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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Michael Bloomberg Expected to Enter Dem Race; Sessions Announces Senate Run: Trump "Has My Strong Support". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 8, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): The former New York City mayor ruled out a 2020 bid in March as he saw a narrow path to victory with Biden in the race.

[16:30:03]

As recently as September, Bloomberg said he was comfortable with his decision.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: When you look at the layout of who's going to vote and where the country is, I would be very unlikely to get re-elected.

SAENZ: In fact, Bloomberg was among the lower polling candidates in early surveys.

A CNN national poll last December showed him registering at just 2 percent, and in recent polling has shown the overwhelming majority of potential Democratic voters are satisfied with their options in the current field.

BLOOMBERG: Smaller group --

SAENZ: But now, advisers to Bloomberg say he's concerned the current crop is not well-positioned to beat President Trump.

His potential rivals firing back. Bernie Sanders tweeting: The billionaire class is scared and they should be scared.

SEN. ELIZABLETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is not enough just to have somebody come in, anybody, and say they're going to buy this election.

SAENZ: For years, the billionaire Bloomberg was a registered Republican, later becoming an independent before registering as a Democrat last year. He's poured millions into progressive causes like combating climate change and gun control.

BLOOMBERG: We've got to send a message to elected officials: vote for common sense gun laws or we will throw you out. Enough!

(APPLAUSE)

SAENZ: As Bloomberg gets closer to jumping into the 2020 race, President Trump predicts a Bloomberg candidacy will fail.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He will not do very well and if he did, I'd be happy. There is nobody I'd rather run against.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: Now, if Michael Bloomberg decides to get into the race, it's unlikely that he would make that next debate in two weeks with a filing of a deadline to qualify for that just a few days away and even the December debate could be tricky -- Jake.

TAPPER: Arlette Saenz in the Granite State, thanks so much for that.

So, CNN's Dana Bash talked with Biden about Bloomberg this afternoon. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Michael Bloomberg is making moves to jump into the race.

BIDEN: Yes.

BASH: One of his top advisers, Howard Wolfson, said what is motivating Bloomberg is a desire to defeat Donald Trump and, quote, Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well-positioned to do that.

What's your response to that?

BIDEN: I think he should jump in the race. I mean, I -- he's a good guy. He's done a lot of good and let's see what happens.

BASH: And the notion that the current field is not -- prepared to beat Donald Trump which is what is motivating him, what his top advisers are saying.

BIDEN: Well, I noticed that every single poll is run, I beat him like a drum as I said, and states in the South and states in the Midwest and states around the -- so I -- look, if he wants to run, he should just get in and run.

BASH: You're not taking it personally?

BIDEN: No. No, no, no, no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Biden has fallen behind Warren in Iowa and New Hampshire. Should he be worried about this race at this point, and especially a challenge from Michael Bloomberg?

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he absolutely should. There is a Bloomberg entering the race. I think it's pretty clear that for billionaires, right, spending $200,000 on Facebook ads today will get you 3 percent in the polls and maybe a spot on the presidential debate. But in terms of --

TAPPER: But the Tom Steyer reference.

ROJAS: Yes, exactly. So I don't think there is a whole lot of movement for Bloomberg. But it is the same lane for Biden, right, which is this more business-friendly, corporate-friendly moderate lane. And I think that cuts into Biden's space pretty well, but at the same time, Bloomberg can't really (INAUDIBLE)

TAPPER: So who is the Bloomberg voter in New Hampshire or Iowa or in South Carolina? Because Biden gets older voters, he gets more moderate voters, voters without a college education, I'm talking about Democrats now, and obviously very strong with African-American voters.

Does -- I guess moderates go for Bloomberg theoretically or might support Bloomberg. But who else?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's the billion-dollar question, as they'll say.

TAPPER: Billion.

PSAKI: I would disagree. I actually don't think there is a voter path here for Bloomberg to cut into Biden's lead. I mean, his lead is among African-Americans. He doesn't mean he'll have that forever. It's among non-educated white voters, as you alluded to.

He also doesn't have a clear path to cut into Buttigieg's movement either in the polls. I don't think. Buttigieg is kind of a once in a generation smart guy who people are really excited about. That's not -- they're not going to turn to Bloomberg.

I do think the place where -- I don't know what Bloomberg's voter path is and he isn't cutting into Warren or Bernie Sanders' lead and in fact his running gives them a great foil out on the campaign trial and I'm sure they'll use it. I will say though that him running, I don't think we know the answer to this.

But other wealthy people who are Democrats that would have given to Biden's PAC, we don't know what the impact will be of that. Will they stop? Will they go for Bloomberg? Will they not give to the PAC?

Is that money that Biden would rely on for other reasons given he's having fundraising trouble, he won't be able to? I don't know that we know that answer, but that's the place I would watch.

[16:35:02]

TAPPER: It has been pointed out that Bloomberg has been very active when it comes to progressive politics in terms of pushing issues such as more restrictions on gun ownership, or more action when it comes to combating climate change. He's been very active in Virginia where you live.

BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE WRITER: Yes, he has been on the Democratic side especially in the last few cycles and with Democrats a very good night in Virginia this week --

TAPPER: It was this week.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Three days ago.

KRISTOL: It seems like a couple of weeks ago, right. So, Bloomberg is in sync with -- in sync with Virginia Democrats and they have an open prime so people like me could vote on the Democratic side then with the --

TAPPER: Would you vote for him? Would you vote in the Democratic primary for Bloomberg, theoretically?

KRISTOL: Yes, yes. I mean, I think there's two big things that Bloomberg has going for him. I think he's somewhat underrated in the immediate -- everybody dumping on his candidacy is, are, he actually is qualified to be a president. I mean, he's been chief of a complicated city to run, and really has done a pretty impressive job, I think all things considered.

People could quarrel with particular issues, but I mean -- and built up a pretty fantastic company and he won three times in New York, running not as a Democrat, which hurts him but in a way impressive and a awful lot of working class people voted for him. It wasn't just the billionaires who got him 750,000 votes each time he ran in New York.

PSAKI: I mean, I think he -- that's right. Though New York is a different entity than most of the country --

KRISTOL: No, I don't agree with that.

PSAKI: But on issues like gun and gun safety, climate change, and he's done more than any other elected officials and if he could advertise that that might help him.

TAPPER: And you live in Virginia.

HAM: Right.

TAPPER: Even though -- I don't even know your registration. I don't know if it's Republican or Democrat.

KRISTOL: We don't have registration.

TAPPER: You don't have registration, OK, but you lean right.

Would you theoretically vote for Bloomberg in a Democratic primary?

HAM: If I would vote in a Democratic primary, Bloomberg's biggest thing for me is that he doesn't like soda or gums. And those are kind of big issues for me, some of my favorite thing, in fact. So, that's a problem for me.

But I do think he could pull other voters who might otherwise be Republican voters. I think that is real. The problem is in other states, he's never run in a Democratic primary before, and he does not do well with black voters, and that will become a problem in a Democratic primary.

TAPPER: Well, stop and frisk, right? Stop and frisk, it was something that he supported, very controversial.

Stick around. We have more to talk about.

President Trump has called Jeff Sessions an idiot, he's called him weak and disgraceful, the list goes on. But see how far the former attorney general is going to sing President Trump's praises.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:46]

TAPPER: In our politics lead, the former attorney general is back and running for his old Alabama Senate seat. And in a new campaign ad, it's clear who Jeff Sessions wants desperately to be on his side.

((BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: When I left President Trump's cabinet, did I write a tell-all book? No. Did I go on the CNN and attack the president? Nope. Have I said a crossword about our president?

He has my strong support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But does Sessions have the president's support? Well, here is what the president said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I saw he said very nice things about me last night. But we'll have to see. I'll have to see. I haven't made -- I haven't made a determination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Mary Katharine, you know, this president isn't complicated guy. The way to get him to support you is to say really nice things about him. And it looks like even though President Trump was so nasty to him when he was his own attorney general, it seems like the flattery ad worked maybe?

HAM: I feel worried for Jeff Sessions that this will not be reciprocal for very long. I predict that the improbable campaign by Trump to make Jeff Sessions sympathetic to basically everyone will continue. And that even if he says he's endorsing him, there will be jabs taken throughout the campaign. I don't think he's going to let it go. And if he manages to mess up another Alabama Senate seat for Republicans, that is just a really remarkable political malpractice. TAPPER: And you said yesterday, Bill, that you think that Sessions

doesn't necessarily have the inside track, even though if he had not become the attorney general, he would have had the Senate seat for the rest of his life. So, why you just think that there's no constituency for him?

KRISTOL: I have no great knowledge of Alabama politics but if that is possible, even given, they seemed to nominate people like Ray Moore and stuff.

But, no, I would say -- A, voters often don't like people coming back after they sort of finish their electoral career. We have a lot of instances of people coming back two, four, six, eight years later and losing.

Secondly, I do think if you are a Trump loyalist, you think Sessions did not come through on the clutch for Trump, and if you're not a pro- Trump Republican, which would be a small number in Alabama, maybe some upper middle class, whatever, think, you know, he's just part of the Trump mess.

So I think an outsider, you know, who is suitably pro-Trump and never had to deal with all the drama of Trump might be a better candidate than Sessions.

HAM: Tuberville to the rescue.

TAPPER: So, Sessions went on Tucker Carlson's show to announce his candidacy. He was asked directly if he has talk to President Trump. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: You don't want him to come out against you, of course. Are you going to talk to him about it?

SESSIONS: Well, I will. And I look forward to having that opportunity and hadn't been provided at this moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That really sounds like he's --

PSAKI: Ahh --

TAPPER: He's trying to reach President --

PSAKI: I mean, I know. What am I doing, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions? I'm feeling bad for you. I mean, he just did a love letter over a video to Donald Trump.

TAPPER: He said he won't turn his call.

PSAKI: And he's like, I haven't heard back from him, I've text him 19 times and he hasn't texted back. So, yes, I kind of agree with Mary Katharine here. I'm not sure Trump

is going to reciprocate his love. He needs it probably for the race in Alabama. I mean, I'm not an expert on the state either but it seems like it would helpful for him.

TAPPER: And, of course, Trump is going to Alabama for a football game this weekend. Republicans have been active, interesting, getting the seat back obviously, the primary for the seat is already crowded. It includes popular former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, did I pronounce that correctly?

[16:45:00]

Tuberville, sorry. Does Sessions really have a chance you think if Tuberville is there?

ROJAS: No, I think the same points that you both pointed out. And it's really hard for him to have a clear path to victory. And it's really interesting that most candidates when they make an announcement video are for voters, but this one was for one person.

So I thought that was an interesting strategy, but I think Trump changes his mind on a daily basis. So resting your campaign and moving forward on his approval just does not seem to be a winning strategy and I think voters see through that.

TAPPER: Is all this good for Doug Jones, you think, the incumbent Democratic senator?

HAM: I mean, it's still Alabama.

TAPPER: He's a senator from Alabama.

HAM: The incumbency matters, but I mean, this is why I'm saying. If it is so up in the air and he does continue to take punches, if for instance, Jeff Sessions is the front runner, just to sort of lop off enough support to create the Doug Jones ascendancy once again, it's a very impressive thing.

TAPPER: This -- I mean, you're expressing sympathy for Sessions, but all this drama about this Republican primary in Alabama must make you happy as a Democrat.

PSAKI: Sure. I mean, because it's distracting and Doug Jones can put his head down and raise money and try to kind of gather his coalition of support, build the voter files. That's good for him. The more they fight -- inter fight with each other.

TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all. Rock star Jon Bon Jovi, living on a prayer and putting his fame to good work for veterans. I talked with him about helping America's heroes. You won't believe what he's doing for Vets. Stay with us.

[16:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD," on Veterans Day Monday, the nation will pause to thank the men and women who have served our country. But despite their service and sacrifice, there are tens of thousands of homeless veterans in the United States. Rock star Jon Bon Jovi is among those leading the way to try to help.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Clifton Braxton is finally home after more than a year of sleeping in his car, or on the couches of family and friends. Braxton is one of dozens of once-homeless veterans now moving into these brand new apartments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It allows him to become stable.

TAPPER: And the man who helped make this possible, rock star Jon Bon Jovi.

JON BON JOVI, MUSICIAN: You're doing a great job. Thank you for your service.

TAPPER: His foundation JBJ sole donated more than half a million dollars to build this facility specifically to house homeless veterans in the nation's capital.

BON JOVI: Oftentimes, they're left to deal with PTSD and the issue of coming back to the workplace. You know, you leave the battlefield and you come into the, you know, life back. And as you knew it, it's going to be different. And sometimes people need that extra help.

TAPPER: That's exactly what Braxton dealt with after serving as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.

CLIFTON BRAXTON, VETERAN: And I came back here with those pictures in my head and did not know. It's called PTSD. You know, it's 20 years before I could get a handle on that PTSD.

TAPPER: Now, Braxton and his fellow veterans will not only have a place to call home, but they'll have programs to help them get back on their feet, and space for family to come visit.

BRAXTON: I have nine kids, 19 grandchildren, and four great- grandchildren.

TAPPER: Oh my God.

BRAXTON: Yes. So they get to visit me.

TAPPER: This particular project has taken a decade to complete. It was a private and public partnership involving Bon Jovi's Foundation and the nonprofit organization Help USA.

BON JOVI: Ten years since the conversation began, but it's here, it's real, 77 vets will have a place to call home.

TAPPER: That's incredible. It's the second facility that Bon Jovi's organization has funded that is only for veterans.

BON JOVI: Where's my brothers? Where's my country? Where's my how things used to be?

TAPPER" And it's opening coincides with the release of a new Bon Jovi song with a special message for America's heroes.

BON JOVI: I live my life for each tomorrow so the memories will live on.

My mother and father were both Marines so I knew where I was going with this storyline. And at the end, you know, the punch line is they asked me would I do it? Would I do this all again? The answer is yes.

I'll do it all again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Over the next year, Bon Jovi and Island Records will donate all proceeds from that new song Unbroken to the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation, which helps provide vets with service dogs. If you're looking for other ways to help veterans for an online eBay auction that I just launched with my friends at homes for our troops, Bon Jovi is also auctioning off an autographed guitar.

Homes For Our Troops is an organization that builds and donates custom homes for severely injured vets. Items on this auction also include a walk-on role for an Apple T.V. series with Ben Stiller, a personalized iPhone video from Captain America himself, Chris Evans. You could have lunch with actor Paul Rudd, and you know, I'll be there too in New York.

Go to eBay.com/hfot, Homes For Our Troops, ebay.com/hfot to bid on these and many other prizes from now through November 17th.

[16:55:09]

Today, John Bolton's lawyer says his client has relevant information that could be key in the impeachment inquiry. The one hang-up keeping the former National Security Advisor from talking, that's up ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Join me Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION." My guests will be 2020 presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and also a key player in the whole Ukraine brouhaha Republican Senator Ron Johnson. That's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern, and again at noon.