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CNN TONIGHT

Joe Biden (D), Presidential Candidate Was Interviewed About His Views on Sen. Lindsey Graham's Sudden Change, His Views on Impeachment, and the Current Political Atmosphere; Walking and Talking with Joe Biden; Is Joe Biden Ready to Really Fight for the Nomination. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired November 22, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick officially jumped into the race last week, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking steps towards joining, that may happen soon. Who's going to be the best position to take on the president? You tell us. Be on the lookout.

Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight with a huge interview and Don Lemon --

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Huge

CUOMO: -- right now.

LEMON: Who do you think he was talking about? Do you think he was talking about one person, the person I'm going to interview or I interviewed? Do you think he was talking about him?

CUOMO: Maybe. You know, it's a tough call for the -- I know the former V.P. says he asked the former president not to endorse him. Not easy to believe.

But the timing does matter with these kinds of things and there are lots of political calculations to be made. But I'll tell you, my friend, what an -- early Thanksgiving thankful thing for you.

On the night that the reporting comes out that Nunes was not only aware that they were digging for dirt on Biden, but that he may have been part of this, you have Biden.

LEMON: And I have Biden, and he has a few choice words for the Republicans, for the people involved in the impeachment, for the people involved in the conspiracy theory around him and his son. We talked about it all. It is a wide-ranging interview, and I think you and the audience will be riveted. So, we will get to it. Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: I know I'm going to talk to you. Everybody knows I love you, but when I count my blessings, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: I love you. I am thankful for you as a friend and a colleague.

You make me better as a person and as a professional.

LEMON: That goes double for you and especially your family and your lovely wife and your mother. So happy Thanksgiving to all. I will be making a call to you. I won't see you but I'll be making a call to you guys. All right. You take care. Have a great weekend. Happy Thanksgiving.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm don lemon.

What a week, what a week, what a week, what a week. A huge week in impeachment. Witness after witness testifying under oath about the shakedown to force Ukraine to give the president what he wanted, an investigation into the political rival, his political rival, the one he seems to fear most, and that is Joe Biden.

Well, tonight, we have got an exclusive with Joe Biden. I got the chance to go out on the campaign trail with the Democratic front- runner and former vice president today in South Carolina. Talking to black voters at a restaurant in Abbeville, taking selfies.

There he is right there, officially putting his name on South Carolina's Democratic primary ballot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're officially on the ballot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And by the way, making a surprise visit to a firehouse in town, something he told me that he does every time he gets a chance in gratitude to the firefighters who responded when his family suffered tragedies over the years.

We also talked about his feelings of personal betrayal by Lindsey Graham, who is doing the president's bidding. There's really no other way to put it, demanding documents from the State Department on Biden, his son Hunter, and Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Let me ask you because Lindsey Graham now, who you've worked with, who was a friend, who I know there's video of him saying you are the nicest person he's ever met. You're the greatest man.

And now he's asking the State Department for documents for you and your son. What do you say to Lindsey Graham and folks like him?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're asking Lindsey Graham, they have him under their thumb right now. They know he knows if he comes out against Trump, he's got a real tough road for re-election, number one.

I am disappointed, and quite frankly I'm angered by the fact. He knows me. He knows my son. He knows there's nothing to this.

Trump is now essentially holding power over him that even the Ukrainians wouldn't yield to. The Ukrainians would not yield to, quote, "investigate Biden." There's nothing to investigate about Biden or his son. And Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he's going to regret his whole life.

LEMON: What do you say to him?

BIDEN: I say, Lindsey, I just -- I'm just embarrassed by what you're doing for you. I mean, my lord.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: The former vice president obviously deeply hurt by Senator Graham's actions. Remember Lindsey Graham, he is the man who just a few years ago -- this is in 2015 -- said this about Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you can't admire Joe Biden as a person, then it's probably you got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation because what's not to like?

Here's what I can tell you, that life can change just like that. Don't take it for granted. Don't take relationships for granted. I called him after Beau died, and he basically said, well, Beau was my soul.

[22:05:00]

We talked for a long time. He came to my ceremony and said some of the most incredibly heartfelt things that anybody could ever say to me, and he's the nicest person I think I've ever met in politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that right?

GRAHAM: He is as good a man as God ever created, and we don't agree on much, but I think he's been dealt a really gut blow. I think he focuses on what he's got to do, not what he lost. His heart has been ripped out, but he's going to make sure that the other members of his family is well taken care of, and he started talking about his grandkids. More worried about them than anything. We just talked about the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GRAHAM: He started talking about the future, the future of his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And now he wants him investigated, going down the rabbit hole of a conspiracy theory. Joe Biden and I also spent time, some time talking and taking a walk

around town. We talked about whether he thinks the Democratic Party is moving too far to the left.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Do you think the party has turned too far left because the former president said --

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Look, I don't think the party has. I think some of the candidates.

LEMON: Well, this is what Barack Obama, your former boss, said, that the system doesn't need to be torn down.

BIDEN: No.

LEMON: It needs to be -- people want it built up. Improved.

BIDEN: They want it built up. The idea -- look, this -- all this stuff about we're going to tear it -- thank you, man. The fact that we talk about this -- the part I love when candidates say, and by the way, by executive order I'm going to do this.

I have the power to do 90 percent of the stuff by executive order.

LEMON: Right.

BIDEN: And so, the way they talk is this, this is going to fundamentally change how we run the government, how the -- we have a Constitution. A Constitution no matter how you cut it requires there to be some consensus.

LEMON: So, you think that some of the candidates have gone too far.

BIDEN: Yes.

LEMON: Not the party.

BIDEN: No.

LEMON: The party, you think the party is moderate.

BIDEN: We're going to find out pretty soon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: It is a fascinating conversation, so stay tuned. The Joe Biden interview starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: I've watched you today when you officially put your name on the ballot here. BIDEN: Yes.

LEMON: Hopping across chairs, something that I couldn't do in a way I couldn't do it, but people love you here. People love you here, especially the black folks here, right?

You said in the debate that you come from the black community.

BIDEN: Very important.

LEMON: Yes, the support that you have, you're ahead in the polls, is largely in part from the black community. What did you mean you come from the black community?

BIDEN: What I mean is when I was a kid, we moved out from Scranton, Pennsylvania, where there were no African-Americans. We moved to a state that had -- has the eighth largest black population in America, 60 percent of population. Most people don't know that.

Now I remember as a kid being dropped off at school in grade school and seeing the bus going by with African-American black kids in it, and I remember asking my mom, why? Why is that? It was like, they can't go to school.

I happened to go to Catholic school, then grade school. But they can't go to public schools here. And then I remember a lot of us, you know, I got engaged in the community because I wanted to know more. I was a relatively good athlete, and you got a job in the biggest city swimming pool in the black community east side they call it, in the projects.

And I was the only white employee there, and I began to learn -- I thought I knew what the problem was, but I remember a friend, a fellow lifeguard asking me at the lunch break do I have a Jerry can. I said, you know, a big five-gallon can. I said, what do you need -- no. Why do you need Jerry can? He said, I'm going to go visit my grandma.

You know we can't stop at the gas stations down in the south. I mean, this is, you know, I'm thinking, it's like -- you know -- anyway, and then you know, my whole generation, people don't quite get it understandably because I'm so much older.

But I remember in I think it was '62, '63, sitting at the University of Delaware and watching Bull Connor take those hoses and hose down women in their Sunday best, going to church. And it was like, whoa, what's going on here?

And so, and I used to -- after I worked in the east side, you know, you know, I spent a lot of time with folks going to the black church, Reverend Herring and others, because that's the place where I'm a practicing Catholic.

I'd go to mass, and then I'd go over to the church, and that's the place people would organize from and desegregate, you know, movie theaters, that kind of thing. I'm not making myself to be a great shake, but that's how I got -- that's how I got involved. LEMON: People when they hear that, they say, wait, is Joe Biden

black? He came from the black community?

BIDEN: Well, yes, no. I understand that. What I meant is politically I come from the black community. And I really do. It's the reason why I ran in the first place. It's how I got engaged.

[22:10:01]

I didn't plan on running. I got engaged because of what was happening in my community. I got engaged as a county councilman trying to put, you know, public housing in the suburbs. I almost lost my seat. I mean, it was -- it was -- it really is the -- it's a little bit like today. A lot of young people seeing those kids in cages at the border.

LEMON: Right.

BIDEN: I said that can't be true.

LEMON: Yes. Well, I mean, there is a certain degree of comfort that you have with black folk. Does that come from that?

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: I've never -- I've never been uncomfortable. For real, yes, it does. I mean, as I've --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let me read this.

BIDEN: Sure.

LEMON: This is one of your competitors for the nomination, Senator Kamala Harris. This is a quote. She said, "For too long, candidates have taken for granted constituencies that have been the backbone of the Democratic Party."

Are you -- are you taking the black community for granted, assuming, you know, because you were the vice president with Barack Obama that you have the black community support?

BIDEN: I have never, ever take on black community -- so, look, it's all about dignity. It's all about treating people with dignity, as my dad would say. And I have never, never, never taken the black community for granted.

LEMON: So, then, what do you do to justify the support that you have? What will you do as president to justify that overwhelming support you have for black -- from black people?

BIDEN: To continue to do what I've always done, to deal with the idea that there's such an abuse of power that goes on in America today, but with this president in particular, of people who are black and brown.

It's just a pure abuse of power, and the way this guy coddles the white supremacists. I mean, you know, one of the things I learned, and I thought we had passed it.

When I was standing waiting for Barack to pick me up coming down from Philadelphia, you know, in January when we got sworn in, and thousands of people down along the tracks.

And I looked out over the east side and what you call the Third street Bridge, and I called my kids up. I said, you know, I came home from college, from law school, had a job with a really prestigious law firm, and I quit to become a public defender because my city was occupied by the National Guard for 10 months with Drawn band that's in the corners.

I became a public defender, and I thought things were never going to get better. And I said, guys, look, I stood here 40 years ago this month and look what's happening. Don't tell me things can't change.

And then what I misunderstood was, you know, hate only hides. It only hides. It doesn't go fully -- it never goes away. As a friend of mine, Jon Meacham says, you know, it in fact -- the history of the United States of America is not a fairy tale.

And so, to see those folks come out of those fields carrying torches and chanting the anti-Semitic bile with faces contorted and the head of the Ku Klux Klan, the former head, the grand Kleagle saying, you know, this is why we elected him. And then him being asked when a young woman got killed, what do you think?

LEMON: So, you got our back. You have black folks' back, is that what you're saying?

BIDEN: They've had my back my whole career. And I hope I have the back of everybody. But I think I understand, presumptuous of me to say this, but I've always been engaged with the community my whole career.

LEMON: Let's talk about black women because black women, the backbone of the Democratic Party for a while, especially lately.

BIDEN: Yes.

LEMON: Elizabeth Warren is making a play for black women, speaking directly to them. How are you specifically going to propose policies or appeal to African-American women for the election?

BIDEN: Well, you saw me do in that coffee shop I was just there. You saw all those black women there. Look, it's about -- look, the fact is that black women have led politically in the Democratic Party.

And they understand. And, look, number one, we have to provide for serious educational opportunities for their kids. That's why triple the amount of money we spend in entitlement schools that are schools that are disadvantaged, so teachers can get paid and we can attract the best teachers in those communities.

So that you can have everybody in school at age three, four, and five. When you do that, all the studies show exponentially it increases their prospects of success. To make sure we provide for child care, child care, as well as paid leave.

I was a single parent, and I was a dad, and I was a senator for five years, and it was hard to do it. Think of all the -- think of the women who put their kid on the school bus today or walk them out and wondered, is it going to be OK?

LEMON: Let's talk about -- let's get more specific about the race. In the three states that vote before South Carolina, right, the polls are really tight. But in Iowa, Mayor Buttigieg is really emerging as a front-runner.

Every Democratic race since 2000, as you know, the winner has come out of Iowa. Does this big lead concern you? Do you think that someone who's 37 years old has the experience to be president?

[22:14:57]

BIDEN: Well, I'm not going to judge him, but I can tell you about the lead. If you notice when that poll came out, there was one by CBS right afterwards showing me winning.

And so, this is -- we're talking -- he's up to 25 percent. He's done a great job. He's organized. He's doing well. But you also know, because you've covered it, every major Iowa election, caucus, has been determined in the last three to five weeks because that's when people make up their minds.

If you take a look at those polls -- and I'm not running on the polls, but they said the most important thing they need as a candidate who can beat Donald Trump. When asked who's the most likely to beat Donald Trump, I eclipse everybody.

Secondly, you have a circumstance where you've got to go out to Iowa and make the case town to town. And so, we have a first-rate operation there now. I think we're going to win Iowa.

LEMON: I want to talk to you about staying in shape because there are some folks who have recently gotten in this race. They don't think you're in shape since you got in the race because they don't think you're in shape. One of them is Mayor Bloomberg.

BIDEN: Come on.

LEMON: Go on.

BIDEN: Come on. I'm saying, come on, I welcome the competition.

LEMON: He's saying, someone in his campaign said, or someone says specifically, he has specific concerns about your ability to carry this through to the finish line. What do you say about that?

BIDEN: Watch me. Watch me. The idea that I'm not in better shape than Mayor Bloomberg physically and otherwise, look, this -- Trump is so bad as a president and so corrupt as a president that everybody in America who has ever been involved in politics, especially if they have a billion dollars thinks they can beat Trump. LEMON: Yes.

BIDEN: Maybe they could. And so, what do you have to do? I'm the guy sitting at the top of the pyramid. I get it. I'm a big boy. Never complain. Never explain.

LEMON: Well Deval Patrick is there too. He doesn't have a billion dollars.

BIDEN: No, he doesn't. But I noticed they showed me the other day, he went down to -- anyway, he went down to Morehouse and had all of these hundreds of seats and no one showed up.

LEMON: Yes.

BIDEN: So, look, I like Deval. I really do. He's a good guy, and he's a solid guy. But I think this is about deciding who is ready on day one --

LEMON: Yes.

BIDEN: -- to unite this country and demonstrate they could and, number two, who in fact can be ready on day one to be commander in chief.

LEMON: OK. I got to read this for you.

BIDEN: Sure.

You talked a lot about President Trump. This morning, this is what President Trump said about you on Fox News, and I quote here, all right?

He says, "Well, I don't know if Joe can make it mentally. He is -- he's off. He's off. There's no question about it. So, I don't know if he's going to make it mentally. If he gets -- if he gets through it without cracking up."

What's your response?

BIDEN: Mr. President, I can hardly wait. I can hardly wait. You're a serial liar. You're corrupt, and I know you think yourself the handsomest and smartest. You know, look, Mr. President, you made a botch of the job. So, I'm used to bullies. I'm used to bullies. I'm ready. I'm ready.

Look, I think it's appropriate for people to look at all of us and decide are we in the physical shape, are we in the mental shape, are we based on your age. What a -- it's all appropriate. But all I can say is just watch me.

LEMON: But, there -- listen, people are concerned about whether you have lost a step, right, because you know what happened in Detroit. I was one of the moderators in Detroit, and you stuttered onstage. There's an Atlantic article about that, you overcoming that as a child. But have you overcome stuttering? BIDEN: Yes, I've overcome it. Look --

LEMON: Is that part of -- is that part of the issue?

BIDEN: No, I don't think so at all. One of the things that is part of the issue is when you get frontally attacked by people who have just got finished saying nice things about you earlier, and it's a -- you got to be careful. You got to be careful how you respond onstage. And they're not debates as you know. I mean this is a joke. They're not debates. These are one-minute assertions.

And so, what I find myself doing -- and I'm not doing it anymore -- is sort of pulling back from countering attacks. And I just think that -- I just think that it's important that you get an opportunity eventually to narrow down this field.

When you have 10, 12 people on a stage and you're sitting there for two, three hours and, you know, 80 percent of the questions directed to you are direct attacks, understandable. I get it.

But how do you respond to a really bright woman who looks at you and says, you know, you didn't really care about, you know, black folks. What you did in busing, et cetera.

LEMON: Well how do you respond? That's the question to you.

[22:20:00]

BIDEN: Well, the question to me was -- I didn't want to do it at the time, but her position is the exact same as mine was. Take a look at it. There's no difference in the positions.

And the idea that -- but what -- what's able to happen is you turn around and you say, but I -- I am this. I am that. And you can't understand. Well, it's a little delicate how to respond to that.

LEMON: Yes. But let's get back to the whole issue because donors are concerned about that, whether you've lost a step. They're concerned about your cognitive abilities.

The Atlantic article made a good case for some of the reasons that you, you know, may not be as -- may come up and say the wrong words sometimes or not -- are unable to complete your thoughts sometimes. But you don't believe that that is an issue.

BIDEN: No, I don't.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You don't believe that that is any --

BIDEN: Take a look at the point --

LEMON: -- they shouldn't be concern -- no one should be concerned about that? BIDEN: No one should be concerned about that. Why am I so far ahead

in the national polls? Why am I so far ahead here? Why am I so far ahead in Nevada? Tell me. Why? If that -- if everybody says the people are thinking, people are thinking, OK. The pundits may be thinking, but that's not where the people are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: We have got a lot more to come from Joe Biden, including what on earth has happened to Senator Lindsey Graham and why he feels betrayed.

[22:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: In my exclusive interview today with former Vice President Joe Biden, he didn't hold back on the Ukraine shakedown scandal, saying President Trump has violated the Constitution, and he should be impeached.

He also takes aim at his old friend, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is pushing for an investigation into the activities of Biden and his son in Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: I want to talk to you about impeachment.

BIDEN: Yes.

LEMON: Do you think Democrats have made their case? Do you see an impeachable offense?

BIDEN: I think it's clear on the record that Donald Trump went in, in addition to the violations that have been uncovered relative to the Mueller report, I think Donald Trump -- there's no doubt he has asked foreign countries to interfere in our electoral process, period. It's been established.

Now, Republicans are trying to make that that has nothing to do with anything. The truth is it's a violation of the Constitution to do that. So, I think the case has been made clear.

What the Republicans do when it gets over to the Senate, where the actual trial begins, impeachment, indictment. That means an indictment. So, I believe he should be impeached and have the Senate try whether or not they are high crimes and misdemeanors that would cause him to be thrown out of office.

That's a decision for them to make. I hope they have the courage -- I hope they remember this is a moment, a moment when their record is going to go down in history as whether they played it by the rules.

LEMON: Republicans are still trying to make this about you and your son. BIDEN: Sure, they are. Bu you know, look, there's not a scintilla of

evidence that I did anything wrong. If you notice, what's happened is the entire spectrum of people involved from our folks in the E.U. our friends, to the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, to our allies, to the Ukrainians, not a single shred that I did anything other than my job and really well.

LEMON: But that has to anger you because they keep bringing you up over and over. You say there's not a scintilla of --

BIDEN: Sure, it does.

LEMON: Let me ask you because Lindsey Graham now, who you've worked with, who was a friend, who I know there's video of him saying you are the nicest person he's ever met. You're the greatest man. And now he's asking the State Department for documents for you and your son. What do you say to Lindsey Graham and folks like him?

BIDEN: They're asking Lindsey Graham. They have him under their thumb right now. They know he knows if he comes out against Trump, he's got a real tough road for re-election, number one.

I am disappointed, and quite frankly I'm angered by the fact. He knows me. He knows my son. He knows there's nothing to this. Trump is now essentially holding power over him that even the Ukrainians wouldn't yield to. The Ukrainians would not yield to, quote, "investigate Biden." There's nothing to investigate about Biden or his son.

And Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he's going to regret his whole life.

LEMON: What do you say to him?

BIDEN: I say Lindsey, I just -- I'm just embarrassed by what you're doing for you. I mean, my lord. And it's just -- I mean --

LEMON: Have you watched these hearings?

BIDEN: I've watched some of them because I've been on the road the whole time.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: What do you think of the defense when you hear them questioning the witnesses and the patriotism of these people that have come forward?

BIDEN: It angers me. It angers me, especially Trump trying to intimidate witnesses while they're testifying. What kind of man is this? That alone is enough for him to be viewed as a pariah.

LEMON: Yes.

BIDEN: I mean think about it.

LEMON: But it seems you talk about always healing and working with people on the other side.

BIDEN: Yes.

LEMON: You've work -- I don't know if this is the same party as when you were a senator and when you were vice president.

BIDEN: No.

LEMON: Can you work with this party? Can you heal this divide?

BIDEN: With Trump defeated, yes, I can. And where we can't work with them, we go out and defeat them.

LEMON: I got to ask you. This is a grueling process.

BIDEN: Yes.

LEMON: You're 77 years old. You and Bernie Sanders are the oldest. Why are you the guy? Do you have the stamina? Why are you the guy?

BIDEN: Come out and run with me, man. Come to the gym with me and lift with me. I'm -- thank God, I know it can change in a moment. I know that. You never can take for granted your health. But I'm in great health. I'm in physical health.

And again, just sort of watch me. Like I was doing a parade, and there were some Trumpites there, you know, with a -- you know, it was a Fourth of July parade. And they said sleepy. I said come run with me, Jack. Come run with me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[22:30:00]

Bucket list. Whenever a former vice president asks you to come lift with him. Lots more on Joe Biden to come. We took a walk around town. And on the way, he interacted with people passing by. Pure Biden, you'll see it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Today, I got to spend the day with Joe Biden on the campaign trail in South Carolina where he reached out directly to voters, shaking hands, hugging people, flashing that wide Biden smile, greeting diners having lunch.

[22:35:00]

LEMON: After sitting down for our exclusive interview, we went for a walk and talked about the state of the Democratic Party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (on camera): Do you think the party has turned too far left? The former president said --

BIDEN: I don't think the party has. I think some of the candidates --

LEMON (on camera): This is what Barack Obama, your former boss, said, that the system doesn't need to be torn down. It needs to be --

BIDEN: No.

LEMON (on camera): It needs to be -- people want it built up.

BIDEN: They want it built up. The idea -- look, all this stuff about we're going to tear -- thank you, man. The --

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: -- the fact that we talk about this -- the part I love when candidates say, and by the way, by executive order I'm going to do this, they have the power to do 90 percent of the stuff by executive order.

LEMON (on camera): Right.

BIDEN: And so the way they talk is this -- this is going to fundamentally change how we run the government, how the -- we have a Constitution, a constitution no matter how you cut it requires there to be some consensus.

LEMON (on camera): So you think that some of the candidates have gone too far?

BIDEN: Oh, yeah. No --

LEMON (on camera): Do you think the party is moderate?

BIDEN: I think -- oh, we're going to find out pretty soon.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON (on camera): Yeah.

BIDEN: But I do think -- I do think the vast majority of Democrats say, look, one of the things that I find kind of -- anyway, is that who has the big and bold plans. I promise you, if I get elected and I get passed what I'm talking about, they're going to be writing about it as a fundamental change, a fundamental change in American politics when it's over.

So the idea that you have to go -- excuse me -- that you have to be in a position where you're saying that we're going to spend $30 trillion on health care, we're going to tax the middle class to pay for it, we're going to take out $1.7 trillion in pay off everybody's student loan, let's get realistic.

LEMON (on camera): Mm-hmm.

BIDEN: We could fundamentally make college more affordable. We could fundamentally forgive loans by having people in fact qualify by doing work that is public service. We can fundamentally change a lot we're doing.

LEMON (on camera): Yeah.

BIDEN: But you don't have to say, let's rip it all down.

LEMON (on camera): Yeah.

BIDEN: I think Barack did a pretty good job. No, I'm not just saying because of him. I mean, he's a friend, I get it. But the most important thing he did was we went through eight years without one hint of scandal, not one single, solitary thing.

LEMON (on camera): Yeah.

BIDEN: And I find when one of the candidates says that corruption in Washington -- show me where the corruption was when we were there? And that was three years ago. Anyway, thanks, pal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: There's a lot to talk about after that interview. Is Joe Biden ready to really fight for this nomination? We'll discuss, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Joe Biden is out there on the campaign trail tonight. He has moved on to Iowa where he is trying to make the case to voters there. I want to discuss now. Nia-Malika Henderson is here as well as Joe Lockhart. Thank you so much for joining us. Good evening to both of you.

Joe, the former vice president's comments on Senator Lindsey Graham really are making a lot of news tonight. Let's listen and then we'll talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: They're asking Lindsey Graham. They have him under their thumb right now. They know he knows if he comes out against Trump, he's got a real tough road for re-election, number one. I am disappointed, and quite frankly I'm angered by the fact. He knows me. He knows my son. He knows there's nothing to this. Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he's going to regret his whole life.

LEMON (on camera): What do you say to him?

BIDEN: I say, Lindsey, I just -- I'm just embarrassed by what you're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It's clear he feels deeply betrayed. He says it's an embarrassment. He feels embarrassed.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. He is betrayed because Joe Biden had lots of close friends in the Senate. He still does, but I don't know that Lindsey Graham will be his friend going forward. I think the important part there is he put his finger on what's wrong with the Republican Party.

He's -- you know, Lindsey Graham is a -- what I call a political parasite. He drafted off John McCain for a long time. Now it's Donald Trump. And Trump has got the Republican Party under his thumb, and Trump is leading them in the wrong direction. And I think that's a big part. I think that -- you know, that's -- that conversation is how the Democrats have to take it to Trump and the Republican Party.

LEMON: Some on the right are calling his words when he said about -- when he said regretting, that it's a threat. That's not what he meant. I was there. That's not what he said.

LOCKHART: No. You know --

LEMON: He said he's going to regret his actions for the way he handled --

LOCKHART: Joe Biden in some ways says a lot like my old boss, that he cares deeply about people. And even when people cross him or betray him, he still cares about them. I think what Biden was trying to say there was, as a friend to Lindsey Graham, stop what you're doing. Stop. You're going to regret this.

LEMON: You saw The Huffington Post video of him --

LOCKHART: Yeah. No. And, you know, I believe that Graham was being, you know, genuine there.

LEMON: Nia, we talked about the support in the African American community and about his commitment, you know -- his comment, I should say, that he comes from the black community. Do you think that he showed why he's getting so much support from black voters?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think he did. And I'll just kind of take a step back here. The whole interview, I thought, probably was his best interview to date. That's a tribute I think to you as well, really a fantastic interview down in South Carolina.

I think it's been just a strong week for Biden overall. And in terms of this African American support, you can see there why he is doing well with African Americans.

[22:45:01]

HENDERSON: He talked about his own history in Delaware, being someone who was -- seeing sort of what was happening to African Americans as a child, the busing and some of the inequalities and segregation that was going on as a kid. And that's something that really encouraged him to get into service, becoming a public defender. He's somebody who is a lifelong member of the NAACP. You see him in those small settings with African Americans, who down south really sort of want to know, you know, who are you and who are you your people, and see --

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: -- if you can have a sense, you know, of just comfort around --

LEMON: I'm glad you put it that way. You're right because --

HENDERSON: Yeah.

LEMON: -- who are you -- when you brought someone home, whether it was a new friend or --

HENDERSON: Yeah.

LEMON: -- a girlfriend or boyfriend, the first thing your dad or your mom asks, who are you and who are your people?

HENDERSON: Exactly.

LEMON: Do I know them?

HENDERSON: Exactly. Do I know them?

LEMON: And some of the people who were in the restaurant today, I said, why do you like Joe Biden so much, Nia? And they said, well, I feel like he relates to us, and I feel like we grew up with him.

HENDERSON: Exactly.

LEMON: And I think that people think that the world started when they came of awareness, not necessarily came of age, awareness to the political process. I think they look at things in a 2019 lens. But the world was a different place in the '70s and '80s and '90s. Not that that's making an excuse for anything that Joe Biden has done in his past. But African Americans remember those days and the world wasn't always the way it is now.

HENDERSON: That's right.

LEMON: And people don't understand that. But Joe Biden was there with them.

HENDERSON: Yeah, and they remember particularly a state like South Carolina, they remember people like Fritz Hollings, right, who didn't have a perfect record on race by any means, but he was a Democrat in the south. And I think, you know, those are the kinds of people you grew up seeing if you are an African American, sort of the lone white person who was in some ways trying to evolve on issues of race.

And you've seen obviously the same thing with Joe Biden. Not always the perfect record, but always trying, right? And I think that came through. And he's a formidable candidate, particularly with African Americans. Twenty to 25 percent of the Democratic primary voters are going to be African Americans. In South Carolina, it's going to be 60 percent.

So far, you look at these polls, he's getting 40 percent, 50 percent of African Americans easily in South Carolina. Then you go up on Super Tuesday, more southern states. Listen, I've always thought Joe Biden was underrated in sort of the beltway, you know, kind of political corridor.

And I think he's actually doing pretty well and has got a pretty strong chance here. Listen, no predictions in terms of what's going to happen with this race, but I thought he had a very strong --

LEMON: OK.

HENDERSON: -- week here and this interview was part of that.

LEMON: All right. Let's hold it right there. We're going to talk about the two Bs, how he feels about the two Bs, Buttigieg and Bloomberg, right after this.

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[22:50:00]

LEMON: Back with Nia and Joe. Let's continue on here. You know, I asked the former vice president if he was concerned about Pete Buttigieg's rise in Iowa, Joe. And he said he's not. He thinks he's going to win. He, of course, is going to say that. But he says he is the one out of all the candidates who can beat Trump. Is that the core of his appeal?

LOCKHART: I think that is the core of his appeal and it's particularly powerful in the African American community. If you look at the numbers, they disproportionately higher on we just have to beat Trump. And that's his firewall.

If you look at the other three leading candidates, Warren, Buttigieg and Sanders, all of them don't connect currently with the African American community. And since they make up, as Nia was saying, 25, you know, some places larger percentages of the population, they can't win unless they find a way to connect there. So that's where, I think, Biden's confidence comes from.

LEMON: Similar field to Bill Clinton who was your boss.

LOCKHART: Yeah. You know, listen, I think we saw a -- you teased out, you know, the best of Joe Biden and what his Achilles heel is. He's a retail politician. He goes into people's community and he listens. You never see Donald Trump listen to anyone. He goes in. He gets -- some people think he gets too close to people.

When he gets to start talking about the plan and $200 million for that, you can see he doesn't quite have the passion. He's a people person at heart. People love him. And when he gets to do this sort of retail politics, that's his strength. You saw it. You saw him walking down the street. You saw him in the coffee shop.

LEMON: Yeah. I think he had a very good point that presidencies aren't run or conducted in 30 seconds or minute sound bites and answers on the debate stage. But quite frankly, many Americans judge a performance and they will go into the polls and vote that way. Nia, Biden hitting back on the former mayor of New York City, Mike Bloomberg. Let's take a listen and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Someone in his campaign said -- someone said specifically, he has specific concerns about your ability to carry this through to the finish line. What do you say about that?

BIDEN: Watch me. Watch me. The idea that I'm not in better shape than the Mayor Bloomberg physically and otherwise?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Listen. They are the same age. They are like four months apart. They are both 77.

LOCKHART: Right.

LEMON: I mean, come on.

HENDERSON: Yeah. Listen. These are fair questions and I thought Joe Biden handled it well in terms of, you know, can he go the distance? Is he too old at this point? He's 77. I think he just turned 77 --

LEMON: He invited me to lift with him.

HENDERSON: Yeah, he invited you to lift with him.

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: In terms of, you know, him saying that he's in better shape than Michael Bloomberg, he certainly is in a democratic primary, right?

[22:55:04]

HENDERSON: He has a constituency. Mike Bloomberg has got billions and billions of dollars. He has no constituency. I think that at some point, we are going to be flooded with ads from Michael Bloomberg. But that can't buy you a constituency. He will see what happens with that, but sort of Michael Bloomberg coming in and saying, well, you know, you're old, you know, sort of pot and kettle with that.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Thank you both. Perfect analysis from both of you. Thank you. If I don't see you both, have a happy Thanksgiving.

HENDERSON: You, too, Don. Nice job. LEMON: Thank you very much. Some really big headlines tonight. What the Justice Department found when they looked into the FBI's Russia investigation and new details on Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the false conspiracies swirling around it.

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