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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Biden Jokes About Accusations 2 Days After Attempted Apology; 2020 Candidates Address Race, Violence, Economy And Reparations As They Court Black Voters; State Dept: Saudi Government Detains Two Americans In Sweep; Trump Tries To Nudge Fed, Suggests Cutting Rates; Trump Slammed For Picking Supporters For Fed Board. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 5, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: There aren't that many people saying he's disqualified for public office.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: No.

TAPPER: Lucy Flores doesn't think he should be the nominee, either.

CARPENTER: Yes. And I do think there's a thing with younger women. I forget who expressed the sentiment online, but they want someone to campaign and run for president that is us, not just listens to us.

I think women are sick of having to explain to men why this is a problem. Why do we have to keep taking the time out to say why this is wrong, make this -- why this makes you feel uncomfortable? It just would be better to start with someone fresh who already knows these basic things.

TAPPER: And as Symone pointed out, President Trump might not be the best person to be making light of all of this. Here is what President Trump said, he was asked if he saw Biden before he flew to California. Here's his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't see Joe Biden as a threat, no. I don't see him as a threat. I think he's only a threat to himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But he's done a lot more than that to make light of the Biden situation. And as Symone pointed out, there are at least a dozen women on the record who've come forward with serious and credible allegations of sexual harassment, and in some cases, sexual assault.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: That's right, about President Trump. And I would love to see the outrage coming from many in the Republican Party who have been so outraged about Joe Biden, about President Trump. And I haven't --

TAPPER: Present company excluded, of course. PSAKI: Present company.

CARPENTER: I mean, it just totally -- leaning on President Trump to excuse bad behavior from other people just gets really --

(CROSSTALK)

SYMONE SANDERS, FORMER NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE 2016: But I don't think anybody has excused bad behavior. To be clear, no one is excusing bad behavior. Everyone, all of the Democrats have consistently said, even Nancy Pelosi was like, "Look, don't touch people. Respect people's personal space."

TAPPER: Yes.

SANDERS: But Joe Biden -- look, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, has been accused of being a sexual predator, of sexual assault. Nobody is accusing Joe Biden of being a sexual predator or sexual assault.

PSAKI: And I think Symone made a very important point earlier, which is the danger we go down here, which has been concerning to me a bit to me this week, is grouping everything together.

TAPPER: Right.

SANDERS: Yes.

PSAKI: Sexual assault and rape is not the same as an uncomfortable moment of having your hand touched. We all -- there are many, many women who experience sexual assault and rape. I don't think they see this as speaking on their behalf. And so I think we have to have a nuanced conversation about it and not group it together. And I think --

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: It's a shame when that happens.

TAPPER: Absolutely. Stay with us. She's gotten the biggest applause at the convention that almost all Democratic presidential candidates are attending. Promise is -- the problem is, rather, she's not running for president. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:36:56] TAPPER: More on our 2020 lead, Democratic candidates today flooding a New York conference room for a chance to stand out to a key Democratic demographic. Some 12 of 17 2020 hopefuls made it a priority to stop at the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network annual convention, a gathering of black leaders and black voters all listening closely for how these candidates would look out for them if elected.

CNN's MJ Lee now reports the candidates are well aware that black voters were crucial to Hillary Clinton winning the nomination in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2018 -- in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AL SHARPTON, AMERICAN ACTIVIST: No justice --

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): No peace.

SHARPTON: No justice --

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): No peace.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A string of 2020 presidential candidates today, courting a key Democratic voting bloc.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not back down.

LEE: Making their case at the National Action Network conference to the African-American community, a powerful constituency crucial to the outcome of the Democratic primary. Just today, seven presidential hopefuls addressing the crowd, following five others earlier in the week, all focused on key issues, like racial inequality and criminal justice reform.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's talk about what justice looks like. It looks like leaders having the courage to understand we need reasonable gun safety laws in this country, including universal background checks and a renewal of the assault weapons ban.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The boldest policies we're talking about right now can't just be about sentiment or about acknowledging the past. They need to be about actually balancing the economic scales and confronting the bias that persists right now in the present.

LEE: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, for the first time, calling for eliminating the Senate filibuster, saying the tradition has been used to block racial progress.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For generations, the filibuster was used as a tool to block progress on racial justice. And in recent years, it's been used by the far right as a tool to block progress on everything. We should get rid of the filibuster.

LEE: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders rallying the audience by slamming President Trump.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It gives me no pleasure to tell you that we have a president today who is a racist, who is a sexist, who is a homophobe, who is a xenophobe, and who is a religious bigot.

LEE: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg forced to explain his controversial comments from the past that all lives matter. MAYOR PETER BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I did not understand at that time was that that phrase, just early into -- especially 2015 was coming to be viewed as a sort of counter slogan to Black Lives Matter. Since learning about how that phrase was being used to push back on that activism, I've stopped using it in that context.

LEE: Host Al Sharpton asking every candidate whether they would sign a bill that would create a commission to study the issue of reparations. The overwhelming response from the 2020 contenders --

REP. TIM RYAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 100 percent, of course.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I support Congresswoman Jackson Lee's H.R. 40.

BOOKER: Yes.

BUTTIGIEG: I would.

[16:40:00] WARREN: I already support that bill. Go H.R. 40.

HARRIS: And I will sign that bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm going to pass this. Come on, now.

LEE: The conference, an important campaign stop for Democrats, hoping to court African-Americans, who make up about 20 percent of Democratic voters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: Now, this conference is just one more reminder that all of the Democrat candidates are trying everything that they can to try to set themselves apart in a field that is growing and (INAUDIBLE), Jake.

TAPPER: All right. MJ Lee, thank you so much.

A CNN exit poll showed 89 percent of the black vote went to Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2012, 93 percent of the black vote went to the black candidate, Barack Obama, the incumbent president.

This voting demographic is almost certainly going to go overwhelmingly for the Democrat, especially with President Trump in office. But I guess the question is turnout.

SANDERS: Yes, so turnout is the key question.

TAPPER: Yes.

SANDERS: And in 2016, I know a lot of folks talk about these disaffected working class voters, people talk about white working class voters that defected to Donald Trump and they're really talking about 8 percent of the electorate in 2016, which were Obama/Trump voters.

But what the untold story, I think, is that black voters did not come out in the numbers that they needed in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. 100,000 votes was the difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton being president. Democrats understand that this time around.

But more so, the person who can capture the hearts and minds of black voters is the person, in my opinion, that will be the Democratic nominee. And so lots of these folks are in the fights for their lives and that's why the National Action Network conference, and showing up in places like South Carolina, but also the quad cities in Iowa, going to Wayne County where Detroit sits in Michigan are really important, going on a southern tour like Elizabeth Warren has done.

So I'm excited that folks are really fighting for the black vote, Jake, because black voters are not just going to turn up and turn out for anybody, they are waiting to see.

TAPPER: Right. Now, it's interesting because this is the most diverse field ever. Two of the candidates are black, at least one is Latino, one is Asian-American. But even with all of this and with a lot of candidates, as you saw there, I think pandering is a fine word to use in this context, just agreeing to what the crowd wanted, none of them got the biggest welcome and the biggest applause at the convention. Take a look at who did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The people sussed out Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's right. It's the hometown crowd for Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. But does it also push to the popularity of the policies and her fighting spirit?

PSAKI: You know, I think her policies certainly have a following in the Democratic base, that's true, we've seen that with the Green New Deal. But I also think, as a personality and as a person who has charisma and is bringing excitement back to Democratic politics, that's something that should be welcomed in the party, whether you agree with her policies or not.

And I often think that's what's being reflected when you see excitement in this room. She's become kind of a representative of accessibility to government and to politics, which is ultimately a good thing.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: I think AOC should just run for president.

SANDERS: Unfortunately, she can't.

KRISTOL: Why not? TAPPER: She's 29.

SANDERS: She's 29.

KRISTOL: Who would have -- I was thinking about this, who would have stand up and challenge her. She just says, "I am 35 years old," by some definition --

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: I'm serious about this. Who -- some court going to throw her off the ballot it? I doubt it. So I want to say (INAUDIBLE).

PSAKI: She wasn't -- I am sure you are. But she was in her hometown crowd. I will say that I don't think she could win in 90 percent plus districts in the country and we have to be mindful of that, too.

TAPPER: The Trump war room tweeted out, "Anti-Semite Al Sharpton called Jews 'diamond merchants' and organized a march where protesters shouted 'kill the Jews.' But Democrats running for president will make time to speak at his convention today." Obviously trying to rain on the parade. Is that effective, do you think, with any percentage of the electorate?

CARPENTER: Yes. I think there's a lot of Republicans that look at Al Sharpton and remember his role in the race riots in Brooklyn in the early '90s as something that gets discussed frequently in conservative media whenever he's brought up.

And, you know, he's said that he's regretted the role that he played. But, you know, it does strike me funny that so many presidential candidates will go to a convention organized by someone that did play a role in a real race riot.

SANDERS: I will just say Reverend Sharpton has showed up for communities time after time after time again he is not an anti-Semite. And any suggestion of that, I think, this just goes to show that the Trump war room believes doesn't have real things to go and talk about, so they are just grasping for straws here. Democrats are going to go where they go, and they need to be (INAUDIBLE) to that.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. Six months after Jamal Khashoggi's murder, Saudi Arabia is detaining two Americans and it's not only -- it's not the only U.S. ally that feels like it's OK to grab Americans and throw them in a cell, lately. Why is that? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:48:59] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our "WORLD LEAD" now. The state department confirming to CNN that two U.S. citizens are among those who have been arrested and detained by Saudi authorities after a crackdown on the kingdom's critics on Thursday.

This seems to be the first massive roundup of Saudi dissidents since right after the murder of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. But as CNN's Michelle Kosinski reports, Saudi Arabia is hardly the only autocratic regime to detain Americans since President Trump took office.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: If you thought the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi officials, would keep the crown prince on his best behavior for a while, it didn't last long.

Now, the kingdom has rounded up a group of activists, including two American citizens. Journalist Salah al-Haidar, physician Badar al- Ibrahim. Seven people in total according to CNN sources under arrest, all writers and bloggers interested in social reforms and women's rights in this latest Saudi crackdown.

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Don't give up, don't despair. We will not.

KOSINSKI: Just this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to family members of American hostages, like journalist Austin Tice in Syria and those who have lost loved ones like Otto Warmbier in North Korea.

[16:50:09] POMPEO: I want you all to know, I'm not here today to instill in you any false hope. Sometimes our best simply is not enough.

KOSINSKI: The Trump administration has made some energetic efforts to bring Americans home. More than a dozen in the last two years. And some tough cases. Finally freed from North Korea, Venezuela, Egypt. The Coleman family from Pakistan, Pastor Brunson from Turkey. The president clearly revels in these successes.

Yet, still, many nations remain undeterred to arrest more Americans, both friends, and foes. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, China, Iran. Not long after Trump publicly said the arrest of a Chinese telecoms executive on U.S. charges might help in trade talks with China, as if this was politically motivated, CNN learned there are now multiple American residents believed held in China's vast internment camps.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Because Trump is showing disdain and disrespect for the rule of law, that there's not going to be any repercussions if they do the same.

KOSINSKI: Some analysts say, the administration has been inconsistent.

KIRBY: The administration, while doing well in some areas, has not done well in others. And therefore, has a mixed reputation.

KOSINSKI: For example, not yet opening a hostage-only communications channel with Iran. A former administration official, says the U.S. has been insisting that the, at least, five Americans held there need to be released before there can be a discussion of anything else.

A stance some experts feel won't work. And Trump's refusals to hold North Korea's Kim Jong-un responsible for Otto Warmbier's death. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word.

KOSINSKI: Or the Saudi crown prince for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, send the message that some things, no matter how brutal, can be explained away for those at the top.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI: The Saudis aren't commenting on the Americans held there. But as for Americans detained around the world, it's tough to know exactly how many there are. Some aren't made public, some are released after a short amount of time.

But experts on this subject tell us the best estimates they go by, or that currently about 3,000 Americans are held globally and about 100 of those are considered hostages. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Michelle Kosinski, at the state department for us. Thank you so much.

Two of President Trump's latest picks for the very important financial seats give a whole new meaning to "Keep your friends close." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:57:01] TAPPER: In our "MONEY LEAD" now, the Dow gained 40 points at the closing bell a short time ago after hiring leaped back to life. Today's jobs report showing the economy added close to 200,000 jobs last month alone. A great rebound from February, when only 33,000 jobs were added, the lowest number since 2017.

The unemployment rate also held strong at 3.8 percent, the same as February. President Trump today pumped up those very promising economic numbers while also trying to direct the otherwise fiercely independent Federal Reserve on economic policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I personally think the fed should drop rates. I think they really slowed us down. There's no inflation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Critics say the president is trying to stack the Federal Reserve's board of governors, which is specifically designed to remain free of political pressure in order to keep the good times rolling while he's in office. And particular, his 2016 economic adviser, Stephen Moore and Herman Cain of 999 Plan presidential fame, faces the president -- seen many times on cable news.

Let's go to CNN's Cristina Alesci. And Christina, how are three picks being viewed in the business community, more in Herman Cain?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are serious concerns about both men's qualifications and whether they can make objective decisions in the best interest of the U.S. economy, and ignore pressure from their friend, President Trump.

Both economists and executives that I've been speaking to have been expressing skepticism. Last night, I asked JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon whether Moore and Cain are right for the job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE DIMON, CHAIRMAN, JPMORGAN CHASE: I know them from seeing them on T.V. you know. And so, I've never sat down and had a long conversation. You know, they don't seem like they're right people to put on the fed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALESCI: Now, some background, Moore, as you mention was an adviser to trump's 2016 campaign. He's better known as a political pundit than an economist. He also worked here at CNN as a contributor and had fiery exchanges, defending the president.

As for Cain, he's also known for a presidential campaign, his own. Just last year, Cain announced apolitical action committee to counter the so-called, resistance to President Trump. Saying, it had become unhinged and absurd.

But unlike Moore, at least, Cain just have some experience in the Federal Reserve System. But the one thing that might jeopardize his potential nomination; sexual harassment allegations. He's denied them. But just today, an attorney representing one of the accusers issued a statement.

She says, "Anyone who uses their position of power to take advantage of a woman does not possess the character, integrity, or values required to serve on the Federal Reserve Board." I tried to reach a representative for Cain, and haven't heard back yet. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Cristina Alesci, thank you so much. Appreciate it. You should tune in this Sunday morning to "STATE OF THE UNION". My guests will be the White House director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow. Senator and potential 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bennet. And Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. That's at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday morning.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. We actually read them. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a great weekend. I will see you on Sunday.