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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Biden Flip-Flops on Abortion; Trump vs. Pelosi. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 7, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So, all in the green so far, up 270 points, seconds away from the closing bell.

Thanks for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You have been watching CNN.

Stay here. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The president says, how dare Nancy Pelosi insult him while he's overseas, after he attacks her in front of the graves of D-Day heroes.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump arriving home in minutes, as he pours gas on the flames of a war with Speaker Pelosi after she says, lock him up.

And it's flip-flop season. After taking a beating from his left-wing challengers, Joe Biden abruptly changes his support of a key abortion measure. So that should end the criticism, right?

And new today, video released of U.S. and Russian warships nearly crashing into each other, a full-speed maneuver needed to avoid disaster. Is this Vladimir Putin playing chicken at sea?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake Tapper.

We begin with the politics lead.

Any moment, President Trump will land back in the United States after a five-day swing through Europe. While aboard Air Force One, the president couldn't resist resuming his attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeting -- quote -- "Nervous Nancy Pelosi is a disgrace to herself and her family for having made such a disgusting statement, especially since I was with foreign leaders overseas."

Pot, meet kettle. Trump's jabs come after he called his chief rival and most powerful Democrat nasty, vindictive, and a horrible person while overseas. The president was responding to Pelosi, telling fellow Democrats in a closed-door meeting Tuesday that she would rather see the president imprisoned than impeached, according to Politico. As he prepares to touch down in Washington, Mr. Trump is facing a

brewing fight within his own party over pending tariffs on Mexico and a growing chorus of Democrats now demanding his impeachment.

CNN's Manu Raju starts off this busy Friday afternoon from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump on Twitter today continuing the assault he launched on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the graves of U.S. soldiers before him on the solemn 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, calling Pelosi a disgrace to herself and to her family.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think she's a disgrace. I actually don't think she's a talented person. She's a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.

RAJU: The insults did not stop there.

TRUMP: I call her nervous Nancy. Nancy Pelosi is a disaster. OK? She's a disaster.

RAJU: Trump responding to Pelosi's private comments at a meeting in the Capitol this week, where, according to Politico, she says she doesn't want to see Trump impeached, she wants him in prison.

TRUMP: And she made a statement. It was a horrible...

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: When you were overseas.

TRUMP: ... nasty, vicious statement while I'm overseas.

RAJU: But while she was in Normandy, Pelosi actually avoided criticizing the president publicly.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't talk about the president when we're out of the country.

RAJU: Behind the scenes, the debate over whether to impeach the president has taken a new turn. CNN has learned House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is pressing Pelosi to open up an impeachment inquiry, arguing it would bolster the Democrats' battles with the Trump administration in court.

In the same meeting where Pelosi said she wanted Trump in prison, Nadler said an impeachment inquiry would let his committee play the main role in investigating the president's conduct, freeing up other House panels to push forward on legislation instead.

But sources said he met resistance from Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. The divide evident this week when Nadler would not say if he and Pelosi are on the same page over mounting an inquiry.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): When that decision has to be made, it will be made not by any one individual.

RAJU: Nadler is feeling growing pressure from members of his own committee and from 2020 candidates, amid White House defiance of their subpoena.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): There's a growing sentiment that it's an intolerable situation.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I do believe that the Judiciary Committee in the House should go forward with an impeachment inquiry.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: And, next week, the full House will take its first real effort to try to enforce their subpoenas when they vote to authorize the House Judiciary Committee to go to court to enforce Bill Barr, the attorney general, to comply with their demands, their subpoena demands, as well as the former White House counsel Don McGahn, who has also defied the House Judiciary Committee's subpoena.

And in that same resolution, Brianna, the House will allow all committees to go directly to court and bypass the House floor in order to force these committees -- to force the administration to turn over documents, as laid out by their subpoenas.

That could, of course, escalate all the court fights that we're seeing so far -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you for that.

And Jackie Kucinich, here we go again, the reincarnation, another one, of nasty. What do you make of that?

[16:05:00]

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a good word, it's an old word.

No, it seems like, again, Nancy Pelosi has managed to get under the president's skin and is living rent-free in his head. That said, I don't know how far it will get if they start getting into the mud together and it becomes like lower and lower and lower in the realm of discourse, because as we have seen, if history is any guide, the other person, not President Trump, ends up losing that battle when it comes to rhetorical race to the bottom.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Although I do think, this is a theme with strong women. He tends to call them nasty, Meghan Markle, Hillary Clinton, I think there's a pretty long list.

It's not just, I think, that she's gotten under his skin, but there is a sort of misogynist element to this that I think we can't let pass. That being said, the fact that he would make the kinds of comments that he made about Pelosi while he's abroad at a grave site, she is -- you know, hers were behind closed doors. I think she's done a pretty good job of not getting down in the mud in the way that he -- and he just can't stop himself. The fact that while he's even been on the plane, he just can't stop continuing to attack, attack. He just had a very successful trip, actually, if he would have kept his mouth shut. He actually would have had beautiful pictures and beautiful stories about his great speech.

KEILAR: General James Clapper, former DNI, retired general, we were talking about this earlier today. And he said -- he basically -- he said what you said, Karen, which was, he thought that was a fantastic speech. This is one of the best speeches that he had seen President Trump give.

And yet here's what -- he felt it was undercut. Here's what he said about -- let's listen to this. Here's what he said about the president's remarks on Pelosi and Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I thought it was reprehensible that he would do a FOX News interview, attacking Speaker Pelosi and Bob Mueller, ironically, someone who served in the military in Vietnam.

And it's a shame, because it really detracts from one of the best speeches that President Trump's ever given.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: It's pretty stunning, the visual of seeing President Trump with the graves of these D-Day heroes behind him launching a political attack. Did you agree with James Clapper?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The thing I disagree with is the idea that the president's speech was going to be covered and that he was going to get sort of the media fawning over him was I think absurd, and I think the White House lives in a bunker and they feel they're under attack.

They feel even when they do good things -- I'm not saying that makes it a smart strategy for the president to go after her there, but I think they think they're losing anything because I don't think they think they get good coverage for the things he does like this anyway.

It was a great speech. But, look...

KEILAR: We're talking about the speech being good.

SHIELDS: We are now after it -- right, in this context.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: If he had given just the speech, and he hadn't made that mistake, we would be talking about the speech.

SHIELDS: I don't believe that. I doubt it. I think we'd be talking about some other Trump scandal and he'd be getting attacked for other things.

And I think the White House doesn't believe that.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Deliver this one with the gravestones behind him?

SHIELDS: He delivered a great speech.

And, look, here's the thing about him tacking Nancy Pelosi, who still remains one of the least popular politicians in the country. She is goading him into this. And so you're right.

This is two people kind of heading down. She's putting on the sunglasses and strutting outside of the White House after meetings. She's going into negotiations and saying the president is involved in a cover-up, which is sort of a poison pill designed to scuttle the whole thing, because she can't actually make a deal with the president.

Her party won't let her do anything with him. So she's got to continue this fight for her own political benefit.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, to Mike's point, where he's talking about how the president and the White House, they feel like they can't get good coverage for anything, even if they do have a good day, they certainly do feel like that.

And I think part of the problem is because the president himself just makes so much news. And there's a reason there's message discipline on campaigns and message discipline on the White House, because it's possible the focus wouldn't have been on the speech. It's possible the focus would have been on Donald Trump essentially deciding we're going to go to war with Mexico, because he decided to set off like six different story lines that ran sort of in tandem end and ended up colliding with his speech and taking over that.

And I think that that is really the fault of the guy who's sitting in the White House, because he does feel the need to comment on everything, no matter what. And he does feel the need to roll out policies like what he's doing with tariffs and to surprise the people of his own party, to surprise people who are supposed to be U.S. allies.

This is Donald Trump. He hasn't changed. But I think the idea that Nancy Pelosi is emerging from this without any mud on her face also is a fantasy.

KEILAR: We have new details on what went down inside of the Biden campaign as he reversed course on an issue that he has supported for decades.

And the U.S. and Russia literally on a collision course. Just look at this new video of warships nearly crashing into each other and who the Pentagon says is to blame.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:13:55]

KEILAR: In our 2020 lead, brand-new CNN reporting details about how Joe Biden came to change his mind on a key abortion issue and the arguments happening inside of his campaign about how his long-held views could damage his 2020 chances.

As CNN's Arlette Saenz reports, the pressure came not only from his closest aides, but also a celebrity activist.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): Joe Biden's team coming out in full force today, trying to explain his sudden reversal to oppose the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old ban on federal funds being used for most abortions.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, BIDEN DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: This was a personal decision of his. It was a tough decision. It's one he wrestled with.

SAENZ: But CNN has learned discussions within Biden's campaign intensified in the past two days, with the former vice president hearing directly from members of his team and prominent supporters, including Alyssa Milano, urging him to change course, arguing the measure was problematic for low-income women and women of color.

His deputy campaign manager telling CNN's Brianna Keilar, this isn't actually a flip-flop.

BEDINGFIELD: I think to suggest that this is somehow out of step or out of sync with the way that he's viewed this issue is actually not true.

SAENZ: Biden explaining his reversal last night in Georgia.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutional protected right. If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's zip code.

SAENZ: The pivot came amid an intense wave of pressure from his 2020 rivals, abortion rights activists and some within his own campaign. For decades, Biden, a devout Catholic, backed the amendment.

BIDEN: I make no apology to my last position.

SAENZ: But an exchange with an ACLU volunteer in South Carolina last month appeared to signal a shift.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you commit to abolishing the Hyde Amendment, which hurts poor women and women of color.

BIDEN: Yes, yes. It can't stay. SAENZ: The Biden campaign on Wednesday saying the former vice president misheard and reaffirmed his commitment to the measure, saying in a statement: He has not at this point changed his position on the Hyde Amendment.

The criticism was fast and fierce, with nearly all of Biden's 2020 rivals piling on.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The vice president is absolutely wrong on this one.

SAENZ: That evening, the campaign co-chair making this argument.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): I think the vice president has been very consistent over his career since '76 when the Hyde amendment became law, that he is a deeply religious man.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: Now, campaign officials say he didn't make this decision because of a political backlash. That he heard the merits of the case and decided to change course -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right. Arlette, thank you for that report.

Jackie, the sources familiar with this conversation tells CNN this, quote: We made the argument about access to health care. It was a thoughtful, logical evolution, not a flip-flop for political reasons.

Except, it doesn't -- it doesn't feel like a thoughtful, logical evolution that happened between Wednesday and Thursday.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That seems like a thoughtful, logical, carefully-crafted campaign statement. And that's what this seems to be, because during your interview this afternoon, you asked, walk us through his decision-making on this, and if there was a careful decision-making, you would have thought there would be a better answer.

But it was overnight that we went from his campaign surrogate, Cedric Richmond, saying he's sticking by what he said for the last umpteen years, and OK, he's a person that's how about health care. This isn't news. The rollback of various reproductive rights started -- I'm sure it started before this, but as we know now, in North Dakota in 2013. If you're on the left, you've been watching this for many years and Joe Biden has stayed where he is on the Hyde Amendment until today.

KEILAR: And even just this year, this has been going on for months. It's been going on prior to his launch in April, why, Karen, hasn't the campaign dealt with this before?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have no idea. I mean, this is bad homework, bad self-research because, you know, as I was mentioning to you all, in 2016, Hillary made a very big point of making the statement that she would support repealing Hyde, this is a very big deal to women voters. So, it's not like it wasn't a big issue just a few years ago in a presidential campaign.

And they should have been prepared for this one. I mean, he got the question about a month ago. This is one where they should have been better prepared to answer yes or no and here's my rationale.

The other thing is, it's in the party platform. And what they also, I don't think they really understood, was that for most of us as Democrats, the whole DNC adopted that platform.

KEILAR: That it's not there. That in 2016, they took it out.

FINNEY: No, no, it's in the platform in 2016. My point is for him to try to suggest that he would reverse that, that's untenable.

KEILAR: What do you think watching this as a conservative?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think buyer beware to the Democrats and the primary voters who think, oh, we're going to nominate Biden, because he has the best chance of winning. The brand that President Trump won on is because he was running against someone who had been in office for a really long time and had taken multiple positions on multiple things.

I mean, we're seeing why Joe Biden has lost presidential primaries before, because this was amateur hour I think on many levels for them and they're not handling it correctly and it's on something really, really important like abortion. And the lack of sincerity and authenticity coming from them is way more important for Democrat voters to consider when they're going up against Donald Trump.

KEILAR: I can't -- I don't know if I can --

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: But he's still seen as authentic. He's seen as someone who just doesn't care. I'm going to say what I think and do I want.

And here's a very calculated sort of response and nuance. We all know what the real reason is. He can't get to the primary with the Democratic base because the polls are telling him to do it.

KEILAR: I don't know if I can keep track of all the different positions that President Trump has had on abortion over the years. And yet voters, his supporters are OK with that.

[16:20:04] Why is this a different situation in terms of the style and in terms of the audience?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because Donald Trump is not running around saying, my views on abortion are a deeply held belief, that I've crafted over the course of my entire life. He was pro- choice before he was a candidate, and then like Mike said, you cannot survive a Republican primary unless you are anti-abortion. So that is what Donald Trump took up, that's what he needed to do, and

I think voters said, prove it with judges. He did when he was in the white house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And brought Mike Pence on.

MURRAY: He brought Mike Pence on, which went a long way.

For Joe Biden, I mean, yesterday, advisers were telling people, Joe Biden's not going to change his mind on this, because this is a deeply held belief. This goes down to his roots. He's a Catholic. He's always sort of struggled with this issue of where to draw the line.

And he has a mixed voting record where there have been instances where he's made it clear that he doesn't support using federal funds for abortion, because he doesn't believe that your taxpayer dollars, you know, if you don't believe in abortion, if you're Catholic, for instance, should go to pay for someone having those services.

And what they've done is they've got, stuck in this mud where he cannot explain why he took what was apparently this sort of long-held, heartfelt position, and changed it overnight. And you can't do that, because it doesn't feel authentic. It doesn't feel like Barack Obama coming out there and saying, you know, I'm in and out in favor of gay marriage because I've spent a long time thinking about this. My heart has changed, the country has changed, the people around me have changed. And Biden's campaign has not been able to do that.

KEILAR: But let's remember, Biden actually was a bit of not a help in that decision when it came to Barack Obama's -- making him move that along perhaps more quickly than he wanted to.

OK, so let's talk big picture here. Biden has really -- has found himself in a less-crowded lane in this race as a more moderate candidate. But he released a climate change proposal that is more progressive than President Obama's. Now he's changed his stance on the Hyde amendment.

Conservative CNN commentator S.E. Cupp phrased it like this. Quote: It seems like Biden has now caved to all of that progressive pressure, which raises the question, what exactly is the point of his candidacy?

FINNEY: You're looking at me.

KEILAR: Karen, question mark.

FINNEY: Let me explain for you.

KEILAR: Thank you.

FINNEY: I think we've got to go back to the drawing board and do a little bit better again, self-research and some homework here, to make sure that going forward we don't have anymore more instances where one day you're saying this is my deeply held belief and the next day you're saying, actually, turns out that's not where my party or the country is anymore, so I'm going to change. You know, I will give him credit for his climate change proposal.

One thing he has done that I haven't seen many of the others do, he spoke specifically about labor and he spoke specifically about communities of color. And communities of color tend to get forgotten when we talk about cancer clusters and asthma and all these issues that are very much impacted and connected to the environment. So that was smart. That was a good way to go.

Look, he's going to have to make his case as to, you know, I think to women voters who are a little bit startled by this whole thing with Hyde and make the case and remind people, though, he's running as the Democratic -- in the Democratic primary. You still have to respect Democratic primary voters.

KEILAR: You may have to Joesplain.

And speaking of Joe Biden, he's going to be the outsider again this weekend as 19 Democratic candidates descend on one early voting state

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:01] KEILAR: In our 2020 lead, nearly every Democratic presidential candidate descending on Iowa this weekend. Nineteen, yes, 19 of the candidates courting voters at a Democratic Party dinner. But the most notable no-show is the front-runner, Joe Biden, who has an important family event and cannot attend.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Des Moines, Iowa.

And, Leyla, some of those candidates are already on the ground today.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, let me make the point with this picture right here. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Congressman Beto O'Rourke actually arriving in Iowa on the same flight. By the way, we just happened to be on flight as well.

We expect Senators Gillibrand, Sanders, as well as former Governor Hickenlooper also to be here today. And then, tomorrow, we expect a lot of the candidates to show up, especially for that Pride Fest here in Des Moines.

But the very big event in Iowa, the big deal this weekend will come on Sunday. That will be the Iowa Democratic Party hall of fame. This is sort of the largest gathering of the candidates of this cycle thus far. And take note of the timing. It will be before the largest gathering on the stage for the debates in Miami at the end of this month.

So, think of it as a microcosm of the Democratic primary itself in which these candidates will be here to not only make themselves stand out in the crowd -- or in a crowded field, but also show the strength of their campaign -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Leyla Santiago in Des Moines, thank you so much for that.

I mean, 19 candidates, right, 19 candidates at this event. How, if you are one of 19, do you -- can you even seize the moment? How do you stand out?

MURRAY: Well, first of all, it makes me want to take a nap and tune back in in six months. But that's not an option if you're running for president. So, I guess you're trying -- I don't know if you're trying to have a moment or just to survive at this point. I mean, Karen knows more about this event than I do, but it sounds like it's pretty raucous and I imagine it's pretty crazy with that many candidates up on stage.

And I'm sure that's part of the reason that Joe Biden took a pass. It's probably hard to sort of have this kind of big, breakout moment when you're listening to these people one after another. That said, I mean, people in the early states take their responsibilities very seriously. They like to see the candidates up close and they will sit and watch candidates one after another, because they want to get a sense of, sort of where they're starting and how they evolve along the way.