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Discussion of Democratic Presidential Candidates; Glowing Jobs Report Bolsters Trump Supporters; Iowa Dems See Wide Open Field With 9 Months Until Caucuses; NRA Vulnerable Amid Infighting, Financial Problems, A.G. Investigation; Midwest Towns Swamped By Record Floods. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 3, 2019 - 16:30   ET



SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: -- will most likely align behind whoever the nominee is - whoever the nominee is when they're determined next year. But it is fascinating to see all the different ways to see that different candidates in this field of 21 are trying to distinguish themselves. I mean you have -- you can either pick a policy that you kind of become the policy person on, whether it's Jay Inslee on climate or Eric Swalwell has been trying to do that with gun legislation or just kind of make your mark or something that you're good at.

So Kamala Harris, you really saw her shine this week when she's been just kind of, according to reports on the trail, has been kind of struggling in a couple of circumstances, but when she's on the dais and questioning Bill Barr, you saw the prosecutorial skills that really kind of propelled her to the national stage and she's clearly having a good week.

TAPPER: And she was attacked by President Trump, who called her "nasty." And she's keeping this alive. She did a whole bunch of shows to talk about it. She's sending out a fund-raising email after the president said she was, quote, "nasty" during Barr's testimony hearing, his Wednesday testimony. Smart move?

POWERS: Yes, definitely. I mean, I think that they all have to be doing whatever they can to try to break out and to latch on to whatever is happening that can get them into the media cycle, right? Because it is such a crowded field that you have to kind of find whatever you can, really, you know, whether it's making attacks against people or latching on to, you know, opportunities like that.

TAPPER: And the goal right now for a lot of these candidates is to get that 65,000 donor threshold in order to be included in the debates, the democratic debates that begin in June and July. And Julian Castro and Cory Booker both today announced today that they had both made that threshold, 65,000 contributors. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York still has not. It's not for lack of trying. She's making her case on social media, including this new video of her playing beer pong, like a good Dartmouth grad, asking if Kirsten makes this shot, will you donate? Why is she having such trouble do you think? PHILLIP: You know that's a really good question. I mean I think we have to give credence to something that a lot of polls are showing, which is that women candidates in this race are just simply not doing as well was male candidates. And that's not a new phenomenon, but it is a real thing. And I think that we should actually acknowledge that.

But I also think that there are a lot of people in this race that voters are looking at them and asking them, why you running for president? And you have to make that case to people. And I don't know, but it's perhaps she hasn't quite done that yet, she hasn't had a breakout moment. So it's going to be tough for you, if you can't kind of breakthrough in this very crowded field like some other folks have, whether it's Buttigieg or even Beto, before he even got into the race or Biden in his first week, when he successfully got President Trump to start attacking him.


PHILLIP: You have to start breaking out and she hasn't quite had that moment. None of the town halls have really worked for her.

POWERS: Look, I do think there's a problem in terms of, there's been a disparate amount of coverage of some of the male candidates to the female candidates and I've heard a lot of complaining from people on their staffs. But one thing I will say is that the women candidates are so careful, you know? And they don't -- the male candidates are much more free wheeling...

TAPPER: Certainly Bernie and Biden.

POWERS: Yes, they don't really apologize, they say what they want to say, they're very authentic. And I think women, most women can relate to this, are always afraid of making mistakes or always trying to really think things through before they do them. And these male candidates are just much more accessible. If you want to get an interview with Pete Buttigieg, it's not that difficult. In fact, I think everyone has interviewed him at this point.


POWERS: It's very hard to get an interview with Kamala Harris. So I think that they're all very, very careful. On Kirsten Gillibrand has a problem because of the Al Franken stuff...

TAPPER: Still, you really think?

POWERS: I do. I think on the left, she has a real problem, there are people that are very angry at her about that and saw it as being fairly or not fairly -- I'm not say it was -- but saw it as her being opportunistic. So that's kind of always been the -- again, fair or not fair -- that's what people have always felt about her.

TAPPER: And Bill, Buttigieg has gotten a lot of stuff, a lot of profiles, there's a new one in "Vogue" with a glam shot. But he's been taking a lot of hits for not being more specific on policy and for not actually having a policy page and more. Liz Warren, on the other hand, policy after policy, day after day, even a shirt that they sell, Liz has a plan for it, or something like that. Does it matter to voters whether you have policies or not?

KRISTOL: You can run has the policy-heavy candidate and it's one way to distinguish yourself. But one can look at the race two ways -- '21, '22 with Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, candidates all scrambling to getting attention as we've been saying or Joe Biden and 21 other candidates. And I think, I wouldn't have said this two weeks ago but I think this two weeks suggests that Biden is sort of in a category by himself. He may well fade, he may ultimately not pull it off, but right now he is so strong in the polls and I think has matched up with Trump in a way that makes it look like he could take on Trump, that it's him and then everyone else trying to be the alternative to him.


Or one or two or three alternates...

TAPPER: It is early. He hasn't done a tough interview yet, he hasn't done a town hall yet. He hasn't done a debate, who knows. But absolutely, he's had a great couple of weeks.

The U.S. economy just did something that has not been done since Richard Nixon was president and thousands of Americans were still coming down from Woodstock. Stay with us.


TAPPER: The Money Lead. A double shot of winning for President Trump, as he banks on strong economic numbers today to help him win re- election next year. Just moments ago, the Dow finished up almost 200 points. That on the heels of today's huge jobs report, showing the unemployment rate is down to 3.6 percent; the lowest in nearly 50 years, since December 1969.


The president touched on that this afternoon at the White House.


TRUMP: Our economy is raging. And when we have an economy that may be is the best economy we've ever had, people tend to like you.


TAPPER: Does the president get enough credit for the economy? It really is doing astoundingly well.

KIM: Exactly. And the economy is by far his best case for re- election. And if he's not getting the sufficient credit for the economy, it's a lot of it because he steps on his own message. Again with these BAFO(ph) economic news, you would be expecting the president to talk about it every day, just hammering that home in different messaging campaigns, but a lot of times he likes to focus on other things and he has a tendency to step on his own message.

TAPPER: That is true. I'll just tell you we were going to lead with the economy on the show, it was going to be the first block, we were going to sing the numbers that we just sang, and President Trump decided to talk to Vladimir Putin and talk about Russia hoax and all of that.

PHILLIP: Today's a perfect example of that. White house aides were blanketing TV all day today, scheduled to talk about economic numbers they knew were coming out today, because they always come out on the first Friday of the month, and instead, halfway through the day, this, with Trump and Putin yet again throwing everything off of message. This could have been maybe the first day I've been covering this president since the beginning, I don't think I've ever experienced a full day of the White House carrying out a message on the economy, on the one thing that they have, that they can trumpet, and it's because the president always steps on his own message. He was feeling really good this morning about where things are going, about the Mueller report being done. He talked to Putin and then everything went out the window.

TAPPER: And Kiersten, you heard the president say, when the economy's doing well, people tend to like you. A slightly different message than White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the other day. Take a listen.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It's pretty simple, right? It's the economy, stupid. I think that's easy. People will vote for somebody they don't like if they think it's good for them.


TAPPER: So, essentially, President Trump, they'll like me because the economy. Mulvaney is like, they're not going to like you, but vote for you anyway.

POWERS: I think Mulvaney probably has that right. If you have a good economy, you typically -- your likelihood of getting re-elected definitely goes up. I do think that that the unemployment rate is low, there's still problems in the economy. And it's not -- even when he's saying like best economy ever, which I know he says, but even if you compare it to sort of the '90s when the economy was really thriving, it was a very different environment. I mean, I think people really felt like they had a lot more money than people have today. And that the wage stagnation -- you know, wages have barely moved for most people, unless you're at the very top of the income ladder.

TAPPER: And the job growth is with service economy jobs, $30,000 a year and under, and big ones, jobs at computer programmers, $80,000, $90,000, nothing in the middle. We're exactly nine months away from the first in the nation Iowa caucus which will take place on February 3, 2020. CNN's Jeff Zeleny, a former "Des Moines Register" reporter himself is in the Hawkeye state, talking to democratic voters about what they are looking for in a candidate. (BEGIN VIDEO)

JOE BIDEN, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: It's good to be back in Hawkeye country, I'll tell you what, it's been a while! Thank you, Iowa!

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are the far and away front-runners in the democratic presidential race. Or are they?



SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D) NEW JERSEY AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You Want to win in Iowa, you've got to campaign the Iowa way.


ZELENY: The Iowa way means one thing for certain, front-runners can be fleeting. One voter after another sharing a similar sentiment. The 2020 race is as wide open as a country highway.

Do you think at this point there is a front-runner in the race nine months before the Iowa caucuses?

JANE CRANSTON, IOWA RESIDENT: No. I don't think there is. I think right now, it's still wide open.

ZELENY: Jane and Ed Cranston are following the democratic primary far closer than most. Often the race comes right into their living room, like when they hosted a visit from Julian Castro.

JANE CRANSTON: Thank you all for coming. And for this amazing turnout.

ZELENY: They're in no hurry to pick a favorite, saying they want to watch the candidates grow and be tested.

JANE CRANSTON: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head. It's who can win. And that's a hard thing to judge, especially so early. But that's what everybody is looking for.

ED CRANSTON: Excitement is critical. I mean, Bernie got a lot of people excited. And so, you know, we still need that excitement this next round.

ZELENY: When Biden visited Iowa this week, Ed was there, listening closely and going in for a brief handshake.


ED CRANSTON: It is always good to touch the flesh. I'm impressed. He didn't disappoint. ZELENY: Nine months before Iowa caucuses open the Democratic

nominating contest, the field of candidates now stands at 21 with a mix of old faces and new ones. That speaks to a critical question facing voters.

What do you say to some Democrats who were like you know, time for some new blood?

SARA RILEY, IOWA DEMOCRAT: Well, new blood that would lose would really be horrible, wouldn't it? I think Pete Buttigieg is wonderful but Biden has so much more experience and I want a president who would be ready from day one.

ZELENY: Yet not everyone sees a golden lining in experience. Jan Kerrigan says she loves Joe Biden but doesn't believe she can vote for him.

JAN KERRIGAN, IOWA DEMOCRAT: This is a terrible thing to say, but it's his age. And I know that's wrong, that's not politically correct to say that.

ZELENY: She actually likes Cory Booker, but is keeping an open mind and attended an organizing session this week for Elizabeth Warren.


ZELENY: Now, Senator Warren has more paid staffers here on the ground in Iowa than any other campaign, Jake. She's trying to build an organization here. I can tell you, after talking to voters across the state all week long, yes, they're looking for a winner, they just don't know who that may be.

But Joe Biden can tell his rivals, Iowa is so important. His two previous campaigns, of course, extinguished here in Iowa. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, nine months to go until the Iowa caucus. How drama and infighting at the NRA is leaving the powerful lobbying group vulnerable. Stay with us.


[16:50:00] TAPPER: In our "BURIED LEAD," that's what we call stories that we do not think are getting enough attention, Senate Democrats are now looking into alleged shady financial dealings of the NRA, which could threaten the gun rights group tax-exempt status.

The NRA was asked to turn over letters, audits, and memos capping a tumultuous week. President of the NRA Oliver North was pushed out of the group, and the New York state attorney general launched an investigation. CNN's Tom Foreman now takes a closer look.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A bitter lawsuit between the NRA and its ad agency. A Wall Street Journal report about hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly improperly spent on travel and personal clothing and whispers about some officers possibly enriching themselves at the group's expense.

Nothing has been proven yet, and the NRA says all is in order, but the uproar is spurring Democratic senators to demand internal documents from outgoing President Oliver North that could jeopardize the organization's nonprofit status.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been following Oliver for a long time. Great guy.

FOREMAN: Despite relentless praise from President Trump, who's received massive financial support from the NRA --

TRUMP: I'll never let you down.

FOREMAN: The internal chaos has opened a floodgate for opposing forces. In New York state, the attorney general is now investigating the group's activities. The governor saying, if they broke the law, they should be held accountable.

In D.C., even with record spending on lobbying, the group's legislative clout is weakening against Democratic gains. And high- profile mass shootings in recent years have energized gun control advocates.

But it's not just on the left. Around the NRA convention just this week, the group's president, North, demanded the resignation of longtime chief executive Wayne LaPierre over these claims of financial mismanagement. LaPierre, in turn, accused North of extortion. North lost and was pushed out.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NRA: People walk up to me and say, Wayne, I don't know how you do it with all the hate and all the bias in the media, and all the dishonest politics. Well, I'll tell you. The only reason I can keep up this fight is because of you.

FOREMAN: Still, Trump has tweeted the NRA needs to get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, and get back to greatness, fast.


FOREMAN: The NRA is not saying a whole lot except that it will cooperate with investigators. They don't expect any illegalities to be found. But make no mistake, if they were to lose their tax-exempt status, that could impinge upon the very existence of this organization. Jake?

TAPPER: And North needs to go into more details publicly about what he's alleging. He hasn't -- he hasn't said anything. Tom Foreman, thanks so much. Devastating flooding that has not been seen in decades. CNN's Ryan Young is live for us in the Midwest, specifically, Davenport, Iowa. Ryan?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, right behind me, that's the Mississippi there. And you can see the damage that's been caused by the water. Look, they've been underwater for some 30 days, and now they want help, but they're starting to battle back. We'll tell you what's coming up and why they think they may be able to beat this coming up in a live report.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: Our "NATIONAL LEAD" today takes us to the Midwest of the United States, where flooding reached levels not seen in more than two decades. In some spots, cars are underwater and it may be this way for quite some time. CNN's Ryan Young is in Davenport, Iowa. Ryan, this looks awful.

YOUNG: Yes, it does. We're just off river drive. You can see the two cars submerged there, but you've got to really think about the impact on people. Steven who's, my boat captain here, was nice enough to take us on a short tour. And you can see the battle that's going on right now to save some of these businesses that are through here.

But Jake, when you really look around here, you can get a notice, this has been going for 24 hours as they try to get the water out of the back part of this business, but when you talk to people about the real loss, some of these businesses have been shut down for more than 24 hours. They've been underwater for more than 30 days.

In fact, as we've been talking to emergency management, what they're really worried about is the overall assessment as the water sits on top of some of these buildings. They're concerned about some of the foundations weakening over time.

And as we get closer to this intersection over here, we'll be able to show you how seven to eight cars were just trapped all along the water banks here. They're also concerned about what could happen this weekend, as we make this turn here. Jake, take a look at how close we are to the Mississippi. And you can see the four or five cars that have just been left sitting here. There's no way to rescue this.

You have to worry about everything when it comes to the rain that might be coming along with this weekend. You know the economic impact has been pretty big, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Young, thanks so much. I appreciate it. Tune into us Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION," 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. I'm going to have an exclusive interview with presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker. I'll also speak to presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar, both of them running for president. It's at 9:00 a.m. noon Eastern coming up this Sunday.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. We actually read them. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a great weekend. Rest in peace, Peter Mayhew and John Singleton.