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Crisis in Venezuela; Democrats and Trump Agree on Infrastructure Spending; Biden Leading Polls; Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is Interviewed About Venezuela. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 30, 2019 - 16:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Kelley Carter, thank you for sharing your stories, living vicariously through you.

KELLEY CARTER, ESPN: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: For a 76-year-old, Joe Biden seems to have hit the ground running.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The Biden bump? Brand-new CNN polls giving us the first look at the Democratic presidential field after former Vice President Biden jumped in the race. And the results will almost certainly surprise you.

Rematch. President Trump sits down with Chuck and Nancy in a White House showdown over rebuilding America's crumbling bridges and roads. Did it produce anything but more bickering?

Plus, a CNN exclusive breaking this hour. Stephen Moore's woman problem seems to be getting worse. The shocking new comments just surfacing this hour from President Trump's probable pick to the Federal Reserve Board.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start with our 2020 lead today.

Joe Biden, with a commanding lead in brand-new polling, returns to the state where his last run for the White House faltered. The former vice president rallying in the crucial early state of Iowa this afternoon. In 2008, he secured only 1 percent of the caucus vote there.

But, today, a brand-new national CNN poll shows he has a dominating lead over the other Democratic candidates. As CNN's Jessica Dean reports, the Biden campaign is already rolling

out a heavy hitter in his first week in the race.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Biden making his first trip to Iowa since announcing his run for president. It's a state he struggled in, in the past.

JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The good news and the bad news. You're going to see a whole heck of a lot of me.


BIDEN: I promise you this. No one's going to work harder in Iowa than Joe Biden to get your support and gain your confidence.

DEAN: The campaign releasing a new video today featuring a very familiar voice.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career.

DEAN: The Biden campaign plans to lean heavily on his relationship with former President Barack Obama. Though Obama has no plans to endorse during the primaries, a source tells CNN the Obama team was made aware of the video rollout plan and did not object.

Biden's entrance into the race has also earned him a big bounce in the polls. A new nationwide CNN poll shows Biden at 39 percent among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic. That's up 11 points from last month and puts Biden more than 20 points ahead of his nearest competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders, with most voters saying they could still change their mind.

As Biden surges, he's also laying out his plan on how to court Trump voters with the economy doing so well.

BIDEN: For the vast majority of working-class and middle-class people, it's not significantly better. It's not significantly better. And they know they're not being treated very well. This is about restoring dignity.

DEAN: Meantime, Sanders is the first opponent to draw a sharp contrast between himself and Biden.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think when people take a look at my record vs. Vice President Biden's record, I helped lead the fight against NAFTA. He voted for NAFTA. I helped lead the fight against PNTR with China. He voted for it.


DEAN: Back here in Iowa, we are in Dubuque, which will be the former vice president's final scheduled stop of the day. He will gather with people here tonight.

And expect to hear him talk more about growing this middle class, about the dignity of work. You heard in the piece that he keeps going back to the refrain that the Trump tax cuts didn't help the average person, Jake.

And that's something that we're hearing him hit on at every single stop that he's done so far. And we expect to hear more of that as his trip to Iowa continues. He's got more stops scheduled tomorrow.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Dean in Dubuque, Iowa, thank you so much.

Let's chew all over this.

Karen, I want to get your reaction to this poll. It's obviously -- caveats abound.


TAPPER: It's still early. At this point in the 2016 race, it was 2015 and Donald Trump hadn't even entered the race. So who knows what will happen.

Still, this is a big lead for Joe Biden. I am surprised.

FINNEY: Absolutely. It's -- I am a little bit surprised, although he's had a very good, as you can read on, 24 hours, right?

So he had kind of a rough start leading up to his initial announcement, and a rough couple of days, but he seems to have hit his stride, really, strongly, in the last, I would say, few days.

And this morning, for example, on "Good Morning America," he had a much better response with regard to Anita Hill and really tried to take ownership of the way she was treated when she appeared before the committee. I think a lot of people were looking to hear that.

And people have been very excited and enthusiastic for him to get into the race and see how things shake up. So I'm not surprised to see him so far ahead right now.


The question will be, where's he going to be a month from now, when the sort of wear and tear of being the front-runner starts to show itself?

TAPPER: And scrutiny into his record.

FINNEY: Absolutely.

TAPPER: What's interesting, Lanhee, is, this is the most diverse presidential field in the history of the United States.

But Biden leads in almost every demographic, including non-white voters, where he had a huge lead; 50 percent of non-white Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they want Biden, followed by Senator Sanders; 7 percent are for Elizabeth Warren.

What do you make of that? Obviously, again, it's early, but still...


Well, I think name I.D. helps a lot. I think having been vice president of the United States for eight years is probably not a bad thing if you're going to run for president yourself.

And then, look, the reality is, there's probably some positive wash- off he gets from President Obama and having been part of that administration. But it's early. And also the launch. If you look at Kamala Harris, right after her launch, other candidates have always gotten a little bit of a bump out of their launch. So I'm sure we're seeing some of that, but I would really not underestimate the value of name identification here.

I think that's driving a lot of this.

TAPPER: And the question that is going to be challenging for him and all the Democrats is, how do you make the case against President Trump when the economy is doing so well?

The acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, made this argument earlier today. Take a listen.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: You hate to sound like a cliche, but are you better off than you were four years ago? And it's pretty simple, right? It's the economy, stupid. It's -- I think that's easy.

People will vote for somebody they don't like if they think it's good for them.


TAPPER: "People will vote for somebody they don't like if they think it's good for them." That's what they're banking on.



JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's not the most -- it's not exactly morning in America, right?


GREEN: I think that's true of some people, but, overall, I think there are real, deep concerns about Trump that we see reflected in the polls.

And I think that's one reason why Biden, unlike any other 2020 candidate I can think of, launched his campaign with this frontal attack against Donald Trump, against his character, against what he's done to the country.

In his own way, Biden is kind of calling for a sort of restoration, not of the 1950s and the 1960s, in the way Trump did, but of the Obama era. And, at least so far, that seems like a pretty popular message with voters.

TAPPER: Can I say, though, Hillary Clinton launched this character assault on Donald Trump, right, didn't talk about the dumped Chinese steel, didn't talk about how he actually treated workers, talked about his character. Didn't work out.


I mean, it was striking to me how much his early message reminded me of Hillary Clinton's early -- or general election message. I mean, look, there's two things here. It turns out that before you can win a general election, you have to win a primary.

And so that's something where I think Democratic voters are looking for some differentiation maybe on economic policies. And I think there are a lot of Democratic voters who aren't just looking for a restoration of the Obama years, who feel that the world has changed in some way and would like to see that change reflected either generationally or a more leftward shift in policy.

And that could emerge to be a problem for Joe Biden. Races are not won and lost in the first week. Just ask Hillary Clinton.


FINNEY: Can I just say, though, that we did actually talk about dumping steel and we talked about how much Chinese steel he used in his buildings. It never got any traction in 2016.

LERER: Right.

FINNEY: We tried to talk about the Russia connection. It never really got any traction.

The difference I think now, though, in prosecuting the character case, particularly the way Biden is doing it, is, we have got a couple of years of a record of Trump as president, as someone who we have always seen the leader of the country is not the person who should draw moral equivalence between Nazis and, you know, people who are there to protest against what they're there to support.

So, I think part of the difference is, people have more of an experience. And I remember, initially, after the campaign, one of the things Kellyanne Conway said, is they decided their strategy -- sounds like Mick Mulvaney, they're going back to it -- she said, they figured out what offenders me is not what affects me.

That was the way they sort of got around with voters the things that were offensive to people, because they were making the case, look, we're going to make your life better, we're going to shake things up in Washington. And I think now there's real data that shows that people don't feel

that at the grassroots.

LERER: But I do think President Trump ushered in a new era of politics in some ways. That's why see you see the rise of -- you know, why Beto O'Rourke maybe did so well or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

There's this like craving for authenticity, for -- just for something a little different, for cutting through the standard kind of stuff. And he -- as far as I have seen in the first week, that's not where his head is at. And that's not where his team is at.

TAPPER: That's not where Joe Biden is at?



LERER: And I don't know if that -- it will be interesting to me to see if that becomes a problem for him.

CHEN: Yes, I'm not sure that running a referendum-based campaign is going to be a successful strategy for Joe Biden in the long run.

Now, in the primary, it may actually be. For him to say, look, this is a referendum on Donald Trump, I'm the guy best equipped to take him on, that might serve him well now. I don't know about later on.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

Firebombs, fury, armored vehicles plowing over innocent people. As Venezuela erupts, will a free nation rise from these ashes? We are going to go live on the ground in Caracas next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news in our world lead.

Venezuela may be on the brink of no return right now, violence and bloodshed erupting in the streets, as both sides accuse the other of attempting a coup. Self-proclaimed Venezuelan President Juan Guaido is calling for Venezuelan citizens and members of the military to join him in taking control of the country from socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro, who stands accused of holding a sham election and illegally ignoring the National Assembly.

I want to warn our viewers, we're about to show some graphic video of the violence that's taking place in the streets of Venezuela today. You can see members of the military who back Maduro literally mowing down protesters in the street today.

As CNN was broadcasting those images, the network was taken off the air by the dictatorial Venezuelan government and at this point has not been put back on in that country.

This afternoon, the White House renewed support for Guaido and reminded Maduro that all U.S. options remain on the table.

Stefano Pozzebon is live in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

And, Stefano, are the conditions on the ground there right now?

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The condition here, Jake, is that the intense stand-off between security forces that are still loyal with Nicolas Maduro hunkered down in the military air base.

And the opposition protests are still ongoing. And it's been ongoing for what is almost 10 hours right now. I'm talking to you from Altamira Square. At the bottom of this road, just about 200 feet from the place where I'm standing right now

[16:15:01] I'm talking to you from Altamira Square. At the bottom of this road, just about 200 feet from the place where I'm standing right now is the military air base where all the action has been mainly focused today.

Still yet to be understood, who will eventually prevail. We understand that Juan Guaido will make a pronouncement in the hours of this late afternoon, early evening, to sort of draw a balance off today, these military uprising. And again, Jake, as you said, the key crucial development here on the ground in Caracas and the reason why this could be, as you correctly said, the point of no return, is that we're seeing finally, members of the military joining sides with the opposition, with Juan Guaido and with the other protesters.

And this is why this is very, very significant, Jake, and together with those images that we've seen of an armored vehicle running through opposition protesters, also, a lot of gunfight. In my hands are the live ammunition that has been fired from the very early hours of today here in Caracas. Have been fired by the different factions, by the two jostling powers, Guaido and Maduro, and there loyal on both sides, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Stefano, please stay safe.

Joining me right now is a top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

Venezuelans have been protesting in the streets for months, but Maduro has still managed to hang on to power. Do you think today is different?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Well, I think it's much different, because, in addition to the citizens peacefully protesting, you have elements of the military and intelligence that have come out and sided with the constitutional president, which is Juan Guaido. Under the Venezuelan institution, Juan Guaido is the interim president, recognized by 50 countries in the world. So, it's the military responding to constitutional order, at least an element of them.

And so, I think that's significantly different. And I look forward to, I hope, a peaceful resolution, in which Juan Guaido will act as the interim president and then move on towards the elections.

TAPPER: You heard from White House national security adviser, Ambassador John Bolton, today. What did he have to say about the situation?

MENENDEZ: Well, he was giving me insights about where it was, that was early this morning, what activities were taking place. I noticed in his later press conference, he specifically called out three key leaders in the Venezuelan government, the head of the Venezuelan supreme court, the head of the defense ministry, and the head of the palace guard, all who has supposedly made commitments to Guaido, that it was time for a transition to -- a peaceful transition, where Maduro would have to leave.

And the reality is that the only way that there can be a violent end to this is with Maduro turning over his security forces against the Venezuelan people, taking what soldiers that are left that may be loyal to him, using the Cubans that are propping him, nearly 20,000 of them in the security apparatus inside of Venezuela, and nearly 100 or so more Russian troops that were sent in by Russia, to ultimately work against the Venezuelan people in a violent way. He's the only who can make it truly violent at the end of the day.

TAPPER: Maduro, it seems obvious that he's not going to willingly give up power. Obviously, the Russians could encourage him to step down. The Cubans could encourage him to step down. The United States could play some sort of role in terms of trying to give him some sort of soft landing.

Is there any way that this ends with Maduro out of power without it being violent?

MENENDEZ: It could happen. It's very clear.

Number one is, the Cubans have been using Venezuela in a parasitic relationship there, basically getting resources out of Venezuela to prop the regime up. So they send their most significant intelligence services to help Maduro stay in power.

But at some point, the Cubans have to understand there's a consequence for them. The Russians have to understand, if they want to get their moneys paid back, which is why I've got to believe they're in there, that they will do it with a government that is functioning, not with Maduro's failed enterprises. And even the Chinese have an interesting to get paid back.

So, at the end of the day, if there is the type of movement of the Venezuelan people that Juan Guaido has called for, and the continuing international pressure of the 50 countries that are recognized Guaido and the Organization of American States and others, then I think if there is an understanding that there's no place for Maduro to go to unless he strikes a deal, it could be a peaceful transition at the end of the day.

[16:20:06] TAPPER: Well, let's hope for a peaceful transition.

Senator Bob Menendez, thank you so much for your time.

It's hard to forget what happened the last time President Trump met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer. They had a face- to-face today. What could go wrong?

Stay with us.


[16:25:01] TAPPER: In our politics lead today, Democratic leaders claiming they can simultaneously legislate with and investigate President Trump. They appeared all smiles today outside the White House, proudly announcing they have reached the broad outlines of a deal with President Trump to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure, the crumbling bridges and roads in this country, repairing them, even as the president's chief of staff was publicly doubting the idea that Democrats can both legislate and investigate, while the same meeting was going on.

But as CNN's Kaitlan Collins explains, it appears these talks at least went a little better than the last time.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The meeting between President Trump and Democratic leaders today was nothing like their last face-to-face.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We just had a very productive meeting with the president of the United States.

COLLINS: There was no shouting, there were no cameras, and no ultimatums, like the last time Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were in the Oval Office.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.

COLLINS: But instead, what emerged was an agreement to pursue an ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Even the president was eager to push it up to $2 trillion. And that is a very good thing.

COLLINS: The question now is how they'll pay for it. Democrats say that discussion will happen in three weeks. And they are eager to hear Trump's ideas, but Republicans already sound skeptical.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): They're walking into a meeting today, saying, you have to change the tax cuts to the American public and raise taxes on the American public if they were to go along with an infrastructure bill. I think that's a loss. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, everybody!

COLLINS: While that meeting was happening, Trump's chief of staff was across the country, throwing cold water on the idea that any deal will happen while Democrats are investigating Trump.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: If I'm suing you on one deal, are you likely to do another deal with me at the same time? Probably not. That's just human nature.

COLLINS: But Democrats say the investigations never came up.

SCHUMER: In previous meetings, the president has said, if these investigations continue, I can't work with you. He didn't bring it up.

COLLINS: But the constitutional clash between the White House and Democrats over the sprawling investigations into the president is still very much alive.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): He obviously has something to hide.

COLLINS: And Republicans are prepared to support Trump's strategy to ignore subpoenas from Democrats.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's a constitutional crisis. He's ignoring a co-equal branch of government.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): No, these guys are political hacks right now.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, we're getting some pretty striking quotes from the president during this meeting on infrastructure with Democrats, per a Democratic source. One where the president was trashing the administration's last proposal on infrastructure, one that included those private and public partnerships, and the president referencing his former economic adviser, Gary Cohn, said, quote, that was a Gary bill. That bill was so stupid.

And then, Jake, the president told Nancy Pelosi, he said, quote, I would like to do something. It may not be typically Republican. He told Pelosi, he liked the $2 trillion number he was pushing. And then he said, quote, I'll lead on this.

Now, of course, Jake, they were all smiles and a lot of positive talk coming out of that meeting. But the big question is, whether or not these talks will break down when it comes to who will actually have to pay for this and how.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Lisa, I mean, that sounded good and potentially compromise is possible, but I should point out, the economic hawk in the administration, the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was not there. What are some potential speed bumps you think we're headed towards here?

LERER: So Mick Mulvaney was actually, at the time that meeting was going on was in California, raising many concerns, he has with the possibility of this deal. So it is a long road of speed bumps.

And I actually think it's sort of sad how shocked we are by the fact that there was a meeting that was not automatically unproductive. The fact that it could be mildly pleasant is a shocking thing. It really tells where we are in Washington.

But look, some of the concerns that Mulvaney was raising were issues over environmental topics, labor -- concessions to labor that Democrats would need. And, of course, the big one, the elephant in the room, which wasn't discussed, which is, how you pay for this thing. And that's going to be a problem both on the Democratic side, depending what the pay-fors are, and definitely on the Republican side.

TAPPER: So I'm having flashbacks as to when there was an immigration deal on the table and President Trump was -- or a gun deal, and President Trump was talking about no due process, take the guns away from shady characters, and then what happens is, people start talking to him from his base, whether it's Laura Ingraham and Senator Tom Cotton and it all goes away.

GREEN: This follows a pattern. He gets in a room with Democrats. They notionally agree on a big plan that sounds on something that Democrats would like to do. Trump gets wowed by the big number, building something like an infrastructure plan.

And then he clicks on Fox News at 8:00 p.m., and all of a sudden, finds out what's wrong with his plan. Or Mitch McConnell calls and says, hey, we're the ones who decide the spending, you don't. And he essentially gets overruled, if not by his own chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, then by Republicans in Congress or the Fox News talking heads.