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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Baseball Team Apologizes to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Biden Leading Polls. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 28, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Such as funding for Violence Against Women's Act and an assault weapons ban, both of which are no longer active.

But, at the same time, you know, he's said that he's not always been right on -- in terms of some of the past positions he's taken.

I think, with someone like Joe Biden, you don't always get that outright apology. He does sort of try to explain the thinking at the time, which was very different and focused much more on reducing violent crime.

We now know a lot more about the crime bill and the ways in which it paved the way for mass incarceration, allocated, of course, a lot more funding towards expanding law enforcement and disproportionately impacted communities of color in terms of who ended up being locked behind bars.

But he's not the only one with a complicated record on criminal justice. Senator Kamala Harris has also faced scrutiny over her background. So has Senator Bernie Sanders.

And so I think you're going to have much more of a robust debate when they're all standing up there on the debate stage. But, at the same time, as Laura pointed out, it remains to be seen as if voters actually feel this is going to be a liability for people like Joe Biden.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I wonder what you think, Laura, about kind of not the substance, but the way that Joe Biden is campaigning, fund-raisers vs. campaign events.

He's had nine fund-raisers, 11 public events so far. In contrast, if you say, look at Beto O'Rourke, right?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, POLITICO: Yes.

KEILAR: He held 12 events in just his first two days as a candidate.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right.

KEILAR: What does this tell us and what's his calculation here? BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, I guess the argument from the Biden campaign is

that, look, we don't have to hold as many events as the Betos and Buttigiegs of the world, because we are -- he is the front-runner.

He still has been maintaining his lead in the polls, despite the fact that people thought that maybe, once he announced, the Anita Hill stuff would weigh him down or the crime bill stuff would weigh him down, and we haven't seen that happen yet.

And so I think that they're saying that this is the way -- we're being very calculated with our fund-raising, because this is how he plans to run his campaign. And I have even heard from other local lawmakers in the different states that Biden is one of the ones who has been most aggressive and has the best fund-raisers in key states across the country.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would just add, I think they're also making a calculation -- whether it's right or not, we will see -- that big events cost a lot of money. And they do. They're very expensive.

And for them, they want to come out of the first quarter of fund- raising that he's in with a strong number. So the one that ends in three days and the reporting will be 15 days after that, they want to have a strong number that shows why he's the leader and that's why they're making these aggressive pushes like the fund-raising e-mail that we just said that kind of taps into Donald Trump attacking him.

They need the big number for the first one.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I think all this shows is just somehow disciplined actually Joe Biden has been in the early weeks of his campaign.

I think we all kind of expected him to have a gaffe and make a mistake, but he is keeping his head down, raising the money, not being provoked by Trump. Trump is clearly trying to rattle him and he hasn't really sounded back yet.

And this is pretty smart. Take the wait-and-see strategy, get to that debate, let some of the other rookies knock themselves out potentially and have a big moment on stage.

KEILAR: A bizarre story involving progressive lightning rod Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a minor league baseball team that's now apologizing to her -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:45]

KEILAR: We're back with the politics lead.

A minor league baseball team is now apologizing to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after the Fresno Grizzlies aired a Memorial Day video at the game yesterday in which the congresswoman is depicted among -- quote -- "enemies of freedom."

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is joining me now from Capitol Hill.

What can you tell us about this video, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Bri, this was a video that was shown at the Fresno Grizzlies game in between their double header games on Monday evening.

The whole video is about three minutes' long and it's pretty much a classic Memorial Day video that you would likely see at any baseball park playing on Memorial Day, but there is certainly a very controversial part to this video.

The video featured patriotic images over the words of a speech by former President Ronald Reagan. And specifically when he was in his speech talking about enemies of freedom, it showed the congresswoman's picture, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez's picture, alongside Fidel Castro, Kim Jong-un, and others.

Here's first that moment in the video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: Now, after the video and certainly that moment got some attention, the Fresno Grizzlies, they said that this video was not actually produced by them, it was produced from an outside office, but they took responsibility.

They said they apologized to fans and certainly to the congresswoman themselves and admitted that they did not properly vet this video. They said -- quote -- "Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a moving tribute ended with some misleading and offensive editing, which makes a statement that was not our intent and certainly not our opinion."

And, Bri, they said that was a mistake that will not happen again. And there has not been any reaction yet from the congresswoman or her office. But, certainly, she is a frequent critic from many Republicans. She appears in many Republican attack ads, but certainly, baseball, I think everyone can agree, apolitical.

KEILAR: Yes, normally. Sunlen, thank you so much for that report.

OK, I mean, watch the video, but, come on, this is a bad look for this team.

CARPENTER: Yes.

AOC, Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-un, one of these things does not belong in that pairing. [16:40:02]

It would be nice, maybe, if the team, they wanted to make it right, invite her out to do the first pitch for the next game.

KEILAR: That's a long way to go for a congresswoman from New York.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUI: I think it's also bizarre that they would even have a political video playing at a minor legal league baseball game.

These events are usually kept at a distance from politics, period. And it also reinforces in some ways the way in which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become incredibly influential in American politics, coming out of relative obscurity and emerging as this lightning rod in Congress and a frequent target of the right and conservatives.

Why she was featured in this video, that's a separate question.

KEILAR: And just so demonized. Now you can -- you see how sort of the category that some people are putting her in as a caricature.

PSAKI: That's right.

And she's become -- I don't know if -- she's powerful in a movement of young progressives, absolutely, and she's kind of opened up government in a way that I think is very constructive.

But she's become -- the most power is -- she's become a foil for the Republican -- certain wings of the Republican Party.

BARRON-LOPEZ: I think the entire Republican Party.

PSAKI: The entire Republican Party. And so, you know, she's taken the place in some ways of Nancy Pelosi.

They're going to see if it works, I suppose. But it is. It's bizarre that they would use her in Fresno across the country from where -- and she's powerful in her movement, but she's not really that powerful in Washington.

So it's kind of a very strange use of her. Obviously, it's completely inappropriate.

KEILAR: It's also -- it's just a bizarre video aside, even if you take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez out of it, just the images that are evoked, instead of the idea of inspiration or sacrifice.

CARPENTER: On Memorial Day. Honor the troops, those who give their lives. That's it.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Exactly. It's so bizarre.

So what's the best way for her to handle it?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I mean, I'm sure we can maybe expect a tweet from her. That's typically how she likes to respond to criticism from Republicans, or maybe her office will put out a statement.

But so far, they haven't yet. But she's been very effective, to Jen's point, at responding to Republicans when they criticize her and to frustrating them, which is why in almost every single ad so far this cycle among House Republicans, she's been prominently featured.

KEILAR: She's quite the queen of the clap-back, so we will see how that goes.

Well, from homes and roads underwater to entire neighborhoods wiped out by tornadoes, the severe weather that could soon get worse -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] KEILAR: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" today, disaster in the heartland. From Oklahoma where severe weather has killed six people in the last week, the governor warns the situation could still get worse as water levels rise and tornadoes and large hail are in the forecast today.

To Ohio where two tornadoes ripped through one city overnight, a man who lost his home saying "we went out in the streets and children were screaming and crying, devastation everywhere." CNN's Alexandra Field is in one of the hardest hit areas Dayton, Ohio. And Alexandra you've spoken to people who survived this. What they telling you?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, they're releasing that they had a matter of seconds to make choices that helped them save their lives. They consider the fact that they are alive to be truly a miracle when you look at the fact that two tornadoes struck this city in the space of half an hour. I want to show you what this neighborhood looks like.

This is what it looks like basically as far as the eye can see. Downed trees, buildings that have been decimated, you can see this car here with a smashed up windshield, and far worse than any of that, the house right over here. I spoke to the owner of it. He says that he saw a warning on his cell phone that a tornado was coming. He grabbed his girlfriend. They got in the basement. By the time it was all over, there was almost nothing left.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD: CNN drones captured the first clear view of the devastation in Ohio after at least three powerful tornadoes tore through the state in just a matter of hours. The city of Salina and the areas in and around Dayton are among the hardest hit. Buildings and houses ripped open, parts of rooftops now litter the landscape, some homes are demolished.

RENE MONIZ, SURVIVED OHIO TORNADO: The first things I thought of was war zone because it just looked like somebody just took a bomb and --

FIELD: From the ground, the view is perhaps even worse.

MARK LYNCH, CHIEF, HARRISON TOWNSHIP OHIO FIRE DEPARTMENT: Devastation, World War III. It's tough.

FIELD: Belongings spill out of this house. In this Dayton neighborhood, split-second decisions saved lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made it to the basement, and by the time we got down there, the chimney came off and then the whole roof came off.

EDDIE WHITEHEAD, SURVIVED OHIO TORNADO: You could hear glass breaking and everything blowing around and I was just hoping we're going to make it.

FIELD: Roaring generators, the only power source for some families making their way back to sift through the rubble and debris. Officials say it may take years to rebuild. Ohio's governor says he feared for his own family.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: She had one daughter who didn't have a basement. She went over to her sister's who did have the basement. Seeing this happen any places is you know horrible, horrible thing to see and this certainly is home to us.

FIELD: The destruction, just the latest in an unusually active tornado season. More than 500 tornadoes have been reported in the U.S. in just the last month. This as severe storms and rising floodwaters have forced people from their homes in Oklahoma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So last night was pretty -- was pretty tense for us.

FIELD: The state has suffered nine storm-related deaths in just the last 30 days. More rain is on the way. The Arkansas River which borders Oklahoma is now above flood stage according to authorities. Workers had to be rescued by helicopters Sunday and last night authorities closed too busy bridges across the river in an effort to save lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

16:50:04] FIELD: And Brianna, back here in Ohio, this is the kind of site that people are waking up to. Walls ripped off their houses, rooftop ripped off, furniture out in the yard. You can see it continues to go out into the street, sheet metal twisted around utility poles that have taken down power for tens of thousands of people. Truly a site of devastation and destruction for people who could not imagine that this would hit them here.

I spoke to one man who says he was watching T.V. He could see that the storm was getting close. He didn't have enough time to get to the basement before the tornado hit. So he says he just moved to the center of his house, he grabbed his dog, they took cover. He prayed he'd still be there when the tornado passed through. He is certainly among those we've talked to today who are feeling absolutely lucky to be alive and absolutely feeling lucky that he was listening and heeded those signs when the warnings came, Brianna.

KEILAR: Indeed. Alexandra, thank you so much for that report from Dayton, Ohio. A second American dies on Mt. Everest. Up next, CNN goes to the treacherous mountain and finds a 17-year-old who walked around dead bodies during the climb.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] KEILAR: Nepal's government considering changes to the permit process on Mt. Everest in the wake of 11 climbers dying this year on the world's highest peak. Two of the dead are Americans. CNN's Arwa Damon went to Everest base camp at an altitude of 17,000 feet which is slightly more than halfway to the summit. Arwa, tell us what it was like.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, even when you're there, you really feel the effect of the lack of oxygen. And while we were there for just a short time, we were able to get a bit of an idea of what the entire experience is like, including the beauty, the dangers, and the difficulties.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: Even here, you can still already feel how thin the air is. So that one straight ahead of us, the black one, and that's the summit of Everest. The mountain that claimed so many lives this year peeks out in the distance. Even here at base camp, because we aren't acclimatized, the altitude hits like a ton of bricks. The slightest movement makes your head spin.

Our cameraman (INAUDIBLE) stayed at the helipad with oxygen, shoots from above while we make our way down. The season is ending, the camp mostly deserted, no longer a sea of tents. Those who are here are cleanup crews and among the last to make it down, like 17-year-old Mrika Nikqi and her father Arianit from Kosovo.

A father-daughter team, I mean, pretty extraordinary. How did it feel for you? What was it like?

MRIKA NIKQI, MOUNTAINEER: Well, it felt awesome. It was pretty good.

DAMON: I mean, is it a combination of pride and anxiety and --

ARIANIT NIKQI, MOUNTAINEER: Responsibility.

DAMON: Responsibility, of course.

A. NIKQI: A big one.

DAMON: I assume before you went up to the top, you were hearing about all of these deaths that were happening.

A. NIKQI: We saw dead bodies on the way.

M. NIKQI: You know what, when you decide to come and climb Everest, you prepare yourself that you're going to see dead bodies. Maybe something can happen to you, your father or whoever you're climbing with, so you just -- you prepare.

DAMON: Nepal says this year's deaths mostly happened from altitude sickness, which many are blaming on an hour's worth backlog within the mountain's death zone where each breath only contains a third of the oxygen at sea level.

The Nepalese government says stories of a log jam were overblown and says that this year's deaths were due to weather, not the number of permits issued, just nine more than last year. There were only a few favorable summit days and that created the rush to the top.

And then there is, as we heard from those who have been summiting for years, the lack of experience of an increasing number of climbers. There is no experience requirement to obtain a permit. But in light of what happened this year, the Nepalese government is looking at changing that.

Did you deliberately wait until the very end to take your clients up?

PASANG TENSING, EVEREST SHERPA: Yes, definitely. There were people -- I felt really, really sorry about them because they're super slow, they didn't have much techniques about the mountain, and it looks like they have -- they have never been on other mountains except Everest. And so these sort of people create a lot, lot of problem on the mountain.

DAMON: Just walking up from doing the interviews down there, it felt like this massive taxing effort. I didn't expect that it would be or that it should be, but again, my body isn't used to being at this altitude.

And then of course, when you're here, the weather can change so quickly. So I put on all of my layers, and this is just a little bit of an idea of what it's like when you're trying to take on a summit like Mt. Everest.

For us, after two hours here without proper acclimatization, it's time to leave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON: And Brianna, no one, none of the expert climbers that we've been talking to are saying, look, people should not be allowed to summit Everest. But what's really important is that it is done safely. The mountain is incredibly dangerous, it's always going to claim lives, but that can be mitigated. And the burden of responsibility for that is on the climbers and on the Nepalese government.

KEILAR: That guide telling you that some people had never climbed another mountain was just startling, Arwa. Arwa Damon in Nepal, thank you so much for that report. You can follow me on twitter @BRIKEILARCNN or tweet the show @THELEADCNN. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

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