Return to Transcripts main page


Biden on Anita Hill: "I did Everything in my Power"; Anita Hill's Congressional Defender in 90's Reacts to Biden; Trump Defends Charlottesville Remarks: Robert E. Lee "Great"; Coast Guard Officer Accused of Terror Plot to be Freed. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 26, 2019 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters, underway right now, from Anita Hill to personal space to his age, Joe Biden's apology tour gets another stop.

President Trump now defending himself against Biden's criticism of his Charlottesville remarks by saying Confederate General Robert E. Lee was one of the greats and saying Biden makes him look young.

Plus, America's economy smashing expectations in the first quarter, hear why.

And uproar after a judge orders the release of a Coast Guard officer who plotted terror against celebrities and had an arsenal for war.

Up first, presidential candidate Joe Biden defends his handling of the Clarence Thomas hearings even as Thomas' accuser Anita Hill says it's not enough. In an interview on ABC's "The View" Biden says he believed Hill's sexual harassment allegations from the beginning and that Hill is one of the reasons for the MeToo movement. But he stop short of a full-throated apology for his actions.


JOY BEHAR, HOST, "THE VIEW": She was not 100 percent happy with your discussion with her. So here's your opportunity right now to just say you apologize, you're sorry. I think we can clean this up right now.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, by the way, I did. I understand, look, I'm not going to judge whether or not it was appropriate, whether she thought it was sufficient, but I said privately, what I've said publicly. I am sorry she was treated the way she was treated. I wish we could have figured out a better way to get this thing done. I did everything in my power to do what I thought was within the rules to be able to stop things --

BEHAR: You know, I think 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 would be closer.

BIDEN: Well, but I'm sorry the way she got treated, in terms of, I never heard -- if you look back at what I said and didn't say, I don't think I treated her badly.


KEILAR: We have political reporter Arlette Saenz who is with us now from New York. And Arlette, do you think that Biden's deflections on Anita Hill and the personal space complaints are going to be enough for him to move beyond these issues?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brianna, I think that's the key question right now. In this appearance in "The View" it was really the most extensive comments that the former vice president has made about both Anita Hill and those allegations that he's made women feel uncomfortable. So, first, to take a look at what he had said about Anita Hill, leading up to this, it's always been, I regret the way that she had been treated, and that's similar to what you heard today. I will note that Biden did go a little bit of a step further when he said that mistakes were made across the board, but fundamentally there, he still was not, when he was pressed to, asked if he would apologize directly for his actions, for his role in the hearing, you heard those comments from the vice president and he didn't exactly want to go that far.

Now, when it comes to those allegations that he made women feel uncomfortable in their interactions, I want to you take a listen to that exchange that he had with the panelists on "The View."


BIDEN: I have to be more cognizant. We all have to - a woman or a man has the right to say, particularly woman, say, no, this is not my space. She should have to say no. I should be able to read better.

BEHAR: Nancy Pelosi wants to you say "I'm sorry that I invaded your space."

BIDEN: I'm sorry I invaded your space. I mean - and I'm sorry this happened, but I'm not sorry in the sense that I think I did anything that was intentionally designed to do anything wrong or be inappropriate.


SAENZ: So in many ways, that was kind of a half apology, and it's unclear whether his discussion of this and these apologies that he was making, whether that's going to be enough for both the women who maybe felt uncomfortable when they've been in encounters with him and also for Anita Hill. But certainly, this is the second day of his campaign, and he's already having to re-litigate all of these issues from his past, not just related to Anita Hill, but we're going to see more issues from his long, long record, like his support for the crime bill, his positions on school busing. I'm not sure that this is the exact rollout that they wanted in day two of the former vice president's presidential campaign, Brianna.

KEILAR: That's a really good point. Arlette thank you so much. Arlette Saenz for us in New York. Pat Schroeder is a former congresswoman from Colorado. She's joining us now. Thank you so much for being with us.


KEILAR: So you were in the House of Representatives during the Anita Hill hearings. You supported her. You advocated for her to then Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden and you've been critical about how he handled the hearing.

[13:05:04] You heard what Biden said today. He said that at the time, he did everything in his power or he said that before, what do you think of how he's now talking about his role in that confirmation process?

SCHROEDER: Well, I have a very different take than he has. As you know, the Congresswoman gave one-minute speeches on the floor, and then walked over to the Senate, because we were so upset that they weren't even going to let her testify. And remember, he was the chairman, making those decisions. We knocked on the door, and we're told, we couldn't come into the caucus, because we were strangers, and I honestly think if it hadn't been for the majority leader, Mitchell, who asked us through his office to talk to him about the issue. And then he called in Biden and said, you have to let her testify.

As the chairman, he wasn't going to even let her testify, then went on early in the morning, and wouldn't let the other women who had shown up testify. And what he told of with us really as to me was one more of the boys club. He kind of - he said to us "You really don't understand. I promised Senator Danforth in the gym that this would be a quick hearing." We would get this to the floor very fast. We're like, I guess -- what do you mean we don't understand? When did the Senate business get done in the gym, where we couldn't even go?

So, we really were very unhappy as a group about that, and as you know, it went on and on. And then, Anita Hill suffered a lot from that. I went to visit her later, when she was at the University of Oklahoma, and the press every day was like, the University of Oklahoma has to get rid of her, and finally, she left but I mean that whole thing was just awful, and really could have done it so differently.

KEILAR: And to your point on that, we've heard that recently, as he's having to answer for some of this, answers that certainly you do not find are satisfactory, and Anita Hill doesn't find satisfactory, right? We just found out that he spoke with her a few weeks ago. His campaign said he expressed, quote, his "regret" for what she endured and his admiration for everything she's done to change the culture around sexual harassment in the country, but she says that it was no apology. It was not enough, by her judgment. What does he need to say at this point in time that would make you satisfied?

SCHROEDER: Well, I think it's much more important that she is satisfied, because she's the one that really had to bear this for years thereafter. She was really made a scapegoat by an awful lot of people for this thing. And from my perspective, what I'm really concerned about is, you know, the Senate at that time was always such an old boys network and I really want to know that he sees women as equals, I mean not just saying it, but he really works with them as equals, respects their opinion as equals, doesn't see them as strangers, and doesn't kind of dismiss them as, well, you can't get in the gym and obviously that's where the guys make all the decisions. You know, that kind of thing really bothered me.

KEILAR: Former Colorado Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, thank you so much for being with us.

SCHROEDER: Thank you.

KEILAR: So one day after Joe Biden used one of the darkest moments of the Trump presidency in the launch of his 2020 campaign video, Mr. Trump was given a chance to clarify his 2017 remarks following the deadly Charlottesville protest, where he said there were very fine people on both sides.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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, he was one of the great generals. I have spoken to many generals here, right at the White House, and many people thought of the generals, they think that he was maybe their favorite general. People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.


KEILAR: Julie Hirschfeld Davis with "The New York Times" and Eliana Johnson with "Politico" are here with us now. This, Julie, was not maybe the best answer he could have given.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it maybe wasn't but it was consistent with answers he's given on this issue in the past. I mean President Trump maintains to this day that he didn't say anything wrong after the Charlottesville incident. He doesn't see anything wrong with the equivalency that he made between the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who were marching and the people who were there to peacefully protest their expressions of whatever they were expressing.

[13:10:14] And I think that you know if we expect him to come up with some sort of different rationale here, if we expect him all of a sudden to have a different view on what happened in Charlottesville, we are mistaken. He's not going to. And certainly now that Biden is trying to make it sort of the centerpiece of what he's saying, compelled him to decide to run against President Trump. We're not going to see President Trump back down on this. And you know, it continues to be a very divisive way that he's using to describe you know this history.

KEILAR: And I wonder now what we're seeing today with President Trump now having to answer for this again, when President Biden came out with his video yesterday, there was I think people were surprised, oh, so that's what he's going to focus on Charlottesville, that's his opening sell. Is it now how President Trump is responding and being on his heels talking about this, and it's back in the news and it's not necessarily good for him, when it comes to moderates, was that a smart decision by Joe Biden to do that?

ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": I think it was an interesting decision, and we'll have to wait longer to see whether it was smart. But he's obviously gotten the president to engage. There's simply been more engagement between Trump and Biden than I think any of the other candidates in the Democratic race up until now. For the past two years, Biden has punched and the president has counter-punched. He's ignored a lot of the other candidates who have gotten in the race.

But Trump and Biden a year ago, Biden said about the "Access Hollywood" tape at the University of Miami, he said somebody had said that when I was in high school, I would have taken him out behind the gym and punched his lights out, and the president responded to that, so these two have shown that they are really willing to get dirty and sling mud at each other, and if Democratic voters respond to that, I think Biden is showing he's focusing on Trump, and his abhorrent behavior more than any other Democratic candidate.

KEILAR: So I'm picturing now these two septuagenarians in the ring slugging it out, right?


KEILAR: To that point, age is becoming an issue. I mean, they're both in their 70's so it's funny to see how they would compete on this. Nonetheless let's talk about age because Biden is 76, Trump is 72 and Trump actually took a swipe at Biden over this.


TRUMP: I think we'd beat him easily.

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


TRUMP: I would never say anyone's too old, but I know they're all making me look very young, both in terms of age and I think in terms of energy.


KEILAR: I don't know about that. Bernie Sanders is 77, too. I don't know. How is age going to shape up in this fight?

DAVIS: I mean, it's an interesting kind of strange tack for him to take, given that he is only a little bit younger than Joe Biden, to call him sleepy Joe, and given that President Trump is not exactly, you know, the most sort of spritely president we've seen in the Oval Office in the last several administrations. It's just a strange thing, but I think what it shows you and to Eliana's point is he feels this kind of head to head thing where he wants to one-up Biden and he wants to sort of fight him on his own turf. So, if you're going to sort of criticize me, I'm going to say you're an old, slow guy. But frankly, I mean if anyone who has covered Joe Biden over the years knows that he is as freakishly energetic as any of these people. And certainly when you look at the rest of the field, when he said these people make me look so young. I mean Pete Buttigieg 37 years old, you know Beto O'Rourke is all up on table all the time. It's the contrast is clearly not real. I mean he's describing something that's not there.

KEILAR: And Eliana, you and John Bresnahan have this great piece in "Politico" today where you look at this rivalry and you report out that part of the reason Donald Trump has these words for Joe Biden is because he's threatened by him.

JOHNSON: That's right. I think Trump engages with the candidates that he feels threatened by and he certainly does feel threatened by Biden. He said to advisers that for as long as six months, how are we going to beat Biden and his advisers have told him that Biden simply can't win a Democratic primary because he's too moderate. But Trump has pushed back and saying what if he does. And I don't think Trump is kidding when he said this publicly several times that he's sorry he took Elizabeth Warren out of the race. He said that somewhat jokingly. But with his attacks on her, calling her Pocahontas, and so on.

And he's talked about her much less since then. So the candidates that he's engaging with really are the people he feels could beat him and I think Biden represents a threat because he has appealed to blue collar, non-college educated voters particularly in the Midwest, and those are the voters who carried Trump to victory in 2016.

KEILAR: And Pennsylvania as well, as you point out in your piece. Thank you guys so much. Appreciate it.

[13:15:00] And as Democrats are threatening to jail Trump officials for not complying with subpoenas, the president is raising eyebrows with comments about Robert Mueller.

Plus, the GDP reports out and the economy smashing expectations in the first quarter.

Also, breaking news, just days after terror attacks at churches and hotels, we're getting word of gunfire in Sri Lanka during raids, they recovered ISIS flags..


KEILAR: There is good economic news out today for President Trump, who constantly points to the economy for evidence of success in his administration. He can now truly hang his MAGA hat on some strong first quarter economic numbers. We have Alison Kosik looking at these numbers. And they are good, Alison.

[13:20:00] ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, much stronger than expected growth in the first quarter. Take a look at this. In the first quarter of this year we saw the economy grow 3.2 percent. We usually don't see a first quarter grow this strong. What powered it, state and local government spending, business investment, U.S. exports and consumer spending.

I'm going to sit on consumer spending because there was a lot of concern about consumer spending, and in the fourth quarter, we saw consumer spending drop off. We saw that continue into the first quarter but then it really bounced back when we saw retail sales numbers in March bounce back as well.

So, once again, unexpectedly 3.2 percent, much higher, I would give that a solid "A" if you're going to go ahead and grade that. Interesting that this happened during a quarter where we saw the government shutdown. This was a historically long government shutdown, apparently it didn't have any impact on economic growth although keep in mind we did lose that productivity. Productivity we won't get back.

One thing I'm going to be keeping my eye on though is Boeing. Boeing is not a trivial part of the economy. The aerospace industry generates $300 billion in value per year. That adds up to about 1.8 percent of GDP. Now what happened in March was Boeing went ahead and grounded its Max 737 jets. It stopped delivery of those jets. That affects the aerospace industry.

So we're going to keep an eye on Boeing especially going into the second quarter, because if Boeing goes ahead and stops all production, it could shave off about 0.6 percent of GDP. But I want to go back to this significant number here, 3.2 percent growth in the first quarter, that gets an "A" in my book. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Alison Kosik, thank you so much. President Trump reacted to this economic news by saying, quote, "We're knocking it out of the park."

We have Jim Tankersley, he's a tax and economics reporter for "The New York Times." And, Jim, you have been looking at these numbers. What is your assessment?

JIM TANKERSLEY, TAX AND ECONOMIC REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's a great number. I mean, it's a great number for the president, great number for the economy. It's a question whether it's sustainable. There are some things in this number that are unlikely to repeat next quarter, but this is really where you want to be as a worker, as a business owner and certainly as an incumbent president with economic growth.

KEILAR: And it's better than predicted, so this was, it wasn't just expected good news. This was unexpected really good news, and when you look at this, we see investments were a key, consumer spending, as Alison laid out was a key. What does that mean -- this is good news overall for the country but just for middle class Americans and how they may be feeling financially at this moment. What does this mean?

TANKERSLEY: I think it's really helpful to put this in a big picture context for the middle class. You know the middle class has been slogging through a long tortured recovery from the great recession, going back to, you know, when the crisis happened in 2008 and we are finally at the part of an economic expansion, which could really helpful for low and middle income workers. That's when unemployment is low, if growth is strong, then you can really start to see some wage growth for typical workers, just people in their day-to-day jobs. And that's where we hope to see more of, over the course of this year is that if growth stays strong and that growth especially on the bottom for wage growth with the tight labor market, that's really good for regular people in the economy.

KEILAR: And pointing towards the rest of the year. Is that where this is going, do you think, job growth? Wage growth?

TANKERSLEY: I think we all certainly hope so. I mean you have to root for American workers. There are some signs that growth might not be this strong next quarter in particular. We're just going to have to see in particular what keeps happening with foreign trade, what's happening with inventories, just a lot of things inside these numbers that will point us to will this be another 3 percent growth year or something a little less than that.

KEILAR: All right. Jim Tankersley, thank you for making sense of all of it for us.

TANKERSLEY: Thank you.

KEILAR: And a judge ordering a Coast Guard officer and self-described white nationalist accused in a terror plot to, quote, "kill every last person" to be released from jail before his trial.

And a Democratic lawmaker is threatening to jail Trump administration officials who refuse Congressional subpoenas. He'll be joining me live.


[13:28:47] KEILAR: A man accused of plotting domestic terror attacks could soon be released from jail as he awaits trial. Christopher Hasson is a Coast Guard lieutenant who was stationed in Washington, D.C. When police arrested him they found nearly 20 weapons, guns, including assault style rifles and he also had a hit list of Democratic politicians and some journalists, including three of my colleagues here at CNN.

Prosecutors say that he's a white supremacist but his attorney downplayed the hate speech and the hit list saying, quote, "it looks like the sport of list that our commander in chief might have compiled while watching Fox News in the morning." Jessica Schneider is our justice correspondent here with the story. And the judge who is ordering the release admits that he has, quote, "grave concerns" in the case. So, why is he going to be released?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So the judge did say yesterday that he has grave concerns about this alleged plot from Hasson. But really he stressed that because Hasson is only facing these weapons and drugs charges, that it doesn't meet the standard for continued detention. So he has to release him at some point.

And it's important to note that there is no so-called domestic terrorism law, so without any overt act, as in this case, prosecutors really have their hands tied. So instead, the judge said he is inclined to release Hasson on some very strict conditions. Putting it this way, saying, "He's got to have a whole lot of supervision. Somebody who has got eyes and ears on him like nobody's business."