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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sanders Slam House Democrats As Barr Skips More Questioning; Biden Criticized for Saying China "Is Not Competition For Us". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 2, 2019 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, many, many times I -- yes, if I were them, I would just stick with the top lines of the Mueller report, Barr has been transparent and given you most of the Mueller report, it's hardly redacted even though there was a giant freak-out for a week about it, not being heavily redacted. Furthermore, the idea that this three week period, they set some sort of narrative that was false is in the true because polling doesn't show any of that and it is all at your disposal, please impeach at will.

[16:30:06] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Right. That's your advice.

HAM: Just say that over and over again, instead of insulting people because all of that is true.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, but she has an audience of one, right? She is playing to the president, right? I mean, that is why it was very unusual remember with I guess last weekend everything happened so fast that she went up on stage during the White House correspondents dinner when the president did his hour and a half screed in Wisconsin and Sarah Sanders goes, went to the podium, went to the stage and, you know, she was hailed even though it was clear that she lied.

So, I mean, clearly, she more interested in making sure that the president is happy which is part of the reason why she is there because Sean Spicer couldn't do the gig, right? It's not about -- and this is what I think is yet one more way that this president has really soiled the office of the presidency. I mean, as a communications person, right, when you come to Washington, being the White House press secretary, that is like the golden job. That is the job you want.

You're not supposed to be just speaking to the president, you are supposed to be speaking to the American people, right? Trying to be that conduit between the press and presidency. And instead, now, it has just turned into just a little grudge match throwing mud.

TAPPER: And, Sara Murray, take a listen to William Barr, talking about -- he was asked if Don McGahn, former White House counsel, was going to be allowed to testify before Congress or if the president was going to try to invoke executive privilege and here is what Attorney General Barr had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Do you have any objections, can you think of an objection of why Don McGahn shouldn't testify before this committee about his experience?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes, I mean I think that he is a close adviser to the president. The president --

DURBIN: Never excerpted executive privilege.

BARR: Excuse me?

DURBIN: He may have already waived --

BARR: No, we haven't waived executive privilege.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: We. We haven't waived executive privilege. It's interesting, because normally, it would be the president hasn't waived executive privilege.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, if you are the believe that Bill Barr is now acting more like the president's personal attorney, there is your fodder to back it up. Rather than acting like the attorney general for the United States. And I think, you know, when we talk about the various messaging fights that we're in, because this is really just a fight about 2020 at this point.

I think you're right that, you know, Democrats can point to things like that and say, look at how corrupt they are, they are all in the same bucket. He is hand picking attorney generals who will stand up for the president's interests. And I think where Democrats get themselves into trouble and could is you point to things like what Sarah Sanders is saying, you say, she is only talking to an audience of one. He's not only talking to an audience of one anymore. She's talking to audience of everyone in this country who thinks that the Democrats went too far and they're continuing to go too far, that the Mueller report cleared the president of criminal wrongdoing and it's time to move on.

TAPPER: All right. Some other news today, Stephen Moore, President Trump's once likely choice for the Federal Reserve board of governors, has withdrawn himself from consideration. President Trump tweeted the news today, calling Moore, quote, a great pro-growth economist and truly fine person. Moore, a one-time CNN analyst, has been dogged by a series of disparaging comments he made in the past about women which were uncovered by CNN's KFILE.

Moore's confirmation was clearly in jeopardy. In a statement to President Trump, Moore wrote, quote: The unrelenting attacks on my character have become untenable for me and my family, unquote.

Moore's decision comes on the heels of course of Herman Cain also pulling out of contention for the Federal Reserve board last month after people on both sides of the aisle on the Senate had questions about him.

The one number that could help ensure President Trump wins re-election in 2020, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:01] TAPPER: And in our 2020 lead, the two Democratic frontrunners now on a seeming collision course. Senator Bernie Sanders is personally directing his campaign to go after former Vice President Joe Biden on issues, and brand new poll numbers show how the Democrats are stacking up in a theoretical head to head matches with President Trump.

Here is CNN's Ryan Nobles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Biden has only been in the race for president for a week. And already he is taking the heat of a frontrunner.

His detractors both Republican and Democrat seizing on comments the former vice president made about China's role in the global economy.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: China is going to eat our lunch. Come on, man. You know, they are not bad folks, but guess what? They are not competition for us.

NOBLES: Biden's campaign later issued a statement, saying the challenges facing the U.S., quote, pale in comparison to those confronting China.

Still, Utah senator and 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that this will not age well.

While Democratic primary opponent Bernie Sanders tweeted that it was, quote, wrong to pretend that China was not an economic power.

It is the latest example of the Sanders' approach to directly challenge Biden on his policy record.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I helped lead the fight against NAFTA. He voted for NAFTA. I voted against the war in Iraq. He voted for it.

NOBLES: The move was not by accident. It was a specific strategy campaign manager Faiz Shakir tells CNN spearheaded by Sanders himself. And it is just the beginning. Shakir said they are ready to point out areas where Biden has changed his position where Sanders has remained the same.

On many issues, Vice President Biden has been wrong first, said Shakir, in some cases like the war in Yemen, he has course-corrected. In others like trade, he maintains the wrong position.

Meanwhile, Biden's strong start is also of keen interest to the White House. President Trump retweeting dozens of tweets Wednesday, taking aim at Biden's support from a firefighters' union while talking up his chances against the former vice president.

[16:40:05] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Biden would be easier from the standpoint that you will have so much dissension in the party, because you're going to -- it will make four years ago look like baby stuff.

NOBLES: But new CNN polls show five Democratic candidates outpacing Trump at this early stage. Among them is Biden, with the 51-41 percent advantage over Trump. Sanders also holds a six-point lead, 50 percent to 44 percent.

And at the core of this decision by Bernie Sanders to draw clear policy differences with Joe Biden is the issue of electability. Sanders is willing to gamble that where he stands on these key issues are where most primary voters can stand and that he can convince them that his foreign policy positions will help him beat Donald Trump -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan. Thank you.

Let's chew with this.

Karen, let's start with you.

FINNEY: Yes.

TAPPER: Sanders, clear strategy, we should point out, it is all about issues. Nothing personal. But very directly going after Joe Biden on NAFTA, the war in Yemen, on trade, the war Iraq. What do you make of if?

FINNEY: Well, let's think about what they will look like on the stage together. Standing next to each other on a stage, they will be the oldest looking on the stage. They are both white men with white hair, right? So just on the face of it, where is the best place to draw the contrast, on issues because they have very different ideas about where they would take the country and who they would -- on everything from health care to the economy.

So if you think about it, that is the best place for him to try to draw the contrast particularly because the other thing that Biden has that Bernie doesn't is Obama. I mean, there is -- whether or not Obama has endorsed him, he was still Obama's vice president. When I've talked to black voters for example, they still -- they think of Biden with sort of the blush of the Obama --

TAPPER: Huge support among the black community and the Democratic Party, huge support.

FINNEY: Right, and I think not -- when people think about, OK, who can best beat Trump and what is the time that I would want to go back to, there is a nostalgia for Obama, right? So he does benefit from that.

It also shows, though, that he is going to be accountable both for his own positions, hs own Senate record --

TAPPER: Right.

FINNEY: And as I've said before, the unfinished business or perceived unfinished business of the Obama administration particularly, for example, like the banks.

TAPPER: Is there any risk for Bernie in this in going after Biden so directly on this issue?

KUCINICH: Yes, they can knock each other out. I mean, you can totally see in the debate, the other candidates being like -- just like letting them go after each other on.

TAPPER: So, Kerry won the nomination in 2004.

KUCINICH: Right, because people just they're after at each other. So, if they are limping through the primary after this, and Joe Biden is going to have -- I'm interested to see how he performs in these debates because you will be able to see some of these other candidates really go after his record on some of, you know, the time and place was different. Crime bill for example. But that is the risk is that they tarnish each other so much.

TAPPER: Yes. Go ahead.

HAM: Although last time around, not hitting the top running guy didn't work out so well for all those Republicans.

TAPPER: Right, right. We'll let somebody else do it. Yes.

HAM: That didn't work either.

Look, I think Biden checks a lot of experience boxes. People know him, have an affinity for him. I think you are right about the Obama part of this.

But he will goof up a lot while he's out there, particularly, maybe on the debate stages where a lot of people taking shots at him, and he has to make up a lot of ground with a more liberal base about some of the things like the crime bill.

And as he does that, he will lose ground with the very Pennsylvania, Midwestern voters that are his strength in a general election.

TAPPER: Take a look at this in a new CNN poll. Some very interesting 2020 matchups. Voters were asked to choose between Trump and a Democratic competitor. Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, all beat Donald Trump. But President Trump narrowly beats Elizabeth Warren.

What does that say to you about the state of the race?

MURRAY: Well, you know, look, we know that Donald Trump has some popularity problems. But it is so early. And we have not begun to see the Democrats bullying each other. We're talking now like they are drawing distinctions.

(CROSSTALK)

MURRAY: You're supposed to do that when running for president. And that, yes, the idea that like, oh, we're just going to disagree on policy, like that's very cute at this point. It will get a lot uglier and, you know, we will see when Donald Trump -- sometimes he feels like he is always campaigning, but when he is out on the trail, turning on his campaign charm which is a thing that exists despite people in America who hate him. And all these Democrats are going after one another, this number could change a lot.

But certainly, it's problematic if you're in the White House right now looking at those numbers who are thinking, god, the only person we can beat is Elizabeth Warren.

TAPPER: And one of the questions, one of the criticisms of Warren from Democrats is that she did not handle Trump going after her on that whole Native American ancestry thing very well, that she took the bait. That she bungled that. That's the criticism, whether you believe it or not.

Kamala Harris was criticized by President Trump who called her probably very nasty yesterday. Here is how Harris responded.

[16:45:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): We have a president of the United States whose primary interest I think that has been clear as a result of what we know from the Mueller report. This primary interest has been to obstruct justice. My primary interest is to pursue justice. And you can call that whatever name you want but I think that's what the American people want in a leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think as a response?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, not bad. Also, didn't he say she had a nasty wit which I would take it as a compliment? Look, it's very tricky. I don't --

TAPPER: Consider yourself complimented.

HAM: I don't think -- I don't think any of the Republicans figured out how to take shots at this guy without it blowing back on them. I will never hate on Rubio for going nasty because somebody had to punch a bully but it did not work for him, right.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It did not work out.

And it doesn't work for anyone. So you have to figure out how to approach this guy. And it's actually kind of a mystery which is one of the reasons I keep saying like maybe, maybe I don't know, destroying Barr is not the answer to beating him in an election. You have to figure out how to beat him in an election.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That was not worthy. He has stayed away from Kamala Harris, President Trump for the most part. He hasn't really been a target yet. So see, that's one of the first times I think I've seen her have to respond to the president and she didn't seem to take the bait. She really -- she really --

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That was a good answer.

KUCINICH: Yes, it was a good answer. She did well yesterday in the Barr hearing. She's gotten a lot of praise for that. So um you know, we'll see how things shake out, but I think it's interesting how the White House and the campaign have really kind of take -- they've been watching Kamala Harris and figuring out you know what to do.

FINNEY: Well, this is an issue that all of the campaigns are trying to figure out. I mean, many have taken a look at what happened in 2016 and how the other -- how the Republicans did or did not take him on effectively and not so effectively, and try -- each one as sort of trying to decide A, how much you going to talk about him and let him be a part of your campaign and B, how much do you take the bait.

Because when -- what we saw certainly in '16 is once you take the bait, then that's the precious time you're not talking about your message.

TAPPER: And before you can take on President Trump, of course, you have to get through the Democratic primaries. Coming up next, the feud between two 2020 candidates that's been brewing for a years and has nothing to do with President Trump. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: You may have noticed that after Joe Biden announced he was running for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren had some rather pointed words for him, and she stood with Americans she said while he was with the credit card companies.

They've been clashing for years. Throwback Thursday to this scene in 2005 squaring off on Capitol Hill, Biden a senator, Warren a professor, and it's now about to get a lot more heated as CNN's MJ Lee reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Two presidential candidates poised to clash on the campaign trail over a decade's old feud. 2005, Joe Biden, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee pushing a law to make it harder for Americans to file for bankruptcy. On the other side, law professor Elizabeth Warren fighting back from the witness chair.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They have squeezed enough out of these families in interest and fees and payments that never paid -- JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe we should talk about

usury rates then. Maybe that's what we should talk about, not bankruptcy.

WARREN: Senator, I'll be the first. Invite me.

BIDEN: I know you will, but let's call a spade a spade.

LEE: It was hardly Warren's first time going after Biden. She had called him out in numerous op-eds and essays like this article in the Harvard Women's Law Journal in 2002 writing, "Biden supports legislation that will fall hardest on women." And calling him a "zealous advocate on behalf of one of his biggest contributors, the financial services industry."

Now some two decades later, Biden and Warren are facing off again, and their feud appears far from over. In an unusual move, Warren openly criticizing Biden last week on the same day he launched his campaign.

WARREN: At a time when the biggest financial institutions in this country, we tried to put the squeeze on millions of hard-working families, Joe Biden is on the side of the credit card companies.

LEE: The ideological differences are sharp. Warren, a leader of the progressive movement with the campaign built around tackling corruption and taking on the rich and the powerful.

WARREN: We are going to fight for working people. We're going to build a grassroots movement.

LEE: Biden casting himself as the experienced statesman comfortably embracing bipartisanship and the candidate with the moral clarity to take on Trump.

BIDEN: He will forever and fundamentally alter the character this nation, who you are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.

LEE: Come this summer, the two could face off again on a debate stage where Warren may be more pointed than she was at this CNN Town Hall.

WARREN: I got in that fight, and I fought it for ten years. And by the end of that fight, I fully understood that every single Republican stood there for the banks and half of the Democrats did.

LEE: And Biden may be less willing to offer up any compliment as he did in this moment in 2005.

WARREN: Senator, if you're not going to fix that problem, you can't take away the last shred of protection for these families.

BIDEN: I got it. OK. You know what, you're a very good professor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: Warren is back in Iowa tomorrow for a two-day swing. Both Warren and Bernie Sanders have taken these early jabs at Joe Biden on policy issue so we'll see if she continues doing that over the weekend when she's back out on the trail. Jake?

TAPPER: M.J. Lee, thank you so much. In our "TECH LEAD" today Facebook purged fake news and hate news today, as we get deeper into the 2020 race. Facebook has banned some extreme figures from its platform and also from Instagram (INAUDIBLE) including Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan who is anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT misogynist and right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones as well as his media outlet which is called something like InfoWars. They're doing it because they're spreading what Facebook calls dangerous ideology.

[16:55:11] Hundreds of people trapped on a cruise ship because there's measles on board, and that is far from the only place where people were unknowingly exposed. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our "HEALTH LEAD" today, a cruise ship reportedly owned by the Church of Scientology is quarantined in St. Lucia after a crew member on board got measles. None of the 300 passengers or crew can get off the ship right now which the church refers to as the pinnacle of a deeply spiritual journey.

In California, health officials are warning moviegoers at an Orange County theatre that they may have been exposed to measles by a woman who saw Avengers: End Game last week. There are more than 700 confirmed cases this is year alone, the highest number in decades. Health officials point to one reason for the spike in measles cases, the rise of the anti-vaccination movements.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Vaccinate your kids.