Return to Transcripts main page
Joe Biden Announces Candidacy; Councilman Wes Bellamy (D-VA) Interviewed Regarding Joe Biden's Use of Charlottesville In Presidential Bid Video; White House Subpoena Battle With House Democrats Who Want McGahn To Testify. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired April 25, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me. It is the largest Democratic presidential field in history. And today, the man who is been a senator, a Vice President and a big fan of aviators, is joining the race, Joe Biden, making it clear he is focusing on one thing, beating Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), 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 are standing in the world, our very democracy. Everything that has made America, America is at stake. That's why today I'm announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: And with that, the former Vice President officially entering the fray and immediately catapulted to the top of the pack. And now that that announcement is out of the way, Biden is poised to hit the campaign trail hard. We've got a preview of that moments ago in Delaware where Biden stopped by a pizzeria in the state he represented in the Senate for 36 years.
Tonight, Biden attends a Philadelphia fundraiser ahead of his first official campaign event Monday in Pittsburgh. That will be followed up by swings through Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and California and that's just in the next couple of weeks. As for the man Biden would like to replace, President Trump had this message for the opponent who he now refers to as Sleepy Joe, quote, "I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign. It will be nasty. You will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick and demented ideas. But if you make it, I will see what the starting gate."
Start with Dana Bash, our CNN chief political correspondent there in Washington and Dana, I mean, when you watch Biden's launch video, it is clearly lighter on policy but quite heavy on Donald Trump. Do you think that's a smart idea?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, look, it was unclear exactly which direction he was going to come because he could have come out in a lot of different directions. But the fact that he made this, he hopes, a choice. And a reminder that this is a choice between the Democrat and Donald Trump was and is going to be the whole ballgame.
Of course, this is going to be a battle of ideas among Democrats. But what he has that no other, none of the other 19 candidates here have is the experience in the White House as the Vice President of the United States. What he has is the ability to kind of take it up to 10,000 feet, that either the other candidates don't want to do, because they like the nitty-gritty, that's their calling card or because they don't have the experience, and frankly, the gravitas to do that, and Joe Biden does.
So the fact that they decided to the idea of doing a video as the scrappy kid from Scranton and more biographical, and more about, you know, "I want to return America to normalcy" is very, very telling. And it did automatically as we knew it would, automatically mix things up because he is the biggest of the big dogs at this point.
BALDWIN: You talk about experience, how about experience in fundraising? I mean, the money race is going to be huge test. Politico is reporting today that in this fundraising call that happened yesterday that Biden told donors, I'm quoting him, "We're going to be judged by what we can do in the first 24 hours the first week." You know, tonight, we know he is attending this event hosted by a Comcast executive. And the guest list includes establishment Democrats, freshmen lawmakers, it's quite a contrast Dana to what we saw with Senator Sanders, Senator Warren and others who are shunning the big money, right, in favor of those small donors. Do you think Joe Biden is hoping to just blow everyone out of the water?
BASH: Yes, he is. But the fact that you brought up so smartly, Brooke, the notion not just of the fact that he knows he has to raise money to look viable, but where he is raising the money from is just one example of how he is kicking it old school.
I mean, he is doing it the much more traditional way, and the way that a lot of progressive Democrats, a lot of grassroots Democrats, say we don't want to do that anymore. We want to have the power of the people, small dollar donors, forget about, you know, big corporations, big CEOs, the man as they like to see it, and as they do see it, and that is just an early and very vivid example of a very big generational and strategic difference between Joe Biden and so many of the others.
And, you know, I say generational, obviously, he's about the same age as Bernie Sanders, but Bernie Sanders, oddly, you know, kind of approaches this from the younger generation's perspective in terms of you know, kind of the new way of raising money.
[14:05:13] BALDWIN: Kicking it old school. So says Dana Bash. Dana, thank you so much.
BASH: That's the official term -- political term. BALDWIN: I love it. I'm in. I'm in. Thank you so much. You know,
there is another part though of Joe Biden's video that stands out. When you watch this whole thing, it's his sharp criticism of President Trump's response to the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 the station was unlike any I'd ever seen in my lifetime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's go to a man who knows Charlottesville well, Wes Bellamy is a former Vice Mayor of Charlottesville. So Wes, welcome back. Thanks for coming on.
WES BELLAMY (D-VA), COUNCILMAN: Thank you so much for having me.
BALDWIN: So this morning, you tweeted that it was your word "bold," that the former Vice President made your city really a central piece of his presidential rollout. Bold, yes. Do you think it was appropriate?
BELLAMY: Well, again, thank you for having me. There's mixed feelings on the ground here in Charlottesville. I think there are some people who are concerned that our city is being used simply as a ploy for Vice President Biden to catapult himself into the presidential race. And then there are also a group of people here who I've heard from directly who stated that they were glad that Vice President Biden has decided to take on 45 directly.
He has been very direct in regards to addressing white supremacy in his initial rollout, and personally, I'm proud of that. I am happy that Vice President Biden decided to take this route. I think it was indeed touchy because it's triggering for many here. However, I think it's appropriate, it's necessary.
BALDWIN: We have learned that the mother of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed at that rally that she was not contacted by the Biden team. And in a statement, Susan Bro says, "The Heather Heyer Foundation does not endorse or support any candidate. I am the public face of that and co-founder so I will not participate in endorsing or supporting any candidate in any way. I was not contacted by Joe Biden or anyone from his organization." Do you think Biden should have reached out to her?
BELLAMY: Well, I think you know, this is one of these situations in which Charlottesville has become a hashtag. And I hate that we are known simply for that. But we are known throughout the world in regards to how we have stood up for white supremacy, I think it would have been very difficult for Mr. Biden to contact every single individual who has been hurt or who has had to live through this tragedy.
And not only Susan Bro, who I have a lot of respect for and love for, but also all of the other activists who are here on the ground. So it would have been difficult to talk to everyone. I spoke with senior advisers on his campaign over the weekend, and as well as earlier in the week, there were some concerns and trepidation in our city about him actually kicking off in Charlottesville. And the fact of the matter remains, he was never going to come to Charlottesville.
But I do think that Mr. Biden has to come down to the city. He needs to come and meet and talk with some of the folks. And I think there are a lot of people who are indeed behind them. And I think that the fact that he's willing to take on white supremacy is a good thing for us all. And I'm hoping that all of the candidates can move forward in that direction, white supremacy has to be defeated. And we have to be very bold and strong in how we take it on.
BALDWIN: So I want to -- I've got a follow up for you on that. But just so I'm hearing you correctly, did you talk to Team Biden before they did this rollout? And did you know that they would be doing this?
BELLAMY: Well, I didn't know the specifics of the video, but I did speak with senior advisers over the weekend and I was told --
BALDWIN: You had a heads up.
BELLAMY: Yes, I had a heads up in regards to -- yes, in that sense.
BALDWIN: I got you. I had to cut you. Biden -- he is viewed by many as the best chance to really win back working -- white working class voters who backed Donald Trump, but as the Associated Press is reporting, you know, this issue of race and the ability of the all these white 2020 candidates to discuss it candidly has become central to the campaign and one former Hillary 2016 staffer actually referred to it as a woke litmus test. Wes Bellamy, I don't know if you've heard of this. But you know, just if these candidates are woke, especially the white candidates, and would you agree and do you think just talking about race is good enough?
BELLAMY: No talking about it is not good enough. Us, having these discussions have become very old. In fact, I'm looking for policy measures and initiatives that are going to describe how we are going to defeat white supremacy and specifically from an economic perspective, are we going to look criminal justice reform? Are we going to look at different ways in which we roll back some of the laws and the policies that have been so detrimental to people who look like myself for far too long and I think Mr. Biden is willing to do so.
[14:10:10] BELLAMY: Again, the fact that he was willing to clearly call out 45 and his white supremacist views and his accolades and his praise for those very fine people on both sides. That was pleasing to me and I'm hoping that he has some policies to back it up.
BALDWIN: Wes Bellamy, a pleasure. Thank you, sir.
BELLAMY: Thank you. Thank you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: The Republican who is challenging President Trump just called on him to resign. We will speak with him live. Plus, the President is now denying that he ordered his former counsel to fire Robert Mueller despite the evidence to the contrary why this tweet could backfire on him.
And breaking news today, North Korea presented the U.S. with a $2 million bill for the care of Otto Warmbier. Those stunning details ahead.
[14:15:12] BALDWIN: President Trump insisting today that he never told then White House counsel, Don McGahn to fire the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his tweet coming in at a White House subpoena battle with House Democrats who want McGahn to testify.
But just read the Mueller report, both McGahn and Mueller are not vague about the facts here. McGahn is describing two phone calls from the President. In the first call, Trump tells McGahn, quote, "You've got to do this. You've got to call Rod." In the second call Trump says, "Call Rod. Tell rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel. Mueller has to go. Call me back when you do it."
And from Robert Mueller himself, "In response to that request, McGahn decided to quit because he did not want to participate in events that he described as akin to the Saturday Night Massacre."
CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero is a former counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security. And Carrie, doesn't this just prove that Don McGahn needs to testify now more than ever?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he does, because the American people need to hear what exactly transpired between the President and him. The report lays it out. So McGahn was interviewed by the Special Counsel's Office that would have been under oath, under penalty of perjury, really, to speak with Federal investigators. And so he there's no reason for us to not think that he was truthful.
He said that the President called him and tried to get him to do this -- to fire the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller -- and he also said that he tried to get the Attorney General, Attorney General Sessions to un-recuse himself from the investigation.
So this is what McGahn said. This is what is in the Special Counsel's report. And so Congress needs to follow up and hear from McGahn directly.
BALDWIN: Well, what can Democrats do? I mean, does this just go straight to the court? Can the President just continue to ignore the Legislative Branch? CORDERO: Well, so I think what's happening is, the White House has
decided to adopt a strategy of just stonewalling across the board, so they are not going to comply with requests for former officials to appear or testify. They're not going to comply with requests for subpoenas, or voluntary requests for White House officials to come testify. They're just adopting an across the board challenge.
And so what that does is that puts the burden now on Congress to figure out sort of priorities, what do they want to fight about? Because they can litigate, they can use other mechanisms. For example, you know, putting pauses on legislation and not moving things through the Legislative Branch. So they have different options available to them, but it's a long path for them to be able to use those techniques.
BALDWIN: Got it. Got it. Carrie Cordero, thank you so much.
BALDWIN: The Chief of an Alabama Police Department says he is disgusted. New body cam video here. The arrest left a young woman bleeding from her head and feeling like quote "a piece of garbage." You'll see the video for yourself and see what happened to the officers.
Plus, new developments in the case today against Lori Loughlin and her husband, their latest line of defense and why the government wants to move up the next court appearance.
[14:22:54] BALDWIN: There has been another questionable police arrest that is sparking outrage and demands for officer accountability in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Two officers have been placed on desk duty after they pulled over an unarmed black woman for leaving the scene of an accident.
Police body cam video shows that when they tried to arrest her, there was a scuffle that left this woman bruised and bloodied. So we'll play the video, but just a warning. It is disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell you what, go on and step out. Put your hands behind your back.
JHASMYNN SHEPPARD, VIOLENT ARREST CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Please don't treat me like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hands - put your hands behind your back.
SHEPPARD: Sir, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you serious?
SHEPPARD: Sir. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you lost your freaking mind.
SHEPPARD: Sir, please. Please. Please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She hit me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me your arm. If you bite me, you're going to lose every bone in your [bleep]. You understand me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty one two four, send medical this way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Shut your mouth.
SHEPPARD: I just --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't give a [bleep].
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you're lucky, I didn't put my gun in the back of your noggin' and make you obey. When you grabbed this, when you grabbed this. I could have shot you. Do you understand me? Do you know how stupid you are?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Geez. Nick Valencia is with me with the Police Chief's reactions, the driver's reactions. Nick, we know that the Police Chief says he is disgusted by the video. What else is he saying?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke I've been listening to that video all day long and it doesn't get any easier to listen to. And apparently when the Police Chief first saw the video, he thought that the officers he said acted within the Department's Use of Force Policy and their training, but it was after he saw that video again, and you heard those verbal threats specifically after 22-year-old Jhasmynn Sheppard is already in custody, already on the ground in handcuffs that he took exception with what the officers did in their actions. He called them embarrassing to the Tuscaloosa Police Department and said he is disgusted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN ANDERSON, CHIEF, TUSCALOOSA POLICE: Even after the event is over and Ms. Sheppard is seated on the ground, I had a serious problem with the comments that they were making and the threats that they were making, because we don't teach our officers that; we don't train officers to do those things. And so for me, that caused a lot of anger, a lot of frustration. I was disappointed in the officers. I was disgusted by what I saw, what I heard, and I was embarrassed by it because it does not reflect our core values here at the Tuscaloosa Police Department. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: Brooke, the officers justify their actions by saying that Sheppard grabbed for the baton while they were trying to take her into custody. One of the officer says that he was grabbed by the genitals. Both those officers are currently on desk duty and they're awaiting disciplinary action.
BALDWIN: And the woman has seen the body cam video. What does she say?
VALENCIA: It was yesterday that she saw it for the first time and our national desk spoke to her and she says that she is beyond hurt. She said that she wasn't even treated like a human, but more like an animal. In fact, she said she spent two days in jail without medical treatment and in the soundbite that we're about to play for you. You could actually see that gash on her forehead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPPARD: I was beaten by two police officers. I was unarmed and like I did everything they asked me to do. He's on top of me like my face on the ground, I can't even breathe, and I'm telling him to get up. I can't breathe. So I'm grabbing.
They know what they did was completely uncalled for. And this has to end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: Do you see the gash there on the left side of her head caused because of that scuffle with police. She also has some other minor cuts and bruises. She says that she has yet to hear, as of yesterday from the Tuscaloosa Police Department or the City of Tuscaloosa. No word yet though, Brooke on whether or not she's going to file any legal charges or carry a lawsuit against either of them -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: I know you're on it for us. Stay on it, please, Nick Valencia.
VALENCIA: You've got it. You've got it.
BALDWIN: Thank you so much for sharing that story.
VALENCIA: You bet.
BALDWIN: Just a programming note for you now, join W. Kamau Bell for the much anticipated Season 4 of "United States of America." Kamau shines a light on people creating change and fighting for justice and making a difference. His new season starts Sunday night at 10:00 Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.
It looks like Joe Biden will win support from a powerful union that did not endorse either presidential candidate last go round. The International Association of Firefighters tells me why this time is now different.
Plus, it's not Joe Biden's first try the White House, but it is his first as the front runner. We'll take a look at what went wrong the last two times he tried.