Sandy Hook smears a certain presidential candidate.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down. You will be very, very impressed I hope. And I think we'll be speaking a lot.

JONES: This is modern global corporate colonialism.

TAPPER: In 2018, many social media platforms and several radio stations banned Jones and Infowars. In the defamation suit, Jones tried blaming his woes on Hillary Clinton.

JONES: This is all just cold-blooded you know, fit because Hillary lost the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So do you think I worked for Hillary Clinton or something or George Soros gives me money or something like that?

JONES: Well, I mean, I know this, is what Hillary lost the light switch went on I've never been sued I got sued a bunch.

TAPPER: Theoretically restricted by his oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Jones laid bare before the world still cannot see the damage he has done.

JONES: My opinions have been wrong but they were never wrong consciously to hurt people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Jones also faces two other lawsuits by parents of children killed at Sandy Hook. Those cases each seek $1 million in damages for mental stress, anguish, and psychological pain suffered due to Jones' coverage of the shootings.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues.

END