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Biden Launches Campaign; 2020 Democratic Field; Biden's Campaign Spokeswoman on Strategy; North Korea Bills U.S. for Warmbier's Care. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 25, 2019 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:15] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, up first, former Vice President Joe Biden officially jumps into the 2020 race, framing it as a battle for the soul of this nation. In his online video announcement, Biden took direct aim at President Trump and his response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He rebuked the president for saying that there were very fine people on both sides.

And at a stop in Wilmington, Delaware, just a short time ago, Biden also talked about the long primacy campaign ahead.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'll tell you what the issue is going to be who -- not only who can win this, but who's the best person to lead the country. And that's what it's going to be all about. And it's going to be for the voters to decide that.


KEILAR: CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz is with us from Wilmington, following the former vice president's every move.

Arlette, tell what, is his strategy here in these early days as he's kicking off his campaign, and what about President Obama's role in all of this?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brianna, you heard that message in that video saying that this is a battle for the soul of the country and saying that the nation's values and characters are at stake with President Trump in the White House. And he said he couldn't stand aside and let this campaign play out without him being involved. And we're expecting in the coming days that the former vice president is going to take that message to voters, as well as talking about rebuilding the middle class and this need to unite a divide America.

But one big question has been, what is the role President Obama is going to play in all of this? You know, Joe Biden has described himself as an Obama/Biden Democrat, making it clear that he's fully ready to embrace and carry on the mantle of the Obama administration. But when it comes to that endorsement, President Obama is saying that he's not going to be endorsing just yet in the process.

And take a listen to what Joe Biden had to say when he arrived here in Wilmington at the train station earlier today.


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

QUESTION: So how do you --

BIDEN: Welcome to Delaware.


SAENZ: And I also asked Joe Biden to say why he is the best choice for Democrats. He simply said, that's goings to be for the Democratic voters to decide.

Now, later today, he's heading up to Philadelphia for a private fundraiser. He's trying to make that fundraising push. And then next week we're going to start to see him actually hit the campaign trail starting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is that battleground state that Democrats lost to President Trump back in 2016. Joe Biden and his supporters kind of see Pennsylvania as one of those states that he could bring back to the blue column in 2020. He'll also be hitting states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and then with a big finale to his few week launch will be in Philadelphia on May 18th, the campaign describes as the birthplace of democracy, and they say that Biden is going send that message about trying to unite the country there.


KEILAR: Bookending with Pennsylvania is very interesting.

Arlette Saenz in Wilmington, Delaware, thank you so much.

The 2020 Democratic field is growing more crowded by the day, and Biden's announcement is bringing this total to 20 Democrats who are now running for president.

CNN's political director David Chalian is here with us to walk us through what this crowded 2020 race is looking like right now.


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Twenty candidates for 2020. Here they are. Take a look at their pictures. This is the largest field we've seen in modern presidential campaign history, Brianna, and it's almost the most diverse field that we've ever seen in presidential politics.

Let's look at these candidates by the numbers just to show you a little bit about the field. We said 20 candidates in. Look at the age range among them, 37 years

old at the young end, 77 years old, Bernie Sanders, at the oldest end, but Joe Biden who got in today is 76. There are six women in this field, 13 of them are current political office holders.

Ideologically, this group here, (ph), took a look at sort of the liberal to moderate scale here. They say the average of 2020 candidates hits at 55. So you see Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris on the more liberal side of the average. You see Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, just to give you some perspective, and Joe Biden all the way over here at the more moderate end of the scale. And that's going to be a big question about how Joe Biden presents himself to this Democratic nominating electorate which may be a bit more progressive than it has been in the last.

And then finally, just the state of the race as Joe Biden gets into this race. He enters as the big dog. That's why his entrance into the race has changed the ration. Twenty-seven percent in the last Monmouth University poll to Bernie Sanders at 20 percent. Everyone else in single digits rounding out the top six here.

[13:05:04] So Joe Biden enters as a frontrunner, but now the idea of Joe Biden meets the reality of candidate Joe Biden for the third time for president on the campaign trail.


KEILAR: And I can't get over that graphic, where there's just so many Democrats. It's just such a big field.

David Chalian, thank you for walking us through all of that.

CHALIAN: Sure, Brianna.

KEILAR: Now, Joe Biden, as David mentioned, is making his third attempt at winning the White House, and he faces a much different primacy field than in the past, more diverse, more left leaning, younger as well.

We have Kate Bedingfield, who is Biden's deputy campaign manager and communications director with us.

Thank you so much for coming into the studio to talk to us.


KEILAR: So this launch video, which is -- this is -- this is his initial pitch, right, that he's giving voters, and it focused on President Trump's response to the Charlottesville rally. We know that he has these events ahead of him. He's going to be talking about middle class issues. He's going to be in Pittsburgh, for instance. But I wonder, with this video being his opening pitch to voters, should we extrapolate from that that his anti-Trump message is really going to be the leading edge of his campaign?

BEDINGFIELD: So, Joe Biden believes that we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. He believes that the stakes are incredibly high, that we're at a point of really moral reckoning for the country. And so you're going to hear that case from him, that we need to return to dignified leadership, to a vision of our country where everybody's treated with dignity, where everybody has equal opportunity, and where everybody who works hard gets a chance to succeed. So --

KEILAR: Where does the -- where's the line between that, which it does sound like making this a referendum on President Trump's leadership for sure, and selling the ideas?


KEILAR: How does he see that division?

BEDINGFIELD: So I think you'll see him all across the country making this case. You know, he -- I think voters are certainly -- are looking for change and I think in terms of values and vision for the country, there's nobody who's a bigger change from Donald Trump than Joe Biden. And I think you will see his affirmative case to voters.

If you remember, you know, during the midterms in 2018, he was the national Democrat who was welcome, you know, in every corner of the country, in every race. He was as comfortable campaigning in Alabama as he was in Michigan and Florida and Ohio. So, you know, I think there is a tremendous appetite for the kind of change that he will bring.

KEILAR: When we look at all of those candidates who are in this race now, we compare Joe Biden, let's just -- he's a 76-year-old white male. He is running against an openly gay mayor who is less than half his age. He's running against the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants who is just one of several women who are in the field. So this is a -- this is a field that's reflecting a very diverse electorate.

How is Joe Biden going to project that diversity?

BEDINGFIELD: So I think there are two things. One, I think he has an almost unprecedented record of progressive action. He's somebody who stood shoulder to shoulder with President Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act, which brought health care to 20 million Americans who otherwise wouldn't have had it. He authorized the Violence Against Women Act when he was in the Senate. He spoke out for LBGTQ marriage equality at a time when most political pundits were telling him it was not a good idea to do that. He's somebody who has never --

KEILAR: He spoke out about it shortly before President Obama did as well, famously.

BEDINGFIELD: He -- he has -- he's somebody whose never been afraid to speak out for things that he believes are right, but then also he has a record of progressive action to back it up. So I think you will hear from him about the case for his vision for the country and for an America where everybody who works hard gets to come along.

KEILAR: He has a long record. He has the experience, which is something he can tout. But the --- the double-edged sword of that is having the record. And in some ways that's going to be a positive for him. In other ways he's going to have to explain himself and continue to explain himself, for instance, when it comes to Anita Hill.

We recently heard him last month tackling this. This is something he's going to have to discuss a lot. And he said that she paid a terrible price, that's a quote. He said, she deserved a hearing where she was respected, where the tone of the questioning was not hostile and insulting. But he also said, I wish I could have done something. I mean he -- he could have done something. He was the -- he was the chairman of the committee that was in charge of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. How is he going to build on that to have a better answer?

BEDINGFIELD: So I think you heard him say the most important thing, which is that he's learned from that experience. He spent -- he took lessons from that experience. He went out and campaigned for two women to come on to the Judiciary Committee so that no woman would ever have to again face an all-male panel in a situation like that.

He doubled down and passed the Violence Against Women Act and has spent the vast majority of his career focused on trying to change the culture around issues of sexual harassment and sexual harassment. You know, in the White House, he, along with President Obama, launched the, It's On Us Campaign, which is a campaign against campus sexual assault.

[13:10:01] So he's somebody who has been an advocate for women his entire career. And I think voters know him and they know that that's the kind of leader he'll be.

KEILAR: Has he privately apologized to Anita Hill?

BEDINGFIELD: So I'm not going to get into their private discussions, but they have spoken. And I'll leave --

KEILAR: Recently?

BEDINGFIELD: And I'll leave it at that.

KEILAR: They've spoken recently?

BEDINGFIELD: I will leave it at that.

KEILAR: You won't -- you won't -- have they spoken since he last made his remarks last month?

BEDINGFIELD: I am not going to set a timeline on it. It was a private discussion. But they have spoken.

KEILAR: They have spoken. All right.

So the candidates at this point who are -- we're seeing them stake out their positions. They look towards 2018. They see that health care was such a big issue. It was really the issue in the election. And they're having to decide where they stand on Medicare for all. This is -- this discussion has very much shifted to the left.

Where is the former vice president going to be on that? Has he thought about where and where is he going to be on forgiving student loan debt and on whether public universities should be free?

BEDINGFIELD: So there's a lot of time for policy discussion, and you will definitely hear from the vice president as he's out on the campaign trail talking about this.

I think, you know, again, his record, standing shoulder to shoulder with President Obama and passing the Affordable Care Act, expanding health care for millions. I think voters know that he's somebody who believes that everybody should have a -- have a shot and that if --

KEILAR: But that's health care. That's expansion of Medicare. But that's also expansion of private insurance.


KEILAR: Medicare for all. I mean this is -- this is the system that Obamacare didn't project, didn't champion, right? It was considered too liberal at the time. And now we're seeing the discussion really shift.

BEDINGFIELD: You will -- you will hear plenty from the vice president on this as we go into the campaign. We've just launched this morning, so there is ample time for policy discussion in the campaign.

KEILAR: And I know you're not going to get in front of him on some of those issues, but I just wanted to try.


KEILAR: OK. So let's talk money because this is the -- this is the first day of the candidacy. He has a -- he has a fundraiser tonight. We have seen, in the Democratic Party, this real transformation when it comes to how money is raised. Joe Biden tonight is going to be at a Comcast executive's house, and it's a high-dollar fundraiser. But you've seen other candidates, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, and -- Bernie Sanders who have really been going after and had a tremendous success with these small dollar donors.

Is Joe Biden going to transform how he raised money?

BEDINGFIELD: There is tremendous energy for the vice president across the field. Again, I mentioned, you know, he campaigned in every corner of the country in 2018. And we're -- we're really excited about the team that we've built and -- and confident that the energy for him is there. And I think people are responding to his vision for America, his belief that we're at a time of real moral reckoning and that we -- we have to reclaim the soul of our nation and that we have to rebuild our middle class.

KEILAR: And just to revisit, you said he's had a private discussion with Anita Hill.


KEILAR: You did not say when. Is he going to tell us about that?

BEDINGFIELD: I will let him address that. It was his discussion. But I can say that they have spoken, yes.

KEILAR: All right, Kate, thank you so much. Kate Bedingfield with the Biden campaign.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks so much.

KEILAR: Now -- finally the Biden campaign. It's not just a likely or expected.

Thank you so much.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: And we're going to talk about the risks and rewards of being the frontrunner in a crowded field.

Plus, Bernie Sanders getting booed and heckled at an event featuring minority women.

Also, why the FBI is raiding the home of Baltimore's mayor.

And we have some breaking news.

North Korea present the U.S. with a $2 million bill for the care of Otto Warmbier. Hear what the president did.


[13:17:53] KEILAR: We are following some breaking news, one that involves a surprising move, even by North Korean standards.

The U.S. was billed $2 million for the medical care of Otto Warmbier. This was a bill that was received from North Korea. North Korea insisted the U.S. pay it before they would release him. This is according to a source close to the matter.

In 2016, the North Korean government sentenced Otto Warmbier, an American student, to 15 years of hard labor. And when Warmbier was eventually returned to the U.S., he was comatose. He was in a vegetative state, and he died only days later.

CNN global affairs analyst Joseph Yun is with us. He was on that trip to bring Warmbier back home. He's a former U.S. special representative for North Korean policy. And I'm also joined by CNN national security reporter Kylie Atwood.

You have been working this story. What can you tell us?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Brianna, this is a stunning report. As you will recall, in June of 2017, Otto Warmbier came back to the United States and he died days later. So now we are learning about how the North Koreans approached these negotiations. They shocked the Americans by handing U.S. Special Representative Joe Yun, who was on that trip to get Otto back to the U.S., a bill of $2 million. That is a hefty, hefty bill for getting an American, who had been wrongly detained in North Korea, a 22-year-old, he'd been there for over a year, back to the United States.

And so what I'm learning from my sources is that Ambassador Yun then called Washington. He called then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and said, what do I do here? Tillerson then had a conversation with the president. And President Trump essentially said, do whatever you need do to get Otto Warmbier back to the United States. And that's when Ambassador Joe Yun then signed an agreement that the U.S. would pay this $2 million.

However, I am told that the U.S. has not yet paid that and that as the U.S. and North Korean negotiations have continued, the bill has not been brought up by the North Koreans in the Singapore summit or in the recent Hanoi summit.

KEILAR: All right, Joe, at the risk of knowing I think what you're going to say here, can you confirm that this happened?

[13:20:01] JOSEPH YUN, INVOLVED IN NEGOTIATIONS OVER WARMBIER: Well, Brianna, I mean you know perfectly well, as does Kylie, I simply cannot get into details of confirming or denying any diplomatic exchange I was part of.

But, Brianna, what I can tell you is that this was one of the most moving and difficult experiences of my diplomatic life. I did go and get Otto Warmbier. That was in June 2017. Yes, he was indeed in coma. He was -- completely no activity on brain. And bringing him back and reuniting him with his parents, Fred and Cindy, that was very, very moving and difficult, difficult assignment.

And, of course, very unfortunately, Otto never recovered. He died only six days later. I did go to his funeral. And he was an outstanding young man. You know, a student in UVA. Very bright. Very adventurous. Which is why he went to North Korea. And -- and he, you know, by all accounts, he was just a regular sight-seeing curious tourist.


YUN: I still don't know if --

KEILAR: But be -- I just want to say, we're in this -- we're in this odd situation where we are reporting this story out and it is about you. I understand -- I that this bill was received, a $2 million bill from North Korea for Otto Warmbier's care that the U.S. pledged to play.

But can you speak broadly to what your orders were when went in? Were your orders to do whatever it took to get Otto Warmbier back?

YUN: Yes, my orders were completely, do whatever you can to get Otto back. And I did work very closely with Secretary Tillerson. And I was in regular communications with him, yes. KEILAR: Would it be unusual to pledge to pay a bill, which obviously

many observers would say is just a veiled payoff to North Korea or another rogue nation, to receive some -- to receive someone who's an American in their custody?

YUN: It is my understanding that in previous instances that there was some exchange of money, which was (INAUDIBLE). So I know that in previous (INAUDIBLE) releases there was some money handed over, yes.

KEILAR: When -- and so when you say that your -- your broad orders going into this were to bring Otto Warmbier home, do whatever you needed to do to do that, was your understanding that that was coming straight from President Trump?

YUN: That was my understanding, yes.

KEILAR: If there had not been in past case -- let's talk about past cases. If in past cases there is not an agreement to pay a bill like this, is that the end of negotiations?

YUN: I think pretty much that is the case. I think in the past cases, certainly I think there was some expectation. They may raise -- North Koreans might raise and in some instances I think some money could have been handed over. That's my understanding. And I think that's also been, you know, documented by some folks.

ATWOOD: But you will see pushback on that. I mean, $2 million for about a year and a half that he was in North Korea and he came back dead. So to pay for that cost would be --

KEILAR: He came back -- he came back brain dead and died shortly thereafter.

ATWOOD: Brain dead and he died a few days later.

KEILAR: It's pretty stunning.

ATWOOD: It's -- it's scary. I mean-- and the leverage that the North Koreans have here, but they haven't used it, yet.

KEILAR: Wasn't -- was -- there was an interest North Korea had in getting Otto Warmbier in that condition back to the U.S. And yet --

ATWOOD: There was.

KEILAR: And yet this bill was still presented.

ATWOOD: Right. It was a first step in trying to warm negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea under President Trump. But we have seen Trump say different things about what Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, knew about Otto Warmbier. And if he knew or not, just, you know, in Hanoi, he said that he didn't think Kim Jong-un was aware of how Otto Warmbier was treated, which was a staunch change in his position from previously.

KEILAR: Yes, a very good point. Kylie Atwood, Joe Yun, thank you so much too both of us -- or both of you, pardon me. I'm -- my -- too much going on today. My brain isn't quite working.

[13:24:52] So we're going to break down the risk next. The rewards of Joe Biden entering the race as the frontrunner. And more candidates are vowing to pick a woman as their running mate. We're going to take a look at who has made that promise and what it means for those who don't.


KEILAR: Vice President Joe Biden is the 20th Democratic candidate to announce that he's running for president, and already he has a unique spot in this race. Polls have him as the frontrunner before he even officially joins. So today he enters the race with an advantage and also a very high expectation. He has the pressure now of leading the pack.