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Rep. Seth Moulton Announces Presidential Run; New Warren Education Plan Wipes Out Student Debt for Millions; Democrat Redistribution Plans Worrying Billionaires over Future of U.S. Capitalism; Actor Played President on TV Now Becomes Ukrainian President; What We Learned Watching Robert Mueller for 18 Months. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 22, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Joining me now is CNN political director, David Chalian, from Manchester, New Hampshire, where CNN will be holding a series of town halls tonight.

We'll talk about that in a minute, David. But what do you think about Moulton? What do you think he brings -- what do you think he thinks he brings that others don't?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: Well, he says he's going to run on themes, service, security, patriotism, themes he thinks that the Democratic Party has sort of ceded to the Republicans in recent years, and he's going to look to reverse that. You see in the video you were playing and in the longer video as well, he leans heavily into his service for the country in the Iraq war as well as his time in Congress and being on the Armed Services Committee. So that clearly is going to be front and center. You know, he -- there's no clear path for Seth Moulton to the nomination that anybody can sort of see at the moment but he does fit into a lot of different categories out there. There's a bunch of House members. He fits in there. In the 40s and under crowd for younger people. And those, like Tulsi Gabbard, Pete Buttigieg and Seth Moulton himself, who served in the post-9/11 wars, it's a new generation of veteran candidate running for office now.

BASH: So true. And maybe, in another year, security would be front and center. But this year, what we're hearing voters saying is it's about progressive ideas. And Elizabeth Warren, as you know, unveiled a massive new program in that vein today. She wants to forgive a major portion of all student debt loans, student loan debt. She is proposing free tuition to all public colleges. It's not a new idea, but it's a more robust plan on that concept. There's so many questions to ask, like, how is she going to pay for it.

CHALIAN: Yes, that's one. And then her campaign does identify that. They say that the plan costs $1.25 trillion over 10 years. And as you know, Elizabeth Warren had already announced, Dana, that she is proposing an ultra-millionaires and billionaires' tax, so a 2 percent tax on any wealth over $50 million, 3 percent tax on any wealth over $1 billion. She uses that money that she would get from that tax on the wealthiest to pay for this very expensive plan. But we should note, I would say it's probably the boldest policy idea introduced in this campaign. Warren has been trying to make herself sort of the policy wonk of this campaign. And would I imagine tonight, in this hall where I'm standing at St. Anselm here in Manchester, getting a lot of questions from college students and young people. I would imagine that this notion of student debt is going to be top of mind for all the candidates tonight as they get questions from these students.

BASH: And a big divide, as you well know, between the people like Warren and Amy Klobuchar --


BASH: -- who also will be on that stage tonight, who


BASH: -- student debt, Pete Buttigieg, they're not pro-debt but don't want to do it like Elizabeth Warren is.

Look at the screen. Those are the candidates that will be part of tonight's CNN town hall series. The special coverage kicks off at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And Elizabeth Warren's progressive plan to help students pay for college, as we mentioned, is the latest in a series of progressive ideas that she has put forward. But also other candidates and also other members of Congress. And they amount to a large redistribution of wealth. That used to be taboo to say, but not in today's Democratic Party. And it has some billionaires concerned about the future of capitalism in the U.S.

The "Washington Post's" Greg Jaffe wrote a piece about this and joins me now.

Thanks so much for coming on.

In your piece, you wrote about Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents the heart of silicon valley. His constituents are billionaires but also people who are worried about staying afloat and can't afford things like health insurance. And the income disparity in that district is sort of symbolic of what's happening all across the country. So what did you learn from that congressman, and from your sort of look here about the feeling among neo-liberals like Congressman Khanna about what they call the -- the -- the rethinking of capitalism?

GREG JAFFE, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. The thing that surprised me the most is how concerned billionaires were, particularly in Silicon Valley. They felt like the situation was unsustainable. We've seen such a huge wealth inequality. And as they think about the polarization in the country, the divide to sort of have us at each other's throats politically, a lot of that, for them, traces back to this inequality issue. And at some level, I think they worry that eventually folks are going to come at them with pitch forks, you know, not real pitch forks, but metaphorical ones. BASH: Exactly. And they have every right to think that because, if

you look at the history of the world, that's what happens. Income disparity gets wider and deeper and that's when there's revolution, whether, you know, sort of military revolution or political revolution or even rhetorical revolution, and that's obviously, what you heard there.

[13:35:07] The other thing that I thought was interesting about your piece is that Congressman Khanna, he doesn't think that the Trump factor, the Trump victory was about race, but exactly what we've been talking about, the growing income inequality.

JAFFE: Yes. I think that's what worries him. He look out at places like Iowa and it feels like when he talks to people that they are locked out of the digital economy, that they are angry, not because their place in American society has been dislodged by immigrants, but because they just can't see a way into participating into this new digital economy. So that's where he thinks the source of the anger is. And some of his constituents agree and some, you know, disagree with him, interestingly, pretty forcefully.

BASH: It's a fascinating case study in the divide and the changing Democratic Party for sure.

Greg Jaffe, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

JAFFE: Yes, thanks for having me.

BASH: Up next, he's a comedian who played a president on TV and now he's the president-elect of Ukraine, winning 73 percent of the vote. So is this win for Russia's Vladimir Putin -- is this a win for Vladimir Putin rather?

Plus, as one of the president's picks for the Federal Reserve drops out, another once wrote disparaging remarks about women over and over again. New CNN reporting ahead.


[13:40:00] BASH: He went from being a comedian who played the president of Ukraine on a TV comedy show to actually being elected the president of Ukraine. Television star and political newcomer, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, crushed incumbent Poroshenko in Ukraine's presidential election, winning a staggering 73 percent of the vote. But no one is laughing at the size of the problems facing Ukraine. Years of tensions with Russia, economic turmoil, all drove the agenda for voters.

Here with me is Susan Glasser, staff writer for the "New Yorker."

So you have so much experience in this region. You live there. What is your take on the fact that this man, who has no political experience and actually was attacked by the incumbent for having really a vapid sense of policy issues, real no sense of policy issues? Is this just an indicator globally of where we are with the frustration of voters? SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, first of all, it is

an incredible disruption. I mean, imagine if President Jed Bartlet, the fictional leader of the United States on "West Wing," were to become the actual president on the basis of what he said on a TV show. You know, this is "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," except it's "Mr. Zelenskiy Goes to Kiev."

What was amazing to me was, during the campaign, they went out of their way to actually encourage this confusion among voters. Even last night, when he went on the stage in his victory celebration after the first results of the vote were in, they played the theme song to his fictional TV series, "The Servant of the People." And as we've seen with our own reality TV star in the White House, there's a huge difference than what it takes to become a celebrity or even the slogans when you have a team of script writers and actually running a country that's at war, that's the poorest in Europe, that faces even existential threat to its future.

BASH: That's what's so interesting. It's not just that he ran as if he were the character. It's that he didn't have the -- he didn't even really try with the actual real-life policy prescriptions that the incumbent president did. So that's one thing that is really kind of stunning.

But other thing is that he's Jewish. And for a country like Ukraine, which has historically some deep-rooted anti-Semitic sentiments -- I think that's probably, putting it in a nice way -- to elect a Jewish president. What does that tell you?

GLASSER: Well, and also for it not even to be the main subject of the campaign. And I think that, by the way, is to Ukraine's credit. Whatever comes of this experiment, and I think you have to say it's a pretty risky experiment, there's a couple of things. One, people say this is a free and fair election more or less. Election observers have said that. Also it represents a genuine election in the sense that there was a choice between two people. The incumbent president is stepping aside. And that is very significant in a post-Soviet space that has not had a ton of examples of successful thriving democracies. And that was something that the president-to-be, Zelenskiy, pointed out in his remarks. He said, well, this is something for the rest of the former Soviet space to look at us, look at what we can do. The message is, hey, Russia, this is what democracy looks like. But also I think it's really remarkable, you know, that the incumbent president, he didn't choose to play to play the Jewish card against Zelenskiy. He did plate Russian card against him in the very final days of the campaign, and he suggested that his opponent, the guy who won, might be too inexperienced and also too vulnerable to making a bad deal with Vladimir Putin. So that's interesting, that it's riskier to be pro-Russian right now in Ukrainian politics than to be a Jewish comedian. That's really a sign of something.

BASH: Yes, it is. If you look at the history there, that is a sign of a lot.

Susan, thank you so much for bring us your expertise and your insights. Appreciate it.

GLASSER: Nice to see you today.

[13:45:02] BASH: Good to see you.

And they have been on CNN's front lines of the Mueller investigation, staking out the special counsel's office for the past 18 months. These tenacious journalists join me next to tell me how they were able to get some of the biggest scoops on the investigation, including video of Roger Stone's arrest just by being there.

Plus, just in, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a new message for those in her caucus calling for impeachment. Stand by for a new letter.


[13:50:12] BASH: They've covered every inch of the Mueller investigation over the past 18 months, staking out the entrances to the special counsel's offices every day, along with a federal courthouse, giving us an inside scoop that helped chip away at some of the secrecy around the Mueller investigation. Along the way, getting some big scoops on the investigation, from former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort's cooperation to the secret indictment of Roger Stone and his arrest on camera.

This team is sharing their accounts on in a story titled, "WHAT WE LEARNED WATCHING ROBERT MUELLER FOR 18 MONTHS."

Some of the team joins me now, CNN's, Em Steck, Sam Fossum, Caroline Kelly and Katelyn Polantz.

Thank you so much for coming on. I appreciate this.

Em, I want to start with you and read a quote from the article you guys wrote. "On one federal holiday, Prosecutor Aaron Zebley, with the special counsel's office, stopped to ask us if Mueller had yet to arrive knowing we probably had the answer. We did. Mueller wasn't in yet."

That's remarkable and so telling as to how present you guys were and how that helped so much. You could see the comings and the goings. You got the rhythm of the Mueller team and what they were doing. Therefore, when there was a break in the pattern, you were on it, and they even knew it inside the team because they would ask you questions.

EM STECK, CNN: That's what happened. When you're seeking out the special counsel's office or any place for a while, you understand when people come in and leave and when they get coffee. So on federal holidays, like Robert Mueller rarely came in, but his number two, Aaron Zebley, chief of staff, always came in. He's a bit of a work-o- holic. On that day, he had to get out of his car to unlock the garage. I was there with my camera set up. He was like, "Is he in yet." I said no. Do you expect him? He said, "Yes, later." I reported it back to the bureau and they were like, that's huge, that's a big deal. I said, is it, I guess it is. But the thing is, of course, they knew we would know that -- if Mueller was in yet. We'd been there for 18 months.

BASH: And it was something as simple as that, and then something that led to really getting a scoop like you all did.

But in this particular case that I want to bring up, Caroline, another quote from the story about former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. We learned he was cooperating with the special counsel. You write, "At 2:40 p.m., when a paralegal who we knew to be part of the Manafort defense team went into the cafe, emerging with a pizza, four sandwiches and a soda, just enough we surmised for himself and Paul Manafort's three lawyers."

It's as human as counting the number of sandwiches and figuring that equals the number of people on Manafort's team.

CAROLINE KELLY, CNN REPORTER: We saw a black government car drove in earlier that day but the tinted windows prevented us from seeing who was inside. So when the paralegal came out with such a large order, we connected the dots and later reported a deal had been reached. We didn't know the details about what the cooperation would look like until a few days later we saw people coming and going, lawyers coming in and out.

BASH: So fascinating.

And, Katelyn, you are a woman in the courthouse. The e-mails I saw, we all saw internally were stunning, the amount of knowledge you have. Tom Green, you all got a stakeout photo of a man named Tom Green, and you nailed who it was and why it mattered.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN REPORTER: It highlighted how we worked together as a team for the reporting effort. No one could do this alone. And what happened with this was one of the producers, Liz Stark, had taken a photo of a person who looked a lot like a defense attorney, sent it to me, and I was able to identify, oh, this is a very well-known defense attorney in Washington. Who is he representing? We didn't know why he was involved. That's when we were able to determine through our sourcing and other reporting that he, indeed, was representing Rick Gates. That was before Paul Manafort had expected, or we believe he may not have expected at that time that Gates was ready to flip on him, and Gates did a couple weeks later. Other news outlets were able to confirm and we --


BASH: That was one of the many big scoops.

Sam, you helped get maybe the biggest scoop of that whole time, which is getting a camera to Roger Stone's house. And that was based on shoe leather reporting and it was part of your reporting. Quickly tell us how that happened.

SAM FOSSUM, CNN REPORTER: Yes, and also, it wasn't just me as well. We had people like Katelyn at the U.S. district court putting things together, a lot of bread crumbs that morning. What I saw early in the morning was Aaron Zebley coming in. He didn't ride his scooter, which he usually does. He's rolling in a suitcase, an extra bag. We're thinking, what's going on here. Does he have documents? Is he traveling somewhere? Later that afternoon, at 2:30, he's walking out with his suitcase. He hails a cab. And we send that dispatch back to the bureau and our reporters, our great team here is putting that together and clues we had seen at district court that day with Jerome Corsi's stepson testifying in front of the grand jury, and they made the decision to send a producer down.

[13:55:18] BASH: That was a very smart decision on our boss's part. But it was because of all of you, the shoe leather reporting, being there day in and day out, in the rain, sleet, and snow, sitting at a coffee shop watching things that let you know the patterns and then when there was a break in the pattern.

Thank you for the past 18 months. Look forward to the next one.


BASH: Thank you.

Now to the coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka. It's one of the deadliest terrorist attacks since 9/11. We're hearing from a man who lost his wife and two children. That story coming up.