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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Joe Biden Set to Announce Presidential Bid; Authorities Investigate Sri Lanka Bombings. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 23, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And now he is.

Sources telling CNN that Joe Biden intends to finally throw his hat into the 2020 presidential race on Thursday, in a decision that's grown less secretive and suspenseful by the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden!

ZELENY: There's little doubt Biden will shake up the primary. The only question is for who. He will be joining a campaign already in progress, which one aide said could be like jumping into a moving car.

Biden has already been positioning himself for the fight ahead in a far different party than the one he sought to lead twice before.

JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have the most progressive record of anybody running for the -- anybody who would run.

ZELENY: That claim is about to be tested. Biden continues to lead the Democratic field nationally, with 27 percent support, according to a new Monmouth University poll.

Bernie Sanders follows with 20 percent. And the rest of the field is in single digits, among Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. Biden has yet to weigh in on many issues driving this campaign and dividing candidates, as highlighted Monday night, during a series of CNN town halls in New Hampshire.

On voting rights for jailed felons, Sanders said yes.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe that, even if they are in jail, they're paying their price to society, but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.

ZELENY: Senator Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, unsure.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: But people who are in -- convicted, in prison, like the Boston Marathon bomber, on death row, people who are convicted of sexual assault, they should be able to vote?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we should have that conversation.

HARRIS: I think we should have that conversation.

ZELENY: And Mayor Pete Buttigieg?

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While incarcerated?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

BUTTIGIEG: No, I don't think so.

ZELENY: Harris did pledge to act alone on guns.

HARRIS: Upon being elected, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws. And if they fail to do it, then I will take executive action.

ZELENY: It's Warren who's been driving much of the policy debate, like her proposal to relieve student debt.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is now crushing them. So my proposal is to say, this isn't right. What we have to do as a country is roll back that debt.

ZELENY: Not all Democrats see it as feasible.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I wish I could staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs. I do. Don't look. It's not there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So, now, as for Joe Biden, we have not heard his views on any of those topics, as well as Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, or impeachment.

But we certainly will in the coming days. One thing, I'm told, that will not be coming is an endorsement from President Obama. He plans to stay out of the race, with one aide saying, he believes in a strong and spirited Democratic primary.

Brianna, I think that's exactly what's about to come.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It's going to be wild. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

So let's take a look at where things are ahead of this announcement of Joe Biden's. He's at 27 percent. Senator Sanders is at 20 percent, Pete Buttigieg, Senator Kamala Harris tied in third place with 8 percent. And then you have senator Elizabeth Warren and Beto O'Rourke, who are the only other candidates who are polling above 2 percent at this point.

David, you previously said that Biden could be one of the biggest threats to President Trump. Do you still think that, and do you think that the president is ready for that, and thinking that he is the biggest threat?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.

I don't know if the president thinks he's the biggest threat. I think -- look, I do think that Joe Biden speaks to a demographic in America that Democrats have to win back, if they want to win the Electoral College map and all of those states in -- kind of in the middle there, Pennsylvania, Ohio.

Look, it's no joke that Joe Biden is announcing. He's not from Pennsylvania. Joe Biden left in 1952. But he's announcing in Pittsburgh and in Philadelphia, like he's a Pennsylvania son, like he was the senator from Pennsylvania. He's not from Pennsylvania, people. He left when he was 9.

So, he is...

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: I mean, I left Australia at 2, and I definitely claim Australian heritage.

(LAUGHTER)

URBAN: Well, but you don't go around saying you're an Australian resident. You don't say that.

KEILAR: I'm a proud Australian. I don't know. I identify with it.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: But Joe Biden lived, went to school, was educated in Delaware.

He's a Delaware native. But my point is...

MEHDI HASAN, THE INTERCEPT: Crucial swing state.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: But he's appealing. He knows that he has to win those states. And I think that's -- look, it's -- those are the state you have got to win if you're going to win the map, you're going to run the table.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and, look, he's going to -- we know, right, that he's going to make a big push out of the gate for labor support, particularly it looks like from the firefighters union. So, Pennsylvania being a big labor, blue-collar state, obviously, this

is part of coming out of the gate with a big push and a big show of, here is where my lane is, is what it appears to be, right?

And that's what -- the question that we all have been asking is, what's going to be his lane in this crowded field? And can he -- I think the other question, though, is, look, he's going -- it's going to be 20, 20, 20, 20 for a while, just because of the nature of the polls.

I think that's why the debates are going to be so important. The big thing for Joe Biden, though, is going to be, can he show and demonstrate that he understands the climate that he's running in now?

KEILAR: Can I -- I want to ask you about Bernie Sanders, because he said something that was very interesting. And he's now facing backlash for it against Republicans, when he said that every American, even felons who are in jail, felons who are in jail, should be able to vote.

[16:35:07]

This is the quote coming from the RNC's Twitter account -- quote -- "This is beyond extreme. And the rest of the 2020 Dem field should be asked to condemn this insanity."

He defends his position by saying that this is about making sure that every American has the right the vote. But an example was given here, and it was the Boston Marathon bomber. All right. Do you think he went too far?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That is one of the people you're talking about. He can make the argument that there are plenty of other people you're talking about, but you have to contend with this section of the felonious population that is in jail as well.

And I think it's a -- look, Bernie's going to go full Bernie. The question is, is America ready for full Bernie? And I think the political calculation is that there are a bunch of not-full Bernie people who are uncomfortable with that, and that is perfectly reasonable.

And that's why -- I think there was an interesting moment from Buttigieg, where he refuses to be led around the nose -- by the nose by Bernie's instincts. And he says, well, no, I don't agree with that.

And the room applauds, because a lot of just commonsense folks are like, that sounds like a bad idea. But also interesting, like, that's Biden's lane. And Buttigieg is just hanging out in it.

HASAN: I mean, I agree with you, it's a reasonable objection to have, do you want murderers and terrorists voting? A lot of countries don't allow it. But it's not insane either.

Like, Canada, America's neighbor, allows prisoners to vote. Ireland, longstanding ally, multiple European countries, Israel, America's closest friend in the world, allows convicts to vote. The guy who murdered Yitzhak Rabin voted in the next election. So, other countries do it. It's not that insane.

But, of course, people have reasonable objections. I wouldn't underestimate Bernie's power to shift public opinion. In 2016, as he said last night in the CNN town hall, people were laughing at him, saying he's crazy on debt-free college, on Medicare for all.

He's shifted the debate in the Democratic Party and the wider public. So, I wouldn't underestimate his ability to do that. I would say, however, six million people who came out of prison, served their time, couldn't vote in 2016.

For me, that's a much, much bigger issue and it needs to be dealt with, and Republicans are still trying to stop it in Florida, even after a referendum.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: But that goes to the heart of what this is about, right? The political calculation -- this has obviously been a very big issue in the African-American community, because we know that disenfranchising people when they return is part of old Jim Crow.

Kamala Harris talked about that last night, right? So there's -- absolutely, Florida, and in a lot of places. So, remember that Bernie had trouble with the African-American community in 2016.

And my -- what I read in his answer was, this is part of his attempt to cater to African-Americans. I think Kamala got it right, and as did the others, because the truth is, a lot of African-Americans, if you said, so the man who is about to be executed in Texas for dragging James Byrd Jr. behind a truck, should he get to vote?

I don't think most folks think about -- when you're talking about that level of extreme terrorism...

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: But some countries have compromises. They only allow minor offenders to vote. You can have a compromise.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: But I think that there are people who are not going to go full-bore that terrorists should be able to vote.

And that dilutes the strength of the point that we're trying to make about, once you have served your time, and you are returned to home, you should be able to vote.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: I will also say is that Joe Biden going to have to apologize for being the author of the crime bill that put many people in... (CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: Sure. He's going to have to talk about it, no question.

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: Just on Biden, I think he will regret running. I think he will regret running. He's a lovable uncle right now. He's very popular, and now we're going to all to look at his record. We're going to look at the crime bill. We're going to at the Iraq War.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: That's going to be an issue.

URBAN: It's going to be an issue.

And a lot of people are going to say -- they're going to point -- Democrats are going to say, look, Hillary tried running as a third term of the Obama administration.

Didn't work. How's it going to work for Biden? That's what he's going to go out and run on. It was rebuked the last time. Is it going to work this time?

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: Sorry.

He is going to have to find a balance between third term Obama and certainly talk about some of the unfinished business of the Obama administration and his own record.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: And I would say, there's an absolute silence, I think, among a lot of Obama administration folks. Where are they? Where's the support from senior folks in Obama administration?

FINNEY: Well, some are actually joining.

HAM: Can I just say quickly, I think he betrayed an inability to deal with some of his past issues when he dealt with the -- I will charitably -- with the groping issue, and then he joked about it a couple days later.

That is the not way to dig yourself out of some of these issues.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: All right, you guys, terror is leaving behind a wake of tragedy.

An American dad is alive, but he has lost his two children in the Sri Lanka terror attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW LINSEY, FATHER OF TERROR VICTIMS: Maybe they could have survived if there was the right medical facilities. But I took that risk going to that country. And I have to blame myself for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:43:48]

KEILAR: Our world lead now, Sri Lanka on edge after a warning from the prime minister, people could still be running around with bombs in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings, this as confusion grows over whether there was intelligence that could have been -- that could have prevented the attack.

CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is joining me now live from Sri Lanka.

And, Sam, there have been some mixed messages on if officials were warned about these bombings.

What are you learning?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, I think that no official in the Sri Lankan government can claim any longer, and, in fact, they're not, that they were not warned.

The issue now really is, why did they fail to act? The prime minister himself saying that there was poor communication, the government offering an apology to the victims, and now the president and the prime minister saying that they were going to put aside their differences.

But that is cold comfort to the many hundreds who were murdered during the Easter Sunday massacres. And many of those were laid to rest today. These were the first of the funerals.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KILEY (voice-over): Mourners begin the long process of burying more than 300 victims of the Easter massacre.

[16:45:00] No relief offered by their prime minister, warnings rather that suspects armed with bombs are still on the loose.

RANIL WICKREMESINGHE, PRIME MINISTER, SRI LANKA: People are on the run. So far we've been successfully in apprehending many of them.

KILEY: ISIS has claimed responsibility for the coordinated carnage but without proof. There is now though a conviction that the massacres in churches and hotels were the work of Islamic extremists intent on revenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have information that this attack was carried out by a radical Islamist group as a retaliation to the attack at the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand by an extremist.

KILEY: A country in a state of emergency as the search for suspects intensifies. A new police warning that a truck and a car bomb are believed to be at large in Colombo. Terrifying news although some now have little to lose. American Matt Lindsey was in a hotel with his family when the bombers struck. The blasts killed his two children as they tried to escape.

MATT LINSEY, LOST TWO CHILDREN IN ATTACKS: The bomb went off and they both were running toward me. And I'm not sure whether that's what you know killed them or not but they yelled for help. That's why I've lost my voice for my son in trying to massage his heart.

KILEY: UNICEF says at least 45 children are among the dead including Washington DC's 5th grader Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa. He was at school in Sri Lanka and hoped to return to the U.S. next year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KILEY: Now, Brianna, intelligence officials from India have confirmed that in their view this was an ISIS attack. They had intelligence from a source that they interrogated and they passed that information on ahead of this event. Yet more proof that the Sri Lankans fell down on this one at a government level. Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Sam, thank you so much for that report. We have former CIA Counterterrorism Official Phil Mudd joining us now. So you just heard Sam's report there and the prime minister said there was what he called a breach in communications. That's why he never got this Intel warning about this. How does that not get passed on?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, coordination is one piece. You got to make sure you have one focal point and you also have to make sure you don't have competition among services. I guarantee you that some of what we're going to learn hide sight is not only that there wasn't a clear focal point within the government, but given the political differences in Sri Lanka, there's competition among the services which means there's crevices. This falls in a crevasse.

KEILAR: He's clearly saying that something was supposed to be passed on, that there was a protocol to do that and it didn't happen. Is that what you read it to be?

MUDD: Yes, but that sounds like a little bit hindsight bias. My guess is you're going to find that the details of how that coordination happened were ineffective.

KEILAR: So ISIS at this point has claimed responsibility. Sri Lanka State Defense Minister though said that this was a local extremist group. What do you think?

MUDD: You cannot if you're investigating like this step back and say I think we've got a small problem here. If you have an ISIS claim of responsibility, given ISIS and what they've done in places like Europe, Middle East, and elsewhere, you have to sit back and take it seriously.

I don't understand if you're investigating this in Sri Lanka and saying, we've already determined it doesn't have an international nexus. You can't do that.

KEILAR: So there's -- you wouldn't look at this and say -- you think it would be very mismatched to say, a local extremist group somehow masterminded this.

MUDD: It's not about facts, it's about an investigation. When you have seen an investigation of this complexity, before you rule out that there are more people out there that might have been trained by a nerve center that's run by ISIS, whether that's in India or elsewhere. Before you rule that out, you darned well better run the investigation instead of saying I think it's local, don't worry about it. You can't do that.

KEILAR: The defense -- the state defense minister said that this extremist group carried out these attacks in retaliation for the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand. He offered no proof, though. What do you make of this?

MUDD: I would not be asking that question if I were the Sri Lankans right mow. The explanation makes sense, but if you're talking about an attack of this magnitude, the first question you have is imminent threat. Are there other people running around with detonators who are going to kill people?

You can speculate later on what motivation is right now. I doubt they have a clear picture of it. But right now, focus on the threat, motivation comes later.

KEILAR: What's your worry right now?

MUDD: That there are other people out there and more significantly, that there's a nerve center in South Asia, India, for example, that train these folks, that they're training folks for an operation someplace else.

KEILAR: All right, Phil Mudd, thank you so much for your insight on this. President Trump just accepted an invitation to do something only two other American presidents have done. We'll have that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] KEILAR: In our "WORLD LEAD" tea and crumpets with the Queen. President Trump is crossing the pond to June for his first official state visit to the United Kingdom. He's only the third U.S. president to be invited for a full state visit by the Queen. But unlike his predecessors. he's not staying at Buckingham Palace. CNN's Max Foster explains why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: From a royal honor guard, to a state lunch, and formal evening banquet at Buckingham Palace. President Trump expecting to get quite the greeting when he arrives in the United Kingdom in June for the first official state visit to the country.

But he won't be staying at Bucky and Palace as is traditional for heads of state. Apparently the 775 room Palace doesn't have enough space because parts are being refurbished. It's likely protesters will rain on Trump's parade. The giant baby Trump blimp brought out during the president's much more casual visit last July could make another appearance.

Once again President Trump will meet with the Queen last time in breach of diplomatic protocol, he briefly walked aimlessly in front of the Queen whilst inspecting the Royal Guard. And the world will be waiting and watching to see if President Trump's relationship with British Prime Minister Theresa May continues to be extra-special. We've seen the two close the last few times they've been together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:55:21] FOSTER: For the last we heard, Brianna, was that there won't be a speech to the Joint Houses of Parliament. That's the ultimate honor really there any visiting head of state to this country. The issue here is that the invitation doesn't come from Buckingham Palace, doesn't come from Downing Street, it can only come from Parliament itself. And so far the Speaker of the lower house, the House of Commons John Bercow is blocking it. That's the last we heard.

Anyway, some negotiations going on behind the scenes on that though. It could be unfortunate because President Obama was afforded that privilege.

KEILAR: All right, we'll see if anything changes there. Max Foster, thank you so much outside Buckingham Palace for us. Trump's team has just minutes until a new deadline to hand over information about the President's taxes. Will they miss the deadline?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)