Return to Transcripts main page


Buttigieg Pledges to "Do Better" on Diversity; Trump Raises $30M, As Much as Top Two Dem Candidates Combined. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired April 16, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: OK. We'll continue to watch the story unfold. It's dramatic indeed. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, be afraid, that's the sense inside the White House as Mueller's report is about to drop. And tonight new details from Barr's record that could tell us what he is about to do. Plus, Trump has said he told a top official to break the law. Now, Democrats tonight demanding answers giving the White House a deadline to comply. And 23 minutes from the first fire alarm sounding inside Notre Dame, that's the time it took until officials actually realized there was a fire at a second alarm. Why did it take so long? Let's go out front.

And Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Trump's temper, CNN is learning current and former White House officials are afraid, bracing for the release of Bob Mueller's report. Their fear that the report will reveal who was telling Mueller things that will embarrass and infuriate the President.

On the list of people Mueller sat down with; Sarah Sanders, John Kelly, Jared Kushner, former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, Hope Hicks, that list goes on and on. And those conversations were not just quick things to double check or confirm something, they were in depth and lengthy.

For example, Mueller spoke to Don McGahn alone for 30 hours. They're afraid of public dress down from a President whose anger is vicious and personal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel betrayed by Omarosa, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send them back out their way.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get them outside.

TRUMP: Very simply, Michael Cohen is lying. He's a weak person and not a very smart person. Jeff Sessions never took control of the Justice Department and it's

sort of an incredible thing.


BURNETT: Meanwhile, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sending a warning to Attorney General Bill Barr to not redact the meat of the Mueller report, threatening action from Congress.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It isn't up to the Attorney General who has said, basically, that the President is above the law and the rest, so he's there to redact whenever he wants. Well, let's just see what he puts forth.


BURNETT: Pelosi threatening to fight for the full report, because it will be redacted and the President is betting that is handpicked Attorney General when it comes to redactions has his back.


TRUMP: Attorney General William Barr, a man doing a great job.

Our new Attorney General Bill Bar is a great gentleman and I've heard about him for years. He's a great man.


BURNETT: Flattery. Will the entire nation and the world is watching Bill Barr right now and that is why a new report about Barr's actions could be significant. It centers around a summary the Barr wrote of a longer report back in 1989. At the time, Barr was the head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Barr was asked to provide Congress the full report and that report was about FBI detentions, Barr refused to do so. Instead, he released a 13-page summary of the report's principal conclusions.

Principal conclusions you say? Yes. We have certainly heard those words from Bill Barr recently. And here's the crucial takeaway, it took four years after Barr's summary for the full report on FBI detentions to be released to the public and it turned out the Barr's summary left out key conclusions of that report. But of course four years have passed. People have made up their minds.

In a moment I'm going to speak to the law professor who is bringing this crucial history to light so he can explain it to you. But first Abby Phillip, out front live outside the White House. And Abby, what else do you know about the fear inside the white house right now. You're talking about people who spent 30 hours as I said in the case of Don McGahn spilling everything to Bob Mueller and now the boss might see what they said.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, this is a little bit of a window into what life in this White House can sometimes be like. The President himself is feeling pretty good about what this Mueller report might say. He does believe that it will bear out that he is vindicated and exonerated on obstruction and on collusion, but his aides are concerned that his mood might change dramatically once he sees exactly what's in the report and specifically, who said it.

We're talking about people who, in some cases, still work in this building. Many of whom are on the outside who are still allies with the President who sat for interviews with federal officials where lying was potentially a crime and who might have told all kinds of stories about the President's behavior while in office, his temperament, his conduct in this building that will be unflattering and embarrassing to the President.

Those aides are concerned that the details will be what really matters at the end of the day. The President is concerned about the broad brushes, believing that he has already swayed public opinion to his view of this. But the details could certainly change his mood and could certainly change the way that all of this is being portrayed in the public and that is the concern in this building at the moment. Added on top of that, they don't expect that they will have much of a view into this before it becomes public, so in some ways they're going to be dealing with this as the rest of the world is really seeing it being revealed.

And the President's ire, Erin, whatever he says when he comes out with the details is going to really determine how they cope with this report. His attorneys, his aides are prepping as much as they possibly can but they can't prepare for everything and they certainly can't prepare for how the President is going to react, Erin.

[19:05:36] BURNETT: All right, Abby, thank you very much. And now the former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Defense Department under President Obama Ryan Goodman, also the Co-Editor in chief of Just Security where Ryan published this in depth article about Bill Barr that I was referring to. So Ryan, this is fascinating, so I guess the bottom line here is Bill Barr back in 1989 writes a summary.


BURNETT: And he leaves out multiple key conclusions of the underlying report.

GOODMAN: That's right and it's pretty amazing because the summary is 13 pages. So you would think in 13 pages he could pretty much cover it, because the underlying report was 29 pages and he didn't. There are just clear emissions of other, what I would call, principal conclusions. I think anybody would call it principal conclusions of the underlying full report that the public only saw, like you said, four years later.

BURNETT: Right, and this was about FBI detentions at the time. But I mean the point that you're making here, if you're doing a 13-page summary of a 29-page report, you darn well better be able to get the principal conclusions. And now you're looking at - but he didn't, obviously choosing to not do so.

GOODMAN: That's right.

BURNETT: Now you're looking at a four-page summary of something between 300 and 400 pages in which you mentioned, what, a hundred words of the actual report in the four pages.

GOODMAN: Right. So it's remarkable history and he used the very same catchphrase that he used in that four-page letter, he summarized their principal conclusions and I suppose he thought he was going to run out the clock that time, and he might be thinking he can run out the clock this time until the public finally sees the full report.

BURNETT: And betting perhaps on grand jury redactions being impossible to get.

GOODMAN: Impossible to get and maybe over a year or more to litigate.

BURNETT: So Barr was willing to risk his reputation back in 1989 with this memo. I mean, he came out. He's a respected guy by a lot of people, but he was willing to risk his reputation. He knew at some point the report would come out and it did.

GOODMAN: That's right.

BURNETT: Here you are now going back to history finding this, this isn't something that most people know anything about. Why do you think he was willing to risk his reputation at that time, given that now he may be facing or have faced the very same choice?

GOODMAN: I think each person makes their own kinds of tradeoffs and I think that he might have thought that he could outsmart everybody and at least just make it through that period of time. And in certain sense he was right, because those four years later it wasn't even George H.W. Bush administration anymore, so the kind of intense spotlight had already faded.

And even though lawyers and National Security lawyers and those who work in the government know full well now what was in that final opinion, that's a very limited set of people. So I think he served his purpose. He took the heavy weight of the political pressure that was on the White House at the time right off of that.

BURNETT: The George H.W. Bush White House he did his job to protect. Now, I want to bring in the rest of our panel, because this is really important in terms of how an Attorney General sees his job, the most important law enforcement official in United States. Do you see this to uphold the law or do you see it as to defend or cover for whatever word you'd like to use for a sitting president. Harry Sandick joins me now as well, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District and Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst.

Gloria, let's just start with the headline here which is that whatever we get, the reporting that Abby was just sharing, aides are very afraid that the President may be embarrassed and infuriated by what is in this report. The President though seems to not be afraid, why?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the President, I don't know whether it's bravado, but the President believes that he has set the narrative here. That he has come out and you were just talking about the Attorney General who gave him the opportunity with his four-page letter to come out and say, "OK, I've been exonerated on collusion." And then the Attorney General made the decision that there would be no prosecution on obstruction.

And as a result, the President has publicly said not only was this a hoax, it never should have happened and you see that I've been cleared on everything. And while he may get upset at a lot of these details and I think the staff is right to be concerned about his temper and his anger, he's going to stick with the narrative that he started with because clearly it works for him and it works for his supporters.

[19:09:52] BURNETT: So Harry, Ryan mentioned this a moment ago, the echoes between now and the example that Ryan is bringing to light our eerie. In 1989, Barr testified before Congress about his summary and he said, "My testimony summarizes the principal conclusions of the opinion." This is the word Ryan was referring to, using the exact same words, of course, that he used just weeks ago, a month ago in his letter at the Mueller report, "I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III."

Also back in 1989, quote, again, Bill Barr, "It has been the longest that established policy, the opinions must remain confidential." In other words, this doesn't need to come out. Confirmation hearing in January, talking about the Mueller report, I quote Bill Barr, "Under the current rules, the report is supposed to be confidential." Thirty years after what Ryan just went through, he's using the exact same words.

HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Right. We've seen this episode before. It feels that way and I think what it tells us is that it's - or let me put it this way, I hope he proves this all wrong and we get a very lightly redacted report that is essentially true to what Mueller did.

But what this episode tells us is that this may not be the case and that he seems to have a history here disguising the principal conclusions using a summary memo that is not a fair and accurate summary of the underlying report and then blaming it all on government confidentiality, which is more flexible than he makes it appear.

BURNETT: So let me play something Barr said during an interview with Larry King. This is in 1992, Ryan. At the time he was George H.W. Bush's Attorney General and he basically here lays out so cleanly what his decision is. Who do you stand for? Here's Bill Barr.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Attorney General has an obligation to uphold the law, to enforce the law with respect to all persons. No one is above the law. The Attorney General, however, also has a policy position and to that extent if he's pursuing the policies of the administration, he is subordinate to the president carries out the President's policies.


BURNETT: All right, he trying to have it both ways, uphold the rule of law but then he uses the word subordinate to the president and that's obviously what went out in the example you talked about.

GOODMAN: That's right and I think he knows who he's serving and I think that's his vision of his role and in some sense even his vision of the Constitution he has this very extreme version of a unitary executive in which the President rules and there's very little independence for the people who are subordinate to him. So if you come into the job thinking that and you come into the job thinking you also might serve the political interests of the President, then I think that's a recipe for some bad news for the American public.

BURNETT: And Gloria what are you hearing in terms of the bets on the redactions?

BORGER: Well, Erin, the thing I think that we all ought to take note of is that Bob Mueller is also doing the redactions with Barr, according to Barr.

BURNETT: Yes, the team. Yes.

BORGER: That he's very involved. He was not involved in the four- page letter. He was very smart. He didn't get involved in it. He didn't sign it because any kind of signature would have been interpreted as an endorsement, so he was out of that. But he is involved in this and so one has to presume that Mueller wants his summaries, his major conclusions and a lot of his work aside from classified information, et cetera, to be brought to the view of the American public.

So I don't know whether there are discussions, arguments, whatever going on, but everyone should take some consolation in knowing that Mueller is involved in this process right now.

BURNETT: And will Mueller end up testifying to Congress, Harry?

SANDICK: I think that at the end of the day, that will be avoided.

BURNETT: Interesting.

SANDICK: I think that there will be a desire on the part of Congress to hear from him, but I think that it'll be caught up in litigation. I think what will ultimately come out is probably a more or I should say a less redacted version of whatever we're going to see on Thursday. I think they'll be litigation over that and I predict that there will ultimately be some less redacted version even if it's only shared to Congress.

Shouldn't it be suspicious that Congress which has a broader entitlement than the public, let's say, to see classified information is getting the same version that we are? I mean, I'd like to see what Congress is seeing. But in fairness there are reasons ...

BURNETT: There could be more.

SANDICK: ... why they should be able to see more, so why is it the same? That itself raises a red flag to me?

BURNETT: What about you?

GOODMAN: Same point. I think that there are even provisions set up in statutory regulations that would say that Barr has to share the counterintelligence information with Congress, so why redact that in the version that he will send up to the Hill and to the public on Thursday.


GOODMAN: There's something that's very fishy about that.

[19:14:35] BURNETT: Right. That's going to be the big question. Of course, Grand Jury testimony one thing, but when it comes to classified sources and methods, Congress does have broader right to see it than we the public. All right, thank you all very much.

And next, Democrats demanding answers about a CNN report that Trump offered a top official a pardon if he broke the law. Will the White House respond? Plus the Notre Dame disaster, new details tonight about the fire alarm in the cathedral. It actually went off 23 minutes before the fire was discovered. And Pete Buttigieg admitting a major weakness in his campaign. What is it?


[19:18:40] BURNETT: Tonight, House Democrats asking for more information from the Trump administration. Now, they want detailed information about a CNN report that the President offered a pardon to a top border official if he acted illegally. That top border official is now the Acting Homeland Security Secretary, Kevin McAleenan. And Trump asked him to illegally block asylum seekers from entering the United States according to the report.

The Head of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler is putting an April 30th deadline on his request for more information and out front tonight is Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee. And thanks for being with me, Congressman. Of course, you wrote this letter along with Chairman Nadler. You signed it. Have you gotten any response from the administration yet?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): No, we haven't but they have till April 30th to give us the information that we've sought and make their people available for testimony.

BURNETT: Now, President Trump tweeted after the report about the pardon that he had offered this pardon to this official, now the Acting Homeland Security Secretary. His response was, quote, I never offered Pardons to Homeland Security Officials, never ordered anyone to close the Southern Border (although I have the absolute right to do so). Do you believe him?

[19:19:53] COHEN: No, I don't believe hardly anything he says. He does not have the absolute right to close the border. There are laws, the Immigration and Naturalization Act which requires asylum seekers to be offered opportunity to come to the country and have a hearing, so he can't close it to them. And there's international laws as well, that's as far as the law and as far as him saying he never offered pardons. Well, we'll find out. He wouldn't have anything to worry about.

That's what we've asked for recollections and notations if any contemporaneous documents were produced of any suggestions that these officials should violate the law in meetings April 5 at the border and meetings earlier in March with the previous Secretary Nielsen whether he encouraged people to violate the law and offer them security through a pardon if they did violate it saying that they wouldn't have to suffer the repercussions, that's lawlessness and that's not America.

BURNETT: So when you say it's lawlessness and it's not America, if you can prove that it happened, what happens then? What do you do about it?

COHEN: Well, I think for one thing is that information if it happened I think the U.S. attorney and the Justice Department would be interested in the District of Columbia for violations of law. I think Congress, the reality is it's an impeachable offense and whether that's something that we've had to - been on the border of, the man's conduct has been certainly a questionable in many areas, emoluments, obstruction of justice and here just a straight out violations of law.

It's not a place we'd like to go, but it's a place he may force us to go and it's our responsibility under the Constitution, it's what the founding fathers gave as a recourse to illegal activities by a president or - not even illegal, but activities that demean the office of the president, and give the people reason not to trust him in his own capacity. And so we've tried to skate carefully and not cross that line, but he may force us.

If that's what comes out with testimony, I'm sure Mr. Barr wouldn't prosecute him or would tell his assistant U.S. attorneys not to prosecute him, but - the Constitutional crisis.

BURNETT: Speaking of Barr and obviously you're talking about now specifically related to the border, but I want to talk about Barr and the Mueller report, because obviously we expected the report on Thursday morning of whatever it is that he's going to give us, obviously, with his detailed redactions. You just heard Ryan Goodman in our previous segment and he was saying Barr had a report back in 1989, 29 pages, he summarized it in 13 and left out crucial key conclusions, because they did not support the administration for which he worked which was the George H.W. Bush administration. Do you think he's done the same thing here with his four-page summary of a 300 plus page report?

COHEN: Well, he certainly has a bad track record. He's not going to go on into this with odds-on favorite to give us a clean report and be consistent with his four-page summary. That's very concerning what he did in 1989 and his position. He basically lied to Congress and it appears he might have done it again.

We're interested in knowing if the President and the people in the administration have seen the Mueller Report or had been briefed on the Mueller report which the way the President acted yesterday with his Twitter storm, it sounded like he's preparing for a lot of damaging information to come forth. the fact that you've been reporting that people in the White House are on edge, that means it's not going to be just as pretty as the four-page summary that said no conspiracy, no collusion, no obstruction, great American.

It's going to be redacted. The worst parts will be redacted. Some of it is parts that just have to be until we get to a court to determine what Grand Jury testimony should be given to Congress. He didn't offer much and as your previous guest said, he's giving the same to Congress as he gives the public, which doesn't make any sense except for the fact that it's a first offer and I think he sees it as a first offer and he may give some more later on, but we want to see the whole report, and we think we're entitled to it and I think the American public would want to see it too.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman Cohen. I appreciate your time.

COHEN: You're very welcome.

BURNETT: And next we have new pictures of the devastation in Notre Dame. As you can see there, some of the inside pictures of the cathedral. This is, we're learning, the first fire alarm went off 23 minutes before officials found the fire. And Beto O'Rourke with a strong message about the President.


REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's hateful, he's racist, he's encouraging the worst tendencies amongst our fellow Americans.



[19:28:02] BURNETT: Twenty-three minutes, that is the time between the first alarm going off at Notre Dame yesterday and when firefighters were actually called to the scene. Officials tell CNN that when the first alarm went off, security guards did not see any signs of the fire. They did look for it, but they didn't see anything.

So then 23 minutes later the alarm went off again, the second alarm, that is when they realized there was a real fire. Paris prosecutors are now investigating that timeline and the cause of the fire. CNN's Melissa Bell is out front.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Tonight, the full scale and extent of the damage the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral becoming clear as investigators sift through the rubble after a devastating fire on Monday evening that engulfed the landmark in flames, leaving onlookers stunned.

Paris prosecutors starting an investigation into the cause of the fire but they believe that it was accidental. Experts are now identifying vulnerabilities in the infrastructure, attempting to preserve what's left and evacuating nearby buildings until it's deemed safe. Overnight, 400 firefighters battling more than nine hours to bring the fire under control, pumping water from the Seine River to combat the flames.

Inspectors say the fire began in the attic and spread across the ancient beachwood beams in the cathedral's roof which collapsed along with the spire. Remarkably, it seems that much of the interior has survived. Striking photos show the huge gold cross shrouded in smoke still hangs over the altar and pews still stand in the aisles.

The chaplain of the Paris Fire Service who helped victims after the city's terrorist attack in 2015 is again being hailed as a hero after rushing into the burning cathedral to salvage priceless art and artifacts. Like the Crown of Thorns believed to have been placed on the head of Jesus are being stored in the Paris City Hall and the Louvre Museum to be preserved.

[19:30:05] The famous stained glass rose windows also appear largely intact. The 850-year-old landmark was already being restored when the fire began, wrapped in scaffolding up to the spire. Architects admit it will take months to comprehend the scale of the reconstruction.

The French president tonight vowing to have it rebuilt within five years.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): We will make the cathedral of Notre Dame even more beautiful. We can do this.

BELL: International companies and private citizens already pledging hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the restoration, as tourists and citizens mourn the loss of a monument.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was passing by it several times a day every day for years, and never got used to it. I guess it's never going to be the same again.


BELL: It is that sadness that has been expressed again here this evening, Erin, with a vigil being held even as firefighters continue to inspect the damage inside that iconic monument. We can see their flashlights from time to time. Again, they're going to be working through the night to make sure that the edifice is structurally sound and that those vast reconstruction efforts can begin.

But that time line that you mention, those crucial 23 minutes that allowed the building to be evacuated we now understand is what prevented this architectural tragedy from being a human as well -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Thank you very much, Melissa.

And I want to go now to former firefighter, Gregg Favre.

And, Gregg, just to understand what happened here, we understand the first alarm at the Notre Dame cathedral went off at 6:20 p.m. Paris time. Officials in the cathedral, they went, they looked and they didn't see anything. So I guess they presumed it was a false alarm. Twenty-three minutes later, alarm goes off again, then they see flames, firefighters are then on route.

How crucial were those 23 minutes of lost time do you think?

GREGG FAVRE, FORMER FIRE COMMANDER OF THE ST. LOUIS FIRE DEPARTMENT: Certainly, so, Erin, we know in emergency responses time is everything, right? Seconds matter in emergency responses. And so, 23 minutes is significant.

Now, what we don't know and what I wouldn't pretend to know this early in the event is what type of alarm was sounding at the first mark compared to what alarm was sounding at the second mark. I've read conflicting reports there was some stuff who did what we call fire monitoring or fire checks throughout the day. I also understand that they had a fire watch somebody from the fire brigade in Paris who was assigned to monitor the building.

I can tell you because I've been at fires in big building including churches that it can be difficult to find especially when it's small.


FAVRE: In these large open spaces, there is a lot of places for the heat and smoke to go that may not be visible with the naked eye.

The other piece is that it's not -- it's not unique for in sort of delay to happen. There are hospitals. There are colleges. There are certainly churches all across the United States who will send their own staff or their own security or own fire watch to investigate prior to notifying the fire department.

BURNETT: So, you know, all of that makes sense. One thing I was fascinated by looking at your expertise is you were saying a fire could double every 30 seconds in size which obviously it starts so small but can become a conflagration very quickly.

FAVRE: Absolutely. So, that's rough firefighter math there that we use about doubling in size every 30 seconds. But it especially holds true in what we would call a balloon frame or a heavy tempered type of building like this. We have to remember these are 800-year-old beams of wood, probably

lacquered over with different agents. They're very flammable, no doubt. Without question that is the case. And that's one reason why the fire transmitted so quickly as we saw in the images yesterday across the roof. I saw it as it kind of broke across Twitter. I saw it in the first few minutes. And I thought therapy losing that entire roof because of how fast that fire would communicate across that roof line.

BURNETT: All right. And, of course, we can see the huge gaps in the roof. Incredibly obviously the stone structure still there.

Thank you so much, Greg. I appreciate your time.

FAVRE: Certainly. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, rising 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg says his campaign is falling short in one huge way. What is it?

Plus this.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have raised considerable amount of money.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to do with small dollar donations.


BURNETT: So the numbers are in. How much does big money matter at this point?


[19:38:42] BURNETT: Tonight, the quote: we need to do better. Mayor Pete Buttigieg admitting that, saying he needs for diversity among supporters.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we need to do better. You know, as I've been on the trail, we found to some extent it depends on geographic. We had a diverse crowd in Nevada. But less so in South Carolina.

One of the important things you achieve in South Carolina is engaged with African-American voters in particular, which represents such an important part of our party's coalition.


MADDOW: All right. Other 2020 Democrats wasting no time to get to South Carolina, as he mentioned how important it is. Beto O'Rourke, Jay Inslee, Elizabeth Warren were just there. Bernie Sanders heads there Thursday. Kamala Harris will make her fourth trip to the Palmetto State this weekend.

OUTFRONT now, Symone Sanders, communications consultant for Center for Priorities USA and former national press secretary for Bernie 2016. And Keith Boykin, former Clinton White House aide.

So, Symone, Buttigieg is rising in the polls, right? He certainly has the hot ticket right now. You know, someone asked him were you -- the one month wonder that flashed in the pan. He says it's a couple days past a month. We got a long way to go.

I mean, OK, but his crowds are not diverse. He admitted that that's a big issue. How big of a problem is it.


[19:40:00] But two, yes, in order to be the Democratic nominee in the United States of America, at this point, you need to be able to pull together a diverse the coalition. Now, what I don't think people are talking about and I know Keith will probably agree. It's the delegate path, OK? That's how you become the Democratic nominee.

So, maybe for Mayor Pete, his delegate path does not include more than 16 percent of South Carolina. We don't know folks have yet to ask what folks' delegate path is.

BURNETT: Right, are there other places he could try to rack up the tally.

I mean, you know this whole issue of race has become so crucial because sort of the line we all hear is, well, African-American voters didn't turn out for Hillary Clinton. If they did , she would have won. People say this.

You may disagree but I hear it all the time. Disagree if you want, because we are hearing this from candidate after candidate. And they're all saying this is the crucial voting bloc and we need to get. They're treating it as if it is a voting bloc.

Is that the right way to look at it right now?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I focus on that instead of 2016 analysis. I think that African-Americans are the back bone of the Democratic Party. If you look at the election, 61 percent of the voters in South Carolina were African-American. That's the reason you see the candidates down there. Hillary Clinton won 86 percent of those voters down there in South Carolina in 2016.

But remember this, right now, Joe Biden is ahead in the African- American vote in the national polls about 4 percent. But when Hillary Clinton in 2008, she was ahead of Barack Obama until after she won the Iowa caucuses.

So, as Symone say, it isn't great early. After we start getting the votes coming in in January and February, we might see things readjust after that. BURNETT: Race, though, is so important, Symone, the way people handle

it in this very wide field is so important. Let's just take Beto O'Rourke, OK, and Cory Booker, OK? Very different ways of handling this.

Here is Beto O'Rourke.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is hateful, he's racist, he's encouraging the worst tendencies amongst our fellow Americans.


BURNETT: OK, he is a racist. No problem there to say that Beto O'Rourke.

Let's ask Senator Cory Booker if the president is a racist, African- American senator. Here is Cory Booker's response.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know the heart of anybody. I leave that to the Lord. I know there are a lot of people who profess of ideology of white supremacy that use his words.


SANDERS: Yes, you know, I don't know if anyone just heard me, but as we heard Beto O'Rourke, I was saying, and Cory is going to say, we don't know the heart of Donald Trump and that's exactly what he said.

Race is a very important factor. I would just say not in this election but it's been an important factor. I think the difference is that the Democratic Party apparatus, along with the larger political apparatus is recognizing it and acknowledging it in a way they have not forcefully and intentionally acknowledge before.

But, look, black voters, Latino voters, Native Americans, Asian- Americans, Pacific Islanders voters, look, you know how you feel about the president whether you like him or you don't like him. Whether you think he is racist or racist adjacent.

But what people want to hear -- race is adjacent. What people want is a plan. So, it's not enough for candidates to go out and say, Donald Trump is a racist or, you know, the president said something that aligned with bigotry today.

Folks want to hear your plan. We can't talk about the just the president. Candidates have to talk about what they're doing.

BURNETT: Right, what they're going to do, and what I'm getting here is the point of pandering, right, trying to treat everyone in one group whether African-American, or Asian, or whatever it is, suburban moms treat you as one group, right? This seems to happen a lot.

So, now, one issue that has come up is reparations, OK? It's a hot topic, it's sort of come out of nowhere. Everybody is talking about it.

Keith, here are just a few of them on the trail.


O'ROURKE: Yes, we need reparations.

BUTTIGIEG: The conversation about reparations is also one of justice between generations. When something is broken, we ought to fix it.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to recognize that, and give people a lift up.

WARREN: It's a time for us to address the ugly stain of slavery that is a part of our history.


BURNETT: OK. Is this genuine? Or is this pandering?

BOYKIN: Well, you know, you call it what you want but in order to win the Democratic primary, you got to talk to black voters. Black voters, a significant percentage of us are concerned about the issue of reparations. The black community is not monolithic. We don't all agree on this issue or how to proceed about it.


BOYKIN: But one thing true you can't talk about it without giving some understanding what it means when you say reparations. If you are talking about some sort of race neutral policy that's going to lift all boats, that's not what most black people I talk to consider reparations. They're talking about race-specific policies that actually deal with the issues that affect African-Americans and particularly the deals with legacy of slavery and segregation.

BURNETT: OK. If you do that, though, specifically, which I'm telling you a lot of these people don't want to do, and we all know they don't want to do that, they want to use the word. They don't want to get specific, and part of the reason they don't want to get specific, Symone, is they are worried about the general election. Should they be?

SANDERS: Look, I think if you are going to be a candidate -- look, I'm not advising any candidates at this time, Erin.

[19:45:02] But if I was, we wouldn't be out there leading with the reparation conversation but if you are going to wade in to the reparations conversations, I think the safe space to be is endorsing and supporting HR-40.

Now, I will say Beto O'Rourke has been a congressman. HR-40 has been on the thing. I don't think he is a co-sponsor.

BURNETT: Well, he is for it now.

SANDERS: He's -- well, umm, is he a cosponsor, Erin? We don't know. But I think this is a conversation that's going to play out on the debate stage. And that's what I think folks should look forward to over the summer.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

And next, 2020 Democrats vowing not to take big money.


O'ROURKE: I don't know that victory at that price is worth it. So, I will not take that money, going forward.


BURNETT: But if you don't go big on money, will you come up short in the general election?

And Jeanne Moos on former First Lady Michelle Obama's latest dig at President Trump.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: That's what America's going through kind of living with divorced dad.



BURNETT: Tonight money talks. The Democrats running for president, all in. So as this group have raised $77 million in the fourth quarter, that's a heck of a lot of money. But keep in mind, it is spread among 16 people.

So, when you look at the 16, dividing that up and then you compare to President Trump, the one person who has raised $30 million and already has $40 million in the bank, whoo.

So, does it matter this early in the game?

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As 2020 presidential hopefuls are founding out, money alone can't buy happiness, or guarantee winning an election, but it sure helps with both.

The first campaign financial reports of the year which were due at midnight have solidified an early pecking order of the Democratic race.

SANDERS: We have raised a considerable amount of money in the last six weeks since we have been in the campaign, and I'm proud of that.

[19:50:07] ZELENY: Bernie Sanders is leading the way, not only raising $18.2 million, but collecting 84 percent of that from contributions less than $200. Which means supporters can give again and again.

He has a total of $26.6 million in the bank, thanks to money from previous campaigns.

Sanders, of course, had a big head start, raising $230 million in his presidential bid four years ago, in a campaign largely fueled by grassroots donations.

SANDERS: Our average contribution used to be $27. It's gone down to $20.

ZELENY: Money has always been one sign of political strength. It was 12 years ago when Barack Obama was first seen as a serious threat to Hillary Clinton, after he raised $25 million in the first three months of his campaign. Strong fundraising still matters. But those big checks that helped fuel Obama's rise and sustained the Clinton's campaigns are now frowned upon by party activists, taking small dollar donations even more central.

HARRIS: I'd like to have everyone's support. I'm going to get that, please, I love to have your support.

ZELENY: Kamala Harris is next, raising $12 million with $9 million to spend.

A large Democratic field means money is so more diffuse, spread around to so many campaigns, nearly all of which are restricting the kind of cash they receive.

O'ROURKE: I don't know that victory at that price is worth it. So, I will not take that money, going forward.

ZELENY: Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren are all rounding out the top five in fund raising.

Yet, there are serious warning signs for Warren.

WARREN: We're going to build right now a grassroots movement. We're going to do wit small dollar donations.

ZLENEY: But she's already spent $5 million this year, nearly as much as she raised. For now, her lifeline is $10 million from an old Senate campaign fund.

Some other senators running for president are also near the bottom of the pack, with their candidacies kept alive by money from previous races. But in the money chase, one 2020 candidate stands taller than all the

Democrats, that's Donald J. Trump. He and the Republican National Committee raised more than $30 million for his re-election effort so far this year. And he is sitting on $40 million in the bank.


ZELENY: So, that, of course, is a central number here that President Trump has $40 million. Other Democrats, of course, when you add up almost all of them, it reaches just above that. But, Erin, the question is this -- winning the money game is not the end goal, but it helps you reach that goal.

So, we do know sort of the outlines and the confines of this race. Bernie Sanders, the front runner without question. Let's remember. Other candidates, Joe Biden and others are getting in as early as next week -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff.

And now, Joan Walsh, national correspondent for "The Nation".

Joan and I are sitting here during that piece, sort of our jaws on the floor. But also, I mean, it's just amazing, you know, we say, all these restrictions put around money and politics, and yet, I don't know, you are only allowed to give $2,700. And I see millions and millions, wondering where all this is coming from, and you can use money from old campaigns. I mean, it's all crazy money, Joan.


BURNETT: But how important are the fund raising numbers at this early stage?

WALSH: I think they're important. I mean, I think they really credentialed Pete Buttigieg. I think, you know, he was getting some free media, and that's good. That led to some great fundraising that really put him on the map.

I think that Senator Sanders' unquestionably the frontrunner. I mean, there's just no doubt about his capacity to raise money. Kamala Harris really stood out from the pack, and that she's a senator. But she didn't have -- she ran in 2016, she didn't have a lot of money left. So, what she raised, you know, she raised in this quarter $12 million.

You know, Elizabeth Warren has bet heavily on spending money and building fantastic --

BURNETT: Yes, I mean, spending all that she has. But, yes, she spent it on staff.

WALSH: And also on investing in grass roots donations. So, it paid off. I think she did a little better than people expected given that she is foregoing those big checks, and also, she said she's foregoing those conversations, the call time with donors, where all you do is call rich people and beg for money. She's not doing that. She's not doing the small coffee klatches that people give, you know, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.

We are going to see in the second quarter whether that pays off for Warren, but she can't throw money away.

BURNETT: Or not. We're going to see who has -- right, you can't have a burn rate like that.

WALSH: Exactly.

BURNETT: And yet, you've got Trump here with $70 million altogether, $30 million in the first quarter alone.

WALSH: Yes, I mean, it's formidable. It's definitely formidable. But there is $77 million in this first quarter going to Democrats. You got to look at that.

Joe Biden is not here. There are a lot of people -- I mean, Joe Biden continues to put himself at a disadvantage, because he doesn't have staff on the ground yet. But there are a lot of people holding money for Joe Biden. So, this would look different if Joe Biden was in the race.

BURNETT: It is amazing how many people are willing to put money into politics. I do find that stunning and I have in some sense it's a good thing, right? You got people who can afford to give a lot of money, giving politics because they want to --

[19:55:00] WALSH: A lot of small donors, it's really great the way that's exploded.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, Joan.

And next, Jeanne Moos on former First Lady Michelle Obama's latest dig directed at the Oval Office.


BURNETT: Tonight, Mitchell Obama takes a dig at Trump by comparing her -- him, I'm sorry -- to a dad and not just any dad.

Here's Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No love lost between these two. But when Michelle Obama aimed a zinger at President Trump the other day, it ricocheted back and nicked the former first lady.

She was on her book tour, being interviewed by Stephen Colbert when she compared the American people to a broken family.

OBAMA: We're a teenager. Sometimes you spend the weekends with a divorced dad. That feels like it's fun, but then you get sick. That's what America is going through. We're kind of living with a divorced dad.

MOOS: It's the kind of behavior that caused the wife of Robin William's character in "Mrs. Doubtfire' to ask for a divorce for encouraging the kids to run wild, while dad dances on the table.

Some thoughts comparing President Trump to a divorced dad was hitting the nail on the head.

Guess who is mad now at Michelle Obama?

I'm a divorced dad. I think I do a pretty good job. Now I'm compared to Trump?

From another divorced dad who loves his kids and is every bit a good parent as a divorced mom. I generally don't like Trump, and did like you. But you've shown that you can say just as rude and insensitive comments as Trump.

Dads keep reminding Michelle of her old motto.

OBAMA: When they go low, we go high.

MOOS: The former first lady's past digs at President Trump --

OBAMA: Bye, Felicia.

MOOS: -- where likewise delivered without naming names.

OBAMA: You don't tweet every thought. Most of your first initial thoughts --

MOOS: Now, people are tweeting Mrs. Obama their thoughts and she's no doubt hoping the American people will pull the plug on the Trump party.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --


OBAMA: Party in London.

MOOS: -- New York.


BURNETT: And thank you for joining us.

"AC360" starts right now.