Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Democratic Presidential Candidates Comment on Trump Impeachment; Supreme Court Considers Citizenship Question on Census; Father of Sri Lanka Bombing Victims Speaks Out; Biden Set to Announce Presidential Bid. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 23, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And just a programming note for all of you. Join W. Kamau Bell for the much anticipated season four of "United Shades Of America." It starts Sunday night at 10:00 Eastern and Pacific, only here on CNN.

We roll along. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

For months, a key question has loomed over the 2020 campaign. Will Joe Biden, former vice president, join the race? Well, today, we know that answer is yes. CNN has learned that the former vice president will launch his campaign this Thursday in an online video. Biden will then take his pitch directly to you, the voter, in his home state of Pennsylvania, as well as Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire.

And all of this news is coming as the latest Monmouth poll shows the former vice president the top choice among Democrats nationwide. You see Senator Sanders just 7 percentage points behind him, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren rounding out the top five.

CNN political director David Chalian is in Washington, D.C. for us.

And, David, all right, so he's jumping at. He's jumping in Thursday. You know, this is the most diverse political field in modern presidential history. So, what does Joe Biden's lane look like and how does he maintain that top spot?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I don't think we even have to qualify and say modern presidential history. I think it's the most diverse field in history, period.

BALDWIN: Ever.

CHALIAN: Yes.

Listen, Joe Biden has to do a few things here when he gets in. One, the big question that's going to hang around his candidacy -- and we should note his entrance into this race changes this race. He is the big dog. You just showed that polling. But here's what he's going to have to

answer by his actions. Is Joe Biden prepared for the day-in-and-day- out rough-and-tumble of a campaign in the modern-day Democratic Party, which looks different and behaves differently than the party did when he sought to be the leader of it in 1988 and in 2008, the last two times he ran for president?

Does he look of this moment to provide some leadership, or does he look out of step with this moment? Once we have an answer to that question, I think we will get a sense of how this race will form. But he's got to maintain his favorability, his likability -- he's popular -- maintain the reservoir of good will that exists for him and the party and constantly show day in and day out that he is the best positioned to beat Donald Trump.

If he does those things, I think that front-runner status is something he may be able to maintain.

BALDWIN: He will do well.

All right, so let's talk about where you were last night...

CHALIAN: Yes.

BALDWIN: ... and watching all these -- the soon-to-be Biden rivals, right, fleshing out policy positions, showing contrast.

You had Senator Elizabeth Warren talking about several key issues and how she plans to pay for them. Here she was.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we put that to set wealth tax in place on the 75,000 largest fortunes in this country, 2 cents, we can do universal child care for every baby zero to 5, universal pre-K, universal college, and knock back the student loan debt burden for 95 percent of our students, and still have nearly a trillion dollars left over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So that was Senator Warren.

Let me -- let me play one more clip just comparing that to Mayor Pete Buttigieg with a different approach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Your campaign Web site, it's got a lot about who you are, what you believe in. It doesn't have anything specific about policy, like, nothing. There's no policy section on it.

At what point do you need to start actually presenting specific policies and a whole policy platform? PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think I have been

pretty clear where I stand on the major issues. We will continue to roll out specific policy proposals too.

But I also think it's important that we not drown people in minutiae before we have vindicated the values that animate our policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Drown people in minutiae.

I mean, I know it's early, David Chalian, but is there room right now for both points of view with voters, or do you think Senator Warren's specifics really do give her an edge?

CHALIAN: Well, right now, I think there is room for both.

I mean, I don't think that that is a viable position for Pete Buttigieg to maintain all the way through this campaign. He is going to have to put some meat on the bones of those values. There's no doubt. He's going to have to show voters how he's going to get from point A to point B to realize a specific goal that speaks to those values.

But I don't think he -- he doesn't have to necessarily do that in week two of his official campaign. But he will have to do it. Elizabeth Warren is taking on this notion of that policy is going to be her path to the nomination, that by detailing day in and day out a new specific policy, she's going to win over supporters.

We don't see a ton of traction for her in the polls or in fund-raising at the moment, but there's no doubt that she is driving the debate on many of the most high-profile issues that voters say they care about.

[15:05:08]

BALDWIN: What about Senator Kamala Harris? Her approach seems to be maybe in the middle of Buttigieg and Warren. Here she was from last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you believe that Americans should have the right to vote at age 16?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm really interested in having that conversation.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Senator, yes or no, do you support financial reparations?

HARRIS: I support that we study it. We should study it and see.

LEMON: Elizabeth Warren is here, as you know. She is -- she said that she supports student loan forgiveness for 42 million Americans?

HARRIS: Yes.

LEMON: Would you go that far? Do you support that?

HARRIS: Well, I support anything that is about reducing the data student loans, and I think that's an important conversation to have.

LEMON: 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?

HARRIS: I think we should have that conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: All right. So she says her answer, we should have that conversation.

But is she, David, missing a chance to have that concrete answer, set the tone now? And how do you think those responses are playing with voters?

CHALIAN: Well, I mean, those specific responses, obviously, just last night, we will see.

I do think that mash-up, Brooke, points to a real characteristic about Kamala Harris, which is that she is cautious on certain things where she hasn't formulated her firm, grounded answer yet.

One of the things that happens in a presidential contest, you go through these series of tests and interviews and town halls and voters poking and prodding you and journalists poking and prodding you. And I don't know that if she sounds like that six months from now, that that's going to be appealing to voters.

But I do think she has to be a little wary. I mean, on four issues that you just put together, reparations, and student debt, and the voting age, and this notion of felon voting rights, to not have an answer, to not already have formulated some thought and take a position, that will, I think, not wear all that well for the long distance.

And I do think it shows a level of caution that could prove problematic for her down the road.

BALDWIN: Noted.

David Chalian, thank you.

CHALIAN: Sure.

BALDWIN: Despite all the evidence, all the facts, Jared Kushner is downplaying the conclusions of the Mueller report.

As the president's son-in-law and senior adviser puts it, when it comes to the 2016 election interference, Russia's role amounted to just a couple of Facebook ads, Kushner speaking today at the TIME 100 Summit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Quite frankly, the whole thing's just a big distraction for the country. And you look at what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it -- and it's a terrible thing -- but I think the investigations and all of the speculation that's happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Well, the special counsel concluded quite the contrary.

This quote says it all: "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systemic fashion."

CNN analyst Matt Rosenberg is a national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

And so, Matt, thanks for jumping on with us today.

And just starting with the comments today, and that's obviously one person's opinion. We don't know if that represents the mind-set of the entire White House. But if you don't recognize the problem, hearing him say, a couple of Facebook posts, how are you supposed to solve the problem?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, we know -- we have -- we have -- there's been an ample amount of reporting that the White House doesn't have much interest in protecting the next election from Russia interference, that this is not a high priority.

Look, Kushner is right that it was Facebook ads, but it wasn't just a couple. Facebook estimates that 126 million Americans saw the ads and the kind of messages that were pushed out by Russia on Facebook.

They were incredibly divisive. The idea was to promote President Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. And did it affect the election? It's really difficult to say that. That's not a determination anybody's made.

But to downplay it suggests that there isn't a real serious kind of attitude towards what comes next, what happens next time.

BALDWIN: And the way he's downplaying it, how do you think what he said there at the TIME event is playing at the Kremlin?

ROSENBERG: Well, they're probably overjoyed about it.

I mean -- but, I mean, I would think that if you're over in the Kremlin, you have probably been overjoyed for the last few years. You have got an incredibly divided America. And he's not right. Investigations are a distraction. They do make it hard to govern.

BALDWIN: Yes. ROSENBERG: This investigation was done very quickly.

It also -- there was both things that I think that Kushner would like to see in that investigation, which says that they did not -- there was no conspiracy with the Russians. And that's why you have investigations. They're both -- they can both indict somebody, but they're exculpatory.

And you need to do that. That's how you keep confidence in your democracy. It doesn't undermine it.

[15:10:00]

BALDWIN: Let me ask you, Matt, also about the other story, the big one today out of Washington. It seems to be this, you know, full-on stonewalling effort between White House and Congress, most recently, the administration telling one of their officials not to comply with a subpoena.

Chairman Elijah Cummings says that he's looking into holding him in contempt. And when you have all this defiance, what comes next in the fight? What can Democrats do about it?

ROSENBERG: I mean, they're going to keep fighting.

And this is the kind of -- this is how you get gridlock. This is how nothing gets done.

BALDWIN: Yes.

ROSENBERG: This is why Americans are frustrated with Washington.

Look, I think we know by now that we have a president who thrives, who has a base that thrives on this conflict, and that when he wants to appeal to the base, this conflict works. Will it get things done? Will it move legislation forward? Will it change policies? Absolutely not.

BALDWIN: Matt Rosenberg, good to see you. Thank you.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, a CNN exclusive. An American father who saw two of his children killed in the Sri Lanka terror attacks speaks out for the very first time.

Plus, a legal expert who's often cautioned against impeachment now says it's plausible in the case of President Trump. We will explain why.

And, later, Senator Bernie Sanders says inmates should be able to vote while still behind bars. His fellow 2020 Democrats, though, aren't so sure. We will debate it coming up.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:45]

BALDWIN: We have new details right now on that investigation into the deadly Easter attacks in Sri Lanka.

An Indian official tells CNN its intel service warned Sri Lanka of a pending terror attack in the weeks leading up to the bombings. This is coming as the country's prime minister warned today that there are still people on the run with explosives in his country.

ISIS is now claiming responsibility for the bombings that killed 321 people and injured more than 500. A top government official claims it was done in retaliation for last month's shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.

And, certainly, while the details of the investigation are important, I'm going to focus on those lives lost.

And, for that, let's go to CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He just sat down for an exclusive interview with a father who lost two of his children there.

And, Nick, what did he share with you?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just an absolutely horrifying moment for Matt Linsey, an American investment banker who took his two dual-national British and American teenage daughter and son with him on a holiday that began in Vietnam, then moved to Sri Lanka.

They were in the upmarket Shangri-La Hotel when the blast struck that, horrifyingly, took the lives of both of his children he was holidaying with.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW LINSEY, FATHER OF TERROR VICTIMS: And when the bomb went off, and, you know, there's a just -- it's hard to describe. It's like a wave coming through.

WALSH: Pressure.

LINSEY: Pressure.

And my children, or son -- I say they had actually went down to the buffet before me and got the food for me, had filled up my plate. And then I wanted a little bit more to drink. I was going to get it. My daughter said, "No, I will get it."

And then 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 we started -- and I knew there'd be another bomb, because there always is in these things. Another bomb went off, and that's...

WALSH: So, your instinct was to get out? LINSEY: Yes, as soon as possible.

WALSH: To move them with you.

LINSEY: Yes, but maybe I should have just stayed and covered them with my body.

They both were unconscious. My daughter seemed to be moving. My son wasn't. A woman offered to take my daughter downstairs to the ambulance. I needed help moving my son. Someone helped me move him down the stairs.

And they both ended up in the same hospital.

WALSH: So...

(CROSSTALK)

LINSEY: Yes.

WALSH: ... explain to anybody what it must be like to go through a situation like that.

Has it left you full of rage or...

(CROSSTALK)

LINSEY: My daughter and I, one of our favorite songs was a song called "Love Is the Answer."

And when my dad passed away, my daughter and I, that became sort of our song. And she was only 6. And, yes, you want the government to do what they have to do to stop these people. I agree with that completely.

But, also, the people on the other side, you know, love is the answer ultimately, and helping people. And, you know, what would be good is giving Sri Lanka -- helping the medical facilities there.

WALSH: Yes.

LINSEY: Money to go to the country to help, because a lot of local people died, and probably unnecessary.

And my children, they -- 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)

WALSH: And you can hear Matt's voice there, hoarse actually because he found himself standing in the hospital yelling, trying to find his children, but speaking to us because he wanted to tell everybody how his eldest son, Daniel, had given up time in Ethiopia to help orphans, how Amelie was the light really at the center of their family. And he had nothing but thanks, gratitude for the U.S. officials at the embassy that took him in that state of utter shock and horror, and got him home and are now assisting with the repatriation of his two children, an absolutely horrifying story, and a man of great composure, to be able to relate to people the sheer horror that he went through, so others can understand exactly the consequence of this horrifying murder.

BALDWIN: I'm imagining him standing in that hospital yelling at the top of his lungs. I'm grateful to you for sharing his story and for helping us lift the lives of his children.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

[15:20:02]

Oof.

Coming up next, an attorney who co-wrote a handbook on impeachment explains why he thinks it's now entirely plausible in the case of President Trump.

Plus, the leader of a vigilante militia group that operates along the U.S.-Mexico border is now under arrest. He claims he's helping border agents. We will get reaction from San Diego's Border Patrol chief.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:25:05]

BALDWIN: Should the next census include a question about your citizenship? That is the issue being considered today by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Trump administration says it is necessary to better comply with federal voting rights law.

Critics argue it is just an attempt to intimidate non-citizens and will result in an undercount of the population. And the question hasn't actually been asked on the census since 1950.

So let's go straight to our Supreme Court reporter, Ariane de Vogue.

And, Ariane, where did the justices seem to fall on the issue?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Wow.

Brooke, this deeply divided Supreme Court heard arguments earlier today. And it looked like, after arguments, that the conservatives were ready to side with the government here and allow this question.

We saw Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito, Justice Gorsuch, they all seemed to be asking questions that were sympathetic here to the government's position. And Brett Kavanaugh, Brooke, the newest justice on the Supreme Court, he said at one point that he thought that the secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, had broad discretion in this area. And Kavanaugh also said, look, other countries do this. But, in

contrast, the liberals on this Supreme Court, they were angry today, and they pounced on the government for its arguments, particularly Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Kagan.

They said that they didn't see any justification, proper justification, for adding the question. They said they think it will hurt turnout, and that the administration hadn't done this the proper way.

And, of course, it goes to the heart of political representation, this question, because the census, the data that is derived from the census goes to the allocation of congressional seats, millions of dollars of federal funds. And that's what's at play here.

The group of states who brought this said, look, it's going to hurt political representation, particularly for minorities. So it'll be a big test for this newly constituted conservative majority on the Supreme Court, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You will be watching for us. Ariane de Vogue, thank you so much in Washington.

Senator Elizabeth Warren's declaration that the U.S. House of Representatives should start impeachment hearings against President Trump has put the Massachusetts senator right there in the spotlight, and her 2020 rivals squarely in the hot seat.

And last night, in a series of CNN town halls, several of these candidates weighed in on what they think should happen next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: I believe Congress should take the steps towards impeachment.

WARREN: Accountability has to come from the Congress. And the tool that we are given for that accountability is the impeachment process.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The impeachment proceedings are up to the House. They are going to have to make that decision.

BUTTIGIEG: I think he's made it pretty clear that he deserves impeachment. I'm also going to leave it to the House and Senate to figure that out.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there has got to be a thorough investigation. And I think the House Democrats will do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Philip Bobbitt is director for the Center for National Security at Columbia Law School. He is also a co-author of "Impeachment: A Handbook."

So, Philip, a pleasure to have you. Welcome.

PHILIP BOBBITT, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: So, you wrote the handbook. But you have also said that impeachment should be only in the most extraordinary cases.

And yet, on this, specifically, after the Mueller report, you say that Trump appears to have committed impeachable offenses. Why have you changed your mind?

BOBBITT: I haven't changed my mind.

I still think that impeachment is major surgery for the body politic, and it should be resorted to only in their grievous circumstances. I don't know that I would vote for impeachment hearings were I a member of the Congress right now.

But I certainly do believe that the Mueller report gives a quite plausible case that that line has been crossed, that the president has used the powers of his office in a corrupt way for his personal interest, at the expense of the country, so repeatedly and in such a pattern, that it should be investigated.

BALDWIN: Should be investigated.

BOBBITT: Yes.

BALDWIN: But you won't go there, as won't a number of Democrats.

There -- there's this whole divide among Democrats on whether they should -- obviously, they all agree on seeking the truth. It's a matter of investigating vs. starting with impeachment proceedings. And if Mueller, though, has left a trail, as some believe, how does the House not follow that?

BOBBITT: Well, I -- Mueller himself opened up a number of lines of inquiry that I think, not just the House, but also the Senate Intelligence Committee, could follow up on.

If the House concluded that, as a legal matter, not a political matter -- and I can't emphasize that enough. If they concluded that, as a legal matter, the president's motives were mixed, they were not -- not corrupt, he wasn't putting his own personal interests in -- in place of the state and the country.

[15:30:00]