Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Pushes for Citizenship Question on Census; Biden Speaks Out on Debate Performance. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 5, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And if you are in New York City, come join me over here at Hudson Yards at the CNN video store. I will be there all day long ahead of the movie's debut at 9:00.

That is it for me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

"THE LEAD" starts now.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: July Fourth is over, but the fireworks between Biden and Harris don't seem to be ending.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The entire CNN exclusive interview with Joe Biden this hour. He's surprised by Senator Kamala Harris' attack and unmoved by progressives like AOC. Plus, Biden says he's ready to spar with the president, calling Trump the school bully he would smack in the mouth.

Plus, President Trump, fresh off his July 4 event, returns fire.

Welcome to this special edition of THE LEAD. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake.

We begin with the politics lead.

President Trump is now at his New Jersey golf club, but before departing the White House, a venting session on the North Lawn, attacking Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and insisting a citizenship question will be added to the 2020 census after all.

The president said the administration is looking at a number of options to make that happen, including an executive order.

CNN's Abby Phillip kicks off now from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump signaling he may use an executive order to force a citizenship question onto the 2020 census.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have four or five ways we can do it. It is one of the ways that we're thinking about doing it.

PHILLIP: Having lost in the Supreme Court and as the forms are being printed without the question, Trump seems undaunted.

TRUMP: So we could start the printing now and maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision.

PHILLIP: Arguing history is on his side.

TRUMP: If you look at the history of our country, it has almost always been asked. You need it for Congress, for districting.

PHILLIP: But both claims are false. The question has not been asked since 1950. And districts are drawn based on the total number of people, not citizens, in a particular area.

Sources tell CNN that Trump is frustrated with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for caving and announcing publicly that the administration was abandoning the effort. But asked if Ross' job is safe, Trump said:

TRUMP: Yes. Sure. Wilbur is a good man.

PHILLIP: And with the positive jobs report out today, Trump again using the strong economy to attack another official he appointed, the Federal Reserve chairman.

TRUMP: We don't have a Fed that knows what they're doing.

PHILLIP: Meantime, as Democratic lawmakers and watchdog groups describe deplorable, dirty and overcrowded conditions at border detention facilities, Trump says he doesn't see a problem.

TRUMP: I have seen some of the places and they are run beautifully. They're clean. They're good.

PHILLIP: The president seemingly more concerned with his 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

TRUMP: You look at what Joe Biden has done with China, Biden didn't know what the hell he was doing. Biden doesn't know about that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: And at a hearing at 2:00 today, Justice Department lawyers told a judge that they are looking at ways to include the citizenship question in the census, but they made no mention of a potential executive order.

In fact, they said no decision had yet been made about how to proceed -- Dana.

BASH: Abby, thank you so much for that.

And here with me, Kaitlan Collins. I want to start with you first. You have some reporting on something that the president denied today, Wilbur Ross, the frustration that you're hearing he has. He said, not so much, at least publicly.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

It is interesting to see him publicly voice confidence in Wilbur Ross, because the president has been a little irritated by him for some time now, but especially over the handling of the census matter, because it was a lot of confusion, because, just Monday night, the president had reporters in the Oval Office and was like, yes, I want this citizenship questions still added.

He made very clear his position. So that's what it was so surprising when they were announcing that they were just going to drop their effort. So the president said he had not. And then he also he, though, if you notice, when he was speaking today, he said he did not know what Wilbur Ross said that led to that decision from Chief Justice John Roberts, where he said, essentially, you need to make your argument better for why you need this question added.

So there is, behind the scenes, the president frustrated with Wilbur Ross over this specifically.

BASH: Well, look, I mean, it has been, frankly, just a mess all week long. And before that, it's they're going to print the census without the citizenship question because they're up against the clock.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, POLITICO: Right.

BASH: Then the president gets backlash from conservatives, comes out and on Twitter and says, no, no, no, we're going to do this, which forces his own Justice Department lawyers the day before the Fourth of July, basically almost a federal holiday, to call a judge and to figure it out.

It's a mess. And now, yes, they're trying to clean it up, but also trying to at least make a political show for conservatives that they're trying, even if they won't succeed, ultimately.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right.

And what really stuck out to me during the president's comments earlier today was him saying that, oh, the rationale, part of the rationale behind this had to do with redistricting, which actually contradicts his U.S. solicitor general and what their arguments, arguments that they gave, the administration gave to the Supreme Court.

[16:05:05]

They said, no, that that's not what this is about. So, there has been a lot of contradiction going on throughout all of this.

BASH: I want to turn to the issue of immigration. You heard the president talking about the notion of raids potentially starting again. But then you heard part of this in Abby's piece.

I'm going to play more of what he said about the facilities on the border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have seen some of those places and they are run beautifully. They're clean, they're good, they do a great job. Border Patrol did not train to be doctors and nurses and janitors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: It was your question to him, Kaitlan. Let's be clear. That is just not what we're seeing. That just defies reality of the images that we're seeing.

COLLINS: Yes.

And it is the report from his own government that published it, that talked about what these conditions are like at these facilities. They're overcrowded. Children are going without hot meals.

Some of the people there have not showered the entire time they have been there. It is really just a graphic report to read about what these people are living in. So then the president, though, in his mind is defending the agents who work there, because essentially he thinks that they came off poorly, and that is why you saw him there.

But he's saying that they're clean and that they're beautifully run. That is not what his own government says in this very long report that you can read specifically what the conditions are there.

But it is the president essentially making this argument that, if they don't want to come here and stay in these, then they should not come at all.

BARRON-LOPEZ: It is -- another thing that he said that I want to point out is, he was saying that he hasn't seen the Facebook message posts from the group of CBP agents which are very disturbing, messaging posts about Democrats, about the migrants, about children, and the fact that he hasn't seen it a little bit surprising.

But to Kaitlan's point, these reports are multiple, they're detailed, and they explain how these children are being treated, which is also why Democrats wanted to include in the aid package that was just passed standards for hygiene and for nutrition.

BASH: Yes, no, absolutely. We have a lot more to talk about.

Laura Barron-Lopez, Kaitlan Collins, thank you. Stand by.

Is Joe Biden ready to take on President Trump? Our CNN exclusive with the former vice president is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:11:26]

BASH: In our 2020 lead, CNN's exclusive interview with former Vice President Joe Biden.

It comes as he spars with his 2020 rival Senator Kamala Harris over his past positions on busing.

Chris Cuomo asked Biden about the contentious debate moment that sparked an ongoing clash between the two Democratic contenders, plus how Biden plans to take on President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I was talking with you and Jill.

You said you were expecting to have a target on your back, but the intensity of some of it -- did you see the questions about your past positions from the perspective of race being as relevant as they are?

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. And I don't think they're relevant, because they were taken out of context.

And what I didn't see is people who know me. I mean, they know me well. It's not like it's somebody who just came out of the blue and didn't know anything.

But it's so easy to go back and go back 30, 40, 50 years, and take a context, and take it completely out of context.

And, I mean, you know, I -- I get all this information about other people's past and what they've done and not done. And, you know, I'm just not going to go there. If we keep doing that, that's -- I mean, what we should be debating what we do from here.

For example, this whole about race and busing. Well, you know, I think if you take a look, our positions aren't any different, as we're finding out.

CUOMO: Senator Harris...

BIDEN: Yes.

CUOMO: ... who said she sees it as a tool, not a must in all circumstances.

BIDEN: Yes. Well, look at my record. And...

CUOMO: I don't think busing's about policy, Mr. Vice President.

BIDEN: No, it's not.

CUOMO: I think it was about principle. When you look back at your record on it, you were not in favor of busing. It was a different time. There were different applications. Why not just own it and say, "I was against it, but now I have changed"? BIDEN: By the way, here's -- I was -- I was in favor of busing that

was de jure busing. That is, if a court ruled that there was a law passed or circumstance that a county, a city, a state did that prevented black folks from being somewhere, then that's wrong. You should bus.

I even went so far in the middle that busing controversy, was saying, I would use helicopters if that was necessary, to make the point. And we really got in a town meeting that was -- got very hot.

But what the issue is now is, for example -- and it was then -- voluntary busing. We supported it then. We supported it then. And, by the way, Barack as I, as president and vice president, we provided money for voluntary busing, if cities want to do it.

CUOMO: I'm not questioning any of that.

BIDEN: No, no.

CUOMO: I'm saying, when you look back in the '70s, you said, "I think busing doesn't work. It's an asinine concept."

BIDEN: Well, by the way...

CUOMO: You tried to pass bills that weren't for it.

BIDEN: ... busing did not work. You had overwhelming response from the African-American community in my state.

My state is the eighth largest black population in the country, as a percent of population. They weren't -- they did not support it. They did not support it.

Look, the question is, how do you equalize education in every area? And I put forward the most -- the most aggressive plan to do that, and I have been pushing it for a long time.

For example, in you know, Title I schools, schools that are disadvantaged, we should -- I proposed we go from $15 billion a year to $45 billion a year. We should bring people in, have preschool from 3, 4, 5 years old, before kindergarten.

We should have -- look, every child out there, every child out there is capable, but they live in circumstances that make it difficult. By the time they get to school, they've heard three, four million fewer words spoken. They're at a disadvantage.

CUOMO: I totally accept all of that.

BIDEN: That's number one.

But, number two, the idea, right now, 65 out of 100 jobs in a study I did for the president point out, you need something beyond a high school degree.

[16:15:02] CUOMO: It's true. BIDEN: So what are we doing? We're sitting here as if it's an insoluble problem.

CUOMO: I get it on policy. I never have viewed the busing back and forth in that debate as about policy or application of how to effect civil rights. It's about consistency, improving if you'll be better than what we're doing with now in the White House, which is people won't tell the truth about things.

If busing didn't work, then it made sense that you weren't for it back then. But why say you were for it? Why not just be straight about it and move on?

BIDEN: Because there's three different pieces. I was for voluntary busing, number one. I was for busing where the court showed that, in fact, a legislative body took an action preventing black folks from going to a school. That is the de jure -- I know you know -- de jure segregation.

The difficult piece is, this is 50 years ago. People don't understand the context.

The third one is, do you have an administration, through their non- elected officials, Department of Housing, decide every school should be equally balanced across the board? That's a different issue. And the way to deal with that problem is what I did from the time I was a kid.

I got out -- I got out of law school, came back, had a great job, became a public defender. I -- I fought for putting housing in and low-income housing in suburbia. I talked about eliminating red lining. I talked about school districts should be consolidated in ways that made sense. So in fact --

CUOMO: Why didn't you fight it like this in the debate?

BIDEN: In 30 seconds?

CUOMO: Hey, what happens most in a debate, Mr. Vice President? People blow their time cue. You're the only person I've ever seen on a debate stage say, "I'm out of time."

BIDEN: Well, we never had a place where you have 30 seconds, man. What I didn't want to do was get in that scrum. Do you think the American public looked at that debate -- take me out of it -- and thought, "Boy, I really like the way that's being conducted. They're really showing themselves to do really well"? Come on, man.

CUOMO: They're going to come after you.

BIDEN: Sure, they were going to come after me.

CUOMO: Were you prepared for them to come after you?

BIDEN: I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn't prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me. She knew Beau. She knows me.

I don't -- anyway, I -- but here's the deal. What I do know -- and it's the good and the bad news -- the American people think they know me, and they know me. Since that occurred, I had the most sought- after endorsement for the mayor of Atlanta, a black woman who's a great leader, Mayor Bottoms, endorsed me. I've had numerous numbers of the Black Caucus endorsed me.

CUOMO: Are you worried about the polls slipping with African -- African-Americans after the debate?

BIDEN: No, no. These folks just came. I'm making the point to you, I don't see it. People know who I am. I don't believe there's anybody out there believes that I have anything other than a keen and consistent interest in making sure every child -- these are all our children.

CUOMO: Here's a tough -- here's the question. Did you re-watch the debate?

BIDEN: No, I didn't.

CUOMO: Why not?

BIDEN: Well, I didn't have an opportunity to re-watch it. And besides, you know, my measure is how people react outside: getting on a train, getting on plane, walking through an airport, walking in a parade, just going to the grocery store. I got no sense -- I really mean it -- no sense.

CUOMO: Here's the tough question for Democrats. They need a warrior, OK, because, not to aggrandize, not to lionize, but this president knows how to fight in the ring, one on one. Kamala Harris is friendly fire. Cory Booker is friendly fire. How can Democrats have confidence that you can take on the biggest and the baddest when you're having trouble sparring in party?

BIDEN: I don't think I'm having trouble sparring. It's how you want to spar.

Look, I'm the guy at the time everybody talks about things they're changing. I took on same-sex marriage. I took on a whole range of issues. I took on arms control.

I took on dealing with Russia with the arms control agreement. I took on Putin in terms of Iraq -- I mean, excuse me, in terms of what was going on in Ukraine. I've taken on these leaders around the world.

I'm the guy that's gone in and met them. I've taken on all these things. I mean, I -- this is ironic. I've never been accused of being -- not being able to spar. I've been accused of being too aggressive.

CUOMO: But the game has changed.

BIDEN: Well -- CUOMO: And you think that what's happening with Harris is anything

compared to what would happen with you --

BIDEN: No, but everybody knows who this guy is. Come on, man. Come on.

CUOMO: How do you beat him?

BIDEN: I'd beat him by just pointing out who I am, and who he is, and what we're for and what he's against. This guy's a divider-in-chief. This guy is acting with racist policies. This guy is moving to -- foment hate, to split. That's the only way he can sustain himself.

CUOMO: Nothing about him worries you?

BIDEN: Sure, it worries me in the sense that I'm looking forward to this, man. You walk behind me in a debate, come here, man. Don't you think I -- you know me too well.

I mean, the idea that I'd be intimidated by Donald Trump. He's the bully that I knew my whole life.

[16:20:01] He's the bully that I've always stood up to. He's the bully who used to make fun of as a kid and I'd stutter, and I smacked him in the mouth.

Look, this is not -- but that -- I think the American people want a president who has some dignity, who has a values set, who is actually trying to restore the soul of this country. So when they turn on the television they look up, and their kids say, "I want to be like that guy or that woman."

CUOMO: There are domestic agenda items I want to tick through. But you have made a big point of saying the threat here with the current administration is abroad. What exactly bothers you abroad?

BIDEN: What bothered me abroad is, look, the idea that we can go it alone who no alliances for the next 20 or 30 years is a disaster. How are we going to deal with stateless terrorism without doing what I've been able to do with the president: put together a coalition of 50, 60 nations to take it on?

I come out of a generation where we were trying to be the policemen of the world. We can't go in every place. We need allies. He is absolutely dissing them.

He's embracing thugs. He's embracing Kim Jong-un, who is a thug. He's embracing Putin, who is a -- who is a flat dictator. He's embracing people who, in fact -- and he's stiff-arming our friends. He's threatening NATO, to pull out of NATO. I mean, come on.

CUOMO: He says he's gotten NATO to give in more money for their defense because of his tactics.

BIDEN: Come on, man. And, by the way, the idea that NATO -- let me put it this way. If he

wins re-election, I promise you there will be no NATO in four years or five years.

CUOMO: You think there will be no more NATO if he's re-elected?

BIDEN: No more NATO. Look, I went to the conference in -- that we have. It's called the Verecunda (ph) Conference, used to be. The first speech stood up, the chancellor, the former chancellor of Germany stands up. She says, "We have to go it alone. We can't count on the United States."

Why did we set up NATO, Chris? So no one nation could abuse the power in the region in Europe, would suck us in the way they did in World War I and World War II. It's being crushed.

Look at what's happened with Putin. While he -- while Putin is trying to undo our elections, he is undoing elections in -- in Europe. Look what's happened in Hungary. Look what's happened in Poland. Look what's happened in -- look what's happening.

You think that would have happened on my watch or Barack's watch? You can't answer that, but I promise you it wouldn't have, and it didn't.

CUOMO: So with North Korea, the idea of reaching out. President Obama, Vice President Biden wanted to do more than that. The Republicans used to whack you on the head. You can't be nice to people who are our enemies.

Hasn't this president done what you wanted to do by reaching out to Kim?

BIDEN: He did the exact opposite. He gave Kim everything that he wanted, legitimacy. He gave Kim -- he ended our relationship, as a practical matter, with South Korea and Japan as a united front and let China off the hook.

He put us in a position where we say, by the way, I love the man. I know what he's doing.

He hadn't done a thing. He hadn't done a thing. Kim Jong-un.

And what have we done? We've suspended exercises.

Look, I come out of the arms control era. Guess what? There's two ways you do this. You work or you defend. You say, hey, man, don't screw with us. You move, this is what's going to happen. It's going to happen.

But in the meantime, what you do is you deal with your allies, and also those who don't arm with you. Do you think China wants any part of North Korea becoming a nuclear power?

CUOMO: So what do you do differently with North Korea and China?

BIDEN: With regard to North Korea, with China, I make it clear that we're going to move our defenses up, as we did before, and we're going to make sure we have the capacity to deal with it near term.

I'm going to let South Korea and Japan know we're there for them. We are their nuclear umbrella. We're there for them. And China understands, if you don't want us in your throat, if you don't want us in your face, do something.

CUOMO: Do you stop the trade battle with China? Do you go back to TPP?

BIDEN: By the way, the idea that this trade battle makes any sense, is benefiting anybody, is absolutely ludicrous. And just ask the farmers here or around the world -- I mean, around the United States, and the manufacturers. It's killing us.

What we should do is we deal with China -- I had a conversation with Xi before I -- Xi Jinping before we left. And he said, well, you know, remember, they set up their no-fly zone.

I said, we're not going to pay attention to it.

He said, what do you want me to do, just withdraw it?

And I said, no, but just understand we're just going to fly through. We'll fly a B-52 through it. We are a Pacific power. We're not going anywhere. Understand that's the reason why you have security is because we've allowed stability in the region.

They get it. But what they're doing now is we're not dealing with China's problem, for us. China's problem is they're stealing intellectual secrets.

CUOMO: Yes.

BIDEN: There's cybersecurity. Deal the same way. You say you've got to invest here in the United States. You want to be able to invest here, and you say, we want to invest in China, but you've got to have a 51 percent owner. No deal, man. Deal for deal.

CUOMO: This administration is fighting that same fight, isn't it?

BIDEN: But they're not. No, they're fighting in trade. Trump thinks it's about trade deficits and trade surpluses. It's not about that. Look, while he's tweeting, China's going to own the 5G market. While in fact, he -- they're spending billions in artificial intelligence.

What are we doing? They're doing a whole lot of things that make no sense for us to stand still.

CUOMO: What would you do differently with North Korea? Would you slam the door on them again?

BIDEN: Yes. I'd make it real clear. Look, you want to talk, you want to deal with us, you want sanctions lifted, show me something ahead of time. Show me.

CUOMO: They haven't tested a big, bad missile. BIDEN: The reason why they haven't tested is they have it all done.

They're sitting there with missiles that are -- have capacity and nuclear capacity right now. So they're not giving up anything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Up next, Joe Biden on Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the future of the Democratic Party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)