Return to Transcripts main page


Biden Jokes About Physical Contact in First Speech Since Allegations He Made Women Uncomfortable; Trump Taps Herman Cain for Federal Reserve Post; Trump Heads to Border After A Week of Confusing Threats; Nadler Demands DOJ Release Any Mueller Team Summaries Citing Reports Investigators Believe Evidence Is Alarming; Interview With Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D), Texas; Dems Demand Trump Tax Returns for 6 Years. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 5, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin thanks for being with me on Friday. The 20 battle lines are being drawn, President Trump versus the Democrat is front-runner and Joe Biden. The issue here, allegations of inappropriate touching and just making women feel uncomfortable. In Biden's first public speech since the allegations the former Vice President decided to make a joke about them and he did it not just once, but twice.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lonnie.

I don't want you to have to stand all along but it is up -- by the way, he gave me permission to touch him.


Biden and President Trump are already going head to head on this whole thing. Here is what the President said this morning when reporters asked him about this Biden controversy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What exactly is offensive by Joe Biden's behavior and are you the right messenger for that?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I'm a good messenger and people got a kick out of it. He's going through a situation, let's see what happens. But people got a kick. We got a sort of smile a little bit, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see Joe Biden as a threat?

TRUMP: No, I don't see him as a threat. I think he's his own threat to himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your reaction to President Trump taunting you on Twitter? What do you have to say to him? BIDEN: This doesn't surprise me. He doesn't have time to do his job.

But, look, everybody knows who Donald Trump is -- so I don't have to say anything more, I don't think.


BALDWIN: CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz is with me now. And there the Vice President was after the speech trying to clarify the right word. What was the thrust of his message there?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brooke, during the speech you heard people in the room laughing when the Vice President made those jokes. But it was very clear to Joe Biden and his team that they didn't exactly sit well outside of the room. So, they decided to hold this impromptu gale with reporters that we didn't know he would address head on but he said he didn't intend to make light of anyone's feelings about their interactions with him. And take a listen to what he had to say.


BIDEN: It is important that I and everyone else is aware that any woman or man who feels uncomfortable should have the right to say, hey, I'm OK with that and hopefully we'll get to the point even before -- you have to a I'm uncomfortable. No matter what. And I -- I really do understand that. And so -- but it's, you know, one of the things that -- like for example, what made me say it, I wasn't joking. The president of the union put his arms around me. That is how it has always been in government a long time, you know. That is how people react. And but --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you owe these women a direct apology that have come forward so far?

BIDEN: Look, the fact of the matter is I made it clear if I made anyone feel uncomfortable, I feel badly about that. That was never my intention.


SAENZ: Right after that comment I directly asked him that some women do want to hear you say I am sorry. So, I asked him, are you sorry for the way you made them feel and he said he was sorry he didn't understand, but not sorry for his intentions and not sorry for his actions.

We'll see whether that is enough of an explanation for the former Vice President as he's continuing to grapple with these claims and more women are discussing it and, Brooke, I had the chance to ask him flat out when are you get getting into the 2020 race and that is a big question and he said it is coming pretty soon.

[14:05:00] BALDWIN: Wow, Arlette, excellent questions. Let's discuss this. CNN's senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson is with me, as is CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger. And Gloria, there is -- a lot of I didn't intend to make light or intend to make women feel uncomfortable, how damaging is this politically for him.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well the fact that he jokes about it today is a problem. These women obviously felt badly about it and he says I'm not sorry for my intentions. I am not sorry for anything that I've ever done because I've never been disrespectful intentionally.

That is his word. Intentionally. And we know who Joe Biden is. He likes to hug people, et cetera. He's not being accused of harassment, but he needs to understand and be able to say, I'm sorry at least to these women who were offended.

BALDWIN: It is just a couple of days ago when you and I were talking about this video tweet, this is a week for him, and women coming forward saying they made him feel uncomfortable and so he made this video. Watch.


BIDEN: The social norms have begun to change, they've shifted and the boundaries of protecting person space have been re-set. And I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying. I understand it. And I'll be much more mindful. That is my responsibility. My responsibility. And I'll meet it.


BALDWIN: Nia, that former Vice President sitting there on that sofa, he talked so much about he appeared authentic, that was the beginning of the right things to say. How much does what he just do today undo that?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think it completely undoes what he did on Wednesday. And remember, that Wednesday response was essentially the fourth response to come out of the Biden camp. There were two statements from Bill Russo who is his coms director and then one statement from Joe Biden and then finally a Wednesday video so we've had a fifth and sixth response at this point.

And one of the things it does tell you about Joe Biden is that he really isn't up to speed in terms of the right response to this issue. He doesn't seem to have the right team around him to give him a sense of how he should respond. And the kind of discipline one would need to kind of stay on a message that people liked. People did think that message on Wednesday was sincere, that he did, in fact, get it.

And then he goes in front of that audience, which again was likely mostly male audience, it is construction workers, I think it was the electricians union so there he is making light of consent, right, which is really at the heart of some of the work he's done in talking to men about that -- behavior and --


HENDERSON: -- so for him to go in front of that audience and say, to hell what those women were saying and to make light of it and then to say, oh, no, I wasn't really making light of it when you could clearly see there in the video as he's talking about the young man there and he sort of -- sort of pats his head but doesn't pat his head. It wasn't a joke. He planned it. He did it not once but twice and it went over OK, fairly OK, in that room but then outside of the room it didn't go over so well.

This speaks to his lack of discipline and lack of focus. And if he runs, I think it is a preview of the kind of candidate Joe Biden will be. He will be sort of unfocused and think he is the best spokesperson at any and all times and that he is sort of clever enough to get around some of these issues.

BALDWIN: The President himself this morning as he was leaving for California, you said it, he said when he was -- back and forth with the reporter, Trump said Biden is a threat to himself.

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: And you say he is.

BORGER: I think Trump is 100 percent right on that. Joe Biden can be his own worst enemy. And I think that -- I would assume his staff was saying to him, you've got to apologize to the women who felt offended and don't joke around this. This is serious. And Biden was probably pushing back saying, I am who I am. And to a degree he's had decades in public life and you can understand -- I can understand Joe Biden saying, look, I'm not harassing anybody.

I gave this woman a hug. Or I kissed her on the head. That is who I am. That is what I've done my entire life and that is what I do when I comfort --

BALDWIN: But at what point does the man just need to say I'm sorry and move on.

BORGER: Yes. And then move on and then cut it off and now it is drip, drip, drip and that is the problem and it is Biden himself.

BALDWIN: Nia, go ahead. 30 seconds.

HENDERSON: It could be so easy to basically say I'm sorry, I made you uncomfortable. Lucy Flores and the number of other women that have come out but he's so in love with his own record and in love with his own sort of treatment of women and who he sees himself as. He's unable to admit any regrets in this area. He essentially said that. He didn't have any regrets at all.

And we'll see if he finally comes to the point where he can humble himself and actually listen to these women, Lucy Flores who has a very -- incredible story in terms of how she felt in that moment with Joe Biden. He can pick up the phone and call Lucy Flores and apologize. We'll see if he does it.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: Nia-Malika Henderson and Gloria Borger. Thank you so much. Speaking of the President. Any moment now the President is set to

visit a town on the southern border and as he's now walking back his threat to shut the border and what he's saying now.

And he's blasting the new attempt by the Democrats to get his tax returns claiming the law is on his side but what we're asking today is, is it?

And Herman Cain anyone? He dropped out of the 2012 race amid sexual assault allegations and now the President wants him on the Federal Reserve. What is going on here? You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: We are back, you're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin n. A couple of minutes the President will land at the U.S./Mexico border where he plans to tour the area marked for the new barrier wall but as he's backing away from the threat to close the border this week, instead giving Mexico a quote/unquote one year warning and now he says he never tried changed his mind at all.


TRUMP: And I'm telling you right now, we will close the damn border.

There is a very good likelihood that I'll be closing the border next week.

We're going go give them a one-year warning and if the drugs don't stop or largely stop, we're going to put tariffs on Mexico. And if that doesn't stop the drugs, we close the border.

I don't think we'll have to close the border because the penalty of tariffs on cars coming into the United States from Mexico, at 25 percent will be massive.

I never changed my mind at all. I may shut it down at some point. But I'd rather do tariffs. So, Mexico, I have to say, has been very, very good. You know that over the last four days.


BALDWIN: Abby Philip is our White House correspondent with me live. And Abby, I never change my mind?

ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is the way that the President is framing it but we know that is just not true based on what he was saying last week and what he's saying today. Last week he said that he would close the border as soon as this week.

His top aide, chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on Sunday the President would close the border unless something dramatic happened and now he's suddenly giving Mexico a year to respond to his demands to do more about immigrants coming up from central American countries through Mexico to the U.S. southern border and to deal with the drug issue. But clearly the President is somewhat defensive about what is going on here.

He doesn't like the narrative that he has walked this back even though that is clearly what is happened. And it happened in response to a lot of people both in the White House, on Capitol Hill reiterating to the President how damaging closing the border could be to the U.S. economy. It would damage Mexico's economy, too.

But the United States relies on that kind of trade going back and forth across the border so the President is now trying to sort of shift attention back to something that he's been talking about for a long time. Which is the border wall as he goes down to California where he's going to be touring a part of the border where there is a wall, or where there was fencing and now it has been replaced with what he is calling a wall.

We're back to the same kind of talk about the border wall being the tool that he wants to use to stop this flow. But it is clearly a President who backtracked significantly just in one week on the issue of closing the border with Mexico.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan is down there and we'll keep our ears to the ground there. Meantime, there in Washington, House Democrats have found this tiny IRS code that enables them to demand six years worth of President's tax returns. And the President was asked about that today. What did he say?


PHILIP: Well, the President has been not saying a whole lot about this. He's been sort of deflecting some of the questions. But today when he was asked by reporters about the issue, he reiterated his talking point about being under audit which is the reason he's refused to release his tax returns up until this point. Listen to the response to questions as he was leaving the White House this afternoon.


TRUMP: I'm under audit. But that is up to whoever it is. From what I understand, the law is 100 percent on my side.


PHILIP: The issue is that it is not clear that the law is 100 percent on his side. This is something that isn't tested and not been tested and it would be tested given that the administration seems to be indicating that they are going to fight this request which has been made, I should note, not to President Trump directly but to the IRS.

[14:20:00] One official telling Jim Acosta, this is a hill and people are willing to die on it. So, it seems that they are girding for what is likely to be a major fight down the road but this is dealt with through the IRS and through potentially the treasury department. It is not clear whether they will win. But it could be a month or even years-long fight before anyone gets to see President Trump's tax returns.

BALDWIN: Abby Philip, thank you very much.

House Democrats are pressuring the Trump administration on another front as well. The Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler demanding the Justice Department hand over all communications between Bill Barr and the special counsel after several investigators on Mueller's team say that Barr mischaracterized their findings. A source tells CNN that Barr left out crucial evidence about obstruction of justice.

So, Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst. So, start with this one. So, Chairman Nadler said all communications. What are they looking for?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, in the first instance they're looking for written communication, memos, letters and emails back and forth and all those sort of things they want. But then communications also means verbal communications. So that is where you have to get testimony because they want to know what was said in meetings and phone calls between the Attorney General and the deputy Attorney General and Mueller and his team about the report.

BALDWIN: OK. So that is the communications there. On the tax return point, because we know the Democrats and ways and means want six years worth and we've heard President Trump talk about everything from you can't have them, I'm under audit to it is too complicated and no one cares and yesterday he said, spoke, they'll speak to my lawyers and they'll speak to the Attorney General. What does the A.G. have to do with it?

RODGERS: I'm not sure. I'm not sure the President knows either. Listen, the tax return thing is as Abby was saying not fully litigated out. We don't yet know what the result will be of that. They an oversight role here. They're all sort of potential conflicts of financial interest the President has that conflict with possible policy making he's been doing so I think they have a legitimate oversight interest.

What is interesting is that six years happens to be the statute of limitations for the crime of tax fraud. So, some might say they're looking for six years because they want to poke around for criminal liability there. So, I wonder why he's fighting so hard against this. Because this is not the sort of thing that you say it is so important as a Presidential matter, as a policy matter to keep the tax returns private so I think that is more of his own personal interest in hiding what is in his tax returns.

But we'll see. I think eventually the House will get ahold of them and hopefully it will be worth the wait.

BALDWIN: And as Abby points out, the request is not -- it is specifically to the IRS and this could be months possibly years worth of fighting to get their hands on them. Jennifer Rodgers, thank you very much.

And as we mentioned, the battle over the tax returns just getting started and President Trump saying the law is 100 percent on his side. We will take to a member of the House Ways and Means Committee about what he thinks about that?

And President Trump lands in California. Next hour we'll take you live to the U.S./Mexico border.


BALDWIN: We take you back to the fight over the President's tax returns. Democrats say they are on solid legal ground. And requesting the IRS release Trump's tax returns, six years worth but Congressional Republicans are accusing Democrats of weaponizing the IRS to bring the President down.

So, with me now, Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett on the House Ways and Means Committee. Congressman, a pleasure. Welcome.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: Good to be with you.

BALDWIN: And let's remind everyone, this is the President this morning saying the law is on his side.


TRUMP: I'm under audit. But that is up to whoever it is. From what I understand, the law is 100 percent on my side.


BALDWIN: Congressman, how would you respond to the President?

DOGGETT: This is a President that no matter what the issue, he always considers himself to be above the law. The law could not be clearer. A near century-old statute that said the internal revenue service and the Treasury Department shall produce the records we request.

I don't know there is any reason confusion over the term "shall" but in this case the chairman of the ways and means committee has craft aid narrow request, much more narrow than I would prefer in terms of both years and the scope of returns that are requested. And he is provided in the letter the reasons why we need this information as a part of our work assuring confidence of Americans in our tax system which is so very important.

And so, this President can either permit his officials to fulfill their ministerial function, a very simple thing, they are expecting this, they ought to be able to get this back to us in a matter of days, if not hours, or he can obstruct. And that appears to be what he's doing, is he wants to obstruct the compliance with the law just as he's been guilty of obstruction in so many other areas.

[14:30:02] BALDWIN: Let's be careful on obstruction. We -- nobody knows what -- why Mueller punted on obstruction and we're waiting to get that Mueller report, a., and b., if I may, hours or days, we'll wait to see if they honor your request. But I do have to ask, because you are on ways and means, specifically what are you -- what are you looking for within these six years worth of tax returns?

DOGGETT: Let me be clear on obstruction. I think every American has watched what happened over the last year plus and could make their own judgment whether there is obstruction. Now whether there is beyond a reasonable doubt for a criminal prosecution, that may be another question but I think there clearly has been obstruction repeatedly obstruction from President Trump.

That is not the focus of our investigation. We want to explore whether this audit has been done properly and whether there is a need for change in the audit standards, we really just want to hold President Trump to the Richard Nixon standard. He wanted to show the American people he wasn't a crook.