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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Democratic Fund-Raising Numbers Revealed; Joe Biden Responds to Unwanted Touching Allegations. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 3, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:03]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, another Democrat expressing contrition, but Trump means never having to say you're sorry.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Moments ago, former Vice President Joe Biden releasing a new video addressing the allegations that have rocked his presidential campaign before it's even begun.

New today, the White House going radio silent over the president's latest barrage of untruths. Do reporters need to ask to see Fred Trump's birth certificate?

Plus, a Secret Service official today telling CNN there are security concerns at the president's second home, as we learn more about that baffling breach at Mar-a-Lago.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news, minutes ago, Joe Biden releasing a new video on social media addressing accusations that he has touched women in ways that made them feel uncomfortable, not sexually, not violently, but inappropriate.

Biden saying, going forward, he will be more mindful about personal space.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Social norms have begun to change. They have shifted. And the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. And I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying. I understand it.

And I will be much more mindful. That's my responsibility, my responsibility. And I will meet it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins me now.

And, Jeff, Biden adding this more-than-two-minute-long video to the statements he's already released in recent days. Clearly, they think the paper statements haven't done enough to quell the fire.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Jake.

And they were hoping to not add oxygen to this, I'm told. And the former vice president there saying, I get it, I get it, is his sign that he actually does understand. He's trying to validate these concerns, but also I'm told that he wants to explain himself. That's exactly what he did today in this video, where we also said this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Folks, in the coming month, I expect to be talking about a whole lot of issues. And I will always be direct with you.

And I'm always trying to be -- in my career, I have always tried to make a human connection. That's my responsibility, I think. I shake hands. I hug people. I grab men and women my shoulders and say, you can do this.

And whether they're women, men, young, old, it's the way I have always been. And it's way I have tried to show I care about them and I'm listening.

But I will be more mindful and respectful of people's personal space. And that's a good thing. That's a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So the former vice president there saying he will be more mindful and respectful, but I think at the very beginning of his message is perhaps the most telling thing of all.

He said, in the coming weeks, he will be coming to the American people about his plans. So, Jake, I think a couple of things here.

Talking to his advisers that I have been this afternoon, A, his timeline is still the same. He is expected, we're told, to still likely run for president with a small wiggle room there at the end of this month or early in May.

But one person close to him also said this. He wants to reclaim record and explain his humanity. That's what he was trying to do in this video.

They know that he will have to keep talking about this. The question is, will other Democrats keep bringing it up? Will the president keep bringing it up? Probably so. But they knew today that he had to add his voice to all the others that have been out there. TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

As Biden grapples with this even before he's announced his run, we have more breaking 2020 news this afternoon. Former Congressman Beto O'Rourke's campaign announcing that it raised $9.3 million in the first quarter of 2019. That's less than many pundits had anticipated, given O'Rourke's record-breaking first-day haul.

The quarter for Beto O'Rourke comes behind both Vermont Senator Sanders and California Senator Kamala Harris, though the O'Rourke campaign would note that both Harris had head-starts, since they launched their campaigns in January and February, respectively, while O'Rourke launched in March and had 18 days before the deadline.

So, as CNN's Leyla Santiago now explains, the O'Rourke campaign is touting a different figure. They're claiming that O'Rourke is raising the most money per day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brand-new numbers from the Beto O'Rourke campaign announced just hours after he left the annual National Action Network Convention in a New York cab.

He raised $9.4 million in his first 18 days as a presidential candidate. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders claims to have raised the most money so far, $18.2 million in the first six week of his campaign, followed by California Senator Kamala Harris, $12 million, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg $7 million, and businessman Andrew Yang $1.7 million.

O'Rourke's campaign touted an average donation of $43 from 218,000 contributions, though it did not reveal how many individual donors contributed. O'Rourke was the first presidential candidate to take the stage before NAN, a civil rights organization founded by Reverend Al Sharpton, who made sure to get specifics, asking O'Rourke if he would support a commission to study reparations.

[16:05:17]

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: If that passes and you are president of the United States, would you sign that bill?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANTIAGO: O'Rourke not the only candidate courting Sharpton's wing of the party and the African-American vote. A dozen presidential hopefuls are scheduled to speak at the convention.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO: All right, and so the campaign is really focusing on the average raised per day in the race. That is where their focus is, much more favorable to Beto O'Rourke there. But the big question will, be can he sustain that moving forward, Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Leyla Santiago, thanks so much.

Let's chew over all of this with our panel.

I want to ask the two ladies at the panel first whether you think Joe Biden's statements will put this to rest at least as much he can hope.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I don't think Biden's overly affectionate behavior is harassment. I don't think it's menacing. I don't think a power play.

I do think it's a good reminder to men, our bodies are not up for grabs. They are not for the taking. So unless you have a very close personal trust with someone -- I have this with Van -- don't grab. Don't grab. Don't breathe menacingly down my neck.

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: I think the statement was good. I worry that Democrats, though -- look, let's say for the record, Democrats have a better record handling sexual assault and harassment within the party.

TAPPER: Although this -- that's not what this is, right?

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: I agree. I agree.

I'm saying, with a couple notable exceptions, named Bill and Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Right.

CUPP: I think some risk looking like they are angrier at Joe Biden for his hugs than they have been with Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Bill for his actual rape allegations and Hillary for demeaning and discrediting his women accusers.

So I wouldn't overstep. It's a good lesson, and we should talk through this moment, but I think Joe Biden should not be disqualified based on this.

TAPPER: What do you think, Margaret?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I agree that Joe Biden should not be disqualified for this.

I, however, appreciate this is the beginning of a Democratic primary process, which reminds me of Lyndon Baines Johnson's about cannibals and the difference between how Democrats -- cannibals and Democrats, and cannibals are liberals. And the difference is that liberals -- I'm going to step on this line -- liberals don't eat their enemies.

Wait. Liberals eat their enemies?

(CROSSTALK)

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Cannibals don't eat their friends and family members.

HOOVER: Thank you. I need my husband.

(LAUGHTER)

HOOVER: Cannibals don't eat their friends and family members, right?

TAPPER: But Democrats and liberals do.

HOOVER: And the point is -- and the point is, I actually genuinely don't believe, based on what we have seen from the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party and the progressive base's treatment of Al Franken, that this will be enough.

There are just -- there are people who -- and, by the way, Joe Biden's running and occupying entirely the moderate lane of the Democratic Party, and the progressives don't have space or want him in, by the way, nor does the Republican Party and Donald Trump.

So Biden's taking it from all sides right now. And I don't -- there's a real question to his strength and viability. If he weathers this, then he will be a real candidate. If he doesn't, it's over.

TAPPER: Let's broaden it out to some of the other Democrats.

Beto O'Rourke,with $9 million raised, now he's -- his people argue he was only in the race for 18 days, as opposed to Kamala Harris, who has been there since January, Bernie Sanders since February. But this is a little bit of back to reality for Beto O'Rourke's campaign, I think.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Kind of, except that nobody ever heard of this guy a year ago.

I mean, let's just be very clear that this was a phenomenon that came on in Texas, challenged Ted Cruz and came close to having an upset there. And so if you say -- if now, based on those inflated expectations, if he doesn't raise a billion dollars in a second, he's crashing, he's burning.

If you take a step back, this guy shouldn't be in the race at all. He lost...

CUPP: To Ted Cruz.

JONES: ... to Ted Cruz a Senate race. He shouldn't be -- he should be at home watching this with the rest of us, and he's out there raising this much money.

So I just think that sometimes the expectation game gets a little bit out of hand here. I think he's doing very well for somebody who, frankly, shouldn't even be in the race, by ordinary standards. And I think he's going to -- he will have more staying power than today's story.

TAPPER: John, I think that it's fair to say, Senator Bernie Sanders, when it comes to polls, among the declared candidates, declared, when it comes to polls, when it comes to fund-raising, when it comes to the number of contributors, when it comes to the fact that his dollar amounts, the average contribution is so small, without question, I think Bernie Sanders is the front-runner, don't you think, of declared candidates?

[16:10:02]

AVLON: That's the caveat that you're making, right?

Yes, among declared candidates, you have got to say that's true for Bernie, but he benefits from a very broad field. Once you get Biden in that, of course, all of a sudden, that top tier -- Biden best BERNSTEIN: in most polls.

Look, I think Bernie has got a very intense, devoted cadre. He shaped the direction of a party. And in a very wide primary, could his 20, 25 percent of hard-core supporters be enough? Maybe.

But the second Biden gets in the race, that statement is no longer operative. And I do think we all know what this is about. These are brushback pitches against Biden. Can he handle a leftward-drifting party?

Not his first rodeo. Assuming he can, that statement is no longer operative.

TAPPER: We should point out that there's a lot of talk online right now, especially among Sanders supporters, about a column by "Washington Post"'s -- "The Washington Post"'s Dana Milbank, who writes that Bernie is the Trump of the Democratic Party.

"Fund-raising and polls show that many Democrats think that the best answer to an angry old white guy with crazy hair, New York accent and flare for demagoguery is, well, another angry old white guy with crazy hair, a New York accent and flair for demagoguery. It's not difficult to picture a scenario in which Bernie captures a Democratic presidential nomination with the same formula that worked for Trump with Republicans in 2016."

Forgetting the for a second hair and the New York accent and all that stuff, it is actually easy to look at the race and say, you know what? Lots of candidates, a guy with a very strong following and 30 percent of the vote or so, like Trump in 2016, that Bernie could do that in 2020, and win the nomination.

JONES: Yes.

And, look, people underestimated Bernie Sanders the entire time that he was running against Hillary Clinton last time. The guy got 47 percent of the vote against the entire Clinton-Obama machine in a year that Hillary Clinton should have had a romp. And he never stopped running for president. He just changed it to

Medicare for all. I have been with Bernie, you know, in states and places where he's getting 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 people to come out to hear him give the speech they have heard a million times nine months ago, 12 months ago, 16 months ago.

He never stopped running for president. He has the biggest social media operation. He's got a bigger social media operation than some people who do it professionally. You got corporate -- we call now...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Sure.

So I'm just saying people continue to underestimate the insurgency in our own party.

CUPP: That's like the only thing they have in common. Can I just say?

JONES: Fair enough.

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: That column drove me crazy, because first we should say no one is like Trump. There is no Trump of the left or the right. He is inimitable in many ways that are impressive and many ways that are deeply, deeply troubling.

Trump's M.O., his raison d'etre is himself. His only goals are to sow seeds of distrust and discord, not to benefit policy or political directions or objectives, but to benefit himself and for self- preservation.

I don't see anyone else in the current field that is motivated solely by their own self-interest. What Dana Milbank is describing, is Bernie Sanders a politician? Does that mean he's sometimes hypocritical? Yes. Does that mean he's sometimes anti-establishment? Yes. Does that mean he sometimes talks in platitudes? Have you met Beto O'Rourke?

(LAUGHTER)

CUPP: I mean, none of this makes him like Trump.

And I think we can be too cute by half sometimes when we're trying to compare these guys to each other.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

Growing concerns about access to the president at his favorite getaway after a woman is arrested allegedly lying her way into Mar-a-Lago -- why at least one Secret Service agent is worried.

Then, big change blowing into the Windy City, the historic political wind that is shaking up the machine in Chicago.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our national lead today: Senate Democratic leaders are asking the FBI to, quote, immediately assess national security risks at the president's Mar-a-Lago club and other Trump properties after the Secret Service arrested a woman who lied her way into the Florida result, allegedly carrying a couple of Chinese passports, computer equipment and a thumb drive containing malware.

Now, that woman is behind bars in the Palm Beach County jail.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is live near Mar-a-Lago.

And, Kaylee, these senators say they are worried Mar-a-Lago is vulnerable to bad actors.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake.

Access at Mar-a-Lago is a problem. Those are the words of one secret service official to CNN today. That concern echoed by a group of Senate Democrats who had written this letter to the FBI director, Christopher Wray, asking that he investigate how to better secure and protect Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties. Their concern is that these potential security vulnerabilities exposed again and Mar-a-Lago over the weekend could have serious national security implications.

You see, the Secret Service is really at the mercy of the Mar-a-Lago management and staff when it comes to who is allowed access to this private club and that's where the problem began over the weekend. As Yujing Zhang, this Chinese national came to the staff, one staff believed her to be a family member of someone who was a member of the club and so she was welcomed in. The Secret Service pushes back on the notion that this was a security breach because one official tells me they had eyes and ears on this woman through u every step of her journey on the property and when her story finally fell apart after a series of lies, they were there to take action immediately.

Jake, it's unclear what this woman hoped to accomplish while on the property with a bag full of technology devices, but it is clear that she intended to deceive.

TAPPER: All right. Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.

This security issue at Mar-a-Lago is not an isolated incident. It's just the latest example of what critics regard as careless a attitude toward security issues in the Trump administration and it starts at the top, they say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): A scare at Mar-a-Lago as President Trump's security procedures in the spotlight again. REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We have

profound concerns about the security protocols that are being followed or not followed by the president and his family.

TAPPER: Since taking office, story after story highlight what critics call a disregard that the president and his team seem to have for long established protocols.

[16:20:03] Just this week, before we learned of the Mar-a-Lago incident, a White House whistleblower was alleging that Trump's team had overruled national security expert's denials of security clearances for 25 individuals for, quote, a wide range of serious disqualifying issues.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Security clearances are very important to me.

TAPPER: Among those with a controversial clearance, the president's daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, top adviser Jared Kushner, whose numerous foreign business dealings have raised concerns.

When asked about possible security risks Monday, Kushner chuckled.

LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS: Do you pose a grave national security concern to the country, Jared Kushner?

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADIVSER TO THE PRESIDENT: Look, I can say that in the White House, I work with some phenomenal people.

TAPPER: Kushner and President Trump have also both come under fire for using non-secure methods of communication.

TRUMP: You want to put that on this phone, please? Hello.

TAPPER: Trump has denied accusations he uses his personal iPhone instead of the government provided cell. Kushner reportedly prefers to use the encryption enabled texting service WhatsApp to speak with foreign leaders including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Another security protocol the president has dismissed, having aides present for meetings with foreign leaders such as Vladimir Putin. In Helsinki, they met for two hours, no notes, no advisers, just interpreters, leading critics to question what the leaders may have agreed to behind closed doors.

When Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office in 2017, it was Russia's state photographer, not the White House, who made images of the private meeting public.

TRUMP: I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything. I had a great meeting.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: We've been remained in the dark about what the two leaders discussed. I believe his lack of transparency has implications for our national security. TAPPER: It is quite a list of questions and allegations for a

president who came to office campaigning against his opponent's breach of security protocols.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton can't keep her e-mails safe and you know what, folks? She sure as hell can't keep our country safe.

TAPPER: Regarding this most recent incident, Mar-a-Lago has been criticized before as an open air Oval Office. Trump was hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the resort in 2017 when North Korea test-fired a missile. Trump and his top security team coordinated their response on the patio as Abe and shocked resort guests enjoyed a front row seat. One guest posting photos to social media with the caption, holy molly, the center of the action.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Let's chat about this now.

Margaret, it's very clear that there's a long list of issues that one does not have to be a partisan to say, I don't know that the Trump administration is taking this as seriously as they should.

HOOVER: Yes, exactly what you said. The part art about the story, there are so many parts about this story that underline how urgent it is. It's the pay to play aspect. All you have to do is literally get close to some member of the club in order to have access to the -- to some of the places where the world's most important national security decisions are being made by the commander in chief.

But the piece that stood out to me, this idea that this woman had a thumb drive that had malware on it, right?

TAPPER: Yes.

HOOVER: Thumb drive with malware could mean anything. But just wrap your head around the fact it was a thumb drive with malware that the Israelis used on the Iranian to meltdown the attack which melted down their nuclear -- the Stuxnet attack which melted down their nuclear program in 2005, all right?

What is a Chinese national doing with malware in Mar-a-Lago and what kind of serious national security replications could just that have let alone the rest of it?

AVLON: Look, this is a walking conflict and the idea as Kaylee said in her piece that Mar-a-Lago might be vulnerable to the bad actors is an instant classic of understatement. It is a magnet for bad actors. We all know that 25 folks in the White House got bypasses for security clearances. It's not just Jared and Ivanka.

This is a systemic problem, driven, this comes from the top, by the president who's either callous or careless about this issue.

HOOVER: I do want to say one thing -- shout-out to Secret Service for having eyes on the person from the beginning essentially what they've had to do is without the cooperation of the president of the United States, surround and secure the place as best they possibly can and they did. They identified this woman long before she was arrested. They were able to figure out she was a threat and then contain it.

TAPPER: Yes. But it is interesting of course he did come to office railing against Hillary Clinton for her breach of security protocols when it came to her private e-mail server.

JONES: The hypocrisy is ridiculous. What you have to keep in mind, though, is this is the one they caught. I think people go, oh, well, but she got caught. We don't know how many did not get caught. So that's the other thing you have to think about.

Also, it is really difficult to keep a president of the United States safe. It is, I mean people -- they only let some of those guys, men and women serve for about a year because of the level of strain.

[16:25:02] Even when they're cooperating, it strains the nerves of those agents so badly. To have someone who's cooperating so little with so much at stake, it's just not fair to Secret Service, it's not fair to the country. But A, this is the one we know and got caught. There may be others who did not.

And his personal security is at risk every day. The Secret Service does a great job, but they need help.

TAPPER: All right. Stick around. We got a lot more to talk about. The same man who demanded to see President Obama's birth certificate is now not telling the truth about where his father was born. That's real. That really happened and that's not all.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)