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Biden to Announce 2020 Bid; Kushner Downplays Russian Meddling; Dems May Hold Former White House Aid in Contempt. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 23, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Because she is sort of defining the terrain that the other (INAUDIBLE) are going to (INAUDIBLE).

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: A real debate about substance is a good thing to have in any campaign.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Don't go anywhere. It's a busy day. Brianna Keilar starts right now.

Have a great afternoon.

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

Underway right now, documents? No. Financial records? No way. Comply with subpoenas? Nope. President Trump testing the power of Congress and the law.

Meantime, his 2020 challenger is starting to break out from the crowd. How CNN's town halls showed the differences between Democrats.

Plus, court documents show the extremist militia that held hundreds of migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico also claimed to have trained to assassinate President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

And the terror may not be over. Just 48 hours after bombers killed more than 300 people in attacks on churches and hotels, Sri Lankan officials say suspects with explosives are still on the run.

But we begin with breaking political news. Former Vice President Joe Biden ending the suspense over when he'll join the 2020 race. A source familiar with Biden's plans confirming to CNN that he will announce his presidential campaign on Thursday with an online video. He'll hold his first campaign event in Pittsburgh on Monday.

So let's discuss now Biden's entry into the race with Arlette Saenz, April Ryan and Gloria Borger.

And, you know, Arlette, first, tell us what you are hearing. This is -- this is what you've been covering and waiting for. ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, after months of deliberation, Joe Biden is set to make this official. And sources familiar with his planning tell me that he'll be launching an online video on Thursday and following that up with that first rally in -- in -- or event in Pittsburgh on Monday. Pittsburgh is a community that he's gone back to quite a lot. You see him run in Labor Day parades there just last year, also in 2015 when he was thinking about running for president.

But now, after months of them working, trying to lay this preliminary groundwork for the campaign, Biden is going to go ahead and jump in and really answer one of the biggest remaining questions about what this field is going to look like.

KEILAR: So let's -- let's talk about the timing because he becomes, what, number --

SAENZ: Number 20.

KEILAR: Twenty, right? Nineteen -- nineteen --

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Really? That's a lot of them. It's a lot of them.

KEILAR: Who knows, maybe someone ekes -- squeaks in there.

What do you think of the timing, Gloria, where this -- this is the moment that he is choosing?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he had to get in soon or not at all. He's number 20, but he pops to the top because he's got high name recognition, and that's part of the reason, of course, that he's -- that he's up in the polls. But it -- you know, and it was the worst kept secret anywhere that Joe Biden was going to get into the race.

RYAN: It was.

BORGER: He hinted at it at -- with -- at every speech he gave, we just didn't know the timing until Arlette reported it.

And I think what it's going to tell us is, can somebody who says that he's a Democrat who can work with Republicans, that he's an Obama Democrat, can he win the race for the nomination?

KEILAR: What do you think, April?

RYAN: Well, you know, some people question, you know, about Joe Biden because of his age. Well, we have Nancy Pelosi, who's come out in this new -- she's popping her collar. Kids like, oh, my gosh, Nancy please. You've got Donald Trump, who is in I guess you would call him an elder statesman. You know, Joe Biden is older.

But it's not necessarily about age. It's about the message. What message will he bring? And not only that. I'm looking at the base, the Obama base. You know,

I think back to 2015, Joe Biden and I received an honorary doctorate from Morgan State University together. He stood there and took selfies with 700 kids. They wound up -- yes, 700 kids.

KEILAR: That's -- wow.

RYAN: And they were like, Uncle Joe. I want to see if he brings that to the campaign trail.

BORGER: Sure he will.

RYAN: To -- in South Carolina, where Cory Booker has already stumped, and Kamala Harris. I want to see how this plays out.

He's got the message of the Democratic Party, but he -- can he bring that new message in 2019 that people are looking for.

KEILAR: He has a lot of energy. I mean I remember just a couple years --

RYAN: Oh, he does.

KEILAR: I think it was a couple years ago I was actually covering him in Pittsburgh. Very, very energetic.

SAENZ: He would run up and down a parade route.

KEILAR: Running up and down. That's right, running up and down.

So if it's about the message, Arlette, then what is the message? What is he selling to people? Even as he's leading in the polls, what is he bringing?

SAENZ: Well, one thing just a few week ago Biden described himself as an Obama Biden Democrat. I think that very clearly shows that he's going to try to embrace the mantle of the Obama administration and highlight the progress that they had made.

But we also know that he often makes his pitch to working class voters. We've seen him over the past month actually do three events with union groups, so that's also going to be at the core of who he's appealing to.

And one of the other things that's going to be interesting to watch when you talk about the fact that he takes selfies and the way he engages with people.

RYAN: Oh, yes.

SAENZ: Biden has acknowledged that he may have to change the way that he campaigns because of these recent allegations that he made women feel uncomfortable. But one thing that's going to be key for Biden's team is making sure that they can keep that authenticity that Biden brings to so many of these events going forward.

[13:05:14] KEILAR: And I just want to be clear, uncomfortable because they had a -- they felt that he was invading their personal space --

BORGER: Right, their personal space.

KEILAR: Because he's sort of got a touchy-feely approach.

BORGER: Which is Joe Biden.


RYAN: Yes, that's him.

KEILAR: So how does he separate that.

Now, I do want to talk to you about the other contenders here. So five of the 2020 Democratic candidates staking out their positions in back- to-back CNN town halls. They answered questions on everything from college affordability to whether felons currently serving time in prison should be able to vote.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was asked about the lack of specifics when it comes to his policy positions, and listen to this exchange that he had had with Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, MODERATOR: Your campaign website, it's got a lot about who you are, what you believe in. It doesn't have anything specific about policy, like noting. There's no policy section on it. At what point do you need to start actually presenting specific policies and a whole policy platform?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think I've been pretty clear where I stand on the major issues.

We'll continue to roll out specific policy proposals, too. But I also think it's important that we not drown people in minutia before we've vindicated the values that animate our policies.


KEILAR: Gloria Borger.

BORGER: Good try.

KEILAR: OK, but translate that for us, vindicated the values that animate our policies.

Do you know what -- what does that mean?

BORGER: Well, that sounds great, doesn't it?

KEILAR: It sounds amazing.

BORGER: It sounds great.

KEILAR: But what does it mean? BORGER: If I had to be the Buttigieg translator, and I'm not by any

means --


BORGER: I would say --

RYAN: The whisperer.

BORGER: What he -- the whisperer. What I would say is, well, he's talking about how Democrats feel about education, how Democrats feel about health policy, you know, whether -- whether health care is a right that should be afford every American, how they feel about gay rights, how they feel about civil rights, et cetera, et cetera.

By I think what we're seeing there is a campaign that's trying to catch up with its own popularity because I don't think they were ready for this. And so suddenly, after Anderson did his town hall, they were prepared because what they did was they put this interactive thing on their website so that you could see live Buttigieg talking about issues from his campaign appearances, even though they weren't, you know, policy papers that were on his -- that were on his website or part of a big platform.

What he's saying is, you know, first kind of get to know me and like me and let's see how this goes. I don't think he was ready.

KEILAR: Let's see how this goes.


KEILAR: Don't drown them in minutia.

BORGER: Right.

KEILAR: And, April, when you look at Senator Warren, she's taking a really different approach here.

RYAN: Yes.

KEILAR: She is laying out policies. She's got her plan to get rid of college loan debt, make public colleges tuition-free. She is trailing Buttigieg in the polls. Is there something to what he's saying, which is, don't drown people in the minutia? Do voters need the minutia, or are they looking for just the candidate that they click with in a more general way?

RYAN: You know, likability is something, but people also want to know that you've touched them. Politics is personal. And when it's too heady, when it's too cerebral, you lose people. So that's one of the things, when you're entrenched in Washington so much so and you're thus thou ought wherefore there as, we're like, what do you mean, you know? People want to know the average, everyday person actually wants to know what that translates to them, how that translates to them, how it affects them. And everything in Washington has tentacles into rural America, into urban America. People want to know how it directly affects them. She has a great message, but she might need to do a little bit more retooling of the words.

KEILAR: When we look at where Joe Biden is going to fit into this, Arlette, it seems that some -- it seems that maybe Senator Klobuchar kind of has a lane that he may hue closely to. She's trying to be very no nonsense. She's not making the big promises. She's trying to be really the grown-up in the room, the serious person. And so she was staking out a more cautious position when it came to college tuition.

Let's listen.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish I could staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs. I do. Don't look. It's not there. I wish I could do that, but I have to be straight with you and tell you the truth.


KEILAR: I wonder if you -- are we going to hear some of that from Joe Biden and how do you see kind of these two running alongside each other in -- in a space that may be similar?

SAENZ: Yes, I mean Klobuchar has really kind of embraced this practical approach in a lot of her messaging. And that's something that you could potentially hear from Joe Biden.

And I think on the policy front, one thing that's going to be really interesting to watch with him is that a lot of these big debates that have been animating the Democratic field, he hasn't weighed in on yet, the green new deal, Medicare for all, reparations, and those are questions that he is going to be facing as he gets in, in these first few weeks.

[13:10:02] BORGER: But you know what Joe Biden's also going to do? He's going to talk about foreign policy.


BORGER: And, you know, you have a president now who says, well, you know, I'm great with North Korea. People question his relationship with Vladimir Putin, et cetera, et cetera. This is where Biden is very different from these other candidates. He's so animated by foreign policy. He has so much experience there. I think he can distinguish himself on that as well.

RYAN: There's another piece that makes Biden so different from these other candidates. Biden is a real person. He's very real. So real. How real is he?

The former vice president is so real that if he had to stand up between Donald Trump at a debate, it's him and Donald Trump, he would be able to take him on with that gotcha and come back and still be political and presidential. And that's something a lot of these candidates I don't think have. Some of them can talk the policy and politics. But when it comes to Donald Trump talking about your hair, your feet, whatever, Joe Biden is the one who can give a good comeback.

KEILAR: This is just in, sources are telling CNN that the White House has ordered the -- has ordered Trump administration officials to boycott the White House Correspondents Association Dinner --

RYAN: Oh, wow.

KEILAR: This Saturday. I mean, keeping in mind, OK, this is coming up on Saturday. There --

RYAN: That's fine.

KEILAR: There is -- there is no comedian this year.

RYAN: We're good. We're good.

KEILAR: But --

RYAN: Look, the dinner goes on. The dinner will go on.

KEILAR: What do you -- what do you make of this because last year this wasn't the case, right?

RYAN: No, it wasn't.

KEILAR: Administration officials were there.

RYAN: But the president -- the president did not come.

KEILAR: The year before they were not.

RYAN: The president is not coming. They're upset about the Mueller report. They're upset about the Mueller report and the president is upset about the Mueller report and he's telling people -- he wants to hurt us. It's not going to hurt us.

It's about a free and independent press. It is about the press corps that covers the president of the United States and has covered the president of the United States for decades, OK. We've been -- the association's over 100 years old. This is one president out of how many. So at a time in 2019, when press freedom is in jeopardy, he chooses not to come and he wants to boycott, make his staff not come. That sends a resounding message, and it's not about us, it's about them. It's in their message.

BORGER: And it's not a surprise either, by the way.

RYAN: It's not.

KEILAR: And it might be odd if he were there, too, with these cognitive dissonance between what he says and what the dinner is actually all about .

BORGER: Right.

RYAN: It would be -- it would be tense. It would be tense. KEILAR: The cognitive dissonance between what he says and what the dinner is all about.

RYAN: It would be tense.

KEILAR: Gloria, thank you so much.

April, Arlette, great reporting, thank you.

Jared Kushner speaking out for the first time about the Mueller report. The president's son-in-law and special adviser downplaying the results of the investigation, calling it nothing more than a distraction over a few Russian FaceBook ads. Listen.


JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Quite frankly, the whole thing's just a big distraction for the country. And you look at, you know, what Russia did, you know, 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.


KEILAR: A couple FaceBook ads.

Well, this is what the Mueller report said. Quote, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systemic fashion. So, no, not just a couple of FaceBook ads. That interview was conduct by Brian Bennett, senior White House correspondent for "Time" magazine at the "Time" 100 Summit.

You're joining us now from New York.

Thank you for being with us.

And as we watched your interview, this -- it was a really interesting interview. I wonder what you thought in particular about that answer from Jared Kushner.

BRIAN BENNETT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": Well, I think -- I mean he misses the point of the whole process of the Mueller report, which is that Russia did interfere in the elections and the point was to find out exactly what the contour was, get as much information out in the public about what Russia did and find out what people in Trump's orbit were involved. And we learned a lot. And we learned a lot during the process as indictments came out. And then, when the 400-page redacted Mueller report came out, we learned, you know, more sweeping detail about which people in Trump's circle had contacts with Russian and Russian-affiliated people so that as voters, voters can go to the polls and be knowledgeable about how that played out in the 2016 campaign.

KEILAR: You really pushed him on Russia. You asked if he was being naive. What did he say?

BENNETT: So, I -- I really wanted to lay out how big a role Kushner played in the Mueller report. There were all these points of contact of different stages of the campaign and the transition where Kushner was meeting with Russian officials or people affiliated with the Russian government. And, you know, he really dodged the question. I wanted to know if he was being naive when he would continue to take these meetings during the transition, even after U.S. intelligence came out and said Russia was trying to influence the election. And he said first everything was a little bit chaotic during the campaign. We were running the campaign differently than previous campaigns, so we had a lot of outside people, now coming in we weren't familiar with, which didn't really answer why he continued the contact with Russian- affiliated people during the transition.

[13:15:12] He said that he had kept his business interests separate and that even though there was a meeting with a Russian banker who was working for a Russian state-owned bank, that it wasn't going to influence how he made his decisions inside the White House. And I think it's really going to be up to people now that the public has some of the granular detail in the public in the Mueller report and members of Congress to decide if the way that the Trump administration has conducted itself hues too close to line of being susceptible to foreign influence.

KEILAR: It was a great interview, Brian. Thank you so much for being with us today.

We have some breaking news now from The Hill.

Democrats are now threatening to hold a former White House official in contempt for ignoring their subpoena.


[13:20:19] KEILAR: The House Oversight Committee could soon hold a contempt vote for a former White House aide who is now refusing to honor a subpoena. Carl Kline was supposed to appear today to discuss security clearances and possible White House interference in the clearance cases of the president's daughter and son-in-law.

We have our Manu Raju, who's on Capitol Hill following this.

And the White House, Manu, actually told Kline that he should not appear before the Oversight Committee, and his lawyer said that he is going to go that route. What's the next move here for Democrats?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats are warning that he may be held in contempt. Elijah Cummings, the House Oversight Committee chairman, said that both the White House and Kline are in, quote, open defiance of a dully authorized Congressional subpoena, even though there have been no claims of executive privilege made by this president. And he said he's going to consult with his members about scheduling a vote. He -- Cummings goes on to say this in his very strongly worded statement. The White House claims that under no circumstance will it provide to Congress any information about any specific White House employee, regardless of whether that employee lied to federal investigators about communicating with the Russians or continued working in the White House after the FBI reported derogatory information involving domestic violence.

Now, of course, this has to go -- this goes back to what a White House official, Trisha Newbold, who the Democrats say is a whistleblower, told their committee several weeks ago that the -- that there were 25 individuals whose -- had concerns raised about their security clearances during the vetting process. They were later green-lighted to get security clearances. Carl Kline played a role in the green lighting of these security clearances.

Some Democrats want to know exactly how that happened, whether the president was directly involved in ordering the clearances to be approved, including for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for his daughter, Ivanka Trump. We know from our own sources, Brianna, that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were identified by Trisha Newbold.

These are questions that Democrats have been trying to get answers to, which is why they sent this subpoena to Carl Kline wanting this interview. But they have squabbled with the White House behind the scenes for several days and the White House said just don't comply, don't show up. And now, as a result, he could be -- Carl Kline could be held in contempt of Congress by the Democrats here.


KEILAR: Yes, and Trisha Newbold said it was unusual for this many to basically be interfered with by the White House, but also she felt that her boss, Carl Kline, hadn't gone through the proper channels to mitigate the risk or explain why he was changing these decisions.

Manu Raju, thank you so much, from The Hill for us.

And speaking of defiance, today is deadline day again for President Trump's taxes. But don't expect to see the IRS or the Treasury Department give into the Democrats' demands and turn over the president's personal returns or anything else for that matter.

We talked about the defiance in the security clearance investigation and then there's yesterday lawsuit brought by President Trump and the Trump Organization against House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, who had subpoenaed a financial services company that worked for the Trumps.

Joseph Moreno is a former prosecutor and the Department of Justice.

And in that lawsuit the president's attorneys argued this, quote, the Democratic Party, with its newfound control of the U.S. House of Representatives, has declared all-out political war against President Donald J. Trump. Subpoenas are their weapon of choice.

Is this going to work, this route they're taking, just to deny that they're going to cooperate indefinitely?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY PROSECUTOR: Well, Brianna, I see that statement as not so much a legal statement to a judge who ultimately hears this case, but to the American people, basically saying, if Congress can this to me, the president, they can do it anybody.

Now, whether that works, that's a very different story, right. There is a long, long history of Congress subpoenaing -- issuing -- you know, documents and people and a long history of courts deferring to that authority. Congress has not unlimited but extremely broad investigative and subpoena authority, whether it's into matters currently being, you know, being investigated, matter currently considered by Congress, future theoretical legislation or impeachment of the president. So giving Congress this broad latitude, I think it's an extremely uphill battle for the White House to just resist and not say -- you know, say I'm going to not cooperate basically.

KEILAR: Considering the different investigations that are underway and that on all of these fronts the White House is resisting and this is going to proceed through the courts, where do you see Congress having the best shot of trying to get information out of the White House? As a judge will say, look, you have to give this over.

MORENO: So ongoing matters that affect national security, that affect the state of the country, that's going to be the easiest for a court to say clearly Congress has the authority to get that information. So it --

[13:25:10] KEILAR: So security clearances?

MORENO: I would say with security clearances. I mean that's a tough one, I think, for the White House to claim executive privilege because it's such a vital issue. And Congress says, look, you know, we're a co-equal branch of government. We all are responsible for national security. We want to know who's getting security clearances and why. I think that's probably the most right for a court to say, yes, you have to turn that information or those witnesses over to testify before Congress.

Now backward looking, historical information, perhaps about the Trump family, the organization, President Trump himself before he was president, perhaps a little more difficult, but, still, I would bet on the side of Congress getting the information they want.

KEILAR: Oh, interesting.

Joseph Moreno, thank you so much for your insight.

So about last night. What was happening at the White House for 30 minutes?

Plus, there's a complete divide among Democrats on whether to impeach the president.

And developing right now, Sri Lanka says there are still people, suspects, on the run with explosives after one of the deadliest terror attacks since 9/11. We'll give you a live report from Sri Lanka.