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Sen. Sanders Takes Early 2020 Fundraising Lead with $18.2M; Pelosi Weighs in on Biden Controversy; Trump: Puerto Rico Politicians "Only Take From USA". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 2, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:32:53] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Bernie Sanders' first quarter 2020 fundraising report is in. The Sanders campaign saying it brought in an $18.2 million. Nearly a third of that money came in on his very first day in the race. The money being added to $28 million Sanders has from holdover accounts. The Sanders campaign announcements following the reporting Senator Kamala Harris, she announced overnight that her campaign hauled in about $12 million. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was the first to project $7 million.

CNN's Ryan Nobles who follows the senators' campaign joins our conversation. It's a big number. We don't know Beto O'Rourke yet so Sanders will either be the top or probably second in the fundraising. What's their take on this?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I mean, any way you slice it, $18.2 million is a lot of money to do a lot of things. But if you based it on their own expectations and what they've been telling their supporters, they never give us dollar figures, they always talk about the number of contributors that they get to sign up for his campaign. And they've been touting a goal of a million different individual contributions, they only got about 900,000.

Still an impressive number, and then when you drill down those numbers even further, it was only about 525,000 individual contributors. And that's really what the Sanders campaign is all about. They're about that grassroots support. They average around $20 a donation this time around. So it's a big number.

Maybe not quite as much as Bernie Sanders and his team was hoping for, but it's going to give them a lot of resources to play in some of these big states like California and Nevada even if they don't do well in those first two early states.

KING: All right. So in a crowded field, it may not be, you know, maybe not as even their own expectations, maybe they're going to say, oh, they could have done better, he's Bernie Sanders, he ran last time. In this crowded field, that's a lot of money and that proved some people thought it was just because he was running against Hillary Clinton, there's not going to be the second time around, it's not going to work. This guy is a force in the race from beginning to whenever.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: As a Vermonter, I've been saying for a long time I know that he looks like a rumpled tenured professor. He is one of the most organized politicians I've ever seen. In 2016 they had better social media penetration than the Obama White House did in some sectors. They're very organized. This is how they do it.

It's interesting to watch Beto in part because Beto most self- consciously modeled his fundraising operation on Bernie's, not the freaked out crazy ex-e-mails from the DCCC like the sky falling but the come with me and build a thing.

[12:35:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KNOX: And so it's going to be very interesting to see whether Beto just picked up because he was facing Cruz or whether this is the model for the future.

KING: All right. The early Beto numbers proved that -- there are a lot of people say, oh, there are just people really giving against Ted Cruz (INAUDIBLE) but his early numbers showed that wasn't the case. We'll see if he kept it going throughout the course.

I just want to show some comparisons to the point Ryan brought up here. Bernie Sanders, 900,000 contributions, 88 percent of them under $200, meaning those people can give some more. Twenty dollars average contribution. You go back to that well and keep getting contributions.

Kamala Harris, 218,000 contributions, 98 percent under a hundred dollars, $28. Pete Buttigieg, 158,550 donors, 64 percent of those under $200, $36.35 is the average contribution.

It's interesting to watch the small dollar revolution in fundraising. Thanks to the internet and thanks to who can tailor the best message to use social media and the internet, but the best thing about those people is, a, if they've given to you once, if you keep them, they can give to you again.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. This is an entirely new way of fundraising that's taken hold since 2016 obviously. As you mentioned, Bernie Sanders was kind of at the forefront of it. But also, what I find interesting is the social media presence is Olivier you mentioned, Beto and Warren are also really strong competitors with Sanders in that arena. They've been trying to really push aggressively on those fronts. They also are kind of competing with each other when it comes to the amount of events that they're holding to -- to really be there and be present on the campaign trail.

Notably, we've mentioned that O'Rourke doesn't have a day job the way the other candidates do. So he can be out there as much as he wants, as often as he wants. And you may find these other senators starting to miss votes earlier than we previously expected. KING: It's a great point, and the numbers we're getting. The reports aren't due for another -- almost two weeks. I think two weeks from yesterday.

The numbers we're getting are from the people who think they have a little chest pounding to do. If you don't have great numbers then you wait until the end, then you try to take a little time to spend your numbers. Amy Klobuchar among those being honest saying, look, I'm not going to keep up with Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke, but I'll be fine.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't expect to have as much money as my opponents. I've always said that. I always know that. Every race I've run the first time I've had significantly less money than my opponents but I've still won. And I've done it by doing it the right way, by reaching out so people can meet me and ask questions, and I'm going to continue to do that. We will have enough money to win.


KING: The key for those candidates as you get the first debates this summer, she's already qualified for the debates through her polling position, and then you try -- you can you do it through fundraising as well. If you're in the debates, maybe you're not the highest fundraiser through June but if you have some debate moments then you go viral, that's one we'll get another reset if you will.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And that's why you're just -- I'm curious to see like how the different candidates gain traction. I'm particularly interested in the senators who haven't raised their fundraising totals yet. I think Kirsten Gillibrand is one person who according to polling and just sort of the coverage hasn't kind of had that big moment yet. Even her official campaign launch last week was overshadowed by the fact that the summary of the Mueller investigation was coming out that same day. I thought it's interesting that her campaign this morning was touting the number of personal events that she's had in Iowa, and using that metric while a lot of other people are talking about their fundraising numbers.

KING: We shall see again. Raise some money, get to the debates and see what happens.

Up next, what does the most powerful woman in Congress think of the controversy surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden?


[12:42:53] KING: Some 2020 news tops our political radar today. The Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee pushing his platform up on Capitol Hill today. The Washington state governor testifying on climate change in front of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. Telling lawmakers about what he's done as Washington's governor to fight the effects of climate change and why.


GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can actually do something about it.


KING: More news from the campaign trail. Presidential hopeful Julian Castro unveiling an ambitious immigration plan today. He says if he's elected president, he'd roll back a series of laws implemented by Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Castro would also create a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers and for other undocumented individuals and their families. He says he wants to modernize ports of entries and split Immigration and Customs Enforcement also known as ICE into two groups.

A second woman is now accusing Joe Biden of inappropriate behavior back when he was vice president. Amy Lappos says during a 2009 fundraiser, Biden grabbed her head and rubbed noses with her. Speaking for the first time on camera about the controversy, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the stories about Biden so far should not disqualify him as a presidential candidate. But, she added saying you're sorry someone was offended is not really an apology.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm a member of the straight arm club. I mean, I'm not a straight armer. Just pretend you have a cold and I have a cold. He has to understand that in the world that we're in now, that people's space is important to them, and what's important is how they receive it, not necessarily how you intended it.


KING: An interesting and important lesson if you will. A piece of advice from the speaker of the House, the most powerful woman in this country to the vice president of the United States whose aides say still full speed ahead. But it's through paper statements that he has addressed this and that his aides have addressed this. When are we going to hear from him and will he understand that advice?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. I mean, he didn't actually apologize. He said that he was sorry if what he did was taken in the manner that she took it but he said that wasn't my intention and I don't feel that I've acted inappropriately.

[12:45:11] And so something else that Pelosi did say that stuck out to me was that he needs to apologize. That what he said about -- it isn't about your intention, it's about how it's received. And he has not apologized yet, and so she seems to try to signal to him that he needed to do that.

KIM: And I thought that the reaction from particularly Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill was pretty telling. I mean, you are, you know, my former colleagues at Politico did great reporting on this yesterday. Obviously, Senator -- or Vice President Biden has a lot of support from senators and already at least three people who are endorsing him. Some of those said -- you have -- such as Tom Carper and Dianne Feinstein say, this is kind of how it is, like if it's like how it is in Delaware and the vice president is a tactile man. But others are saying, look, the vice president should kind of know what is appropriate and what is not.

KING: He was in leadership for eight years, 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president. Granted he comes from another day but you should -- if you're a leader you see that the times are changing and you change with them.

KNOX: That's really a big, big part of this because on issue after issue, the social question, economic question, there's a big flow of criticism aimed at Biden about how he's the wrong guy for this moment. So they point out that as senator for Delaware he protected a lot of financial interests, they pointed to his management of the Clarence Thomas hearings. They go through the whole records, the votes for the Iraq War, and the collective impression that people are trying to leave is that he's (INAUDIBLE).

KING: The strength of a candidate is, can you change the narrative about you? We'll see if he's capable of doing that.

Up next, more provocative comments from the president on Puerto Rico.


[12:50:53] KING: The president is lashing out today at what he calls the incompetent and corrupt government of Puerto Rico. And he's sounding as if he forgets the island is actually part of the United States.

Plus, he won't like this. The White House staff handing out talking points that challenged the numbers the president uses in his own latest tweet rants. Here's part of the tweet.

"Puerto Rico got $91 billion for the hurricane, more money than ever has been gotten for a hurricane before, and all their local politicians do is complain and ask for more money. The pols are grossly incompetent, spend the money foolishly or corruptly, and only take from the USA."

"The best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico", the tweet says is President Donald J. Trump.

That only take from the USA part kind of jumps out, doesn't it? So is this, the president says Puerto Rico received $91 billion for the hurricane, but White House aides distributing a document today noting the number allocated so far is actually $40 billion, so we should owe a debt of gratitude to the White House staff for saving us. We're the ones who normally have to say the president's numbers are bogus, bad and wrong. His own staff is saying it today.

But, only take from the USA. Is this yet another example of maybe, you know, the president's geography, Puerto Rico, part of the United States, Mr. President.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. I mean, I find it remarkable that the president of the United States said that. Is referring or alluding to three million U.S. citizens as taking from the United States. Also, other White House officials have said -- sorry, I think that they said, quote, that country when referring to Puerto Rico and it really is remarkable given the fact that Puerto Rico has not fully recovered from this. They still need much more funding. The country is -- I'm sorry, I just said it, because they keep saying it and it gets in your head.

No. They are U.S. citizens, and there are people that have had to leave Puerto Rico to come to the U.S. to try to rebuild their lives because Puerto Rico isn't getting that the funding they need.

KING: And if you want to have a debate, there are competing disaster relief bills, if you want a debate about the priorities, let's have a debate. Let's have a debate. How much do we have, where should it go? That's all fine but they only take from the USA and then they're all corrupt so therefore, they don't deserve it.

KIM: The president has had this constant frustration and aggression against Puerto Rico. I mean, we all don't -- remember the moment when he was visiting the island and he, you know, tossed the paper towels and that was perceived as a pretty insensitive moment. And even recently -- I mean, the president was talking to his advisers and asking them, can we take from Puerto Rico aid and perhaps fund the border wall. That was a discussion that he had while the shutdown was going on, clearly raises again with Republican senators last week. That's actually where he got that or where he first kind of floated that $91 billion number. And I was asking people, where did he get this number? No one knew.

I mean, perhaps $91 billion is kind of close to the number of the total amount of damage in Puerto Rico but regardless not a correct number (INAUDIBLE).

KING: But he has used it repeatedly in tweets. Ninety-one billion, 91 billion, 91 billion. Again, his own staff putting out a document today saying 40 billion, thank you.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think this is a big reason why you sometimes there's a debate in Washington over why these or these certain Republicans or these certain leaders stomach things the president does or say positive things about them, and a lot of it comes down to stuff like this. They know that the president if he's not getting along with leadership in a certain place as he has not with Puerto Rico, then he is going to be tweeting things like he is now saying that they're ungrateful for the aid that the federal government has sent them. And that is why you see local leaders try to side up to the -- saddle up to the president because they want to be able when they do have times of crisis like this in Florida, in Texas, wherever that they have the president with him by their side.

KING: The governor of Puerto Rico tried that early on. He has decided that's not going to work. He has a very different approach now.

Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar starts after a quick break. Have a great afternoon.


[12:59:15] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

And underway right now, the Mueller report is still secret, and today is the Democrats' deadline for the attorney general to release it. And since it's not likely that William Barr will do that, House Democrats are warning they will start the process to authorize subpoenas tomorrow for the un-redacted version.

And moments from now, CNN's Christiane Amanpour will sit down for an exclusive live interview with the man who oversaw the initial stages of the Russia investigation. Former FBI Director James Comey and we will bring that to you live.

First, though, CNN has learned that President Trump's about-face on healthcare came after several Republican members of the House and Senate, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, spoke directly to President Trump trying to dissuade him. After promising a replacement plan for ObamaCare was on the way, the White House says it's going to the back burner for now.

And just last week the president, you may recall, called for the courts to strike down ObamaCare.