Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Meeting Now with Pelosi & Schumer on Infrastructure; Attempted Coup Underway in Venezuela; CNN Poll: Biden Opens Commanding Lead over Democrat Field. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 30, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

We're following two major stories unfolding as we speak.




BOLDUAN: Right now, as you heard there, gunshots are echoing in the streets of Venezuela's capital. An attempted coup is under way as the country's opposition leader is calling for a military uprising to bring down the embattled president of the country, Nicolas Maduro. You're looking at live pictures right here from Caracas, Venezuela. Protests have been going on there for months, of course, but this, this is different. Vice President Mike Pence sending out a message supporting the opposition just a short time ago. In his message, saying, "America will stand with you until freedom and democracy are restored." We're going to go live to Caracas in just a moment.

But we're also keeping an eye on the White House right now as President Trump is meeting, as we speak, with the top Democrats in Congress. Meeting to try and come together to do something about the nation's aging and crumbling infrastructure. But crumbling and, let's be honest, beyond repair could also be the perfect way to describe the current relationship between these leaders. Can they strike a deal? If their previous sit-downs on any indication, it will not be easy.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House following all this for us.

Kaitlan, what are you hearing about this meeting between the president and Democratic leaders?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we know it's under way right now. We saw Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer arrive at the White House not too long ago. And now the question is, can they agree on anything related to infrastructure? Right now, the president is in there meeting with several Democrats, not just the two leaders of the party but also several other members as well. We should note, there were no Republicans invited to today's meeting.

Of course, infrastructure is something that has actually had bipartisan support. We have seen lawmakers from both sides of the aisle want to come together on this. The question is whether or not compromise is going to be hard for them because not only have they not agreed on infrastructure but, right now, they can't agree on disaster aid or prescription drug prices or anything of the like. Of course, this is going to foreshadow whether or not they can get anything done in the next 18 months.

Kate, the obvious backdrop here is all the oversight requests coming from Democrats right now that the White House and the administration overall have been fighting aggressively. We have seen it escalate in recent weeks, not only with lawsuits filed by the president, by his children against some of the records, questioning some of the demands wanting the president's financial records, so the question is whether or not that's going to come up in this meeting and cause sparks to fly.

One person in that meeting is Richard Neal, who has been going after the president's tax returns, wanting them from the IRS to be handed over. That's a deadline that the Treasury has missed twice now. And right now, the Treasury secretary says it's still something he is reviewing. So whether or not that comes up in the meeting is still an open question because, Kate, you can't ignore the last time that President Trump, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi were all in the room together was when President Trump walked out of the meeting during the government shutdown negotiations, and then the meeting right before that where they brought the cameras in and you saw this aggressive back and forth between the three of them that was just simply stunning.

The question right now is whether or not that's going to happen today or whether or not they're actually going to be able to make some substantive progress on infrastructure.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I think that last bit is a very big question. Regardless, you know, with so many folks, even if cameras aren't allowed in, with so many folks in the room, we'll be hearing about it on the way out.

Great to see you, Kaitlan. Thank you. Thank you so much. We'll keep an eye there.

But I want to head to Venezuela where an attempted coup is under way as we speak. Opposition leader, Juan Guaido, declaring early this morning that the beginning -- declaring this morning the beginning of the final phase of Operation Freedom -- that is how he's putting it -- against the longtime president, Nicolas Maduro. It's a tense situation developing as we speak. There are reports of gunfire on the ground. You see Guaido there in the middle of it.

I'm joined now by CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward. She's been watching all this. Clarissa, the protests have been going on for a long time. This is

different. What is different, though?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is absolutely different. And I think we first knew and understood that it was different when we saw this video that Guaido released at dawn this morning, where he was standing alongside opposition activist, Leopoldo Lopez. Lopez has been under house arrest for some time, so the fact that he was released gave an indication that at least certain elements of the military have defected to support Guaido, that they actually took part in releasing Lopez. And then we have now seen also, at this Altamira Air Force Base, national guardsmen wearing blue arm bands in support of Guaido.

[11:05:07] The question really, though, is, Kate, as Guaido calls on people to take to the streets, to support his movement, to topple Maduro, and calls specifically on the military and different elements and the senior echelons of the military, which has staunchly supported Maduro in the past, to defect, has it reached a tipping point? Has a critical mass been reached? At this stage, we simply don't know. What we're seeing and hearing on the ground clearly an intense situation, escalating. Reports of live fire from our own CNN team on the ground. Tear gas being lobbed at the protesters. Tear gas, Kate, we have seen that in the course of many of these protests, but live ammunition, that's not something we have seen before.

Meanwhile, President Maduro showing no signs of backing down. He has been busy on Twitter saying, "Nerves of steel. We are still in control. This coup attempt will not succeed, and we will win."

The U.S., of course, throwing its lot firmly behind Guaido and his supporters, urging the military to join that movement. But the real question, I think, Kate, becomes, did the U.S. know that this was going to happen. Could Guaido have attempted something this bold without having their approval or at least tacit knowledge of it -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's a very interesting and important question, Clarissa. Sure to be one of many as we have been watching this play out in real time right now on the streets of Caracas.

Clarissa, stick with me.

I want to go to the ground. We have been trying to reconnect. It can always be tough in these kinds of chaotic situations. I believe we have reconnected with Stefano Pozzebon, who is in Venezuela's capital. He's joining me on the phone.

Stefano, can you hear me?

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): Yes, I can hear you loud and clear. And I'm speaking to you from Altamira Square, the center of an opposition area of Caracas. Here is where hundreds of supporters of Juan Guaido had been gathered since the early hours of today to show their support for the opposition leader and to demand yet again the end of the rule of Nicolas Maduro. Here is where a few minutes ago, Juan Guaido himself took the stage and spoke, saying that the calls for freedom been heard loud and clear, and speaking much to members also of the armed forces, members of the national guard. And this is a key significant development of today. The first time we have seen members of the military, active members here in Caracas, saying that they recognize Juan Guaido's leadership and they are ready for Nicolas Maduro to step down.

BOLDUAN: You had heard, you have seen shots being fired on the streets. Do we know where it was coming from? Who was doing the shooting?

POZZEBON: Yes, we witnessed live shots being fired just a few meters, a few feet from us. These were the result of an exchange between members of the military who have joined the side of Juan Guaido and the members who are still supporting Nicolas Maduro, the embattled president. They have been gathering next to a military base here in the heart of Caracas, and there has been tension since the early hours of today. Molotov cocktails and tear gas have been fired by the two different sides. Some members of the military defected and joined the side with Juan Guaido. That caused an armed altercation. We heard live shots. We witnessed live shots being fired just a few meters from us. There were shots fired on both sides.

BOLDUAN: Can you give me a sense, as you're on the ground, and we're watching it from all the cameras we can, just what is the feeling there at the moment, I mean, among people that are around you? I mean, is there determination, tension, fear? What's the sense you're getting right now in the middle of all this?

POZZEBON: There's definitely tension, but there's also a lot of expectations and also a lot of enthusiasm because, for months, the opposition supporters of the anti-Maduro movement have been wanting Guaido to come and to really show he has support of the military. Finally, it seems to be happening right now here in Caracas. This is something different from the many marches that were seen so far here. So there's a lot of excitement around, a lot of nerve as well because we have yet to see how many military members have joined the side of Guaido against Nicolas Maduro.

[11:10:21] BOLDUAN: Exactly. What is the level of support amongst the military leadership and on down? That's going to be -- I'm just watching these pictures and trying to figure out what's happening as we're talking to you, Stefano. But what exactly is the level of support from the military leadership as this continues in the coming hours. It's going to be obviously critical in how this plays out. Maduro obviously says they have this on lockdown.

Maduro's foreign minister just responded to the Trump administration saying the Trump administration needs to be, quote/unquote, "hands off Venezuela." We can see this is not calming down. This is only, only growing in tension right now.

Stefano, thank you so much. Please be safe. We'll check back in with you as things develop.

Stefano Pozzebon is on the ground for us, doing amazing work. As we continue to watch the pictures coming out of Caracas and what is

really an uncertain situation playing out, joining me right now is CNN global affairs analyst, contributor to "The Daily Beast," Kim Dozier, and David Sanger, national security correspondent from the "New York Times," and also a CNN political and national security analyst.

David, as Stefano and Clarissa were mentioning, what's different here is that members of military leadership are standing with and supporting Juan Guaido. If the military is split, some supporting one side, some supporting the other, what does this mean in what we'll be seeing today?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's all a question of where the momentum is. That's very difficult to tell from this distance, Kate. Juan Guaido has one shot in the timing of doing this, and he clearly made a judgment that enough of the military would break away. But we have seen misjudgments made before in other circumstances. For example, what happened in Turkey two and a half years ago when we saw an uprising where we thought the military was breaking away and it turned out that most of the military leadership ended up staying with the government. So in this case, the issue is what made Juan Guaido believe that this was the moment.


SANGER: I think Clarissa got right at the central point, which is, did he have any coordination or help or guidance from the U.S. or intelligence from the U.S.? Is there some kind of a plan to get Maduro out of the country, similar to what happened in the Philippines so many decades ago, so that this could actually proceed?

BOLDUAN: That actually has been a question on my mind as well. What was the tipping point? Why now?

And, Kim, Guaido earlier today said, well, just moments ago said this about it all: "Our determination is and always will be the way we have been doing it, peacefully and in accordance with our constitution."

But honestly, are there any guarantees this is going to be peaceful?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: No guarantees whatsoever. It really does come down to, who do the Venezuelan generals fear most? Another crackdown by Maduro -- the past crackdowns have killed ranks and ranks of senior officers -- or have they received some sort of assurances from the United States, from others, that if they take this action, they won't be prosecuted, they will be part of the new administration, whatever that administration is. Now, when you saw the defection of the Venezuelan defense attache here in Washington, D.C., that was the most visible sign of the outreach I've heard about from various Venezuelan officers to the opposition, to U.S. officials, trying to determine which way to split when this day came. Now, what they're probably hoping to see is a large number of Venezuelans on the street so that they can say, look, we have no choice, we have to go with the mass of the Venezuelan people. So far, while the pictures are pretty dramatic, we haven't seen mobilizations as big as in the past. BOLDUAN: That's right.

So then, David, what do you think Maduro's move is here?

SANGER: Well, Maduro is clearly trying to make sure his military leadership is together and with him and can put this down. But he also understands the risk that there are already more than 50 countries that have backed Guaido. If he does this too violently --


BOLDUAN: That's no small thing. I mean, it's dozens and dozens of countries.

SANGER: That's right. And 50 countries is a lot. It's not quite as much as what the Trump administration was hoping for when they backed Guaido. At this point, Guaido's two biggest backers are Russia, which has sent in a few score --

BOLDUAN: Maduro's.

SANGER: I'm sorry. Maduro's biggest backer is Russia and, of course, Cuba, which has been very active. So it's not clear to us right now that the presence by the Russians or the Cubans is enough to actually make a difference for Maduro at this point. And so Guaido may think his moment comes. But Kim has it right. If you don't see the size of protests and people on the street that we saw just a few weeks ago, then this may not be the right moment. And if you don't see the military break, it's certainly not the right moment.

[11:15:35] BOLDUAN: Yes. We're watching this play out in real time. And where the momentum is, is going to depend on how many people we see on the streets of Venezuela that we're looking at right here in the coming hours. We just -- honestly, this is one of those moments, you know Guaido and Maduro as well are keeping their eyes on the pictures on the streets. That's this entire story right now.


BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly right.

Thank you guys very much. I really appreciate it. We'll keep our eye close on this throughout the hour and the day.

Coming up for us, though, still, are we seeing -- getting to 2020 politics, are we seeing a Biden bounce? Yes, it's early. We know. A snapshot in time. We know. The former vice president surging in a new poll, the first since he declared his candidacy. We'll bring you the first look at the new state of play in the 2020 Democratic field. That's next.

Plus, President Trump is proposing sweeping new changes for asylum seekers. What does this mean for the crisis at the border?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:20:55] BOLDUAN: It is the first complete look at where the Democratic field stands right now and Joe Biden is looking good. The new CNN poll, the first conducted entirely after Biden jumped into the race, shows that the former vice president is the clear front-runner. And 39 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning Independents say Biden is their choice, their top choice for the nomination. That's an 11-point jump from a month ago, and more than 20 points ahead of his nearest competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders. Where is that bump coming from? Let us find out. Today, Biden kicks off a two-day trip to Iowa.

That's where we find CNN's Jeff "I left my heart in Cedar Rapids" Zeleny once again.

It's good to see you.


Biden is starting the day on top. What are you hearing there?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. There's no question Joe Biden is coming into Iowa in a different position than he ever has been during his virtually three decades on and off of running for president, as the front-runner. But those presidential ambitions have never gotten him past Iowa. Think back to 1988, that campaign, he didn't even make it to the Iowa caucuses. In 2008, he dropped out the day after the Iowa caucuses. But so much has changed. A, Democrats are looking for a strong candidate to defeat President Trump. Joe Biden says he is that candidate. He's coming in with the glow of a front-runner. He's coming in with the air of someone who can immediately sort of command control of this race. Now, he has to prove that all of this speculation is actually real.

But, Kate, one thing that is clear in that poll is that, even though 36 percent of voters nationally say they will definitely support their candidate, about six in 10 say they are still open to changing their minds. That, of course, is the challenge for Joe Biden, to show voters why he is the candidate to defeat President Trump.

But he certainly does not have the endorsement of Barack Obama, his partner in the White House for eight years. But listen to a campaign video that Biden team released this morning.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service. Somebody who has devoted his entire professional life to service to this country. The best part is he's nowhere close to finished.


ZELENY: That's not an official endorsement, but, boy, it sounds like the support from President Obama. And aides to President Obama say they're aware he's using his voice and image and they have no problem with that. But President Obama is watching this race from the sideline. Kate, the question is, can Joe Biden win the big one on his own? It all starts today here in Cedar Rapids.

BOLDUAN: Yes, can he get past Iowa? Can he get further than he has in the last two attempts? We'll find out.

Great to see you, Jeff. Thank you so much.

Joining me now, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, and Seung Min Kim, CNN political analyst and White House reporter for the "Washington Post."

It's great to see you guys.

Chris, let's start on the polls. Polls are a snapshot in time. It's early in the race. But this poll tells you at least at this moment what voters are interested in at the moment. What stands out to you?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Polls are a snapshot in time, you're right, but you would rather be at 39 if you're Joe Biden than 28 where he was a month ago. You have to be happy if you're Biden or a Biden supporter. I'll note, if you dig a little into that poll, what's fascinating is that Biden's lead is largely predicated on his lead among non-white voters. He's at 39 percent to Sanders' 15 percent. He's at 50 percent among non-white voters. Remember, as Barack Obama proved in 2008, non-white voters in Democratic primaries make up an absolutely huge influential chunk. Yes, Iowa and New Hampshire, where Jeff is in Iowa today, very white state in terms of its Democratic primary vote, same thing in New Hampshire. But South Carolina, the third voting state, hugely influential. The black population has a huge role to play there. I think Biden has to be happy because it suggests that the Twitter Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party. And I think that will make him --

[11:20:09] BOLDUAN: What?



BOLDUAN: That is the biggest breaking news of all time.

CILLIZZA: Put the breaking news up.


CILLIZZA: That's a thing his candidacy is premised on, and our poll, at least, suggests there's real facts to back up that idea.

BOLDUAN: Seung Min, other questions in the poll that grab my attention and others was the question on, who do voters want to hear more about. I thought that was fascinating. Kamala Harris leading in that. They want to hear more about Kamala Harris, 23 percent said that. And the quality that matters the most right now to who they eventually will support is essentially electability or who can beat Donald Trump. And that was at 46 percent. What should other Democrats who are running take from those two points that we're looking at right there?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they really need to emphasize the kind of candidate they will be against Donald Trump. And to the former vice president's credit, he's done that essentially from day one. He's done what no other candidate really had done, used his launch video to make that direct contrast with the president. You see, every single day since the vice president announced, President Trump has talked frequently about him. I mean, yesterday, again, he tweeted about Biden. He tweeted about Pittsburgh and how it's doing better under his presidency. Keeps calling him Sleepy Joe. Clearly, Trump thinks Biden is at least a formidable candidate. Perhaps he's afraid about his electoral strength, particularly in the blue-wall states that the president was able to win over Democrats from in 2016.

I think what Democrats are going to increasingly do now -- and you're already seeing this with candidates such as Senator Sanders and Senator Warren -- is creating that contrast with Biden. I think that, I mean, this is a Democratic primary that does at least for now want to be fought mostly on ideas and policies. So you're not going to hear them yet go after Biden for, for example, how he handled Anita Hill, but you're hearing these very sharp jabs about the kinds of policies that the vice president has supported in the past.

I thought Bernie Sanders' interview last night on CNN was particularly striking in that he kept saying over and over, look, Biden supported NAFTA, I opposed NAFTA. He supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership under the Obama administration, I opposed that because I'm on the side of workers. I think that's a contrast you're going to hear from more and more candidates in the coming weeks and months.

CILLIZZA: I'll add quickly --


BOLDUAN: Actually, Chris, just for --


BOLDUAN: -- I want to play that because it's something, you are absolutely right, a really important moment that happened for this Democratic primary last night when Sanders was on with Anderson and ripped the Band-Aid off, taking the front-runner on directly on this issue of policy. But let me, Chris --



BOLDUAN: Let me play this for our viewers.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think when people take a look at my record versus Vice President Biden's record -- I helped lead the fight against NAFTA. He voted for NAFTA. I helped lead the fight against PNCR with China. He voted for it. I strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He supported it. I voted against the war in Iraq. He voted for it.


BOLDUAN: So you know what I thought when I heard that, Chris? I heard that was a lot of the argument that Bernie Sanders was making against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

CILLIZZA: Yes. It's going to be the argument that -- and a lot of it worked, candidly, Kate. It's against the establishment Democrat, which is, look, you say all these things because you know the party is where it is now, but I, Bernie Sanders, have been voting and doing these things for my entire life. That's the argument.

I will say, you used the word before the clip, you said attacking the front-runner. That's important to note because Bernie Sanders is going after Joe Biden because of where -- it's an acknowledgment of where Joe Biden is right now. If Bernie Sanders didn't think Joe Biden was the front-runner, he probably doesn't attack him, and to Seung Min's point, he doesn't attack him as directly. So Biden is in a place he's never been before, clear, if not favorite, definitely the clear front-runner right now, which means you're going to take a ton of incoming.

BOLDUAN: And also another good reminder, Chris, exactly to your point, when politicians and candidates say they don't listen to polls or look at the polls, they're not telling the truth.

CILLIZZA: Of course they do.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you.

CILLIZZA: It's ridiculous.

BOLDUAN: You're ridiculous.


BOLDUAN: Good to see you guys. Thank you. Appreciate it.

I just had to do it.

Coming up for us, charging people for attempting to flee violence in their home countries. That's part of President Trump's new plan for asylum seekers. Just as his new acting Homeland Security secretary is on the Hill right now facing tough questions on this and, I mean, you can imagine, a slew of other topics. We're going to get to that.