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Biden: The Risks & Awards of Being the Frontrunner; Democrat Candidates Asked If They'll Pledge to Have Woman Running Mate; Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) Discusses White House Stonewalling Democrats; Trump Evangelical Advisor Blasts Buttigieg for Being Gay. Aired 1:30- 2p ET

Aired April 25, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Polls had him as the frontrunner before he even actually joined. So today, he enters the race with an advance and also a very high expectation. He has the pressure now of leading the pack.

Let's talk about this with Sarah Isgur, Nia Malika Henderson and Jeff Zeleny.

There's pros and cons to this, Jeff Zeleny. Tell us about this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: There's no doubt that Joe Biden's long record probably has some good and some bad in there for him. Look at the last eight records or the eight years of his long record, and, of course, that's his time in the White House with Barack Obama, and try and brush to the side or at least put off some of his 36 years in the U.S. Senate. And think of how much has changed in the United States during his time in the Senate. But he will have to answer for why he was opposed to school busing, his view on the crime bill. He's already alluded to some of those things but that's one of his challenges.

Another part is just living up to these expectations. He is the front-runner because of his name I.D. And he's certainly had a strong jump into the race. He wants to make every day like his first day. They know that will not happen, obviously. But it's how he sort of survives the long summer. So I think fundraising a question, how he plays out his record and can he keep this race focused on him versus President Trump without getting mired into an apology tour, if you will, with all of the other Democrats.

KEILAR: I want to ask all of you what you thought about his video, because for people who haven't seen, it it's worth a look because it might not be what you expect. He talks about Charlottesville. He's obviously condemning the president and how he said there's very fine people on both sides. And he's encapsulating his whole reason for running as fighting for the soul of the nation.

What did you think? Was it good or was it bad?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: I thought it was a good video. An emotional aspect to parts of it were somber and then hopeful, this idea that he embodies character and the contrast with Donald Trump, essentially, saying that he doesn't embody good character. He doesn't embody America's true character. And that -- and that he, Joe Biden, would sort of restore-America's character, restore America. So there's an interesting, I think, through-line between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, this idea of nostalgia. Donald Trump ran on the idea of nostalgia and turning the page back to an America really of the 1950s, that did resonate particularly with white voters. And then you have Joe Biden in there doing things, a nostalgia for a normalcy, a nostalgia for the way it was under President Obama when a president acted in a way that people would expect. So that's an interesting thing that he's playing for. And I think it works for some voters, particularly moderate voters, older voters, both black and white, and that's what he was going for in many ways.

SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICS ANALYST: Biden, though, had the benefit of coming in with 100 percent name I.D. You see that reflected in the video. He didn't have to introduce himself like everybody else did. I thought it was the strongest video of all the contenders because he got to skip that part and go straight to the message. And it was a good message. It was emotional, came off as authentic. But in talking to senior staffer from one of the other top-tier campaigns, to put it mildly, they are not worried about Joe Biden. They think this is similar to Hillary Clinton in a lot of ways. Sure, very popular and well-liked when they are not in the spotlight, but once get in the spotlight and you get into the tumult of a campaign with 20 other candidates and it's tossing things up in the day to day, it gets a lot harder.

COATES: But similar to Hillary Clinton would be great for Joe Biden, right? I mean, she cleaned up among key constituencies, particularly in the south and ran the table against Bernie Sanders obviously in 2016. And you can see Joe Biden in many ways going for the same constituency, the moderate voters. Sure, he'll have to deal with the progressives who are on his left and clamoring for a massive change in many ways and a lot of the bills that they are putting out and some of the proposals they are putting out, but I think he'd be happy if he were able to replicate what Hillary Clinton was able to do.

KEILAR: You just heard his communications director who was on here. And one of the questions is -- you said he wants to focus on the last eight years. Have fun with that because you'll have to talk about the years before that, including Anita Hill. He was the chairman of the committee for the Clarence Thomas hearings. And he said he wished -- he wished he could have done more. Well, he could have done more is the truth, and he's now reckoning with that. And when I was talking to his communications director, Kate Benningfield, he's realized that. He's spoken to Anita Hill. That's all we know. What does that tell you?

ZELENY: Brianna, that's probably the biggest piece of news perhaps today. In your interview with Kate Benningfield, she confirmed that they had spoken. So I think you'll see Joe Biden talking more about this. I do think that he has said, I wish I could have done more. That was clumsily handled, to be charitable. I assume that his answer coming forward will answer that. That's one example. The big question is, how does Anita Hill respond to this. KEILAR: Yes.

ZELENY: She's been very select in what she has talked about. She's written op-eds and other things. We'll see if she divulges anything. This is one example where he knows he needs to check off the list from his past, and that's certainly at the top of the list. But I think he also -- a sign that he's not going to sort of be spooked by the left, he's doing a fundraiser tonight in Philadelphia with a bunch of big- dollar honchos.

[13:35:21] KEILAR: Yes, big-dollar fundraiser.

And, Sarah, we're seeing this trend, right, there's a question that a lot of 2020 candidates are starting to get when it comes to possible running mates. Let's listen.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): The question for you, is will I pledge to have a woman running mate. I will pledge to have a woman running mate. To me, it's really clear that we do.



KEILAR: So that was Cory Booker yesterday. This is something that Joe Biden is going to be asked. How should he and how should other candidates approach this?

ISGUR: I see this as actually a very different issue. You have 20 people in the race, 16 of them on any given day are clamoring to get any attention here or elsewhere. So moments like that, they are each going to try to find. For Cory Booker, it's that moment. And by the way, I wouldn't be surprised if we get a named V.P. for some of these folks before the next six months is out. Again, trying to just have a moment in the sun because there's a lot of big oak trees and a lot of seedlings right now. And by the way, Joe Biden, waiting this long to get in, let a lot of the seedlings grow. Pete Buttigieg would not be where he is today if Joe Biden was in the race two months ago.

ZELENY: No doubt.

ISGUR: But Joe Biden answering that questions, I think there's about 10 questions ahead of that one for him probably.

KEILAR: Interesting. Very good point.

Sarah Isgur, thank you all so much.

Nia and Jeff, thank you.

ZELENY: You bet.

KEILAR: Stonewalling Congress. The White House blocking Stephen Miller from testifying. This is just the latest in the battle over what the president calls harassment and Congress calls their job. A member of the House Judiciary Committee will weigh in, live.

Plus, Mayor Pete Buttigieg attacked over faith. Franklin Graham, a close adviser to President Trump, slamming the Democrat over his sexuality.


[13:41:37] KEILAR: Once again, Congress wants to hear from a White House aide, and once again, it's a hard "no" from the West Wing. This time, they say senior adviser, Stephen Miller, is off limits. The House Oversight Committee wants Miller to testify about the administration's immigration plans, of which Miller is a key architect. And this is really the latest in the White House's battle with the Democratic-led House over a number of investigations. This is what President Trump's defiance looks like. He's trying to stop former White House counsel, Don McGahn, from testifying. He's refusing to release his taxes. He and the Trump Organization are suing a Democratic chairman to try to stop his access to an accounting firm that provided Trump and the Trump Organization financial information, advice. And even telling a former White House official to ignore a subpoena in an investigation into White House security clearances.

We have Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, who is joining us now. He's a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

And the president says that the White House is going to fight all of these subpoenas, Congressman, by Democrats, by your party in the House. The Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler says that all options are on the table to fight back. He mentioned heavy fines, maybe even jail time if people ignore subpoena. What's going to happen here? What are -- what is this committee really prepared to do?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, I think there's no question, Brianna, that the committee is prepared to do everything that is necessary to ensure that we can discharge our responsibilities to do congressional oversight. It's not up to the president. I know he prefer that we look at nothing and examine nothing, but we have a constitutional duty to do it. And it's -- it's real just very distressing to hear the president say publicly, I'm telling people not to cooperate. That feels a lot like an ongoing effort to obstruct justice or prevent congressional oversight. We have many tools. Once a lawful subpoena is issued, a witness must comply. And if he does not, they can be held in contempt or they can then be fined or even imprisoned for failing to comply. This is essential to our oversight function and holding the administration accountable. No matter how much the president tries to stop it, we will prevail --


CICILLINE: -- and get the information we need to find the truth.

KEILAR: Let me ask you this. If someone is in contempt of Congress because they are not complying with a subpoena, the normal process is for the Department of Justice -- and then it goes to the Department of Justice, which the expectation, I think I could assume from your perspective, is that this Department of Justice is not going to serve you over the White House in a matter like this. You couldn't count on the Department of Justice. So then where are you left?


KEILAR: Are you left with the possibility that some of these people that you want to hear, from some of this information that you want, you may never receive?

CICILLINE: No, I don't think that's what is will happen. There will certainly be a referral to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. And you're right, there's not a good reason to think that the attorney general will assist us that way. But at the same time, it will also authorize a civil action in court for the individual to be held in civil contempt when they don't comply with a court order that tells them that they must appear in Congress. They can be held in contempt of the court order and they can be fined and imprisoned. So we have enforcement mechanisms to assure that a person lawfully subpoenaed before a congressional committee appears and documents are requested that they are furnished so we would normally rely on the Department of Justice to do some of that enforcement. I think you're right. We can't rely on this attorney general, but we have the courts. And this is an important moment to not only vindicate the rule law in this country. But, again, to say we cannot do oversight if we do not have access to information and witnesses and documents. And you have to wonder, why is the president trying so hard to prevent us from getting the truth.

[13:45:29] KEILAR: I want to bring in our legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates, with us.

Laura, when you look at the option that Democrats have, it seems like none of them will address getting this information in a timely matter, but what do they have at their disposal?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: As the congressman talked about, you have a civil contempt action and you can go to individuals and business who are supporting or who have a different function and actually testimony. You have records, financial documents, hence the Deutsche Bank request, et cetera. People who couldn't actually say, I can -- one that can force them to testify, beholden to a different entity or stock herald. And they also have the power of the purse to tie apportionment funding of those organizations and agencies who receive federal funding and are not complying with co-equal branches of government but things you have at their disposal. Largely, we've governed on the nation that we'll honor a subpoena. I mean, the president of the United States is that president, so a lot of this is assumption, but they have tools at their disposal.

KEILAR: Let's talk about a specific case. Carl Kline, the person who is in charge of White House security clearances, because a lot of our legal experts have said this is an area where Congress is on the most solid ground, that they should be hearing from this man who is a former White House official, still in the administration. He is not complying with the subpoena. He's been held in contempt of Congress. What happens to him? COATES: He should continue to be held in contempt. The whole role of

Congress is an oversight function and they have a vested interest to figure out national security clearances and interests. There's, of course, the jail and they are on the most solid ground. Any time there's somebody whose actual job description --


KEILAR: Would he go to jail?

COATES: Well, it's up to Congress to pursue that mechanism, of course. A lot of this is based on what they would like to do and what is politically, you know, palatable to people. They may not want to do it for political reasons but have it in their purview to do so.

KEILAR: Would you, Congressman, when it comes to, say, Don McGahn who has really been such a key voice in the Mueller report, would you call for jail time for him if he refuses to appear, and do you think -- considering that he is still preparing for testimony, do you think it will come to that?

CICILLINE: Well, I hope it doesn't come to that. I mean, Don McGahn has dedicated his life to practicing law and respecting the constitution and understanding the role of Congress in engaging in oversight. So I hope it doesn't come to that.


KEILAR: Do you get a sense that he's going to willingly come before Congress?

CICILLINE: I hope he does. You know, he ought to. I think that's -- it's absolutely essential that he come before Congress. But it's important to remember in all the examples you used, Brianna, we're talking about in the Stephen Miller case, the child separation policy and the implementation that have, and the other case, we're talking about security clearances where we passed laws about how those clearances should happen and who should get them, and the question is, was that violated and people got clearances that shouldn't have gotten them hand how does that impact the national security interest of the United States, and with Don McGahn whether or not the president obstructed justice. These are important issues that Congress has a right to -- to conduct hearings on. The American people have a right to know. This is fundamentally about whether or not someone is above the law. And we know in this country that no one is above the law. Congress has a responsibility to get to the truth. And in order to do that, to find the facts and follow where they lead us, we need to collect evidence and hear from witnesses, and the president cannot stop us from doing that, and we'll have to fight for it, and the American people will watch that fight, but we're fighting so the American people can know the truth.

KEILAR: Congressman David Cicilline, thanks so much.

Laura Coates, we really appreciate it. [13:50:16] And just in, a source telling CNN that Actress Lori

Loughlin is maintaining her innocence in that huge college admissions scandal. We'll hear her reasons.


KEILAR: One of the president's evangelical advisers, Franklin Graham, has set off a fire storm. He's targeted comments made by Democratic presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, about his sexuality and faith.

Graham tweeted, "Mayor Buttigieg says he's a gay Christian. As a Christian, I believe the Bible, which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentative of, not something to flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman, not two men, not two women."

We have CNN's religion editor, Daniel Burke, here with us.

So, first, some of the outrage that I have heard about this is Franklin Graham has aligned himself with President Trump, who has had extramarital affairs, it appears, had his lawyer pay off women, including a porn star and a Playboy playmate who he alleged had affairs with, and he's been accused of sexual misconduct or assault by 23 women. How is that not hypocrisy?

DANIEL BURKE, CNN RELIGION EDITOR: Well, first of all, when I saw Franklin Graham's tweet, I thought, here we go again. Homosexuality has been the most intense issue in American Christianity for 20 years. Mayor Pete's own denomination finally allowed same-sex marriage in 2015 and in a lot of other churches, it is still a live issue, so it is important to them. What I've heard evangelicals say about the hypocrisy is that Donald Trump's behavior is in the past and that he has, in some ways, repented and changed his life and is a new man, whereas, Mayor Pete's conduct is ongoing. Whether that is true of Donald Trump, we don't know. He said in Iowa a couple of years ago he never asked God for forgiveness because he's never done anything wrong. So --

[13:55:37] KEILAR: And he hasn't -- some of these are credible allegations. He hasn't repented.


KEILAR: He denies these ever happened.

BURKE: Exactly.

KEILAR: So how do the evangelicals who support him reconcile that?

BURKE: I think they allude to private conversations and things that his pastor, Paula White, has said. But it is reading dark tea leaves, to be honest. We've never heard President Trump come out and say, I'm a Christian man and born again and all of this is wrong and don't do it anymore. Sort of stretching and reaching for the explanations in my opinion.

KEILAR: Here we go again, indeed.

Daniel Burke, thank you so much.

So next, an Alabama police chief said he's disgusted by a video recording showing an officer beating an unarmed woman. See what happened before the incident.