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Former VP Joe Biden Announces Run for President; Obama Not Endorsing, Says Race Must Play Out on Its Own; Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D- TX) Discusses Trump's Fights Against Democrat Subpoenas, Mueller Report; Biden: I Asked Obama Not to Endorse Me. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 25, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:13] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks for joining me.

It was rumored, speculated, folks were waiting and told to wait some more, and it's finally official. Former Vice President Joe Biden jumping into the crowded presidential race today, joining 19 other Democrats vying for the nomination. Despite their head start, Biden begins his candidacy with a big lead as the party's front-runner, and he didn't waste a second taking it right to President Trump.


JOE BIDEN, (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen.

The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America is at stake. That's why today I'm announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.


BOLDUAN: And with that, Joe Biden is off to the races with a full- court press rollout of his campaign straight ahead with stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, and a big focus on Pennsylvania early on.

But how is a Biden presidential run in 2019 different than it was the two times before? Let us find out.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Washington. He's joining me now.

Jeff, this announcement video was not a getting to know you, let me announce who Joe Biden is. It got to the point. Very direct. The first word out of his mouth was Charlottesville.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly did. That was by design. Joe Biden at this point believes Democratic voters know who he is. So by sort of shaking the conscience of the Democratic primary campaign, that was the intent, I'm told, of this video. To sort of reframe the race, if you will, to make it bigger, to make the stakes clearer about what this 2020 campaign is all about. Not about specific interparty fights about the Green New Deal or Medicare-for-All. It was about a chance to reframe this conversation. And by doing so, Joe Biden instantly shakes up this Democratic primary field. He instances asserts himself as the grown-up, if you will, in the race who has served in the White House, as a time to sort of change how things have been going. But take a listen to more of this video as he makes that case very strongly against President Trump.


BIDEN: That's when we heard the words of the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation. He said there were, quote, "Some very fine people on both sides." Very fine people on both sides? Those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.


ZELENY: So, Kate, we have seen the very large field of Democratic hopefuls get into this race in very different ways. Many of whom have in fact appeared on late night shows and tried to do lighthearted approaches. Joe Biden doing exactly the opposite. Again, by design, trying to show how serious he believes this time is. This is not certainly a feel-good, uplifting campaign message, but it does sort of frame the stakes here of this debate to come -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Jeff, you have reporting. You heard from President Obama's team following the Biden announcement. What are they telling you?

ZELENY: One of the central questions is, is President Obama going to endorse his former running mate, his partner from eight years in the White House. He's not going to issue an endorsement. He believes this race must play out on its own. But he did issue a statement saying that he supports the idea and still stands behind his decision to select Joe Biden some 11 years ago, calling it one of the best decisions he's ever made. But again, he does believe and says this primary fight has to unfold, and Joe Biden has to win this on his own, which is why, Kate, the word "Obama" was not mentioned once in the video. The only president that was, was Trump, and Biden says he must be defeat defeated.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Jeff. Thank you so much.

ZELENY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Joining me now is CNN political analyst, "New York Times" correspondent, Alex Burns. Van Jones is here, CNN political commentator and host of "THE VAN JONES SHOW." And Scott Mulhauser is a former deputy chief of staff to Joe Biden in the 2012 campaign.

Great to have you guys here. I have a ton of questions. Let us begin with my two pages. Van, as I said to Jeff Zeleny, first word out of Biden's mouth in the

video is Charlottesville. A singular focus, really, that comes out in this reintroduction video. You happy to see that? What do you make of it?

[11:05:11] VAN JONES, CNN POLITIAL COMMENTATOR & HOST, "THE VAN JONES SHOW": Help is on the way. Help is on the way. Joe Biden, we need him. The soul of the country is hurt. Everywhere I go, people on both sides, I work with Democrats and Republicans. People are sick of the toxicity, the fatigue, a distrust. You know, you hit play on your phone or whatever, and there's Uncle Joe, Grandpa Joe Biden talking in a way that I think Americans want to hear. Somebody has got to not just call out Trump but call us up. He's not just calling out Trump. He's calling us up. Help is on the way. I'm on the left wing of our party, proud of it. He has a more moderate track record. We can get into the policy later. The person, the person in Joe Biden is a welcome entry into this race.

BOLDUAN: It's interesting, Alex, because for a lot of the candidates, their announcement video was a, "this is who I am and where I came from and this is kind of what I stand for." And a lot of them are not talking about Donald Trump. Asked about it, they'll say something, but not talking about Donald Trump specifically all the time. Democrats in 2018 won back the House in large part by not just running against Donald Trump but running on ideas. Do you think that Biden sees it different now for this?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he certainly sees that his opening argument can be different. He has a luxury of being universally known, by and large, by Democrats. Seen very, very favorably, even by folks who have some questions about where he stands on policy. And that he feels that he represents a certain set of values and a certain way of being in government that he believes he behaved in the Senate and certainly in the Obama administration, that people like, and they remember that favorably. I think the open question going forward, and really going forward in very short order is how is he going to fill in the blanks beyond that? Because voters know some things about him. They know about the tragedies his family has been through. They see him as having been a really steadfast ally and friend of Barack Obama. They don't necessarily know a whole lot about what his distinctive policy record is or what his distinctive accomplishments were in Congress or what he wants to do for the country beyond defeating Trump. We'll see him out in public and those are the questions he has to answer.

BOLDUAN: Scott, you worked closely with Biden in the 2012 re-elect. There's an additional question, can Joe Biden, with one of the things we know about Joe Biden, as he speaks from the cuff, and he is Joe Biden. Can he run a disciplined campaign? Because he has not shown that necessarily in the past. What would be different this time?

SCOTT MULHAUSER, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN 2012 CAMPAIGN: Well, look, I think you both see him trying to take on some vulnerabilities and also voters want that authenticity. What you hear most from voters is the desire for an authentic candidate and an electable one. He sees what happened in the White House and it's clear he thinks we can do better. It's that candor that connects with voters and I think it's a way to say I hear you, I get you. Let's do this together.

BOLDUAN: And, I mean, the race is at a different place today now, Alex, than it was the day before Joe Biden got in. He was leading in the polls before he was even in the race. I mean, that comes with risk, right? Because you don't -- you have room to go up, but you have a lot of room to go down. They have this singular focus almost on, big focus on Pennsylvania. Why? What does that represent here?

BURNS: The cornerstone of his appeal to a lot of Democrats, beyond -- Scott's absolutely right, this sense of personal authenticity, a real person, Uncle Joe, is the idea he can beat Trump and go to places like Pennsylvania where Democrats didn't lose for a generation until 2016. So that is just fundamental to his case in the primary even before the general election. You know, it does put a lot of pressure on him to look as of today like a really strong general election candidate all the time. There are other people in the race who are polling far behind him who are less well known, where I think Democratic voters will be more willing to say listen, there's a learning curve. I don't know much about this person. They have never run for president before. I would like to find out more. For Joe Biden, a person of his stature, making that commanding case today, I don't know how much room there's to screw up.

BOLDUAN: One thing we heard from Democratic primary voters so far in this race is there's a real appetite, they see as very attractive something, a fresh face, diversity, not necessarily do those two things, Joe Biden represent. How do you see him making that argument that he's run -- he really didn't even get out of Iowa the last two times he's run. How is he the guy for this moment now?

JONES: I think that there's a split in everybody's thinking about this. On the one hand, people say listen, Trump was authentically whatever Trump is. We should go authentically our way. We can find a left-handed lesbian of color, let's just go all out and screw it, and I think that's a real powerful thing. I also know, though, that when you talk to Republicans, there's only one candidate they're scared of, and it's Joe Biden. Because where we lost this thing, we lost by 70,000 votes total in three states. Out of, whatever, 110 million votes, it was three states combined, 70,000. Who can go and get the 70,000 votes in the industrial Midwest? Joe Biden can. At the end of the day, the party has to make a decision, and we'll see how it goes out. But the person who can go and get those votes back is Joe Biden.

[11:10:51] BOLDUAN: Scott, what do you make of the Obama factor? We heard Jeff Zeleny talking about Obama's response to this, his kind of positioning here. He's excited about the diversity of the field. He thinks a robust primary made him when he was running a better candidate and better president. While he loves Joe Biden, he's not likely to be endorsing anyone anytime soon. Does it surprise you?

MULHAUSER: I think it shows both that they have a genuine and sincere friendship that was great for both of them and great for the country, but also shows that Joe Biden has to win this race on his own with the allies, with the folks who fight for him. BOLDUAN: I guess everyone would probably want that.


MULHAUSER: We, as a party, do better when it's not a coronation, when it's a fight. I think that watching this fight for our values and who we are as a party and as a country matters. I think his fight for opportunity for all is something he's happy to lay against any other candidate and me can take that to them and to President Trump.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

JONES: I was just saying, people talk about Hillary Clinton having had a coronation. The establishment certainly liked her, but Obama did not endorse her.

BOLDUAN: They fought that throughout that election, right?

JONES: Exactly. But Obama, it was pretty clear he had great affection for Hillary Clinton, he didn't endorse her early and I don't think he's going to endorse Biden early and it's healthier that he does not.

BURNS: One thing Obama did do for Hillary Clinton was discourage other candidates from getting into the race, candidates like Joe Biden.


BURNS: That's a stark contrast where he has met privately with over a dozen people and told them all, you should run, a contest of ideas is a good thing. If I were Joe Biden, I don't know how I would feel about that, but a nice statement from his spokeswoman this morning.

BOLDUAN: Certainly was.

Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.

JONES: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Trump says he's fighting all of the subpoenas coming from Congress. For now, it appears to be working. What can Democrats do?

Plus, a big bank with connections to President Trump and Russia is in the spotlight, and now that bank is responding to a subpoena from New York's attorney general. What will the A.G. find?

Stay with us.


BOLDUAN: We're going to go -- let's listen in right now. Joe Biden speaking to reporters.

BIDEN: That will be for the Democrats to decide. Thanks. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think about the Mueller report?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should they impeach?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you, Joe Biden.



[11:15:06] BOLDUAN: All right, so what we're seeing right there was Joe Biden, he's at a train station. I think I just saw probably the train station in Wilmington, Delaware. Joe Biden is known for his love of Amtrak.

Let me go to Arlette Saenz. She's been in Wilmington to hopefully -- I don't think we have her yet, but when we get to her, we'll bring her in. Maybe we can get a little more window into what Joe Biden told reporters. That's the first time we have seen him other than the announcement video this morning he officially announced his candidacy for president. We'll see what he had to say.

Moving on, though, is this one promise that Donald Trump is sure to keep? The promise to fight every subpoena coming his way from the House of Representatives. So far, that does seem to be the case. This week alone, defying a subpoena to depose a former White House official on security clearance process there. Pledging to fight the subpoena to get former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to testify, and stopping a DOJ, Justice Department officials from testifying about a question having to do with citizenship that ended up on the census. If that's the White House's play, what's the next move for House Democrats in charge there?

Joining me is Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett, of Texas. He sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is trying to get the IRS and Treasury Department to turn over years of President Trump's taxes returns.

Congressman, thank you for coming in.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: The Treasury secretary -- let's talk about what your committee is trying to get done here. To get Donald Trump's tax returns turned over. The Treasury secretary has now blown through two deadlines. He says that he's going to respond by May 6th. Do you want the committee to wait until then to take next steps or do you think you all should make your next move now?

DOGGETT: Well, I hope the committee will act very soon. It took a long time to make this request. Wasn't made until this month. It's clear that Mr. Mnuchin has had time to consider this since last fall. He doesn't need any more legal advice. It's just a question of how many more excuses he can make. You know --


BOLDUAN: Do you wait until May 6th or want Chairman Neal to move before then?

DOGGETT: Well, I'll entrust that decision to Chairman Neal, but I would encourage him to act promptly. We have passed the time where we can say kumbaya and hope Republicans will do right. With the exception of Mitt Romney, I have yet to hear a single Republican even recognize the horrible conduct of the president reflected in the Mueller report.

BOLDUAN: Now, I have heard some top Democrats, like Jerry Nadler of Judiciary, say if the administration continues to stonewall when it comes to handing over information and responding to subpoenas, basically what you're all asking for, then they could move towards punishment that hasn't really been seen in basically forever. Jailing officials who defy subpoenas, imposing fines until they comply. Not necessarily going to happen immediately, but it's on the table, is basically how Jerry Nadler has said. Would you support that if it gets to that?

DOGGETT: Chairman Nadler is absolutely right. Congress has an inherent contempt power. While we don't want to use that power, we see a president who has shown great affinity for law walls now in the process of constructing something much broader and stronger than anything contemplated for the Rio Grande River. That's a wall to destroy the systems of checks and balances that our founders recognized was so essential to democracy. You know, he recently had the tyrant from Egypt there to celebrate his accomplishments. He had the tyrant from the Philippines. He admires these strongmen from afar, the love affair with the head of North Korea. I'm not saying he would use the same tactics, but he prefers a government in which the Judiciary is there to act only on his behalf, that those of us who speak out against him are guilty of treason for not clapping enough when he speaks, that all of our freedom of the press is to be reduced to fake news unless it supports the president. All of this weakening of the systems of the institutions that are so important to our government. And now he thinks he can just pick and choose which laws to follow and can ignore the separate power that Congress has. We need to move forward vigorously now and recognize what we're dealing with. And that is a president who is unhinged, out of control, surrounded by a sleazy group of people who have no regard for democracy or for telling the truth.

BOLDUAN: But, Congressman, to my question, would you support a move like that? Yes, it is possible for Democrats to do it --


BOLDUAN: -- but would you support fining and jailing folks who don't comply with subpoenas?

[11:20:02] DOGGETT: I don't believe any of them are above the law. If they will not comply with a valid subpoena, then yes, we need to take that kind of action that is within our inherent power of Congress. And not just direct it toward the president. That needs to be directed toward the individuals who violate their responsibilities, who ignore the law. And so I'm in favor of taking action against them if they're not there to testify when subpoenaed, if they don't produce the documents that they're required to provide. That is the responsibility of Congress, to exercise the system of checks and balances. I understand this comes as a big surprise to this administration. Because for the first two years, they have had only overlook, no oversight. Now, they have to deal with a body that has the same powers as the executive in terms of its stature in our government. And they have to respond and comply with the law, not just pick and choose what they want to comply with.

BOLDUAN: The other side of this is that taking the administration to court, of course, to get at the information you want, to get the tax returns, to get information from his accounting firm, to get the information or get the testimony over security clearance, just to name a few because there's a lot of information that various committees are asking for in the House. If you go to court over all of this, though, I do wonder, are you afraid that that diverts precious time and resources away from pushing forward the Democratic agenda that you all won back the House talking about in 2018?

DOGGETT: Well, first, let me say that there was a time you would expect that the courts would respond and the Justice Department would fulfill its responsibilities. Unfortunately, Attorney General Barr has viewed himself essentially as the president's personal attorney, and there's no confidence that the Justice Department will fulfill its responsibilities to enforce a subpoena from the Congress, and that's why our inherent power is so important. Yes, I have been very involved in seeking a solution to prescription price gouging that's occurring to hurt families all over this country, and I would like to see some coming together, to have Candidate Trump -- or President Trump act like Candidate Trump on this serious problem. Our infrastructure problems and our deteriorating transportation system. It would be great to do that. None of those are more important than preserving our democracy. And we need accountability from this administration.


DOGGETT: The disclosures of the Mueller report are very alarming.

BOLDUAN: You think, Congressman, that right now these efforts that we have been talking about right now, these take precedent over other items on the agenda.

DOGGETT: Absolutely. There's no item more important than preserving our democracy from the attack, the continued assaults of Donald Trump through his lies, through his total avoidance of any accountability. I think we can do more than one thing at the same time. I'm in favor of our moving forward and trying to respond to the agenda of the American people. But just getting some bipartisan agreement on a minor aspect of that as an alternative to preserving our democracy, the two are not even in same category.

BOLDUAN: Congressman Lloyd Doggett, thank you for coming in. I appreciate your time.

DOGGETT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So we're going to go from here back over to talking about Vice President Joe Biden, the former vice president, getting back into, jumping into the presidential race officially.

Arlette Saenz is in Wilmington, Delaware, at the train station where we saw Joe Biden jump off the train.

Arlette, we couldn't hear from the top of the tape exactly what Biden said. What did he tell reporters?

ARLETTTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, this was the first time we're seeing Joe Biden out in public since he officially declared his candidacy. He was asked about the fact that President Obama did not endorse him in any type of statement this morning. And I also asked him specifically why is he the best choice for Democrats? Take a listen to what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If you are the best choice for the Democrats in 2020, why didn't President Obama endorse you?

BIDEN: I asked President Obama not to endorse, and he doesn't want to -- we should, whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.

Guys, welcome to Delaware.

SAENZ: What is your message? You made this about the debate about President Trump, but you're going to have to get through the Democratic primary first. Why are you the best choice for Democrats?

BIDEN: That will be for the Democrats to decide. Thanks.


SAENZ: So clearly, Biden is going to be laying out his plan soon, so Democratic voters can decide if he's their candidate to take on President Trump in the general election.

Later today, Biden will be heading to Philadelphia for a fund-raiser, and neck week, he's going to hit the campaign trail, taking that message directly to voters with an event in Pittsburgh followed by a tour of the early voting states before he ends his entire campaign rollout, you can say, in Philadelphia on May 18th. His campaign is pointing out that's the birthplace of democracy and it's going to be a point for Biden to try to unite the country -- Kate?

[11:25:16] BOLDUAN: And only appropriate for the first time that he's seeing reporters and being seen on camera as he's announced his candidacy to be seen in a train station. That's only appropriate for Joe Biden.

SAENZ: And this train station is also named after Joe Biden. I'll point that out.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. Amtrak's favorite passenger.

Arlette, thank you so much. Great job getting to him. Really appreciate it.

Let me get back over to Jeff Zeleny. Let me bring Jeff back in.

Jeff, it's very interesting because we left off our conversation earlier talking about what you have heard from folks around President Obama about his process, what he's thinking about the race, and whether or not he would be endorsing. And Joe Biden just saying he asked President Obama not to endorse.

ZELENY: Kate, that's right. And really, it was a mutually agreed upon decision, I'm told. The reality is both of these men have been around politics a long time. And they know that, a, an endorsement wouldn't necessarily work. Almost certainly wouldn't work in a Democratic field like this. They both came to the realization, as the former vice president said there, that he has to win this on his own.

Now, the question is, what happens later. I noticed a bit of wiggle room this morning in the statement provided by the Obama office. I'm not going to release or have an endorsement at this time or even in the coming month but did not rule out endorsing at the end of this. That's something to watch here. We'll see how this plays out.

We know this field will shrink at some point, and at that point, it will be a tough decision, potentially, for Barack Obama, if he's going to try to tip the scales as this lingers on. Don't forget, in the 2008 primary, that went on until June, that fight with Clinton and Obama. If it would become a situation like that, he might weigh in. But look, it was not an expected endorsement and Biden was saying he didn't ask for it.

One thing I also thought was notable, the fact that he did not mention Barack Obama at all in his video this morning, because it goes without saying, when you see Biden, you think of Obama.

BOLDUAN: But also, I also found it interesting, to Arlette's question, when she said, why are you the best candidate, why are you the best choice for Democrats? He didn't -- at least he wasn't ready to give his elevator pitch. What he was ready to say was I'm going to leave it up to Democrats. I thought that was interesting.

ZELENY: It was interesting. Look, I think his answer will be, you know, watch the video this morning, and he has the stature for that. But that's a question that he's going to have to answer. So Kate, really the campaign started right in that minute with Arlette and the other reporters with Joe Biden at the train station.

BOLDUAN: Good point.

ZELENY: He'll be doing thousands of those events. A scripted campaign video is the easy part. Joe Biden, you covered him on Capitol Hill, at the White House, as a Vice. He often likes to talk off script. Kate, this race is now fully engaged and a fascinating one. No one knows how it will turn out.

BOLDUAN: And those off-the-cuff, in between train car moments, those conversations are just as important or more than any scripted anything that's going to be put out, a scripted speech or anything.

ZELENY: That's right.

BOLDUAN: You're absolutely right. Perhaps more. That's exactly right, that that was the first big campaign moment right there for Joe Biden with Arlette Saenz.

Good to see you, Jeff. Thanks, buddy.

ZELENY: OK, Kate, thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us still, it's one subpoena President Trump apparently cannot ignore. One of Trump's biggest lenders is starting to turn over his financial records to New York's attorney general. Details on that next.