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CNN Poll: Biden Opens Commanding Lead Over Democratic Field; Trump and His Children Sue Banks to Block House Subpoenas for Records; Trump Introduces Sweeping Changes to Asylum in Memo; Attempted Coup Underway in Venezuela; Latest Poll Has Joe Biden in Commanding Lead Over Democratic Field. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 30, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:20] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jim Sciutto in New York, and we begin this morning with breaking news out of Venezuela where an attempted coup is under way there. You heard that right. Opposition leader Juan Guaido calling for the military to oust the sitting president, Nicolas Maduro. In an early morning video Guaido saying, quote, "The moment is now," calling for his supporters to take to the streets. And many answering that call.

Crowds gathered around an air force base in Caracas, the capital, and both Maduro and Guaido are claiming that they have the support of Venezuela's military. That will be the key question, who is right?

Joining me now is CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He's been on the ground there in Venezuela many times.

What is the latest and how serious a threat is this to the sitting government of Nicolas Maduro?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, and we've talked about this continuing protest movement inside Venezuela but today is something very new. We are talking about Juan Guaido who has declared himself the interim president, is being recognized by dozens of countries including the U.S. and European Union.

For the first time as dawn broke saying he was in a military base standing up flanked by what looked like to be Venezuelan National Guard, Venezuelan Army, with riot police vehicles behind them, and importantly an opposition leader who is supposed to be under house arrest, Leopold Lopez, to one of his sides standing there and saying this is the beginning of the end. This is what we call operation freedom, and calling on people to stand up and get rid of the usurper, that's what he refers to Nicolas Maduro, the president whose presidency he considers to be illegitimate.

That is a staggering moment of theater, something Juan Guaido is very good at, frankly, but hasn't always managed to translate it into something real on the street. Are what we're seeing now the first signs of possibly the military turning?

What's startling you're seeing there on those images are the blue arm bands that appear to be being worn by Venezuelan soldiers who are sympathetic with the opposition, that's what we seem to be seeing, and the fact that the tear gas that regularly flies at these opposition demos, they often last hours, people throw rocks, they go home. This tear gas is being used on Venezuelan soldiers themselves. See that there. That is very different.

Should point out, too, we've heard from Reuters and our reporter on the ground there, Stefano Pozzebon, saying that they've heard what seems like gunshots in the past half hour or so. Now we should bear in mind, that could mean a lot of things. It could be blanks, could be rounds fired in the air, it could be something nothing to do with the military taking matters into their own hands. But it shows a certain sharpening of the situation which we haven't really seen before. Live ammo is not something I've seen used much. Rubber bullets have been fired in the past.

So the big question now is what does the Venezuelan government do. What's interesting to see is their reaction. You have there on the screen the phrase "attempted coup." That's certainly what they are calling it. And while they've used a lot of inflammatory rhetoric in the past years or so against their opposition, on a day like today to say this is a coup well, that simply just pours gasoline on to the opposition's own fire potentially gathering momentum for them.

And interestingly enough to the people around Nicolas Maduro they're calling his protesters out on to the streets. That's not abnormal but it is abnormal for them to say, can you please come around the presidential palace Miraflores.

Now why is all this happening today? Well, tomorrow was supposed to be a nationwide day of protest called by the Venezuelan opposition, May 1st, dozens of potential places around the country to get people out on the streets. Many thought the movement was really flagging. It had been months, they've had a lot of external support, but really Juan Guaido hadn't translated that, great as he is on social media of fanning the flames of protest. He hadn't translated that into a real practical action.

Is what we're seeing on the streets today a change? We'll know in the hours ahead. But I have to say, I didn't expect to see this -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Nick, help us understand what we're seeing on the screens here. So you're saying, and you note what is important here, is some of those soldiers wearing arm bands that appear to show that they do, as Guaido is claiming, support him, support the opposition. Now the tear gas you're saying here, is that being fired on soldiers by other soldiers? Does this indicate a split in the military now?

WALSH: Yes, I think what you're saying there is some of that. Now I can't tell precisely because of the camera angle, but that looks to be around the main airport where we often see standoffs between demonstrators and the military. The military inside often fire out tear gas to keep people away to get kids some time chasing at the fences, throwing rocks, throwing Molotov cocktails, doing what they can. A lot of poverty and frustration at the heart of some of these protests. What we seem to be seeing is tear gas there. You see a soldier

throwing away that tear gas canister. Tear gas being used against the military. That is startling.

[09:05:02] This is what's new about today, Jim. And this is what takes us to a new place. No way of proving those people in the military uniform in the protests outside are certainly Venezuelan soldiers, but there's a lot of them and they seem to know what they're doing -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: OK. Nick, stand by. We're going to bring in Stefano Pozzebon. He is on the ground in Caracas. He joins us now by telephone.

Stefano, these are remarkable images we're watching now on our air, which appeared to show some members of the Venezuelan military who, as Juan Guaido is claiming, support the opposition here. Tell us what you're seeing on the ground and is there more reporting to back up that there is now a split within the military?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (via phone): Yes, exactly. What we're seeing here is a very tense situation. Military men, soldiers mainly on both sides, protesters have been gathering here (INAUDIBLE) today and inside the military air base where the forces loyal to Nicolas Maduro are staying. We've seen both sides, military forces and (INAUDIBLE), very short amount of time, shots, a lot of shots have been fired in a moment of tension between the two sides. Just a few minutes ago, next to a place where I'm standing here --

SCIUTTO: Stefano.


SCIUTTO: Stefano, just because it's difficult to hear you and I know you're in the middle of it here, but to be clear you said you heard shots fired. Are you sure this is gunfire? Sometimes the sound of tear gas being fired can sound like gunshots, but have you witnessed gunfire?

POZZEBON: Shots being fired for just a very brief amount of time. Now the situation (INAUDIBLE) calm backed up for a few minutes as the two sides were getting closer. There had been an armed confrontation for a very, very short amount of time. And now the situation (INAUDIBLE), calmer and Juan Guaido himself has appeared here on the scene in Caracas. (INAUDIBLE) on the La Carlota military base.

SCIUTTO: OK. Stefano, we're going to stay in touch with you, continue to watch this. Certainly shocking events on the ground in Venezuela as we speak there. The opposition leader Juan Guaido at least claiming that the military supports him, calling for a coup against the sitting president Nicolas Maduro.

Our witness on the ground there, the reporter Stefano Pozzebon saying he's heard gunfire. We're going to continue to follow this story, the possibility of violence on the streets of Venezuela.

Nick Paton Walsh, thanks as well. He's going to continue to monitor from London.

Back here in the U.S., politics news this morning, numbers sure to make the current front runner very happy in the Democratic race. Joe Biden was already doing great in the polls before he entered officially. This morning five days into his third run for the Democratic presidential nomination he is absolutely dominating.

Check out a brand-new poll from CNN, the former vice president now backed by 39 percent of potential Democratic voters. That is more than twice the numbers supporting his nearest challenger Bernie Sanders. Nobody else in the 20-person field is in double digits. Just a month ago looking back it was a lot closer there at the time. Biden stood at 28 percent to 19 percent for Sanders, but Biden is not the only candidate who surged.

Look at another one there, Pete Buttigieg, he is up six points from -- well, really a rounding error, down at 1 percent earlier, now up to 7 percent, tied basically for third place in that race.

Biden campaigning today in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, of course, another key early voting state. That's where we find CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, tell us more about these polls. I mean, not only is his support up, but he's also dominant among nonwhite voters as well. A lot of numbers in here that look positive for the former vice president.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, good morning. To break all that down quite simply Joe Biden has come to Iowa many times as a presidential candidate. He's never come in as a front runner, he's never come in with a bounce like this.

Let's take a look inside some of those numbers to see why Joe Biden really has emerged over the last month or so in the strong position as he has. And it is because he is really winning support across the board. Take a look at some of these. Among Democrats and independents 41 percent of Democrats, 34 percent of independents, essentially doubling and more Bernie Sanders. On to liberal versus moderate or conservative, again Joe Biden, they're leading the way with 32 percent of liberal support, 44 percent of moderate support.

But, Jim, the most important number that explains Joe Biden's dominance at this early stage of the race is, as you said, 29 percent of white voters, but 50 percent of nonwhite voters. That is a key demographic in any Democratic primary, African-American voters particularly African-American women voters.

[09:10:07] So this is something that Joe Biden is going to try and hold on to, but, Jim, we should say this is early, very early, no doubt about, but coming into Iowa as a front runner, a strong front runner, means that he has to hold that position of course.

SCIUTTO: Now, Jeff, you mentioned of course it is early, more than a year and a half out, we've seen leads like this change certainly in recent history and there is a number in this poll about how final in effect these preferences are. What has it told us? ZELENY: Right. There is, Jim. Let's take a look at this number.

This is probably the number that gives other Democratic candidates in the race hope. It is that 36 percent say they definitely support their candidate at this point, but 64 percent, six in 10 voters are open to changing their mind. Again not surprising at all. Because it is an early stage in the race, people are still sort of formulating their opinions, but take a look at this.

What voters would like to hear more from, who they would like to hear more from. Senator Kamala Harris of California, 23 percent of voters say they would like to hear more from her. Elizabeth warren as well, 20 percent. Pete Buttigieg, 17 percent. So across the board you see that voters have -- hungering to hear more from some of these candidates. That's what these campaigns are all about. And these are national numbers. Of course, the primaries and caucuses unfold state by state.

So it is one of the very reasons that Joe Biden certainly cannot rest on his laurels by any means, but he is trying to convince Democrats that he is the candidate to beat Donald Trump -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Hence he is of course in Iowa today, and of course was in Pennsylvania in recent days. He is looking at those key states.

ZELENY: Right.

SCIUTTO: Tell us about the issues, though, here. What do folks list as their top voting issues for 2020?

ZELENY: Well, Jim, perhaps not surprisingly climate change is the top issue for Democrats. So let's take a look at this slate of issues here. 82 percent of voters are saying that climate change is a top issue, 75 percent say Medicare for All, guns of course 65 percent, free college 52 percent. So down the line there. But it is one of the reasons climate change certainly a central issue.

And as Joe Biden comes to Iowa, Jim, we should point out he campaigned in '88 here, didn't even make it to the Iowa caucuses. In 2008 did not make it a day beyond the Iowa caucuses. So the Iowa caucuses have always extinguished Joe Biden's dreams, if you will. We will see if that is the same this time or it's different -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Jeff Zeleny on the trail there in Iowa. Thanks very much.

Let's speak now to David Gergen. He's former adviser to four -- count them, four -- U.S. presidents.

David, always good to have you on. I mean, these numbers sure to cheer the Biden camp here. I mean, you look at the number among Democratic voters, it's almost three to one for Biden over Bernie Sanders. He's clearly the front runner. How secure is he as the front runner?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's secure enough unless a terrible mistake or something else comes up but he is very secure at the moment. You have to say the importance of this is in part that the polls -- the poll was taken as the Anita Hill story was in full flow and also after the story about, you know, whether his hands -- you put too many hands on too many places. And so that neither of those stories seem to have made a big difference, and instead he surged. So that's very important.

I also think that as some were pointing out, a warning flag here for Bernie Sanders, that if you look at what the CNN poll calls the younger group under 45, Biden is doing very, very well. And those are supposed to be Sanders voters. Some of that's his base. And -- so Biden is winning across the board, as you say. It's fluid, it's early, but this is significant. It's a good start for Biden.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned Sanders and how well Biden is doing under what would typically be a strong base of support for Sanders. Last night on CNN Bernie Sanders, perhaps conscious of Biden's strong start there, he went after Biden's record. Have a listen and then I want to get your reaction.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But 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.


SCIUTTO: Listen, Bernie Sanders is correct on all those points. Those are all points that are driving issues for many in the left part of the party and yet Biden is doing well. I mean, does that show you that the party is hungering more for a moderate than a liberal?

GERGEN: It certainly suggests that, Jim. And I think that for many independents that will be also welcome news. You know, because it has been a serious question, how much would the progressives -- the surging progressive wing of the party, how much would it dominate the primaries, how much would it control who ultimately emerges?


And for people who think that you can -- the Democrats can only win if they're center or left instead of left-left. This is good news indeed about which direction where the center of gravity is, and the party itself among voters.

JIM SCIUTTO, HOST, NEWSROOM: So that's how Democrats react. Let's talk about Trump. It is CNN's reporting that he has being advised by his own team not to give Biden too much attention, that helps a potential opponent rather than weakens him. Trump watches polling numbers, we know that he's sure to see this poll here. How does Trump react? Do you think he continues to direct his fire at Joe Biden?

GERGEN: Absolutely. I think Trump felt threatened even before this poll was taken. Because you know, the national polls were showing that he actually ran behind Biden on a one-on-one national race. And I think that's one of the reasons he's been tweeting and going after Biden some.

And now with this 24-point lead among Democrats for Biden, he's sure to harden up, and I think Joe Biden has been well advised to sort of answer occasionally, but not all the time. Now, you don't need to get -- spend 18 months, I think it will be very tiresome and you never know which way that would go for spending 18 months rehab and back and forth and to hitting each other.

SCIUTTO: Right --

GERGEN: I can't imagine -- that's risky for Biden.

SCIUTTO: David Gergen, thanks as always.

GERGEN: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, today as we noted, Joe Biden will visit Iowa for the first time since he officially entered the race in 2020. Joining me now to speak about how the former vice president stands in that early voting state, Troy Price; he's the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Troy, good to speak with you this morning. You know, the CNN numbers --


SCIUTTO: Biden was already the national front runner based on prior polls, but now he's way ahead nationally. Tell us how he's doing in Iowa, though.

PRICE: Well, I think the vice president is going to start with a very strong -- starts in a very strong position here in the state as Jeff noted a little bit earlier. The vice president's reign here twice, and he's got a strong network that he built back in 1987, that he built back in 2007.

He has worked really hard to maintain those relationships. So I think he starts in a pretty strong spot, but as noted, it's still very early in this race, there's a lot of life cycles left in this race before the Iowa caucuses next February. And so it's going to be a fun time.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and Iowa can produce surprises, it has repeatedly in election cycles here. What is the key in this cycle to Iowa voters? What's going to be the driving force among Democratic candidates who want to move voters in this state?

PRICE: I think what Democrats are looking for is someone who can beat Trump. Is someone who can get back to the White House, restore someone there who is going to be able to fight for all Americans. That's what people are looking for. They're looking for someone who is going to fight and make sure that everyone gets healthcare, that everyone gets a good education.

They've been looking for someone who is going to fight to make sure our towns, not just large cities, but small towns are doing well and everyone is growing. That's what folks are looking for out here, and so, you know, that's what I see and hear when I'm out on the road and I hear from caucus goers and leaders, that's what they're looking for.

SCIUTTO: And you mentioned those issues, and again, some of this was in the polling nationally, we could put that up on the screen again. What are the top issues for voters in this cycle? You know, impeaching Trump way down there. We'll throw the numbers up on the screen again.

But climate change, you mentioned Medicare for all, healthcare is certainly one, action on guns, free public college. So again, bread and butter issues, but ones that are particular to some of these, you know, particularly to the left wing of the party.

You worked for the Obama re-election campaign in 2012, the Clinton campaign in 2016. The party has moved to the left during that time. Have Democratic voters in Iowa moved to the left?

PRICE: Well, I think the Democratic voters here in Iowa represent the diversity of thought that exists all across this country. There are definitely some voters out there who are fighting for Medicare for all, who want a candidate who is going to fight and stand strong on that issue.

Folks who are looking for on climate change, you know, we've seen the effects of that here most recently with the flooding that has really devastated large parts of our state on the western side of our state. And so, you know, folks who are fighting on education, folks who are fighting on economic development and job creation, folks who are fighting for unions.

There's a whole broad swath --


PRICE: Of issues that people are fighting for here in Iowa that care about, you know, that's going to be a big part of this conversation over the next nine months.

SCIUTTO: No question, Troy Price, thanks very much. We know we're going to be coming back to you as we get closer to the voting days in a few months time.

[09:20:00] PRICE: Fore sure --

SCIUTTO: Still to come at this hour, President Trump and his children are suing two major banks, an effort to stop them from turning over his financial records to Democrats. Will that strategy work?

And the Trump administration announcing big changes for migrants coming into this country or attempting to, including fees for asylum applications and more. Plus round two, the president is set to meet with Democratic leaders to talk infrastructure. But can anyone ignore the growing tensions over the ongoing investigations?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCIUTTO: President Trump and his children are suing two major banks

in an effort to stop them from turning over his financial records to Democrats. Will that strategy work? And the Trump administration announcing big changes for migrants coming into this country or attempting to, including fees for asylum applications and more.

Plus round two, the president is set to meet with Democratic leaders to talk infrastructure. But can anyone ignore the growing tensions over the ongoing investigations?


SCIUTTO: President Trump and his children are fighting to keep their financial records out of the public eye. The Trump family now suing two big banks in an effort to block congressional subpoenas for those records. Cristina Alesci joins me now with more. Two big banks here, they don't want any of this information, how they got their loans, what the loans are to the public?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS & BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The president has said he's going to fight these Democratic investigations, that he's making good on his promise.

[09:25:00] This is the second lawsuit this month to fight against his financial information getting out there. And just to put some context around this. This is a subpoena that was issued from the House Intelligence Committee and House Financial Services Committee jointly because the lawmakers there argue that they want to make sure that Trump isn't compromised by a foreign entity because of his financial dealings, and they want to make sure that his financial dealings are not entangled with any kind of illicit activity in any way.

They issued the subpoenas, and that's when Trump's attorneys hit back and say, this is an overreached, there's no legislative purpose. And by the way, these things are protected by the bank privacy laws that are out there for individuals.

But look, this is a mess that's Trump's own making. Because what I would say is that it really stems from the original sin which was not divesting in a way that made --

SCIUTTO: Right --

ALESCI: Ethics officials pleased, and that's what caused all of this fallout.

SCIUTTO: And not divesting in a way that all government employees are required to divest when they take positions in public office, right, I know, that's one of the key questions --

ALESCI: And not exposing your tax returns, right?

SCIUTTO: Yes, there is that other small issue there. I mean, what -- the legal argument is just essentially that this is political?

ALESCI: Yes, the legal argument is that this is a broad overreach of legislative authority. And the big question is whether or not who is going to win, right?

SCIUTTO: Right --

ALESCI: Is it going to be Congress or is it going to be Trump? And we have at least one of the case that made a similar argument in a district court in D.C., this one was filed in the Southern District, but in D.C., the judge sided with Congress.

SCIUTTO: Cristina Alesci --

ALESCI: So Congress will likely get something out of this.

SCIUTTO: We know you'll stay on top of it, thanks very much. Joining me now to speak about this and other topics, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, he serves on both the Judiciary and Oversight Committees, both with big roles investigating the president in these next couple of years. Congressman, thanks for taking the time this morning.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Good morning, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So you're in the midst of your own fight, your committee getting to -- trying to get Trump officials to testify before you, but also get access to these documents there. I wonder what your committee is prepared to do as Trump is clearly prepared to fight this, he says, all the way to the Supreme Court. And are you willing to threaten to put people in jail if they don't abide by these subpoenas?

RASKIN: Well, I actually serve on two committees that are in conflict with the administration about its new policy of trying to choke off all production of documents and witnesses to the legislative branch of government, the Judiciary Committee and the Oversight Committee.

I think both of our committees are going to vindicate the people's interest in getting to the truth of the different kinds of corruption and lawlessness that are engulfing the Trump administration. So we will use the subpoena power, we will enforce subpoenas, we will go to court if we need to, to charge the administration with criminal and civil contempt.

We also have the inherent contempt power that Congress has used as long ago as the 19th century to declare that people are in contempt of Congress by not complying with us. So, you know, we consider this a really scandalous and unprecedented situation that the administration has thrust us into.

SCIUTTO: As you know, the Attorney General is meant to testify before one of your committees on Thursday. He doesn't like that he might take questions from staff attorneys there, and says that he won't abide by those. But by that request, what is the status of those negotiations, if they are negotiations? Will he testify on Thursday?

RASKIN: Well, it's up to Congress, of course, to define the scope of questioning and the format of questioning in hearings. And so the procedure we announced was that each member would ask questions for five minutes according to tradition, and then we would have lawyers both for the Democratic side and the Republican side question for 30 minutes.

There's nothing outside of the norm about any of that. And we can, you know -- we have demonstrated there are lots of cases where that's what committees have done, and yet the Attorney General seems to want to dictate to us how we are going to conduct our hearing.

And again, you know, we don't live in monarchy and we don't live in a presidential autocracy, we are the law-making branch of government, found in Article 1, and we're not going to allow that to happen. And so the Attorney General is going to have to accept our terms.

We didn't get to write his four-page propaganda memo about the Mueller report, that was up to him to do. He chose to do it in a particular way, but we will control the hearing that we have.

SCIUTTO: As you know and I'm sure you've heard this, GOP Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham told my colleague Manu Raju yesterday that the Dems are political hacks in their pursuit of more information from the president. What's your response?

RASKIN: You know, I have no response to that. That's kind of beneath the level of debate even for Mr. Graham, I think. Look, what we are trying to vindicate the central role of Congress in dealing with executive branch, which is to conduct oversight into what's happening.