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Biden Jokes About Hugging; Fight for Trumps Taxes; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) is Interviewed about Mueller Report Release; Battle Over Tax Returns. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 5, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Sweeping bills with only a simple majority if they controlled the Senate in the future.

Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here Sunday morning, 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Don't go anywhere. A lot of news today. Brianna Keilar starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, up first, it's not a laughing matter after Joe Biden says he gets it, why women are upset over his touchy, feely, and at times inappropriate social interactions. He almost immediately proves he doesn't get it. This happened just minutes ago. Biden clearly hoping humor might help diffuse the controversy over women who say that his past actions have made them feel uncomfortable. This was during a speech at a labor union convention.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hands together and give a warm IVEW (ph) welcome to the 47th vice president of the United States, Joe Biden.


I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lani (ph). I mean I had permission.

Hey, all those kids, you want to come up on the stage?

By the way, he gave me permission to touch him, all right?


KEILAR: CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz was in the room for Biden's comments.

So, tell us about the reaction inside the room, but also about the impact that this could have outside of the room.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brianna, as you heard in those clips, people in the room were laughing after Joe Biden made that joke. But it was very clear to the former vice president and his team that maybe those remarks didn't exactly sit well outside of the room. And Joe Biden came out and did a little impromptu gaggle and came over to talked to reporters, saying that he didn't mean to make light of anyone's feelings and their interactions with him.

Take a listen to what he had to say.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It is important that I and everyone else is aware that any woman, or man, who feels uncomfortable should have the right to just say, hey, I'm uncomfortable with this. We're hopeful we'll get to the point even before going (ph) to have to say, I'm uncomfortable. No matter what.

And -- and I -- I really do understand it. And -- so -- but it's -- you know, one of the thing that -- like, for example, what made me say it, I wasn't joking. The president of the union put his arms around me. Well, that's how it's always been in coming (ph) a long time. You know, that's how people react and but --

QUESTION: Do you think you mindful -- but do you think you owe these women a direct apology who have come forward so far?

BIDEN: No, well, look, I -- the fact of the matter is, I made it clear that if I made anyone feel uncomfortable, I feel badly about that. It was never my intention, ever, ever, ever.

QUESTION: But there's some women who want to hear directly, I am sorry. Are you sorry for the way that (INAUDIBLE)?

BIDEN: I'm sorry I didn't understand more. I'm not sorry for any of my intentions. I'm not sorry for anything that I have ever done. I have never been disrespectable intentionally to a man or a woman. I -- you know, it's -- that's not the reputation I've had since I was in high school, for God's sake.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, you've always said you're not changing your brand, you're not wearing any funny hats. Is this whole episode of the past week, is this going to change how you campaign?

BIDEN: Well, I think it's going to have to change somewhat how I campaign.


SAENZ: So now the question is going to be, you have Biden talking a bit more about his behavior and the allegations he made women feel uncomfortable. But the question is going to be, is this going to be enough for some of those women, who did not feel that he had gone far enough in his expression of regrets to them?

And one other thing that I had the chance to ask him about was, when is he going to enter the 2020 race? And he said that he has to be very careful in what he says, that the lawyers have even advised him to be mindful of his words relating to 2020, but that that decision is going to be coming very soon.

But, of course, this is all going to unfold as he's still grappling with these allegations, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Arlette Saenz, thank you so much for bringing us that interview.

And let's talk more now about Biden's comments. We have S.E. Cupp, we have CNN political commentator -- or she is the CNN political commentator and the host of "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson with us, and political director David Chalian.

S.E., I know that you were having quite a reaction to Biden's approach as you were listening to all of that. What do you think?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, part of me is sort of taken back to the Joe Biden we know from a campaign trail, right? He is -- he is gaffe-prone.

Another part of me was listening to that, and I thought, oh, man, it's too soon to joke about something that you want me to believe you really understand. And if you really get it, as he said he did, and wants to sort of take a difference approach and learn from this moment, you don't joke about it the very next public opportunity.

[13:05:19] But I also just think, Joe Biden is still playing by the old rules and he doesn't know really that the rules have changed. For him to come out and say it wasn't my intention, those are old rules. The new rules, both of the millennial generation and his party, your intention doesn't matter. Your behavior matters. You need to take accountability for it. You need to accept it. And you need to say, I'll never do it again. Those are the new rules. I didn't create them. He didn't create them. But he doesn't seem to fully grasp sort of the new setting he's in.

My final take, though, is that he is playing, not for those women, not for millennials, not for a Me Too generation, but for his generation. And he is saying to a lot of people who think that Democrats have embarked on a -- on an apology tour for the fragile, he is saying, I'm -- I'm just like you. I'm -- I'm at home and I play by the same rules -- rules you do and I think some of this is nonsense and let's get back to a better time when you could give your buddy a hug or a hug was just a sign of affection and not an invasion. It's a strategy perhaps that he's embarking on for a very particular, political lane.

KEILAR: Well, look, instead of an apology tour, maybe -- does he need to go on a listening tour to better understand what it is he says that he gets?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You know, I -- what I would add to what S.E. is saying, that I heard from Vice President Biden there, it's not just about this need inside the party of all of it's different factions to sort of get their voices heard here. It's also an ideological composition that Joe Biden was asked about in that press conference where he just doesn't believe that the party has moved as far left as some others. He said that entirely.

And so what was so intriguing to me, his choice to have a lighthearted moment about it in his first public appearance, then to go and talk to the press and clean it up, then to express these thoughts that he's not necessarily convinced that the party has moved as far as some other analysts have said perhaps that it has. All of that suggests to me that Joe Biden may actually have a clear-eyed view of where the broader electorate is on this and be out of touch with the base and progressive wing of the Democratic Party where all the energy is right now, all at the same time.

KEILAR: Is he also trying to navigate between feeling like he did something that was -- or not that he necessarily feels it was inappropriate, but to make a distinction, if we will, between Joe Biden's behavior and then the range of behavior that has been discussed in the Me Too moment and in discussions about consent, the idea of violating someone's personal space and making them feel very uncomfortable as we've heard women saying, and then, on the -- on the other end you have, for instance, President Trump, who has talking about sexually assaulting women, and these are not all of the same things, but are the rules the same for all of these things?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I do think he is trying to make some distinction there, and he does seem to be so proud of his record, right, in terms of the Violence Against Women's Act. He's -- he -- he is the face of It's On Us Now, which is a group that was formed under the Obama administration that looks at sexual assault on college campuses and tries to change people's behavior around that particularly male behavior around that.

I do think, to David's point, he is trying to do those two things, right? On the one hand, sort of acknowledge this woke (ph) era of the Democratic Party and in some ways speak the language of wokatude (ph) or wokeness (ph) or whatever you want to call it.

KEILAR: I like wokatude (ph) personally.

HENDERSON: Yes. But also he knows that he has this base of folks who I think are older across all races in the south, in the Midwest, across the whole country and you saw that there with the reaction of people laughing.

And part of that is people saying, listen, the Me Too movement may have gone too far. So he is nodding to both of those things. The question is, can he navigate it?

CHALIAN: Exactly.

HENDERSON: Is that, you know, is that kind of base that he has enough to get him through the Democratic primary?

KEILAR: It's interesting that the first woman who complained, right, about Biden's actions actually responded to his comments. Lucy Flores tweeted this. She said, it's clear Joe Biden hasn't reflected at all on how his inappropriate and unsolicited touching made women feel uncomfortable. To make light of something as serious as consent degrades the conversation women everywhere are courageously trying to have. [13:10:02] You know, I find, S.E., and I wonder what you think about

this, this concept of consent is something that especially -- there's a big conversation going on about it, and I think it's an area where it's divisive in that some people do not understand it and other people feel that it is very important and there's really a lack of understanding.

CUPP: I think that's right. And I think part of it's for sure generational. The idea that you have to ask someone before you hug them. I think if you asked a lot of people of -- of a certain generation, that sounds preposterous. And let's not forget that a lot of those people vote in elections.

And then, of course, to someone maybe in my generation, you know, I have been uncomfortably grabbed, you know, as I've -- as I've said. I don't think Joe Biden's hugging is malicious and I don't think it's harassment. But it's a good reminder that our bodies are not up for you to grab. You can't grab parts of them. You can't grab all of them. So I think there's two sort of generations moving at the same time. I don't know that you can be all things to all people. And so if David is right that he's trying to be both woke and sort of nostalgic nod to the past, eventually those things are going to collide and not make much sense together.

KEILAR: Which are the rules --

HENDERSON: That we saw this week.

KEILAR: That's right, the rules by S.E. Cupp. Thank you so much. Nia and David as well.

And you can catch S.E. on her show, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED" tomorrow and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Straight ahead now, Democrats demand that Trump release his tax returns, but our next guest who once led the IRS says it's going to be a long, hard fight.

Plus, my chat with Democratic Presidential Candidate Julian Castro. With so many Democrats already in the race, where's his path to victory?


[13:16:12] KEILAR: Now to the fight over the president's tax returns and the demand from the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The president today again claiming that he's under audit, which is a dubious claim. He also said that the law was 100 percent on his side. But the law actually says he has to turn over those returns.

And we should also mention that before the request came in from Congress, the president placed an ally with ties to the Trump Organization into the hierarchy of the IRS.

And our Lauren Fox, who's been covering really every step of this story, is here with us right now. So take us through this fight for the president's tax returns.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, certainly there has been just sort of this dynamic explosion over the last couple of days as the Trump administration scramble to try and response to Richard Neal's request for his tax returns. Of course there's only a week-long deadline, so that's not very long. We don't expect them to comply within a week.

And then I've been told that Richard Neal plans to basically just send a subsequent letter asking again for the president's tax returns.

But after that it gets very murky. And when I've been talking with tax experts about the next steps, they say we certainly don't know because this law has never been tested before. There's not a case that we know of where 6103, which is this narrow, arcane, sort of tax rule has been fought against by the IRS. So what happens next is kind of anyone's guess.

Now, we do know that there's a lot of hope that the president's tax returns would be publicly disclosed. But, again, you know, we have a long, legal fight ahead of us. And then at the end of that legal fight, even if Richard Neal got the tax returns, there are a lot of rules about who can have that information. Essentially the committee would have to have a private vote. They would have to decide whether or not to discuss this publically. All of that is still so far in advance, given the legal fight that we have ahead, that it's very unclear whether or not the public would ever see the president's tax returns and if we ever even get to that point.


Lauren Fox, thank you so much for taking us through that.

A choreographed charade between President Trump and his hand-picked attorney general. That is what Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen describes what we are seeing right now on the extremely limited access to the Mueller port.

Congressman, thank you for being with us.

And it's important to note, you're on the Judiciary Committee and your chairman, Jerry Nadler, is now asking for all communications between the Department of Justice and the special counsel. Do you think that he should subpoena those?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Of course he should. And he will have to because I don't think -- you know, Bill Barr's job is not to cooperate with the divulging information. It will be harmful to President Trump. And it's clear that there is information there that's harmful. He's had two weeks to disclose. We found out the -- these reports in "The New York Times" say that Mueller -- special counsel personnel have said there were synopsis, summaries for each section that were basically clean of grand jury information, and that could be released.

I've said it so many times and I've been right. And I'll be proven totally right. Barr was hired to be his fixer, his Roy Cohn. And that's what he's doing. And he's hurting the Justice reputation of the Department of Justice. He's hurting America's reputation for the rule of law and being a country that is open and the publics. This is the public's information and the public needs to know what's in that Mueller report to know about what went on, and Congress needs to know to protect us from further Russian interference. The counterintelligence part is very important.

KEILAR: You tweeted out that, quote, people deserve to see the full report. What do you say, not just to Republicans, but there are also non-partisan legal experts out there who say that it's irresponsible to give all of that information to the general public because it would include unsubstantiated allegations, grand jury testimony, possible secrets.

[13:20:05] COHEN: Well, secrets shouldn't be released, of course. If there's sources and methods and certain intelligence information, that can go to the members of Congress. And I don't think Barr even wants that to go to us and we all have clearance -- classified clearances.

Grand jury information after an investigation is over is not as important and it's up to the judge to make that decision and Mr. Barr has not agreed to go with Chairman Nadler to the court and ask the judge to release that information, which the judges have done in pervious requests when it's concerned the president.

When you're dealing with an issue as important as the president of the United States and did he or members of his campaign team or administration get involved with Russians and interfere with our elections, the American public need to know. And there as no rules that should interfere with the American public knowing and Congress knowing and the American public are -- we're adults and I think we -- the American public has a right to that information.

And, obviously, Trump doesn't want the American public to know, just like he doesn't want people to know about his taxes, which involve his finances and possible connections to oligarchs, just like he doesn't want people to know his grades. The stable genius won't allow and threaten schools if they release his grades with penalties and legal action. There's something -- there's a lot this man hides and there's so much that the American public needs to know because he is not adequately morally, educationally, intellectually, compassionately to be president of the United States.

KEILAR: In a letter to lawmakers you -- you mentioned that you feel Barr is the president's fixer, but his former fixer, Michael Cohen, his attorneys say that they found a hard drive with millions of documents and he needs time to go through them to help investigators. They're actually asking Congress to help delay his prison sentence.

Is that something that's in Congress' purview?

COHEN: I don't think it has been. It's -- we'd love to have the information. And there might be information that's helpful. But it does seem like as prison is getting closer and closer for Michael Cohen, he's getting more and more desperate for finding -- looking for support to keep him out of prison. I mean it's an awful prospect. And it's not anything we generally get involved with where there's a man or a woman who's looking at prison time.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Steve Cohen, thank you so much.

COHEN: You're welcome, Brianna.

KEILAR: So, right now, President Trump is heading to Calexico, California, for a bit of a photo op near some newly installed fencing that's there near the southern border. And his visit comes after abandoning plans to close that border, at least for now.

Plus, my interview with Julio Castro, one of just 17 Democrats officially running for president. You're going to hear his thoughts on the migrant crisis, the crowded field, taxes, and much more.


[13:27:43] KEILAR: Let's talk more now about that battle brewing over the release of the president's tax returns.

When asked about the House Ways and Means Committee chairman's formal request to the IRS for six years of tax returns, the president did not seem too worried.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I don't know, that's up to whoever handles it. I don't know. Hey, I'm under audit. But that's up to whoever it is. I -- from what I understand, the law is 100 percent on my side.


KEILAR: All right, well, let's bring in the person who can tell us if that's true, Mark Everson, who served as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service from 2003 until 2007 under President Bush. He's currently vice chairman of the AlliantGroup, which is a national tax consulting firm.

OK, so, Mark, is this law 100 percent in the president's favor as he says?



EVERSON: It's pretty clear. It says that if Ways and Means -- the chairman of Ways and Means, which is the House Committee, or Finance, which is the Senate committee, asks for a tax return, it shall -- the word is "shall" -- be provided by the secretary. Most of the tax law runs to the obligation of the secretary of the Treasury. And that's the way this works. And it's been an authority that has been routinely used over the years to allow the Congress to look at, are there emerging problems in the tax code or has the IRS handled something properly or not. But this is -- it hasn't been used in this manner before.

KEILAR: So -- and this is this little known tax code from 1924 that gives the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee this power to request to see these tax returns of any American.


KEILAR: We just heard our reporter, Lauren Fox, who's been -- she's been covering this every step of the way, and she said one of the questions is, even if Neal says is able to get these tax returns, there's a question about who else would have access to it. What's your understanding there?

EVERSON: Well, I don't think that's clear at all that they would have the authority to release it more broadly. And I wouldn't want them to do that. I would say, Brianna, that the -- I'm concerned about the request at all.

[13:29:54] And let me say this. I was on record as saying that the president, when he was a candidate, should have released the returns. I think that's very important. But I don't want the independence of the IRS to be compromised through what is really a political process.