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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sanders Camp Tries to Work Around Media Companies; Putin Orders "Symmetrical Response" to U.S. Missile Test; DOJ; Scammers Raked In Millions In Massive Web Scam; Brazil Considers Sending Troops To Amazon Fires As International Pressure Mounts. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And I think that's what is going to play out.

[16:30:02] I think that Seth is right. He's seeing that. He can't afford to be on the ground down there.

But I do see that as Elizabeth Warren is winning the pack in Iowa right now, despite what the poll numbers might say about Joe Biden.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: If we look at poll numbers, five -- five of these 21 candidates are actually up polling above 5 percent, according to our own Harry Enten here at CNN.

You know, this is 5 out of 21 as we mentioned. So, who in the other 75 percent of this field, Karen, are you looking at right now --

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

HILL: -- a pretty good chance of, I don't know, moving up to 6 percent?

FINNEY: You know, look, I'm one who believes that it is still very, very early, and I would caution us, Iowa will be important but part of the reason it was important to President Obama was because it proved he could win among white voters which was monumental at that moment in the race.

But the way -- and I was at the DNC when we changed the calendar. The way the calendar is structured, if you are a Pete Buttigieg and you can -- and you have the money to get yourself through February, let's say, when voting starts, you don't actually have to win Iowa to be able to then pick up some steam.

And so, I think we have to really think about Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada and then you've got Super Tuesday. So I still think there's a lot of volatility in this race, because I think anybody could have a breakout moment in the debate in September, or October. Anybody could falter.

And I think -- you know, Biden obviously has stayed very much in the lead in part because I think people just want calm to some degree, right? It's unclear if people really want the kind of transformational change that Elizabeth Warren is talking about, we'll see. But I certainly think that some of the others in that sort of middle tier still have room to grow and I think we can't count them out just yet.

HILL: So, here is one of the other things and we talked about this a little bit earlier this week when we heard from Jill Biden that the most important thing wasn't whether you agreed with the candidate or liked their plans but the fact that her husband, the former vice president had the best chance at being elected.

The problem with that is there is not necessarily the enthusiasm behind Joe Biden as there maybe -- you might look at the numbers but the enthusiasm isn't there. In fact, "The New York Times" writing about this and in speaking with the director of Monmouth polls, he told "The Times", I did not meet one Biden voter who was in any way, shape or form excited about voting for Biden. They feel they have to vote for Joe Biden as the centrist candidate to keep somebody from the left who they feel is unelectable from getting the nomination.

Ana, does that spoke trouble at some point for Joe Biden?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, I'm not a Democrat so I don't vote in this primary. But I can tell you that if Joe Biden were running against Donald Trump, I'd be a hell of a lot of excited to vote for Joe Biden.

So, I think they've got to stop making this argument about electability with Joe Biden because we all know it by this point. And they've got to, you know, work on the enthusiasm gap and work on getting people to really, you know, get their love juices flowing. But everything in life is relative, everything in life is relative.

So you've got this entire narrative about Joe Biden and the gaffes. Well, compare it to Donald Trump's gaffes and pathological lies and moral attitudes and the things that he does on a daily message and the mistakes and lies he gives out on a daily basis.

So, I think the enthusiasm will come. It's very, very early. I've been thinking a lot about McCain, his one-year anniversary of his death is coming up. John McCain's campaign imploded a year before the election --

FINNEY: That's right.

NAVARRO: -- in the summer of 2007, and he kept at it, practically with no money, practically with no staff, and wound up being the nominee.

It is way too early to count anybody that I would say is in the top tier out right now.

Now, if you are a Bill de Blasio, go home and fix New York.

FINNEY: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: Scott, the last word.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Erica, I think there's a couple of structural issues here that have to be recognized. Number one, the fragmentation of the field is what's keeping Biden afloat. Obviously, he's been pulling in the low 30s for basically most of the race.

And as long as Warren and Sanders are splitting that segment of the Democratic Party, I suspect Biden is going to continue to lead. If they say in for a long time, it enhances Joe Biden's ability to win if neither of them blinks in that game of socialist chicken.

The other issue is, the Democrats change the rules so that you have to achieve 15 percent of the vote in these contests in order to get any delegates. So if you're one of the campaigns that's been floating around from 1 percent to 5 percent for the entirety of the race, and you've never even sniffed double digits, let alone 15 percent, and then that happens to you in Iowa and happens to you in New Hampshire, at some point you have to face reality that the rules as they are set up in this particular contest just aren't capable of allowing me to move forward.

So fragmentation helps Biden. If the field decides they don't want Biden and they consolidate, that will advantage someone else.

[16:35:02] But I just think structurally the 15 percent threshold makes it really hard for some of these lower tier guys to make it.

HILL: All right. We're going to have to leave this segment there, but we'll keep talking about it, don't worry. Lots more to come before we actually get to that point.

We talked about Senator Bernie Sanders, he's set to take the stage soon at the DNC summer meeting. Well, the 2020 hopeful, as you know, has a new approach when it comes to the media, work around them.

CNN's Ryan Nobles takes a look at the lengths Sanders is going to, to speak directly to voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Bernie Sanders, it is a familiar refrain.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a bubble here in which members of Congress, the media, the establishment, looks at reality in a certain way.

NOBLES: Sanders critique of the media was a regular part of his insurgent 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton. This time around, he's ramped up his complaints, by suggesting the corporate owner of "The Washington Post," Jeff Bezos, may be influencing "The Post's" coverage of his campaign.

SANDERS: We have pointed out over and over again that Amazon made $10 billion in profit last year. You know how much they paid in taxes? You got tit, zero, and you wonder why "The Washington Post" is not one of my great supporters.

NOBLES: It's an attack that's drawn comparisons to President Trump's approach to the paper.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Which is really just a paper for the benefit of Amazon. "The Washington Post" is fake news.

NOBLES: But unlike the president, after a sharp rebuke from "The Post's" editor, Sanders tempered his critique.

SANDERS: Do I think Jeff Bezos is on the phone telling the editor of "The Washington Post" what to do, absolutely not.

NOBLES: And while President Trump regularly blasts the press in harsh terms --

TRUMP: They are truly the enemy of the people.

NOBLES: Sanders says that's a line he will not cross.

SANDERS: And to me, that is a disgusting remark which undermines American democracy.

NOBLES: Still, Sanders remains frustrated by the coverage he is receiving, so he and his team are attempting a work-around.

SANDERS: We are very active on social media, and we try to speak directly to the American people.

NOBLES: The campaign using some of its massive war chest to invest heavily in direct-to-supporter media platforms, launching a podcast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So great to have you here today.

NOBLES: And producing slick videos for their social channels.

SANDERS: They're not going to be paying premiums, deductibles, copayments.

NOBLES: They've also started an email newsletter in the style of a traditional media report.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are back here at Bernie headquarters.

NOBLES: And even host their own web-based post-game shows after primary debates.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: Now, the Sanders campaign calls this perceived slight by the media that Sanders write-off, spelling write, W-R-I-T-E. It shows that even while they are actively working around the traditional media, they understand the role it plays in the primary process, a role, Erica, that they cannot completely avoid.

HILL: No, they cannot. Ryan, thank you. A new threat from Russia, after the U.S. tests a previously banned

missile. What Putin has ordered his military to do, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:42:30] HILL: In the world lead, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening the U.S. as President Trump sends mixed messages saying he wants Russia back in the G7 as his Pentagon tests a tomahawk missile last Sunday.

As CNN's Barbara Starr reports, today, Putin is ordering a, quote, symmetrical response.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New orders to the Russian military and a threat to the United States from Vladimir Putin.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I instruct the ministries and relevant departments to analyze the level of threat posed by the actions of the United States to our country, and take comprehensive measures to prepare a symmetrical response.

STARR: Putin was responding to the U.S. recently firing a ground launched non-nuclear missile. It's raising questions about what a symmetrical response looks like.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: What I suspect he is talking about is trying to match pace for pace or one for one the kinds of missile capabilities that the United States is now going to look at developing.

STARR: The Trump administration wants to develop that missile, now that the Russians have deployed their missiles near Europe.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper taking the hardest line yet on developing defenses against the Russian systems.

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Right now, Russia has possibly nuclear tipped cruise -- INF range cruise missiles facing toward Europe, and that's not a good thing.

STARR: Even though the Pentagon says it will not deploy new nuclear missiles, it's become a full-blown arms race, with worried Putin is in the lead.

KIRBY: According to some experts he's at least a year, maybe as much as two years ahead of our ability to actually deploy in the field a similar like capability.

STARR: U.S. military intelligence believes Putin's ultimate goal?

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: What they're developing is a capability to deny the ability of the United States to meet its alliance commitments specifically in Europe. STARR: The Russian nuclear powered Skyfall missile test which

resulted in a deadly explosion and fallout shrouded in secrecy by Moscow is just one of Putin's weapons programs designed to hold the U.S. at bay.

European worries about a resurgent Russia still with control over Crimea and attacking eastern Ukraine may doom President Trump's efforts to get Russia back into the so-called Group of Seven economic fold.

KIRBY: I don't think that there's going to be any serious discussion at the G7 of letting Russia back in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:45:00]

STARR: And if all of this wasn't enough, the U.S. has fresh worries that the Russians are developing a new nuclear testing method that may be very difficult to detect. Erica? All right, Barbara Starr with the latest for us from the Pentagon. Thank you.

HILL: I want to bring in Steve Hall, the CIA's Chief of Russia Operations at one point, so former exactly. Steve, as we -- as we look at this symmetrical response we've heard about from Vladimir Putin, is that's simply another missile test or do you believe it could be something more?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, Erica I doubt that it's actually something more. If you look at what Vladimir Putin said, he said two things. The first was actually pretty mild he simply said we need to you know, do an in-depth study of what the Americans have done and I've tasked my military to do that and then see what the response is going to be. It actually could have been much more strong.

But interestingly, one of the things that he also said in a different part of his comments a few days ago was we don't want to get into an economically damaging arms race with the United States. Putin understands that he would be losing in that because the American economy and the economy of all of our NATO allies can support that type of research and development much more than Russia can. Their economy is you know, smaller than the state of Texas, frankly.

So I'm -- you need to be concerned whenever the Russians are talking about nuclear weapons so we do need to keep a close eye on it, but I'm actually more concerned about hybrid warfare and their attacking of our democracy on a -- on a non-traditional level as opposed to actually a military level.

HILL: That's something we should continue to talk about, I will point out. These mixed messages that we're seeing from the President on the one hand talking more and more about wanting Russia back in to come back to the G7, bring it back to the G8, and then at the same time pulling out of this treaty, right, just a number of days of course before testing this missile that would have been banned under the deal. How do you read those messages? What do you do with them?

HALL: Well, you know, the G7 thing is ridiculous as I indicated previously. You know, Russia probably should not be in the G7 simply because it's not economically that meaningful in the broader scheme of things. It's certainly not anywhere near the capacity economically of any of the other G7 members.

And don't forget the reason that they got tossed out to begin with it's because they were very, very aggressive and attacked neighboring countries and annex Crimea and other you know just unacceptable behavior on the international stage. So there's no way that they should be let back in on in the G7 unless of course, they withdraw from Crimea in Ukraine. That would be great. That'll never happen.

The INF treaty, they were cheating on that and so it was important for us to monitor that and continue with our own development.

HILL: Steve Hall, always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

HALL: Sure.

HILL: She thought she was dating a U.S. Army captain she'd met online. It turns out it was all a scam and she wasn't alone. How a network of 80 people targeted women worldwide and stole millions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] HILL: In our "WORLD LEAD," women who thought they were talking with us servicemen overseas we're actually being conned out of thousands of dollars. And as CNN's Nick Watt reports, the Department of Justice is now calling this one of the largest scams of its kind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Early morning, the feds came knocking.

PAUL DELACOURT, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI LOS ANGELES FIELD OFFICE: FBI agents arrested 11 federal defendants in Los Angeles and another three around the country.

WATT: 80 people charged and all the charges include fraud, money laundering and identity theft.

NICK HANNA, U.S. ATTORNEY: We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history.

WATT: Roughly $10 million stolen all online.

DELACOURT: This case involved 32 confirmed victims. Victims are located in the United States, as well as in Japan, the U.K., Lebanon, Ukraine, China, Mexico, Germany, Indonesia, UAE, and Trinidad, and Tobago.

WATT: They were the elderly, vulnerable, lonely, or lovelorn on dating sites and social media, as well as businesses that rely on wire transfers.

HANNA: At the center of the indictment, our operatives here in Los Angeles who facilitated the fraud schemes by opening U.S. bank accounts where victims were directed to deposit their money.

WATT: Among the many cases detailed in the sprawling 252 count indictment and complaint, a woman who thought she met a U.S. Army captain stationed in Syria online. In reality, a scammer who asked for financial help to get a bag of diamonds out of the war-torn country. That women --

HANNA: a widow, recent widow, who did not have a lot of money.

WATT: Lost more than $200,000. On Facebook and 81-year-old Hawaiian woman thought she met an oil rig worker in Belgium. In reality, a scammer who built her for $750,000. And there's an Illinois family who thought they were wiring $135,000 to an Escrow company. In fact, the money went straight into a scammers account in L.A.

These mass arrests are the culmination of a huge, more than two-year investigation, but still a word of warning.

DELACOURT: We are not going to arrest our way out of this problem. And so we continue to educate potential victims.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Two key pieces of advice. If you are wiring money, pick up the phone, call the company, check the details before you wire any money to anyone. And if you're on social media or a dating site, do not trust anybody who asks for money before you've met face to face. Erica?

HILL: Nick Watt, I appreciate it. Thank you. As record fires destroy the Amazon, one country wants to ban a major product that may be to blame.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] HILL: In our "WORLD LEAD," new satellite images you see here comparing the devastation inflicted by the wildfires in the Amazon Rainforest to just one year ago. Finland today is calling for the E.U. to urgently review its imports of Brazilian beef as the majority of fires have been set to clear land for cattle. Brazil's president now saying he's considering sending the army in to tackle those fires.

Be sure to tune in to "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday morning. The guests, White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow, Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, and Cindy McCain, at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern right here on CNN. Our coverage continues --

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