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NY Times: Former DHS Secretary Nielsen Urged To Not Bring Up Russian Meddling With Trump; Hillary Clinton Urges Democrats To Hold Watergate-Style Hearings; Joe Biden To Announce 2020 Bid Tomorrow. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 24, 2019 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: --your own. You deserve it. Now, obviously, I've been joking this whole time. I don't really talk about myself in the third person nor for that matter does anyone at CNN.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER: That Wolf Blitzer, the best beard in the business. He is Wolf Blitzer. And he is in THE SITUATION ROOM.


COOPER: OK. Wolf, he is allowed to talk however he wants. He's the hardest working guy in television. You should hear his beard talking in the second person. It's weird.

As for President Trump, Anderson Cooper will be looking for him and his very, very large brain on The Ridiculist.

And that does it for Anderson Cooper. I'll hand it over to Chris Cuomo for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Thank you, Mr. Cooper. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

New information that Homeland Security was told not to even mention addressing Russian interference or how to stop it with this President, could Congress add this to a potential abuse of power charge?

Hillary Clinton has some ideas of what they could do with it. She charts a path for Congress to follow, but does her voice help or hurt this situation?

And tonight, some of President Trump's financial records are being handed over to New York's Attorney General. Will she find fuzzy math when she digs into documents about his loans?

Plus, he spreads hateful messages, cozies up to White supremacists, and demonizes immigrants. So, how is Congressman Steve King suffering like Jesus? The Congressman made the comparison, and we will take it up in the Closing Argument.

What do you say? Let's get after it.




CUOMO: So, here's the question. Is the President's refusal to admit that Russia interfered, or his efforts to try to obstruct the Russia probe all about protecting the legitimacy of his victory?

Now, this is something that Mr. Mueller could not rule out as a motivating factor. And now, we have news that the President may be putting his political security before your national security, and that could spell trouble for us and him.

Here's what we know. Before Nielsen was ousted as Homeland Security Secretary, she reportedly tried to warn the President about ongoing threats from Russia for the 2020 election. The New York Times says she was stopped by Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Why? He wanted her to steer clear of the subject because the President equates interference with the legitimacy of his own election. Mulvaney says he didn't recall the conversation.

Let's bring in former DNI James Clapper who once was able to brief President-elect Trump on meddling and another Intel veteran, former Congressman Mike Rogers. Could not ask for better guests for this.

Gentlemen, thank you, and thank you for coming together tonight.


CUOMO: All right, now, Jim--

ROGERS: And by the--

CUOMO: --should we be concerned - go ahead, Mike. What do you got?

ROGERS: I just want to say Happy Anniversary to Jim Clapper. It's his 54th wedding anniversary today.


ROGERS: He and his wife, Sue.

CUOMO: What is the secret?



CUOMO: Wow! Now I know there's one woman who's not happy you gave that answer. What's the secret to 54 happy years?

CLAPPER: My wife is very patient.

CUOMO: All right, that works. That works. Well then I got that going for me. I have a patient wife as well.

All right, so now let's talk about somebody who's impatient. It's the President of the United States. He doesn't like what's going on right now.

Mike Rogers, the idea of this story of The New York Times that Nielsen went and said, "Look, I want to start to get going on 2020. I have ideas." "Stand down. We don't - the President doesn't even want to talk about this. It is - goes to what whether or not he thinks it is bad for his legitimacy as President," what do you make of that?

ROGERS: Well it's concerning. And - and, unfortunately, I think it - it bolsters some of what we saw in the Mueller report about the dysfunction of the management style inside the White House.

Now, there are - there was just two sides of this story, Chris. The Intelligence Community wasn't told to stand down in the sense that they said "Don't do anything." They went out and did their job.

Matter of fact, I would argue the IC, the Intelligence Community, did a pretty good job in 2018 of trying to get ahead of this problem. It would have been easier had there been that top-down cover and support and - and kind of reassurance, you want that coming out of the NSC, you want it coming out of the President.

So, having them say we just can't talk about it, I think, is a weakness for the President, it's a weakness for the administration, and it just makes the job of the IC that much more difficult as they roll into 2020.

CUOMO: Now, Jim, is it a weakness that can be parlayed into a strength for Congressional oversight?

Can they go down the road of taking what's in the Mueller report, taking something like this, taking the idea of oppose every subpoena, and say this is an abuse of power, this is somebody who is misusing their office by co-mission at omission?

CLAPPER: Well they could. And, you know, fundamental responsibility of the President as Commander-in-Chief is the safety and security of this - of this country, our national security.

[21:05:00] And from the get-go, from the - from first time he was briefed on this, as a candidate, and certainly on January 6th, 2017, it was always this apparent skepticism about the Russian meddling which, you know, I don't know how he can - any doubt left after reading the Mueller report, which I think is one of the most important contributions that report makes.

So, to me, it is really an abrogation of his fundamental obligation responsibilities. The other thing, you know, I think, another point I'd make is it is

not sufficient just to dwell on the cyber-security, you know, securing voter registration rolls, tabulation mechanisms, and all that.

The other thing that's really missing here where there's a huge vacuum is the leadership of the President and the bully pulpit that only he occupies about questioning what you see reading here on the internet because of the impact of social media - the social media campaign that the Russians maintained. And we haven't had that from him.

Lots has been done to improve things since the last administration, but - but on an individual department by department basis, not with the galvanizing impact of - of Presidential leadership.

CUOMO: So, Mike, if you take off the Intel hat, put on the Congress hat, as a Republican and, you know, a lifelong Republican, the idea of it being laid out, even if pretty good, even if it's a pretty good case, he tried to stop the proceedings when he didn't like the probe because he didn't want them digging in the Russian interference because he thought it was bad for his legitimacy.

When it came to whether or not to fight Russian interference going forward, he wouldn't have any audience on it because he didn't want to deal with it. He thought it was bad for him.

And then, when it came to dealing with Congress, he wouldn't let his people cooperate. And he fought it all with subpoenas and Executive privilege claims that fell short.

Is that enough to get a Republican to go against a President of their own party?

ROGERS: Well I mean I - I would hope that they'd stand up for trying to get the President to stand up for making sure the Russians don't have this outsized influence in 2020 election, including, and I think, what General Clapper was referencing is that social discontent.

That's where they have their biggest success candidly. Matter of fact, we're still at each other's throats. The Russians may have had at least a part to play in that whole thing. So, I do think Republicans are starting to stand up to those kinds of issues, and they should.

Remember, this is a mad - it's - well it's a confusing maddening management issue, and a weakness for the President that he's had since the day he walked into office that he trusts no one.

His circle has gotten smaller. And he's going to make decisions like "I don't - I don't want to hear about it. You can go do it. But I don't want to hear about it." That does make the IC's job easier.

I hope what Republicans are doing is pushing those narratives inside of these hearings, inside the Intel Community to try to get that coalition built and going for 2020. That's where they can have the biggest impact.

You know, I think people have staked out their positions on Donald Trump. And so, I - I don't know - I don't think the report really changed that. I really don't. So now, I think the legislature has the responsibility of trying to make sure that the elections are protected.

They have a lot of sway with their budget authority in these intelligence agencies. If that's where it has to happen, my argument is then let's do it. Let's do it there. And then the President doesn't have to talk about it.

CUOMO: Jim, the idea of Deutsche Bank starting to turn over documents, this was a little bit fed by Michael Cohen.

There was an ongoing look at them already. The theory of the case is they're one of the few that would lend lots of money to Donald Trump at the time of his campaign for Presidency. They were his largest lender.

And maybe, he misstated asset values, or maybe, they had a reason that is less than worthy to be lending him all that money, where does that go for you?

CLAPPER: Well, for me, what I'm interested in would be any national - potential national security implications. I mean I don't know what's there.

But one of the things that's concerned me for some time has been, for example, financial entanglements with Russia, which may have begun well before he was a candidate, but which could have - could carry over and there - you know, there's - there's potential for leverage. So that - that's what I - well I think this is pretty significant.

CUOMO: But, Mike, don't you think we would have seen something about that in the Mueller report?

ROGERS: Not necessarily. I think that the - there's 12 member - there's 12 investigations that the Mueller team kicked over that we presume--

CUOMO: True.

ROGERS: --to other Districts Attorney's offices.

I'm going to guess that some of that may have come out of because what they would look at, even in the A.G. and - in New York is they'd be looking at bank fraud. I mean that's a pretty clear-cut.

If you over-exaggerate your assets in order to secure a loan, that's bank fraud. You're not allowed to do it.

And because they went after Cohen on bank fraud, my guess is that he showed up what these documents said, "Yes, well you - you got me. But look at this," right? "This is what the President did to secure loan somewhere." I'm guessing that's exactly where that investigation is going.

And I think you're going to see more of that as this thing goes along because the Mueller report's done. And I think you'll find these jurisdictions feel like they have more leeway to get into the weeds on their investigations.

[21:10:00] Whatever the other 12 were, I presume some of them are going to look just like this.

CUOMO: The full employment plan for Mike Rogers and Jim Clapper to be sure, you'll have to help us through these weeds for a while to come. Gentlemen, thank you.

And hey, God bless you, your wife, and the family, Mr. Clapper. Thank you so much. 54 more years.

CLAPPER: Yes, yes, right. Thanks, Chris. Thanks, Mike.

CUOMO: And Mike, thanks for the heads-up.

ROGERS: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well fellas.

ROGERS: Thanks, Chris. Yes, thanks.

CUOMO: All right, so, Mr. Mueller himself said the evidence points to what The New York Times just reported.

So, the question now is "Well, what can Congress do with this? What is this idea of an abuse of power not for what he did but what he is refusing to do?" I'll lay out the theory for you, next.

Plus, Hillary Clinton's take on what should happen now, post-Mueller. What's her way forward? Ahead.








CUOMO: Abuse of power. Now, many months ago, it seemed likely that this would be the most likely avenue of accountability for this President by this Congress. Not a crime, but certainly something that Congress could advance as a theory.

The latest reporting that the President's Chief of Staff didn't even want Russian election interference discussed reportedly saying it "Wasn't a great subject, and should be kept below his level," his, meaning the President, raises a question. Why would POTUS want to avoid protecting our elections? What if the reason is because he put his political interest before even national security?

Now, that's not conjecture. That was the partial conclusion of Bob Mueller who said POTUS feared "Continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his election."

And that's why POTUS tried as often as he did to hinder the probe as a simple matter of fact. Why would POTUS say this?



I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election.

I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC.

It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?


CUOMO: You know who agrees with him? Nobody. Listen to his folks.

[21:15:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


DANIEL RAY COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: There clearly is a consensus that Russia has meddled in our election process.

H. R. MCMASTER, FORMER UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The evidence is now really incontrovertible.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.


CUOMO: POTUS' resistance is so stubborn to reality, it actually led to the elimination of the Cyber-security Coordinator at the White House and so much of the Cyber Defense Team furloughed during Trump's shutdown.

Just yesterday, this President sat with the Head of Twitter. You think they would talk about interference and what to do going forward, right, national security threat? No. The conversation focused on the President's number of followers.

All this as the latest Worldwide Threat Assessment warns in 2020 "Russia's social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities, and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians."

This goes to the heart of the Commander-in-Chief's responsibility, and the use of the power we gave him. Donald J. Trump stood on the steps of Congress, put his hand on two Bibles, and swore an oath.


TRUMP: And will to the best of my ability--


TRUMP: --preserve, protect, and defend--

ROBERTS: --the Constitution of the United States.

TRUMP: --the Constitution of the United States.


CUOMO: Now a question worthy of Congressional concern, is this President putting personal ambition ahead of that promise, in other words, an abuse of his power, not only by trying to hinder efforts during the probe, but by refusing to do what he can to protect against more interference.

Congress could make this a very big deal.

Now, you know who has suggestions on what Congress should do here? How they should move forward? Hillary Clinton. Right message? Right messenger?

Starting point for a Great Debate, next.








CUOMO: Hillary Clinton is offering advice to her fellow Democrats at a time when they are all across the spectrum on whether to impeach President Trump. In a new opinion piece for The Washington Post, she writes in part

"Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now. Watergate offers a better precedent."

'98 was, of course, when Congress impeached President Bill Clinton. The current President however has a different idea. Let's fight any process at all.


TRUMP: We're fighting all the subpoenas. Look, these aren't like impartial people.

The only way they can luck out is by constantly going after me on nonsense.


CUOMO: All right, let's get some perspective from two very smart show favorites, Van Jones, Ken Cuccinelli.




CUOMO: Van Jones, Hillary Clinton, right message, right messenger?

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE REDEMPTION PROJECT WITH VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey listen, I, like a lot of people when I heard Hillary Clinton was writing something, I'm like "Do we really want to hear from her right now?"

Then I read the piece. I'm like "I'm actually glad we're hearing from her right now."

She actually - you know, listen, she's taken her punches. She actually is somebody, she was there for Watergate, she was there for the Bill Clinton things, she was there for 9/11, and she's got a roadmap for Democrats.

I think we need the leadership. And I actually - I was - I was prepared to say, "Hey listen. Take a seat." I'm actually glad she's taking a stand.

CUOMO: What do you think, Ken? Right path?

KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SENATE CONSERVATIVES FUND PRESIDENT: Yes, you know, I guess it's more a question for Democrats. There are a lot of people who won't listen because it's Hillary. But I will say when she started out her piece by questioning herself, whether she was the right messenger, I don't think so. I think she becomes the story. And her suggestions to the Democrats get lost in the wash because anytime you have someone like her step in here, it looks like sore loserism.

And I'm sorry that's--

CUOMO: All right, so let's take - let's - let's--

CUCCINELLI: --just the way it is.

CUOMO: No, you don't have to be sorry. That's fair point. Let's take up the message. "Do the Watergate model. Don't have an up-or-down vote right now."


CUOMO: "Mr. Mueller clearly left his work unfinished. Take it up, look through it, and see if there's in - a case for - case for abuse of power, and an impeachment."

JONES: Look, well, as first of all, I think - I've heard a lot of people say that. I haven't heard anybody defend it the way that she did.

She says, "Listen, in the Watergate hearings, not only were they able to do the investigations, build the case, educate the public, actually learn some stuff, they also passed substantive legislation."

They passed real bill, War Powers Act, and other stuff. So, the idea that you can't get yourself on a pathway to possible impeachment at the same time you fulfill your campaign promises, she blows that out of the water.

I think that's a very important - there's been a false debate, not just impeachment, no impeachment, but impeachment or get something done.

So, she points out you can get something done, and I think that's very helpful is I think the Democrats right now need some leadership, need some clarity, need some gravitas.

Certainly for other people on the other side of the aisle, they may roll their eyes at Hillary Clinton. I think she proved today why she was, you know, got the nomination, why she's been a public figure for so long, she - she had a substantive case to make. I hope people listen to it.

CUOMO: All right, but let's look at how it worked going forward. You can't have hearings if nobody's going to show up, Ken. What do you think of this strategy of, you know, using Executive privilege to fight all the subpoenas?

You know, if we're going to look back to '98, there's a lesson in that too. Clinton tried that. He tried to Executive privilege his way out of all those subpoenas--


CUOMO: --during the impeachment, didn't work, probably won't work this time, especially with Don McGahn. He effectively waived any privilege he had when he went and talked to Mueller. What do you think of the President's strategy?

CUCCINELLI: Well I think that with the - it's a two parts. One, because they claim no Executive privilege with respect to the Mueller report, as a political matter, they're in a pretty good place.

I mean we all know you've played several clips with the President with his witch-hunt language about the Mueller investigation and so forth. Everybody knows how he felt about it while it was going on.

And yet, they didn't get in the way. There were no denied requests of--

CUOMO: Except to sit down and interview the President.

CUCCINELLI: --anybody working in the White House to talk to Mueller.

CUOMO: Except the White House--

CUCCINELLI: Right, of course we--

CUOMO: --except the President.

CUCCINELLI: --we now have his written--

CUOMO: The most important one.

CUCCINELLI: --we have his written responses which is - which is interestingly--

CUOMO: Found inadequate by the Special Counsel.

CUCCINELLI: Hey look, Chris, I'll tell you what. You let me know when you want me to talk.

CUOMO: Well, no. I'm just kind of adding a little inflection points as you go along, but go ahead.

CUCCINELLI: Oh, that's very helpful of you.

[21:25:00] You know, the President, of course, was never going to be going over to Congress to testify either. And surely, you cannot suggest that it was a bad idea on the President's part to not sit down, absent compulsion with the Special Counsel. That would have been foolish.

And as I read the Mueller report, they said they obviously wanted to talk to him. But as the rest - as the rest of their investigation panned out, they got the information they needed, and it wasn't - didn't turn out to be necessary.

As it relates to Congress, going forward, I think the President is in a pretty good position because they didn't claim Executive privilege in the Mueller investigation to now say to Congress, "Look, we - we - you had everybody available to you," well Mueller had everybody available to him, "You have a 450 page report here with appendices etcetera, etcetera," and there'll be more later as various matters like the Roger Stone matter wrap up, more information will be more public later that that they're in a good position to defend, and say, "Look, this is partisan now."

JONES: I - I--

CUCCINELLI: That was not as partisan--

CUOMO: All right.

CUCCINELLI: I don't think the President will ever concede it wasn't partisan but--

CUOMO: All right.

CUCCINELLI: --but certainly comparatively he will. And I think he's in a pretty good position--

CUOMO: All right.

CUCCINELLI: --to defend with that.

CUOMO: All right, so Van, what do you think about him thinking it's a good position?

JONES: Well, look, I - I see it very differently. I mean probably, no surprise to - to Ken.

I mean the way that I look at this is, you know, Congress has its independent role, the Department of Justice and the Special, you know, Prosecutor they have their responsibilities, they have their duties, and they fulfilled them as best we can tell.

But Congress has an independent role. And it has not yet had a chance to weigh in fully because it was giving its due deference to the Special Prosecutor, but that's all for now. And there are still unanswered questions.

And, by the way, you know, you look at the poll - the polling data, there are an - unanswered questions by the majority of American people.

These people still don't understand what happened, what went on, why does the President behave the way that he does toward Russia, are we going to be protected, are we safe?

We are under an attack from a foreign power as we sit here talking, and they're attacking us through our phones, which are now, you know, weapons of mass distraction in everybody's back pocket, and nothing is being done, and nobody understands why.

And so-- CUOMO: People say they don't understand why. But they also say that they don't see impeachment as high on their list or--

JONES: Well so--

CUOMO: --this probe or its findings as high on their motivations to vote.

JONES: That is why Hillary--

CUOMO: So, how do you balance the negligence (ph)?


JONES: Well that's why Hillary Clinton's intervention today, I thought, was so useful because she says it's not a - it's not an either/or choice on impeachment now or never, and it's not an either/or choice on impeachment or get something done.

And I'll tell you, people may want, you know, not to discuss Hillary Clinton. I'm going to tell you what. She proved today why she's been on the world stage for decades now. She saw a way through, and she put it forward.

And I hope people read the actual - read the piece before you dismiss it.

CUOMO: All right, quick pivot point, Ken.


CUOMO: And you - or you want to have a point? Go ahead.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, quick disagreement--

CUOMO: Then I want to ask you something. Go ahead.

CUCCINELLI: --with both of you all.

So, one of the quieter things that got done before the last election, it just didn't get much coverage, on a bipartisan basis, was the elevation of the civilian protection against cyber-attacks, and so forth within the Department of Homeland Security to agency level.

So, it's on the equivalent now--

CUOMO: True. True.

CUCCINELLI: --with the Coast Guard and the Border Patrol and so forth--

CUOMO: True.

CUCCINELLI: --that that was done on a bipartisan basis.

CUOMO: True. CUCCINELLI: This President signed off on that bill to - to elevate the level of importance of that entire effort. And that agency--

CUOMO: All true.

CUCCINELLI: --that agency is what does the work of defending in elections, and what didn't happen in 2016, communicating with States who are actually responsible for executing the elections.

So, you know, the implications earlier in this show, and I disagree with Van's comment that nothing is being done here by this President or this administration is patently wrong.

CUOMO: Well half of that is.

CUCCINELLI: He signed legislation--

CUOMO: Half of that is.

CUCCINELLI: --to elevate the ability to fight back.

CUOMO: Half of that is. There is more that could be done.

CUCCINELLI: Well, he is the President.

CUOMO: He could use the bully pulpit.

CUCCINELLI: He signed the bill.

CUOMO: I know he did. But there's a lot more he could--

CUCCINELLI: He signed the bill, Chris.

JONES: There isn't--

CUOMO: --be done. There's a lot more that could be done. They shouldn't have to be going around him.

CUCCINELLI: OK. But you've been saying he isn't doing things that he's - that he's stopping this work from being done.

JONES: Are you--

CUOMO: Well that's the - that's the report from The Times. Go ahead, Van.

CUCCINELLI: That is - that is untrue to the events (ph).

CUOMO: Go ahead. And then I got something to say, go ahead.

JONES: I'm - I'm just saying, listen, he - he signed a piece of paper. I'm - I'm glad that he did. But the reality is the paper doesn't execute itself.

And even - even bureaucrats need leadership, direction, and priority, and that comes from the Commander-in-Chief. And right now, he's been missing in action on the particular fight of protecting his country--

CUOMO: I mean he won't even admit it happened, Ken.

JONES: --from this attack.

CUOMO: I mean that's his problem.

JONES: I mean it's - it's--

CUOMO: But let me ask you something else because we could all chalk this up to a need of a concept called Redemption, which we all believe in. And Van Jones is taking it up, and it's worth a little bit of our time to show a little bit of it, and talk about it.


CUOMO: Can I play sound or should we talk to Van? So, Van--


CUOMO: --there's so much emotion that is conveyed in the clips that I've seen about this.


CUOMO: The Redemption Project means what to you or what should it mean to us?

[21:30:00] JONES: Listen, I think we - we - we have a culture now where it's - there's - there's no grace, there's no redemption, there's no forgiveness. We don't listen to each other. There's no empathy.

It's actually trendy now to be a part of the call-out culture, the cancel culture, I'm going to block you culture, and I just wanted to do something here at CNN, with the support of CNN, to go back a 180 degrees in the other direction, and lean into the need for empathy, and listening.

We talk in this eight-part series to people who've done really bad stuff in the past, who want to make amends, and who sit down face-to- face with the person that they hurt or surviving family members, and we filmed the conversation for the first time, as they try to find their way to healing.

It doesn't always work out warm and fuzzy. Some of these things don't go the way that maybe we had hoped. But some of them wind up in a really, really beautiful place.

It's honest. It's not reality TV. It's no stunt. It's no tricks. Every word is coming from people who are trying to find a way out of hell by having a conversation they never thought they would have.

CUOMO: Sunday 9 o'clock is the first one. Van Jones, good for you for seeking virtue.

JONES: Thanks.

CUOMO: Ken Cuccinelli, always good to have you on the show. All right--

CUCCINELLI: Good to be with you both.

CUOMO: So, he has been Biden his time. But tomorrow is supposed to be the day folks. The front-runner in the 2020 Democratic race is finally entering the race, Joe Biden.

For all the questions that are going to come, the most important one is probably, is Joe Biden the Democrats' best chance to beat this President? Right back with a Dynamite Duo, Jay Carney, and The Axe.








CUOMO: The former VP Joe Biden now just hours away from officially joining the 2020 race, crowded field, lot of Democratic contenders. They've already participated in multiple Town Halls. But none has consistently polled higher than Biden.

What are his chances? What does he mean? What are the limitations? What are the challenges?

Jay Carney was the Vice President's Communications Director before becoming President Obama's Press Secretary. He's here along with fellow Obama White House alum, The Axe, David Axelrod. It's good to have you both.

So, he's getting in tomorrow. Is this the right time, Jay? Why did he wait so long?


I think the conventional wisdom that he should get in earlier that he had to get in early turned out to be useless advice because he's managed to stay out of the race while maintaining his, you know, perch atop the polls.

He's viewed with great affection by a vast majority of Democrats. And he's been able to, you know, watch the field assemble, and make evaluations of the candidates as they've tried to get their own names recognized.

So, I think as long as he's able to hit the ground running and - and demonstrate that he has the support through fundraising and - and the events he does, I think the late start probably works to his advantage.

[21:35:00] CUOMO: So, Axe, he's got the name. What does he have to show in terms of his game?

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN HOST, THE AXE FILES: Well, first of all, I agree with Jay. I think that he benefits from a shorter race, and he waited about as long as he thought he could. And the reason he can't wait any longer is money.

He was on the phone tonight apparently with donors. It was reported that he told them that the first primary is not Iowa and New Hampshire. It's money. And he's absolutely right.

Bernie Sanders raised $10 million in his first day. Beto O'Rourke, $6 million online.

He is not a social media candidate. He is from a different era, and he doesn't have that social media fundraising base, so he's going to have to raise money the old-fashioned way. And he's going to have to raise it quickly to show that he has broad support and the resources too.

And that's the first primary. And that's what he's going to have to do in the next few days.

CUOMO: You know I hate that the money matters so much. But you'd be Pollyannaish and foolish if you didn't think that that is the case. We all say we want money out of the business. Everybody knows that everybody uses it as one of the main metrics at this point.

So Jay, here's his problem though, once you put the money aside. Is Joe the old Democrats, the Obama-Biden Democrats, the new Democrats, what are his challenges in-house?

CARNEY: Well he's Joe Biden. And - and that comes with a lot of, you know, positive, I think, momentum for him.

He's - he's recognized and - and appreciated by Democrats. He's not a divisive figure within the party. He's a serious person with high integrity. He also has enormous empathy.

I think - I think Van was talking about earlier in - in your - in your show about the empathy deficit we're seeing in - in our country. And - and Joe Biden has empathy that is borne out of his own personal experience.

There are very few people I know who have suffered in life as much as he has. And yet, he wakes up every morning, thinking about other people, thinking about how to make their lives better and, you know, with great concern for the, you know, the fate of people who have less than he does. And that's what you want in a leader. And I - I think those - those advantages outweigh issues around generation. After all, he's not even the oldest Democrat in the race. So, I think that he'll be fine on those issues.

CUOMO: Well he's not going to be in a hug-it-out race though if he gets the nomination.


CUOMO: President Trump acts--

CARNEY: He's plenty tough too.

CUOMO: Well yes, I know. Look--


CUOMO: --I'm not doubting his bona fide he's - as - as a tough guy. But it's how will you campaign and how will you deal with somebody who's a very unorthodox fighter, you know?

What do you think, Axe?

AXELROD: I think it's - before he gets to - his - his issue is before he gets to run against President Trump, he has to become the nominee of the party.

CUOMO: True.

AXELROD: And some of the very qualities that make him appealing as a candidate against Trump can work against him in the primary that - that he has a great appeal to - to older working-class White voters, particularly in those Midwestern industrial states that Trump must have in order to win the Presidency.

And in that respect, and for the reasons that Jay suggested, he is potentially the strongest general election candidate.

But there is - Jay - Jay was polite about this. 45 years of experience has its value, a track record with people has its value. But 45 years also is a problem in the sense that he's got 45 years of record, 45 years of comments, some of which we've seen already.

And he is not necessarily the candidate in best step with the contemporary Democratic Party, which is younger and more diverse. He's going to have to fight for this nomination. It is not going to come to him simply because people think he might be the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.

CUOMO: You know, Jay, people are starting to nip at Mayor Pete Buttigieg because it's time to see if he can put some meat on the bones of his obvious intellect and, you know, what are his policy ideas.

With Biden, I kind of see it in the obverse or at least the reverse, which is people know that he can do the job. People know that he's been at the highest levels of it. He can talk the talk.

On a personal level, what can Joe Biden introduce to people that they wouldn't know about him already?

CARNEY: I think that is a challenge. The - the - the upside, as I mentioned before, is that what they know about him, they generally like about him. But what - we are in a party especially that loves, you know, the new thing and--

CUOMO: The new.

CARNEY: --and the idea of a fresh face. And that will - will be a challenge.

I think if he - if he focused - if he - if he resists the urge to be a policy wonk, which he, in many ways, he is, he's - he's - he's very focused on and deeply in - in policy substance and foreign affairs, and aspects of economic policy, and he - and he engages instead with, you know, individuals on the campaign trail, and shows his human side when he's doing Town Hall - Halls and things, I think - I think he'll - he'll make up some of that gap, and - and just show, I think, in contrast to other candidates, and just in - in terms of revealing of himself, you know, what kind of President he would be.

[21:40:00] I think he has an opportunity here to reintroduce himself, not as a second-tier Presidential candidate, which he basically was, in the other races he ran, and not as a Vice President, but as Joe Biden, the Potential President.

CUOMO: Axe, any insight into what may be his gimmick or device in the video tomorrow that announces?

AXELROD: You know, I think he's going to hit many of the qualities that Jay speaks of, and he's going to talk about fundamental American values and virtues, and it is going to be in implicit contrast--

CUOMO: How? Sleeves rolled up? Is he sitting down? Is he fit - changing his oil on - on his muscle car? What's he doing?

AXELROD: I don't think changing his oil at this point would necessarily be the most authentic thing for a former Vice President to do. But I think he'll do what he's done before and draw - draw on his own story, and draw on the stories of others.

But let me say this. Joe - Joe Biden has to run as who he is with all of the strengths that come with it, and all of the weaknesses. He is utterly authentic. That's one of the people - things that people appreciate about him.

But he also is, because of that, sometimes gaffe-prone, sometimes he has made political stumbles. Remember, he hasn't gotten out of Iowa in his previous--

CUOMO: True.

AXELROD: --Presidential ventures. He's never really flown very far on his own. So, this is a - a challenge for him.

And to have the kind of discipline that he - that he hasn't had in past campaigns, and the organizational depth that he hasn't had in past campaigns is going to be very necessary here for him to pull something off at, let's face it, at the age of 76, when people don't generally change.

So, this is not going to be a walk in the park for Joe Biden. He has enormous strengths. But he's going to be challenged. He's not going to get a pass. It's not going to be an easy road to the nomination.

CARNEY: I agree with.

CUOMO: It'll be the fight of his life. Jay?

CARNEY: I agree - I agree with all of that.

I mean I think even - even as a putative front-runner, you know, no candidate stands within the Democratic field more than maybe a 20 percent chance of winning right now.

And so, I think the Vice President's will have to fight for it, and he has to accept the fact that he might not win, but he's got to give everything he can to it.

CUOMO: And that's going to be the voice in the back of his head, of his dear departed son who we all knew and loved, Beau Biden saying, "It's not about whether you win. You've got to fight Pop. You've got to get in and fight." And that's what he says he's going to do tomorrow.

Jay, Axe, thank you very much. Let's see how it goes. Appreciate it.

The President thinks he has a get-out-of-impeachment card. Is he exposing a weakness in the process or exposing his own ignorance? The answer, and the man, D. Lemon, next.








CUOMO: The highest elected official in the land, the man who has proclaimed he is already one of the best Presidents ever, held forth today on his righteous way forward if Congress tries to impeach.

"If the partisan Dems ever tried to impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court." Strong, but it is just noise, like many of his threats.

As Reagan-appointed Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in a majority opinion in 1993 holding that impeachment cannot be reviewed by the courts. He wrote that kicking any such question to SCOTUS would create "months, or perhaps years, of chaos during judicial review of Senate impeachment proceedings."

Now, maybe that's what the President wants.

And if he wants to be a strict constitutionalist, we can there go to Article I, Section 3, which states very plainly, "The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments." There is no judicial review.

D. Lemon, this President and his peeps seem to struggle with the meaning of the word "Shall." They seem to think it means "Should," like when it's "Shall give over the taxes and Congress shall impeach," they hear something conditional.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: Yes. Well they struggle with a lot of the meaning of a lot of words like truth and reality and facts and all of that.

But yes, I - I don't think - I am surprised that the President of the United States, and maybe I shouldn't be, would say something that's so ignorant, and exposing that he doesn't really know how the levers of this government work - works.

And I'm just I'm shocked by it. I'm going to go to the Supreme Court so to defy the Constitution, to say that Congress doesn't have oversight. Well they do. It's all there in the Constitution. It's--

CUOMO: It's also a reflection that he doesn't have anybody around him who either feels the ability or is trusted enough to tell him.

LEMON: Or who's not afraid.

CUOMO: Don't say that to sound dopey.

LEMON: Who's not afraid to tell him the truth. And wait - that's what you're supposed to.

When you have advisers, you pick the, you know, all the best people, you're supposed to have people around you who are not afraid to tell you when you're wrong, and to say, "Hey, listen, maybe you shouldn't say that, or maybe you shouldn't act that way."

But it's just shocking to me because, you know - that he's not complying. He's telling people not to comply with subpoenas. And I just want people to go back and do a fact-check on the subpoenas that happened during Benghazi, all of the subpoenas that were sent to Democrats.

I just wonder if Democrats had said "I'm not going to comply," if Hillary Clinton had said, "I'm not going to comply," I wonder how Republicans would have reacted back then. I don't think it would have been the same way that they are doing now, which is utter and complete silence.

CUOMO: Agreed. Change the names, same game.


CUOMO: All right, bud, I'll--

LEMON: I - I got to tell you. I've got--

CUOMO: Please.

LEMON: Because I want - I want people to watch. There is - well, first of all, we've got Mark McKinnon on. You know, he knows everything about politics, right?

CUOMO: Strong.

LEMON: And we also have the former Governor of one of the most important states when it comes to a Presidential election.

And this Governor says - former Governor says that Joe Biden jumping in the race could take a big chunk out of Trump's voters. That state is Pennsylvania, the Honorable Ed Rendell.

CUOMO: Oh, Ed Rendell, great guest.


CUOMO: I'll watch. Later, bud.

LEMON: See you.

[21:50:00] CUOMO: All right, question, when I say "Remember what happened to Congressman Steve King," do you think "Oh, yes, just like Jesus!" He does. A new low in the politics of victimization, and an argument that I hope you will find to be divine, next.








CUOMO: Let us embark on the process of the three As, audio, ay-yai- yai, and an argument.

Our first step, the latest stylings of Congressman Steve King.


REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): And when I had to step down to the floor of the House of Representatives and look up at those 400-and-some accusers, you know, we've just passed through Easter and Christ's Passion, and I have a better insight into what he went through for us, partly because of that experience.


CUOMO: Ay-yai-yai, that's step two. He knows how Jesus felt because of what he went through?

Being removed from committees for a steady flow of bigoted comments helps him relate to the Passion of Jesus, the Christ who gave His life to save people like King after being crucified.

Why is he misusing Christianity? Why the victim complex? Never owning a mistake, always being put upon by the Left, the media, and other imagined foes.

[21:55:00] The reason we must question whether King is right that he can better relate to Jesus is that he doesn't seem to get the difference between Jesus' message and his own.


KING: For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that they weigh a 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they are hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

We could also electrify this - this wire with the kind of current that wouldn't kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.

You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else's babies. You've got to keep your birth rate up, and that you need to teach your children your values. And in doing so, then you can grow your population, and you can strengthen your culture, you can strengthen your way of life.


CUOMO: Can you believe that was only like two years ago? Look, how much I've aged. And this is why. You can't imagine Jesus saying any of that. Odd that Mr. King doesn't get that as a man of professed faith.

Jesus' message, love, love, mercy, blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, not blessed are those who attack the poor and meek. And when it comes to this use of religion as sword and shield, Mr. King's most successful acolyte on us-versus-them politics, this President follows the same script.

You do know this President went out to visit King early on, right, and emerged with a much harsher stand on immigration? And you know even when the whole party called out King finally, this President refused, still has never said a word about him.

He too sees the use of faith as a convenient shield. Remember this?


TRUMP: I'm always audited by the IRS, which I think is very unfair. I don't know maybe because of religion, maybe because of something else, maybe because I'm doing this, although this is just recently.

CUOMO: What do you mean religion?

TRUMP: Well maybe because of the fact that I'm a strong Christian, and I feel strongly about it, and maybe there's a bias. You see what--

CUOMO: You think you being - get audited for being a strong Christian?

TRUMP: Well you see - you see what's happened. I mean you have many religious groups that are complaining about that. They've been complaining about it for a long time.


CUOMO: Being audited for being Christian, this President. Look, we don't even know if he is being audited. And as for being devout, here are his skills on display.


TRUMP: 2 Corinthians, right? 2 Corinthians 3:17, that's the whole ballgame, "Where the Spirit of the Lord," right, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty." And here, there is Liberty College, but Liberty University, but it is so true.


TRUMP: You know, when you think, and that's really is that the one, is that the one you like? I think that's the one you like because I loved it, and it's so representative of what's taking place.


CUOMO: "Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." That's the Psalm. Some translate the last word as Liberty. But the only part he really got right, even though he was reading it off a piece of paper, is the last part.

It is so representative of what has taken place. Religion is being used to pander and divide, by men who have no business representing themselves as arbiters of the same.

The larger problem is this passion for playing the victim. The President has taken this to the highest levels. No matter what it is, it's someone else's fault, Comey, the FBI, the DOJ, the Deep State, the Democrats, the media, his lawyer, never him, always the victim.

But he is no victim, neither is Mr. King, unless you count being a victim of your own mouth and moral plays. Then, they both have a solid case, but only themselves to blame.

No one made Mr. King say bigoted things. No one is compelling this President to practice politics of division and deception. The irony here is that the context for the Psalm this President mangled 2 Corinthians 3, let's take it 15 to 18, very applicable to both men, and to many of us, by the way, certainly to me.

It is only when you turn to God that the veil of sin and ignorance is removed, according to the scripture. Only then are you enhanced by the Spirit and free to reflect the glory of the Lord.

Now, I'm not pushing faith on you. You know I don't do that. This isn't about belief in God, but belief in an ethical and moral imperative. If we are more concerned about saying and doing things that reflect the love of mercy, we will be in a better position.

In other words, don't spread hate and lies, and you won't need to hide, let alone hide behind your faith. In this season of Rebirth and Renewal, maybe our leaders can try to be better. At a minimum, let's hope they stop acting like martyrs. I hope that gets a big Amen!

Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight With D. Lemon starts right now.