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AT THIS HOUR

Trump & Democrat Rivals Slam Biden After Campaign Launch; Soon Biden Will Give 1st Interview after Entering 2020 Race; U.S. Economy Grew 3.2 Percent in 1st Quarter, Smashing Expectations; Biden Gives 1st Interview to "The View"; Judge Sentences Maria Butina to 18 Months in Prison. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 26, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00] JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He faces life in prison -- Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Jean Casarez, thank you for following it.

And thanks to all of you for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

If you had any doubt in your mind that the 2020 race was on, look no further than this morning to see it is most certainly on. President Trump going out of his way earlier today to take on former Vice President Joe Biden after Biden officially jumped into the race just 24 hours ago. And it comes as CNN learns that Biden is already making the president sweat, but he's not about to concede that.

Here's what President Trump said just minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we beat him easily. I just feel like a young man. I'm so young. I can't believe it. I'm the youngest person. I am a young, vibrant man. I look at Joe, I don't know about him. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: If you have to declare you're a young, vibrant man, are you a young, vibrant man? We'll deal with that later.

It's not just the president taking on Biden this morning. Possibly solidifying Biden's status as the Democratic front-runner, fellow Democrats running are also taking shots.

Senator Bernie Sanders, he sent out a fundraising email jabbing at Biden's announcement, writing this: "It's a big day in the Democratic primary, and we're hoping to end it strong. Not with a fundraiser in the home of a corporate lobbyist but with an overwhelming number of individual donations in response to today's news. Contribute before midnight. It would mean a lot to our campaign."

Biden's first fundraiser last night -- Biden announcing was the news yesterday, and Biden's first fundraiser last night was at the home of a Comcast executive.

And then there's Senator Elizabeth Warren with this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): At a time when the biggest financial institutions in this country will try to put the squeeze on millions of hard-working families who were in bankruptcy because of medical problems, job losses, divorce, and death in the family, there was nobody to stand up for them. I got in that fight because they just didn't have anyone. And Joe Biden is on the side of the credit card companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: How is Joe Biden going to address this? We will find out any minute, as he is sitting down right now for his first sit-down interview coming in just a moment, and we'll bring you that.

CNN's Arlette Saenz has been following the campaign, will be following the campaign, and joining me now.

Arlette, what are you hearing from the Biden team about all of this?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Hey, Kate. Well, we're going to be hearing directly from Joe Biden on day two of his presidential campaign, in just a short while. But you saw yesterday, Biden really made President Trump the part of the focus of his rollout, drawing on that moment in Charlottesville, saying that the president's response, calling -- saying there were fine people on both sides of those clashes. Biden saying that shows that there's a battle for the soul of the country and if the president, if re-elected, he's putting the nation's character at stake.

Now, as you mentioned, it's not just President Trump who is now responding and taking on Joe Biden directly. His Democratic rivals also are. And Biden's friends and his team have always been aware that he's going to be a target, not just of the president, but also of his Democratic primary rivals. And part of what Biden has been trying to do over the past, really, I guess, 28 hours since the start of his campaign, you know, he's going to be appearing here on "The View," which is hosted by a group of women, trying to appeal to women in these opening days of his campaign.

And one thing Biden has been pointing to a lot is his experience and his belief that he could bring stability to the country. And I know that yesterday he said to me, it's not just going to be about being able to win but being able to lead the country.

Biden points to his experience as part of his asset. But that also comes with a very long record. And one of the areas of his record has come into focus. That's Anita Hill and his handling of the testimony. Yesterday, we learned that Biden and Anita Hill have actually recently spoken and Anita Hill told the "New York Times" she felt -- and I think we have that quote ready -- but she basically felt that the way he apologized wasn't enough. She wants to see him take more responsibility. We'll see if he answers any questions about that potentially today on "The View" -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: We're showing what she told the "New York Times": "I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I'm sorry for what happened to you. I will be satisfied when I know there's real change and accountability." And she goes on in that interview.

Arlette, he's likely to be asked about that and many other things this hour when he sits down with "The View." And we'll bring those moments to our viewers. This is important for the state of this race.

Great to see you, Arlette. Arlette will join me in a second again.

[11:05:03] Also breaking this morning, we want to tell you a big report on the state of the economy just came in. The Commerce Department says the economy grew at a much better rate than expected in the first few months of this year.

CNN's Alison Kosik is joining me.

Alison, the GDP is one of the best measures of the health of the economy.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BOLDUAN: Best indicators of the health of the economy. What is this indicator now saying?

KOSIK: It indicates we started off 2019 with a bang, 3.2 percent for the first three months of this year. You look at the first quarter of any year, usually it's the weakest. But in this case, it's actually the strongest first quarter we have seen in six years. Basically shows that the U.S. is a bright spot in world economies. You look at economies in Japan, in Europe, and in China. They're showing slowing growth.

So what powered this growth in the economy? Well, first of all, we had an increase in business investment, increase in exports, decrease in imports. Meaning we bought less things from other countries. Increase in state and local government spending. Also an increase in consumer spending, although at a slower pace.

The timing of this, because if we roll back the calendar and think about where we were, we had the government shutdown. Yes, remember that? For a third of the quarter, the government was shut down and it only shaved off about 0.3 percent off of GDP. Still, we saw, despite having this government shutdown, we see GDP at 3.2 percent.

Now, keep in mind, that number is going to be revised two more times. There's going to be a revision and then a final number. Some critics are saying, look, some of these numbers on investment spending and on exports could be inflated. We could get an indication of that with these revisions. And also, we could see slowing as the year progresses, let's say, in the second quarter as well.

BOLDUAN: The revisions could be downward trend, but right now, at this moment, that was a wow number.

KOSIK: It was. Our jaws dropped and I basically threw my papers out.

BOLDUAN: She's also not recycling. This is what we're learning.

Good job, Alison.

KOSIK: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

As Alison was laying out perfectly right there, despite a government shutdown, despite weather issues that were a problem, and despite Boeing issues that people thought would hit the economy, you have an economy defying expectations. And President Trump took time today to tout this report this morning. As well as he should. And you well know that the economy is always a major factor in every election.

So let's talk about all of this. Arlette Saenz is back with me, along with CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

I want to talk about the economy and the impact of this news in a second.

But first, about what is happening right now, today, Dana, Biden, 24 hours out from his official entry into the race, and he's getting hit by the president and already two of his Democratic competitors. Does this say everything you need to know about his front-runner status? Are gloves off already although they were kind of playing nice to this point?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course, when you're the big dog, you are the biggest target. And you know, there are pluses and minuses to that. The plus, to state the obvious, is that he is leading the conversation, which in a field of 20, is no small thing. The fact that he is very much not just in the zeitgeist of the 2020 field, he is that right now. And look, I have talked to people who say that when it comes to the president, in particular, there's no greater gift that Joe Biden could get politically right now than for the president to continue to single out Joe Biden. Because it is a reminder to people who are going to go to the polls on primary day and go to the caucuses, who are going to decide who the Democratic nominee is going to be, that this could be a fight that is worth having for Democrats, a Joe Biden and Donald Trump fight in the general election.

But there are a lot of negatives, which Arlette talked about earlier, and we're probably going to see come up in this hour when he sits at a table with the women of "The View," who will no doubt ask him about Anita Hill and so many other issues that make him maybe appear to be out of touch because of his own record and the length of his record, which spans generations and major cultural shifts.

BOLDUAN: It absolutely does.

Arlette, as you have been talking about, what are you hearing about -- it's not just a question on in this first sit-down interview, some of the challenges, his voting record, his many decades in the Senate. That's not just going to be a question in this one interview and move on. What is the conversation among Biden's team and those who are advising them about how they're going to take this on, on a going- forward basis?

[11:09:55] SAENZ: You have seen over the course of the past few months so many of these issues play out in the public sphere with Joe Biden. There's Anita Hill, which he's tried to address multiple times. There's also his handling of the 1994 crime bill, something that he helped author that you saw back in January. Biden was already trying to express some regret for criminal justice and the way that things have been handled in the past, saying I haven't always gotten it right. But it's going to be critical in the opening weeks of the campaign for Biden to kind of define things on his own term, to look at these past issues, potentially in his record, and try to address them up front before maybe some of his rivals start to bounce on him for that. So we're going to see, I think, over the course of the next few weeks, Biden certainly fielding questions, not just about his past record but there's also a lot of policy that has been animating the Democratic primary so far that we just haven't heard Joe Biden's opinions on yet. I think yesterday, I think he was asked, when are you going to start rolling out some policy, talking about policy. He said it's all in due time. I expect, in the coming weeks, we'll get more of that.

BOLDUAN: One thing, Jeff, it seems Biden has done successfully, is bring the conversation at this moment back to a moment in history that is a very bad one for President Trump, Charlottesville. President Trump this morning appearing to try to once again clean up his remarks that there were good people on both sides, those comments he made after the violent deadly violence that broke out in Charlottesville.

I want to play for you what the president, for our viewers, what the president said this morning before we talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: That question was answered perfectly. And I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general.

People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So that's not really cleaning it up. That's defending it, Jeff. I mean, now that I'm hearing it once again. This is the day after Joe Biden said -- the first word out of his mouth in that video was Charlottesville, and saying with the president's comments, this was a threat to the nation he had never seen before.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And, Kate, this is part of Joe Biden's rollout as well, drawing the president into this conversation, drawing the president into explaining. And the adage in politics, if you're explaining, you're losing, I think fits here. The reality is that moment back in August of 2017 was one of the darkest moments inside the White House, around the president's circle of advisers. People who are so loyal to him --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Jeff, I'm going to jump in really quick.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is speaking. Let's listen in. Joe Biden speaking for his first sit-down interview with "The View."

MEGHAN MCCAIN, CO-HOST, THE VIEW: What took so long to get into the race? We're so happy you finally announced.

BIDEN: Let me ask the audience. Aren't these campaigns so long to begin with?

(LAUGHTER)

It's not until February, the first vote cast. So I don't think it's too long. And I made it clear from the beginning that if I was going to do this, and the family was pretty sure we were going to do this a long while ago, not to -- I mean, it's a long road. So I think this is plenty of time. Plenty of time.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CO-HOST, THE VIEW: Well, you said something yesterday in your announcement video that really brought tears to my eyes. You said that, we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. And I felt that in my soul. What did you mean by that?

BIDEN: What I mean by that is, we are not -- this is not who we are, the way we're treating people. It's not who we are as a nation when we're talking about things like the reason for your problem is the other. It really is what I said. And I really mean it. I wrote an article at the time in "The Atlantic" magazine back when Charlottesville happened, saying, you know, this is not who we. There's an American creed. It's about decency, honor, including everyone, leaving no one behind.

BOLDUAN: That's the sum of the interview of Joe Biden sitting down with "The View." We'll bring you more moment as they come.

Dana, how is that going? How do you think that went?

BASH: It sounds like it's the beginning and they're winding up with some softballs, which is understandable. And we'll see as it gets going, the questions that it's hard to imagine won't come, about Anita Hill, for example, and when did he call her. Was it just last week, and why did it take 20 years to make that phone call if he feels it so deep in his heart? And whether or not that flies in the face of the whole point of his candidacy that he laid out yesterday in the video he put out, which is this is a moral choice, that I have an ethical and moral compass, and how he squares that with the fact that he maybe just recently called Anita Hill. I mean, those are the things that he's going to have to talk about, whether it happens today or in the near future. Those are the humps he's going to have to get over. With a lot of voters, he won't be able to get over them. People who are younger, who can't fathom some of the things he's supported in the past and have other opportunities, you know, over a dozen other opportunities of people and candidates to vote for who don't have that baggage.

[11:15:30] BOLDUAN: Arlette, the fact that the former vice president goes first to "The View" -- and you saw Meghan McCain -- he's longtime friends with the family. He counts Meghan McCain's father as one of his best friends. No one forgets the last time he was on "The View" and that emotional touching moment they had. She asked that first question of what took so long and said she was so happy to say he did. What is the message that the Biden campaign and Joe Biden is wanting to send with this being the first place he sits down to have an extensive talk about his candidacy?

SAENZ: Well, I think, one, there's a pitch he's going to be making to female voters. Coming on "The View" is appealing to a certain block there. But I think also, what he -- you're going to see from him, particularly when it comes to his relationship with Meghan McCain, is his ability to emote. His ability to connect with people. Part of that has been borne out of his own personal experience with tragedy. First, with the death of his wife and 13-year-old daughter when he was just elected to the Senate at the age of 29. And then again in 2015 when his son, Beau Biden, passed away from brain cancer, the same type that took the life of Senator John McCain. Here on that table with the women of "The View," I think he and his team are hoping they can show the Joe Biden the human being, the real person, and his ability to relate with people. That's something we see on the campaign trail when he, yesterday, for instance, was at a pizza shop talking to folks. That's a key attribute of his, that he and his allies are really trying to sell.

BOLDUAN: And, Jeff, one thing that did happen today, and you're sure he'll be asked about it today, is the economy and the strength of the economy, the GDP numbers coming out. Your reporting, along with Kevin Liptak, that Biden has become more of a factor than anyone else in Donald Trump's 2020 kind of game plan. But now add in the economy to this question. I wonder if now Democrats need to be looking at their game plan and rejiggering, reworking it immediately to go maybe the path of Joe Biden, right? Talk more about the character because, on the economy, can they beat him on the economy right now?

ZELENY: That's an open question. We'll see how the economy is. It is certainly strong, a very strong report this morning, and the president should get credit for that. The question is, why isn't he talking about that? He's still talking about Charlottesville, still consumed by the Mueller investigation. But the reality is, yes, a strong economy for a sitting president is one of the key factors in winning elections. So this is going to be a challenge for Democrats to make the argument to voters, are you better off than you were before? But we get the sense this election may be different in the sense of,

is it about sort of your view and your feeling for how things are. And that's why Joe Biden is going after what he calls the soul of the nation. He is going after that sort of moral clarity here.

One of the reasons we're told the president is so obsessed with Joe Biden is Pennsylvania. That is one of the favorite states, the single sort of crowning achievement, if you will, from 2016 that the president flipped from blue to red. Joe Biden, of course, from Pennsylvania. Was there yesterday. Going back on Monday. So that is why the White House and the president, indeed, are so focused on Joe Biden. But, boy, he has a Democratic primary to win first before he goes head-to-head with Joe Biden.

BOLDUAN: Exactly right.

And the answer the audience question, aren't these campaigns too long, I think the four of us can say absolutely not. If you love politics, it's never long enough.

Thanks, guys. Really appreciate it. We'll continue to watch the rollout from former Vice President Joe Biden.

ZELENY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: The former vice president.

Coming up for us, contradicting a key finding in the Mueller report. President Trump doubling down on his claim that he never told, he says, former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to fire Robert Mueller. That's not what Don McGahn says. So who's telling the truth and who isn't?

[11:19:29] Plus, Trump is denying he paid North Korea for the return of Otto Warmbier. This is after reports that the North Koreans handed over a bill of $2 million for medical expensive, the medical care, you have to say in quotation marks, that Otto Warmbier received during his year and a half being held there. Remember, he came home in a comatose state. What's happening with that? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Some more breaking news coming in on the conspiracy case against admitted Russian agent, Maria Butina. A federal judge has just handed down a sentence.

Let's get over to CNN's Sara Murray who has been following the twists and turns of this case throughout. She's outside the courtroom.

Sara, what are you learning?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, the judge did agree with the prosecution in this case. She sentenced Maria Butina to 18 months behind bars. Butina's already been behind bars for about nine months, so essentially, she'll serve nine more, perhaps minus a little bit for good behavior. But you saw the sort of seriousness that the judge took in the

sentencing and how the judge viewed the crime. She said this was not just a simple misunderstanding. It was not just about Butina failing to notify the attorney general. She said her behavior was dangerous because she failed to register as a foreign agent and that she was able to penetrate deep into political organizations because of that. She also acknowledged that Maria Butina has never committed a crime before, that she's a hard-working individual. She had a graduate- level degree from an American university and probably will not go on to commit any crimes but that's cold comfort to Butina who will be heading back to a jail cell.

[11:25:29] Kate, this is also a big win for the Justice Department looking to crack down on these unregistered foreign agent crimes. This was a big victory for them. They were pushing for 18 months while Butina's lawyers were pushing for time served.

We should note that her case got caught up in the cross current of where U.S./Russia relations are right now. The judge acknowledged that. She said Maria Butina was carrying out these activities in the U.S. without registering at a time where Russia was actively trying to interfere in U.S. elections, and she noted that when she was handing down the sentence today.

BOLDUAN: Interesting.

Sara, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

We also, at this moment, have more information coming in about the rollout and the first sit-down with former Vice President Joe Biden, his first sit-down interview since announcing his candidacy, speaking on "The View" just now. Let me listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, THE VIEW: How are you going to get those voters?

BIDEN: Well, I think just by making the case that we have to restore dignity to work. We have to restore dignity to the way we treat people. Think about this. The way we treat ordinary, hard-working Americans, who are middle class and working-class people fighting to get to the middle class, is we treat them like they're a means to an end as opposed to an end in themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Back with me is CNN's Arlette Saenz, Dana Bash and Jeff Zeleny.

One of the things he was talking about in this interview, Jeff, is something you were talking about -- one of you amazing people made the point -- which is about Pennsylvania. This is what he's talking about, the Pennsylvania voters as part of the conversation and how you reach out to the voters once again. ZELENY: It was. This is sort of the hallmark of what Joe Biden has

talked about, what has been at the fulcrum of his message throughout his entire public service. So if you think about that map in 2016, it is Pennsylvania, it is Michigan, it is Wisconsin. That is what Democrats need to hold, just politically speaking. But again, with strong economic news, the strong GDP numbers, a strong stock market, of course, this is a more complicated argument to make for Vice President Biden. He's talking about more than just pocketbook issues. He's trying to bring, he said restore a sense of integrity. He's trying to sort of essentially ask people, Americans, what they think of their feeling of the country, how the world views the country. But again, I'm sort of struck by that sounds a little for like the Senator, which he was for 36 years, so Joe Biden sounds crisper often in a video yesterday. How he campaigns and takes questions from voters and if he steps in it is going to depend on how he does here. But again, as Arlette was saying earlier, the audience, talking to women, African-American women, those are the central block of the Democratic primary that he needs, and he has some strengths in that area, no question.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

BASH: If I may, Kate. What I also heard there was a direct appeal to Trump voters, the Trump voters, the very Trump voters that Jeff was talking about that the Democrats lost to -- either they stayed home because they weren't interested in Hillary Clinton, or the people who came out of the woodwork and who don't usually vote in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, because they finally heard somebody saying, I hear you, I see you, you are not a forgotten man or woman. And that comment you just heard from Joe Biden was a way to say, I hear you, too, and we're not going to forget you, and I understand that you see economic and cultural changes that you feel like you're not a part of, and we're going to do that. And that is the scrappy kid from Scranton that, as Jeff said, he has been and tried to be for decades and decades and decades in his public life. That is the reason that people around him think, despite his age, despite the generational differences and everything like that, he has a proven ability to get those voters back into the Democratic fold.

BOLDUAN: Arlette, I wonder how many times you have to write down Scranton and how many times he mentioned Scranton in the coming days.

(LAUGHTER)

SAENZ: And the dignity of work or the dignity of a paycheck. That's something he talked about leading up to this moment. Actually, leading up to his announcement, he did three separate events over the past month and a half, tied to unions, tied to working-class issues. On Monday, you're going to see, at his first official campaign event, he's going to be over in Pittsburgh. That's going to be another event that's focused on the unions, focused on working-class, middle-class concerns. You'll see that theme continue to pick up.

[11:30:00]