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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Democrats Accuse Trump of Waging War on Women; Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Democratic Presidential Candidate. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 22, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So that anybody in this country, regardless of their income, who has the desire and the ability can get a higher education, college or trade schools.

But it will also go a very, very long way in reducing the outrageous burden. Man, I see it all over this country, young people graduating from college $50,000 in debt, $100,000 in debt.

You saw the response that took place at Morehouse College, where these kids could not believe that they would not be having to pay off student debt for decades. That's what we have to do all over this country.

Now, the legislation that I am offering would raise $2.4 trillion over a 10-year period, at a time when Wall Street profits are now at record-breaking levels. We're talking about something like $230 billion in profits last year. You're talking about bonuses doubling over the last five years.

Wall Street is doing phenomenally well. And I hope everybody remembers that it was the American taxpayer that bailed out Wall Street some 10 years ago, because of their greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior.

Now it is time for Wall Street to pay a modest tax on speculation, so that we can address the many, many crises facing our country.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: In 2016, after Hillary Clinton at the Democratic Convention embraced your goal of tuition-free public colleges, there was some pushback from private nonprofit schools, like women's colleges or historically black colleges and universities, that such a plan could prompt a steep drop in enrollment for them that might risk putting them out of business.

How do you guard against that with your proposal now?

SANDERS: Well, our proposal, among other things, calls for a very significant increase in funding for the historically black colleges and universities, which play an enormously important role in the African-American community.

So I believe from the bottom of my heart that, when you talk about public colleges and universities in the year 2019, you just can't talk about kindergarten throughout the 12th grade. What you have got to be doing is making public colleges and universities tuition-free.

This means anybody who wants to go to Harvard, they want to go to Yale, good luck to you, go there. If you can afford to go there, that's fine. And, by the way, in terms of those schools, we are going to significantly increase Pell Grants, work study programs to make it easier and more affordable for young people to go to private schools if they want.

This is a win-win for public colleges and universities, private colleges, and, most importantly, for the people of our country who desperately understand that they need to have a great education in today's economy.

TAPPER: And, of course, there's the question about the political will. How do you get this done?

The Republicans obviously control the Senate, currently the White House as well. Last month, a Q poll, a Quinnipiac poll, found that 41 percent of Americans support making public college free if it was paid for by a new tax on wealthy individuals.

But 54 percent in this poll oppose that idea. How do you make the case to Republicans in the Senate and to the American people?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, I believe -- I don't necessarily agree with that poll. That's not what I hear.

You have got -- the difficulty is not a poll. The difficulty is the power of Wall Street. Let's be very clear. Wall Street, and maybe along with the pharmaceutical industry, are the most powerful entities here in Washington, D.C. They spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars a year on lobbying and in campaign contributions.

Look, they have the wealth. They have the power. You have the top six financial institutions controlling some $10 trillion in assets. That is real power. And those are the folks we're going to have to take on.

But I think you go out and ask the American people if they think their kids have a right to go to college, regardless of the income of the family, they would tell you yes. And poll after poll tells me -- and I have seen this -- that, yes, the large private corporations in America that are making huge sums of money should start paying their fair share of taxes.

It is a disgrace that a company like Amazon, for example, owned by the wealthiest person in this country, $11 billion in profits, did not pay a nickel in taxes.

TAPPER: And I have been at town halls, your town halls, before when you ask people to raise their hands if they have student debt, and it's a sea of raised hands.

SANDERS: It's unbelievable. That's right. It is a sea. TAPPER: Absolutely.

SANDERS: OK.

TAPPER: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

SANDERS: Thank you.

TAPPER: What about the rest of the 2020 field?

The one group of voters they're focusing on which could be key to winning the White House.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:39:03]

TAPPER: In our 2020 lead today, if there was any question how crucial women voters will be in this election, today makes it clear.

Multiple Democratic candidates laid out their plans today to keep abortion legal, provide more in women's health care, and they have accused President Trump of waging a war on women.

As CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, individual Democratic candidates are hoping that this issue might be the one to help them break out from the pack.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democratic presidential hopefuls are increasingly setting their sights on a critically important voting bloc, women.

The entire field of candidates is hoping to seize on the political backlash from new restrictive abortion laws popping up across the country. At a CNN town hall Tuesday night in Iowa, Beto O'Rourke pledging to make protecting abortion rights a priority.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For so long, women have been leading this fight, shouldering the burden of making sure that their reproductive rights are protected. It's time that all of us join them in that fight.

ZELENY: And promising a litmus test for all judicial nominees.

[16:40:01]

O'ROURKE: To every federal bench, including the Supreme Court, understands and believes that the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) ZELENY: A majority of Americans support abortion rights. A new Quinnipiac poll today finds 60 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 35 percent say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Abortion has long fired up the Republican base more than the Democratic one. But the 2020 race could be different, with Democrats trying to rally their own voters, particularly women, against President Trump.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He apparently wants to have a war on women in America. And if this is a war that he wants to have, he will have it, and he will lose it.

ZELENY: In hopes of breaking through their own crowded field, Democratic candidates stepped forward with these new plans today alone.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pledging to implicate what she calls a family bill of rights in the first 100 days of her presidency, focusing on prenatal care to affordable nursery care.

Senator Kamala Harris is introducing legislation to address the black maternal mortality crisis, saying the risk of dying from pregnancy- related causes is three to four times higher for black women.

And Senator Cory Booker is vowing to create a White House office of reproductive freedom to safeguard reproductive rights and access to health care.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, there's no question, Jake, Republicans are watching this as well.

One Republican strategist who works for the president said, "This is the last thing we need," referring to those new abortion laws, so, women as always, a pivotal vote, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

It's not just focusing on women, a look at another part of Beto O'Rourke's strategy, which could step on Joe Biden's.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Now, we're back with some breaking news in our "2020 LEAD." Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders said just moments ago on this show it might be time to start impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You got this guy who is refusing to respect the Constitution, equal powers and is rejecting requests for members of the administration to come forward. So you know, I think it may be time at least to begin the process through the Judiciary Committee to determine whether or not there are impeachment proceedings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: He had still a little there, Paul. It might be time to begin proceedings but that is the farthest he's gone and it seems like a lot of Democrats are trending that way.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It does. I think the ground is starting to shift a little bit. I think Speaker Pelosi is actually right where the American people are right. Most Americans believe the press -- in our poll, CNN poll. Over 50 percent believe the president has not been forthcoming, that he's hiding things. Over 65 -- two- thirds of Americans want his tax returns but that drops off a lot when you get to impeachment.

It may creep up but I think it's prudent for the Democrats to slow walk this. They are winning in the courts right now. I think they'll continue to prevail. They will get his tax returns. They will -- so I think if you jump -- if you start at impeachment, it's hard to ratchet up higher than that.

This is May of 2019. You know, we are a year and a half away from being able to actually beat him at the ballot box. I think that's the better course. I really do. I think I think most Americans who voted in the Democrats in the House voted those Democrats in because they wanted progress on things like their health care not impeaching Donald Trump.

TAPPER: So let's turn to some of the other 2020 issues. And Laura, you just saw the piece that Jeff Zeleny did and the Republican who made the comment to him about like these abortion laws, these bans going on around the country are not helpful to the Republicans.

And there's some two new polls. CBS News finds it's 67 percent of Americans think the Supreme Court should keep Roe versus Wade, 28 percent want the high court to overturn it. AcuPOLL found similar, feeling 65 percent of voters say they agree with Roe vs. Wade. Why are Republicans doing this then if that ultimately if the vast majority of the American people don't support these bans and don't want Roe v Wade overturned?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. Well, originally a lot of national Republicans wanted abortion to be a big issue in 2020 especially not just in the presidential but also down ballot. They thought it could be a good way for them to win back the House seats that they lost. But they weren't expecting this slew of bills from the southern states, you know. And I think that there hasn't been the communication there between state legislators and national Republicans, and so it's kind of caught them on their back foot.

And I've spoken to a lot of Republicans too, consultants who also are like yes, it isn't very good for us but the one positive that some are hoping comes out of it is that more women -- female Republicans will run saying this is why we need to have female Republicans in the House so that way we can advise and say this isn't the best way to go. These very restrictive abortion bills are not smart and it's not something that we agree with.

TAPPER: And the polling for support for women or girls who have been victims of rape or incest being able to get and abort -- I mean it's through the roof. I mean, this is -- the support for these Alabama bills is minuscule.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think thoughtful members of the pro-life movement are actually appalled at what's happened and very worried that it would be a huge setback. And the pro-life movement over 25 years has like it or not it's pretty skillfully focused the debate on the cases that are easiest for them to make in terms of public opinion, late-term abortion, partial birth abortion, even the heartbeat bill let's say as opposed to an absolute ban on all abortions including rape and incest and then punishing people who've had abortions and so forth which is even being talked about in some of these states, that's really disastrous from a political point of view.

Think of the kind of Senators and Congressman, Republicans who were up for reelection in 2020, did they want to be debating this in their campaign? I don't think so. I don't even think in a state like Texas I defer to problems. Does John Cornyn really want to spend a lot of time explaining he's pro-life and he believes this, and this is a human being from the moment of conception but the rape and incest is -- I mean, does he want to has spent a lot of time on that?

[16:50:08] BEGALA: No, in fact, you know in Senator Cornyn's beloved home state of Texas, my home state, there is a bill in the Texas Legislature that makes Alabama look moderate. The guy named Tony Tinderholt, a Republican has introduced a bill that would apply the death penalty to women who seek to terminate pregnancy. That's death penalty.

And his quote was -- I love this. It'll make people consider the repercussions of having sex. Well then, why not the death penalty for the guy who impregnates a woman.

TAPPER: Well, the men are never factors in any of this legislation.

BEGALA: This is where the Republican Party is going though. I mean, Texas, the biggest Republican state in America and a Republican legislature there wants to execute women.

TAPPER: I want to ask you, Sara, about Beto O'Rourke last night in the CNN Town Hall with Dana Bash. He laid out his abortion rights policy but he also was asked why he supports what's called Medicare for America instead of Medicare for all which a lot of Democrats support.

And he mentioned some voters who he met who struggled with quality health care. I want you to take a listen to his answer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joey, Diane, and others, they don't have time for us to get to the perfect solution. If we were to start from scratch, maybe we would start with a single-payer, but we've got to work with the system that we have here today. The surest, quickest way to get there is Medicare for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: How do you think he didn't answer and how do you think he did in the town hall overall?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I do think he'd put a little bit more meat on the bones and that was one of his big hits. This may be coming too late for him. His bubble may have already burst. You know, I don't know, it's hard to say, it's very early. But you know, I think an answer like that was actually pretty skilfully done.

I think Obama really suffered for saying if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. A lot of people you know found out that that was not the case. They saw that they could no longer get the coverage that they currently had. And so to say you know, we're going to do Medicare for all, I think it's still a really scary thing to a lot of people who like the health care they have or at least like to be able to make that choice for themselves.

And so you know, I think that could be the kind of answer that benefits him even if it does separate him from others in the field, you know. One of the concerns right now I think for the field is that they might be going so far left, and that Trump may seem like you know the only alternative if you don't necessarily want to elect a socialist as what we're -- we were just talking about on the break.

And so I think that there will be those in the field who look for these opportunities to run a little bit more toward the middle to say you know, I am progressive. I do want to change. I recognize that the system isn't working but maybe we don't do this all at once.

TAPPER: And Laura, his poll numbers, O'Rourke's poll numbers have gone from 12 percent in March to five percent in April, to two percent in May. Now, it is early as Sara said, and there have been candidates -- I can only think of one, John McCain, whose poll numbers collapsed in 2007 and then he was able to bring it back in 2008, but it is not easy to get that momentum back.

LOPEZ: No it isn't. And I think that we've seen with the CNN Town Hall and with him trying to do more press again, he's trying to right the ship. Jen O'Malley Dillon who's a woman veteran joined him and that was more recent. So a lot of his campaign is hoping that that will help fix the issue.

TAPPER: Coming up next, a sign of the times, a sign that is just not true. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: We end our show with a little fact check at the Commander-in-Chief. Specifically, we're going to fact check the sign he brought to complement today's Rose Garden rant. Printed on poster board were some of the official and flat-out misleading White House talking points about the Mueller investigation.

Let's go through some of the claims. $35 million plus spent on the Mueller investigation. You know, to be frank, it's not clear where the president got that figure. What we do know is according to the latest information from the Justice Department which goes through September of last year, Mueller's specific expenses were around $12 million. The final price tag will no doubt be higher than that but the data is not public. Where he got $35 million from? No idea.

The claim of 18 angry Democrats, first of all, there were 19 lawyers hired by Mueller. Now, the Washington Post says at least 13 of them were registered Democrats. Their boss Robert Mueller, of course, is a well-known Republican as his former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who oversaw the probe and appointed Mueller. Two Republicans that somehow the president always forgets to mention when he calls them Democrats.

The President is correct on the length of the investigation and the number of subpoenas issued and the number of witnesses involved. Yay, he got that right. On the no collusion part of the sign, Mueller found there was not a prosecutable case for conspiracy against the president but noted "the investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaigns.

Mueller specifically said that collusion was not a legal term and the report was not going to address it at all. On obstruction, no obstruction. Mueller did not exonerate the President on obstruction writing, "While this report does not conclude the president committed a crime on obstruction it also does not exonerate him."

And if you read the report, Mueller in detail describes at least ten instances which may have constituted obstruction. And Mueller clearly leaves it up to Congress to decide how to proceed sticking with Justice Department precedent that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Now, there was a time in the Trump presidency when his people would try to either explain his falsehoods as somehow in the neighborhood of something possibly accurate or they would just change the subject, but there has been a long slow slide and to just taking his lies and asserting them to you and you are paying for those lies in more ways than just making a sign.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.