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Strong Economic Numbers; Boeing Crash Investigation; Trump Doubles Down on Charlottesville Comments; Joe Biden Raises Big Bucks. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 26, 2019 - 15:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour here on CNN. I'm Erica Hill, in today for Brooke Baldwin.

We begin with breaking news, former Vice President Joe Biden edging out his rivals in the 2020 race, at least when it comes to day one of fund-raising, Biden raking in $6.3 million in the last 24 hours.

That is slightly more than Senator Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke, the news coming as President Trump takes direct aim at Biden's electability and his age.


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'm a young, vibrant man. I look at Joe, I don't know about him. I don't know.


HILL: Now, for his part, the former vice president says, that is an issue for the voters to decide, while adding he won't commit to serving just one term.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a legitimate question to ask about my age. And the same question was asked to me, was I old enough when I got elected at age 29, before I was old enough to serve?

It is a question of whether or not -- hopefully, I can demonstrate, not only with age comes wisdom and experience that can make things a lot better.


HILL: While the president sounds pretty confident publicly, CNN has learned behind the scenes he is actively sizing up the competition, asking his aides specifically about Biden's chances in a general election.

Arlette Saenz is a CNN political reporter covering the Biden campaign. Nia-Malika Henderson is CNN senior political reporter, and April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks.

Good to have all of you with us.

Arlette, I want to bring you in first, as we look at these numbers. So, we have the numbers, the fact that he in this first 24 hours did in fact outraise his rivals. What does that tell you? Because there have been questions about his ability to fund-raise.


And even before the campaign started, the night before, Joe Biden held this conference call with some donors and supporters, telling them how important it is to have a strong showing right out of the gate.

And, today, those numbers helped Biden make that argument. So, as we ran through earlier, he raised $6.3 million. That's more than any other Democratic primary rival that he's running against.

And just looking at a little bit of the breakdown of that, the campaign says that 97 percent of those online donations were under $200. Now, one question is, how many of those donations actually came online of the entire total?

And my colleague Fredreka Schouten points out that Biden, in his $6.3 million, that -- they raised that from all those 97,000 people.

But if you compare that to Bernie Sanders, he raised $5.9 million. But he had 222,000 individual donors contributing on that first day.

HILL: More than twice as many.

SANCHEZ: More than twice as many. So that suggests that maybe Biden's fund-raising haul is mostly coming from these bigger-dollar donors.

Last night, we saw him in Philadelphia. I was there for that fund- raiser, where he was trying to bring in an impressive figure, Governor Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania. He said earlier today that they believe they raised more than half-a-million dollars in that fund-raiser alone.

I have asked the campaign. They won't comment and give the specific figures. But, certainly, for Biden, there have been so many questions about how prolific of a fund-raiser he can be. But, in the past, we know he doesn't exactly enjoy going out there and fund-raising -- fund-raising.

He doesn't have that same type of donor -- small grassroots donor list that Bernie Sanders and others do. But I think we're still going to wait for a little bit more of the breakdown of these numbers. But, certainly, this is a big, good sign for them today. They're happy, being able to post these numbers.

And one thing I will also note, this does not include general election funds. So, this is solely primary funds...


SANCHEZ: ... according to a source that I spoke with.

HILL: You know, it's interesting too, as we watch all of this, Nia- Malika, and we're seeing what his now rivals are coming out and saying.

We're seeing Senator Warren attacking him directly. There was sort of a veiled attack, as we talked about earlier in the week, at the town hall on Monday night, but taking aim directly, as is Bernie Sanders, including in an e-mail to supporters.

What is does that tell you, Nia, about how they are looking at the former vice president as a threat at this point?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he clearly and all the polls we have seen so far, has a good chunk of the party.

Polls show he is sitting at about 30 percent of the Democratic electorate. Again, it's just really early. We will see how future polls look. But he has been, I think rightfully, seen as the front- runner and is being treated as such by the more progressive wing.


Folks like Bernie Sanders, folks like Elizabeth Warren not holding their fire. As you say, she brought this up kind of in a veiled way on Monday at that town hall. And now she's going at it more directly at this point.

And you see Sanders doing the same thing, comparing the way he is able to raise money, small-dollar donors, with the way that Joe Biden is likely going to be raising money this way, basically through larger donors.

He had that fund-raiser with corporate lobbyists right after he announced for the presidency. And so I think this is going to be a big contrast.

And, listen, this was a contrast in 2016 as well, right? I mean, the idea of what the Democratic Party should be, the Sanders wing should say -- they will say they shouldn't be in the pocket of big money. And Biden says, well, he's raising money. These are people who are also donating, what, $200, I guess, is the average. And so he's going to have to deal with that incoming.

But, listen, at the same time, he's got $6.3 million in the bank. And it's not like he's not able to use that money because of where it came from. He's going to be able to use that money in the same way that Bernie Sanders is able to use his money from much smaller donors.

HILL: You know, what else is fascinating, April -- and I'd love to get just your sense of what you're hearing in terms of rumblings there at the White House, is what we're hearing about President Trump. President Trump, we just heard him taking him on directly. President Trump feels like a very young man. Look out, Joe Biden. You're old, I think, is the underlying message there.



HILL: But fascinating that, behind the scenes, he's really looking at Joe Biden as his main competitor, April.


Joe Biden was a successful former U.S. vice president, part of a winning team that received two terms, OK, the Obama-Biden ticket. This White House views competitors as something very real.

And you have to think about this. Joe Biden is a Pennsylvania man. Granted, he was in Wilmington yesterday with this announcement. But he is a Pennsylvania man. And Pennsylvania is a critical state for this president.

They are fearful that they have a competitor, especially right now, as the numbers aren't showing that this president is able to win an election if it were held today in the state of Pennsylvania. The internal numbers are showing that he would lose Pennsylvania.

This is Joe Biden's strength, Pennsylvania, Wilmington, Delaware, and the Delaware area. So, they view this president -- this vice presidential candidate, who is now a presidential candidate -- well, the vice president who's now a presidential candidate -- it's so confusing.


RYAN: As a big competitor.


RYAN: I mean, it's like -- it's cyclical hole around Washington now, who was once one thing is now the next thing, could be a president of the United States.

HILL: Yes.

RYAN: So they view him as possibly the Democrats' breakout candidate that they need. He is definitely a challenge or a rival for this White House to them.

HILL: It's fascinating that we saw the president, too, Arlette, specifically bring up age. And we heard Joe Biden address that directly.

But this is going to be something that we hear a lot about, especially when you're looking at other Democratic contenders. Pete Buttigieg is, what, 37. SAENZ: That's right.

And Joe Biden has over and over again said that he understands that age will be a factor for some people. He has said over the past year -- I have been following him a lot, and so I hear this pretty often. But he talks about how people will have to judge whether he can run up the steps of Air Force One or not.

So he knows that there's going to be attention paid to what his age is like. They -- he does maintain a pretty active presence when he is out there on the campaign trail. Over the past day, when I was at a pizza shop with him, he's in there taking his own selfies.

And I think that he is going to try to show that he may be 76.


HILL: He's young and vibrant, like President Trump?


SAENZ: Yes, he probably will be trying to show that as he is out on the campaign trail.

HILL: The other thing that got a lot of attention today, of course, the former vice president giving his first interview today to "The View" on ABC.

And there are some questions about how comfortable he looked in that interview, and also how prepared he was for some of the questioning, specifically when it came to Anita Hill. And I want to play a little bit first of what he had to say.


ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know why it took you so long to call her. I wish it had happened earlier.

BIDEN: Since I had publicly apologized for the way she was treated, I had publicly said it, I publicly had given credit for her -- what -- the contribution she made the change, begin to change this culture in a significant way, that -- what I didn't want to do -- and am I -- I didn't want to -- quote -- "invade her space."

QUESTION: What she wants you to say is, I'm sorry for the way I treated you, not for the way you were treated. I think that might be closer.

BIDEN: Well, if you go back and look what I said and didn't say, I don't think I treated her badly. I took on her opposition.


What I couldn't figure out how to do -- and we still haven't figured it out.


BIDEN: How do you stop people from asking inflammatory questions? How do you stop these character assassinations?


HILL: There's a lot there, April.

And, as we look at it, of course, "The New York Times" speaking with Anita Hill in a lengthy phone conversation. They talked to her about what was reportedly said in that conversation, this apology that we have learned about.

This is not going to go away for Joe Biden, April.

RYAN: It's not, right. It's not. This could be the albatross around this presidential candidate's neck.

The good thing, that he did call, but the question is, why so late? Those questions were absolutely right. You know, at the time, I remember when all of that was going on in that hearing and how it had riveted, grappled the nation -- it gripped the nation about what happened with the soda can and all these accusations that she was willing to come out with and discuss for the world to see.

And, at the very least, she felt that Joe Biden, Senator Joe Biden at the time, was, at the very least, tone-deaf to what she was saying. And she has a right to say that she will not support him. But, at issue, can he get over this hurdle?

And he did the right thing by going on "The View," a women's news talk format, to talk straight to women at a time when MeToo is dominating the landscape in every sector of society.

But there's also a question, Erin. When you have -- Erica -- excuse me. There's also question. When you have a president of the United States who is said to have done some things and even talked on a videotape about grabbing something with a Tic Tac, how do you contrast what happened with Anita Hill and Joe Biden on Capitol Hill vs. this?

So we have to take this into -- put this into context, look at the whole picture yesterday vs. today, what Joe Biden did, was it right, was it wrong, but also where we are as a nation and how we're viewing things now. We have to see how this all plays out.

HILL: April Ryan, Arlette Saenz, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you all.

HENDERSON: Thank you, Erica.

RYAN: Thank you.

HILL: Up next: President Trump defending his comments on Charlottesville one day after former Vice President Joe Biden made them the central focus of his campaign launch. Why the president brought up General Robert E. Lee. Plus, Senator Elizabeth Warren proves herself to be the 2020 candidate

with the most policy proposals, so why is she trailing the men? We're going to go there.

And we're watching the markets, after a monster economic report today, details on why that GDP number beat expectations by a lot.



HILL: President Trump is defending the controversial remarks he made about the 2017 Charlottesville protests, the protests where he claimed there were -- quote -- "fine people on both sides" of the deadly riot involving white nationalists and neo-Nazis.


TRUMP: And if you look at what I said, you will see that 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, whether you like it or not.


HILL: Those comments coming, of course, just the day after former Vice President and now Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden slammed his words, saying that America is -- quote -- "in the battle for the soul of this nation."

Joining me now, W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN's "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," which kicks off its new season this weekend. And we're going to get to that in a moment. Perfect timing, by the way.

We need more of -- we need more of your show.



HILL: I'm curious, though just, first of all, your reaction to what we heard from President Trump this morning? Oh, really? Robert E. Lee.

BELL: Yes, I mean, that's sort of universally regarded, even by people who are supporters of his, as a low moment of his presidency. And, today, he took a yellow highlighter, go, remember this low moment? I want you to really focus on this low moment.

So the fact that he still has no way out of that, other than to double down, is not surprising, but it's just like -- it's sort of in character with everything else he is doing.

HILL: Do you think there's a point, though, where that will I don't want to say go away, because that's not a moment that should be forgotten, right? It's an important -- it's important that we keep talking about it, that there were not very fine people on both sides of that.

BELL: Yes. No, there were not.

HILL: But is it something that you think -- I mean, we're watching his position here evolve. What I really meant was, it was because of the statue and...

BELL: That happened. Like, there's no -- that's not going away. That is -- that's a chapter of American history that we will look back on and historians will talk about.

He wants to be in the history books. He says he's a student of history. I heard him say that today. That's a chapter of American history, an American president saying there were five people on both sides, one side which was saying, Jews will not come -- whatever, it was, anti-Semitism, neo-Nazis.

HILL: Yes, that was being chanted.

BELL: Yes. And a person died. Heather Heyer died.

HILL: Yes.

BELL: So this is like, there's no debating that that was a low moment in American history.

And for a man who has -- is sort of aiming for several low moments, that's one of the lowest ones.

HILL: So to see even Joe Biden take that moment and use it in his campaign to talk about, this is really what defines what I see as this battle that's been set up for the soul of the nation, how do you think that will be received?

BELL: I mean, that's such an easy thing to say. I mean, I'm happy he said it, but I don't want to give out too much credit for common sense.

I mean, but that was -- that's a horrible thing he did. And I think that I want all the people on the left who are running for president to understand that this is -- that we do need to be clear about these things, that President Trump draws these lines in the sand.


And we need be clear about, like, I'm not crossing that line. So I think that, for me, it's like, I'm happy he did it, but people around this country have been having that conversation in kitchens, at coffee shops since it happened.

So, but -- and I know other presidential candidates also agree with -- agree with Joe Biden, so... HILL: You know, before I told you this before, I love your show. I just think it's such a great appointment viewing because it makes us all think. And that's a good thing these days.

BELL: Makes me think too.

HILL: It makes you think.

BELL: Yes.

HILL: So your first episode, you're tackling mega-churches?

BELL: Yes.

Yes, which I didn't know if that was good, because it's the first episode. It's a news -- that wasn't in the news. And then Franklin Graham yesterday decided to speak out about...

HILL: Very nice of him to promote your show.

BELL: Yes, thank you, Franklin Graham. What camera is my camera?


BELL: Yes, so the forward-facing -- the forward-facing -- the face of Christianity is what I'm trying to say...

HILL: Yes.

BELL: ... is these mega-churches, these big evangelical Christian pastors.

And a part of that, a lot of the face of that is at the exclusion of communities, and one of those communities is the LGBTQ+ community. And so one of the great things about this episode is, we went to several different mega-churches, including the biggest LGBTQ+ mega- church in the world called Cathedral of Hope, with an LGBTQ -- with a gay minister.

HILL: What's -- I don't want to take away everything from the first episode. But did anything surprise you?

BELL: The thing that surprised me is that we talk about separation of church and state all the time.

And I think it's very clear that when -- that when the founders of this -- of the country thought about that, they weren't thinking about mega-churches.

HILL: Well, they didn't exist then.

BELL: Yes.

HILL: I do remember, really quickly, I was so excited to see you,, that we actually have a clip, so we should let people watch a little bit of it. (CROSSTALK)

HILL: Let's watch a little clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know mega-church pastors who would never admit they know me. But I know mega-church pastors who say, I wish I had the courage to preach what you preach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, if I do, I lose my pulpit.

BELL: Attendance falls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attendance falls.

BELL: But how does this become the face of Christianity? Like, do you feel a need to, like, compete with that in some way?

Do you think about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, I think -- I think you live with authenticity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people are tired of unauthentic leadership. And we have to take some responsibility for what the church has created.

And the church has created racism and sexism and ageism and homophobia and transphobia, not because of Jesus, but because of white privilege and power and money.

BELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so our job is to break those systems of repression. And that includes calling the church to repentance.

BELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No social justice effort in the United States has ever been successful without the church on board.


HILL: That is a lot right there in that clip.

BELL: Yes.

HILL: I look forward to seeing more this weekend.

BELL: Thank you.

HILL: Nice to see you.

BELL: Thanks for having me.

HILL: Nice T-shirt too.

You can catch the premiere of this season of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" this Sunday night 10:00 Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.


HILL: Up next: President Trump saying the U.S. has the best economy in the world by far. That's after a new report shows that GDP growth in the first quarter smashing expectations. We're going to break those numbers down.

Plus, Senator Elizabeth Warren showing she isn't afraid to talk about race on the campaign trail -- more about the details on how she's made racial inequities a central part of her policy proposals.



HILL: Breaking news now when the investigation into Boeing's 737 MAX jet, a source telling CNN four employees warned the FAA about issues with the company's manufacturing process earlier this month.

Drew Griffin is our senior investigative correspondent and joins us now with more.

So, Drew, these calls came in after those two deadly crashes involving both Lion Air and Ethiopian Air, correct?


This is certainly a different twist on where these investigations are going. The calls came in on April 5, the day after the preliminary report of the Ethiopian Air crash was released. And what we're being told, according to a source, is that, four Boeing employees or former employees called to report cases involving manufacturing discrepancies related to foreign object damage to the angle of attack wiring and concerns about the MCAS control cutout switches, both of those involved in both of the 737 MAX crashes.

And, as you may recall, "The New York Times" reported similar problems with Boeing's manufacturer down in Charleston, South Carolina, of a different airplane, the Dreamliner program, in which metal shavings were being found in the planes and other discrepancies were being found in the manufacturing process.

So this seems to be a different avenue of investigation into this 737 MAX crash, as the company struggles to get that plane back up in the air.

HILL: Drew Griffin with the latest for us there -- Drew, thank you.

Turning now to the U.S. economy shattering expectations in the first quarter, the GDP growing at a rate of 3.2 percent. That is far above what was projected, 2.1 percent.

And President Trump taking a victory lap, touting those strong numbers.


TRUMP: The country, though, is doing very well in every respect. I mean, we're just doing well. We're knocking it out of the park, as they say.

GDP is an incredible number. But, remember this. Not only that. We have a great growth, which is growth. We have great growth and also very, very low inflation.

Our economy is doing great, number one in the world.