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Bernie Sanders Currently Leading Democratic Presidential Candidates in Fourth Quarter 2019 Fundraising; Protests at U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Fade; Sen. Bernie Sanders Raises $34.5 Million in 4th Quarter; Reports: Interpol Issues Arrest Warrant for Carlos Ghosn. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 2, 2020 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: In the three months that began with a heart attack for Bernie Sanders. So think about that. He raised $34 million. Three months ago people were wondering whether he would stay in the race. Compare that to Pete Buttigieg, former, now, South Bend mayor, he brought in nearly $25 million. That's a good quarter. Businessman Andrew Yang, $16.5 million.

Now, as Poppy was saying, the Iowa caucuses one month from tomorrow. We are waiting to hear from the Warren and Biden campaigns about their fundraising numbers. That will be interesting to see.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, we are seeing just dramatic new images. This is inside of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Iraqi security forces have regained control of the compound after Iranian- backed demonstrators tried to breach the entry during two days of violent clashes. The Pentagon is deploying hundreds of U.S. troops to the region as tension just escalates with Iran.

But let's begin our coverage on the domestic political news. Our Ryan Nobles is here with the breaking numbers. I keep waiting and waiting, wondering when are Joe Biden's numbers and Elizabeth Warren's numbers going to come out. But right now, the spotlight on Bernie Sanders.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think you're right about that, Poppy and John. There's no doubt. We're waiting on those numbers from Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, but you'd be hard-pressed to imagine that they are going to top the number that Bernie Sanders has posted this morning.

Let's look at it again. This is the fourth quarter total for Bernie Sanders, $34.5 million. Compare that to Pete Buttigieg's $24.7 million, almost $10 million more for Sanders and his campaign. If you look at the trend line, Sanders has continued to bring in big, big fundraising numbers each quarter. Back in the third quarter, Sanders brought in $25.2 million, which at that time we thought was a huge number, while Buttigieg $19.1 million.

It's important to keep in mind when we talk about Bernie Sanders' fundraising, the way he goes about it. He holds no high-dollar fundraisers. He does not call up millionaires and billionaires and asks for money. This is largely an online, small-dollar donation effort. In fact, the average donation, somewhere in the range of 18 bucks, and 99.9 percent of Bernie Sanders's donors could still continue to donate to his campaign, meaning they haven't reached the $2,800 threshold.

Let's compare that to what Donald Trump and the Republican campaign has brought in to this point. And keep in mind, of course Donald Trump has no competition in this space, but he has still brought in quite a bit of money. In fact, the RNC in their outfit has brought in $125 million while the Trump campaign is doing very well as well.

So this is very significant, because what this tells us now heading into the Iowa caucuses, that Bernie Sanders, who has been competitive, Iowa essentially a tie right now, is going to have all the resources necessary to get the boots on the ground and get those caucus-goers to the caucus sites to have a realistic shot at winning the Iowa caucuses. John and Poppy, here we are, the second day of 2020, and there's no doubt this race for president is on.

HARLOW: It is on. Thank you, we appreciate it.

CNN political analyst David Gregory is here, and CNN contributor Frank Bruni, columnist for "The New York Times." Happy New Year, guys, hope it was a good one. Now it's a very, very busy year.

Let me begin with you, David Gregory, just on how significant these numbers are for Bernie Sanders given how he started the quarter with a heart attack, and people, even supporters, some were saying, can he even continue his campaign. To have numbers like this, none of it from big-dollar donors, what does this tell us?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think also being overshadowed by Elizabeth Warren for a lot of that quarter.

HARLOW: That's true.

GREGORY: Even though they are very much in the same progressive lane, and you could argue that Elizabeth Warren has been a bigger target because she's more specific about the realities of her policy proposals. Bernie Sanders less so. But he's been durable as a kind of movement progressive candidate. And to me, it just reinforces how open the Democratic race is as we're now actually getting closer to people voting and how scattered the initial contest could be. It could be a while before there's actually a nominee.

BERMAN: Yes, it could be a while before there's a nominee, but it's not that long now, finally, until people actually vote. Iowa is one month from tomorrow, Frank. And as we sit here and look at these fundraising numbers from Bernie Sanders, look at the fact that he's consistently high in the polls right now, just 30,000-foot view, where is this race?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's completely undetermined, but I think the Sanders numbers are so important because I think for a lot of this campaign, we have been underestimating Bernie Sanders. BERMAN: Yes.

BRUNI: We've been talking about -- partly because, as David hit the nail on the head, we've been talking so much about Elizabeth Warren. She was surging for so long. We thought she was going to own the progressive wing of the vote. And now it doesn't look that way at all. He's pulled ahead offer in polling. He's raising more money than she is. Remember, just a week or two ago she sent an email out to supporters saying this quarter fundraising is not going the way it has in the past, so let's all get our acts together. Now we haven't heard her numbers yet. I think it's pretty safe to say her numbers are going to be way less than his.

[08:05:00]

And so he surged in the polls and, as David mentioned and as Ryan mentioned, he's going to have the money to really motivate, to really turn out the vote in Iowa. So I think we keep talking about this is going to be Warren or Biden. What about Buttigieg? He's polling well in Iowa and New Hampshire. We have failed to mention Bernie Sanders often enough. This is a four-way race in those early states.

HARLOW: Look, you have nearly $25 million raised, David, in the last quarter, in Q-4, by Pete Buttigieg. What does it tell you about America right now and this moment in America that a 37-year-old mayor of a small town who is openly gay can raise that kind of money consistently quarter by quarter?

GREGORY: Well, I think it's a couple of things. One, he's been a good candidate. He is a fresh face. I think there is such a kind of open pallet for politicians now to paint on. And I think that one of the reasons that Bernie Sanders has moved forward is that he wasn't getting the scrutiny that Elizabeth Warren has been getting. There's a lot of fear among Democrats that she will cause the party to lose to Donald Trump.

So you have a lot of running room here. You have a progressive wing of the party that I think is certainly resurgent but I think scares a lot of Democrats who are focused on beating President Trump. You have somebody in Buttigieg who occupies -- I've always thought he occupies this lane on his own, right? He's young generationally. He's more moderate. He's certainly a different picture than you get with Biden generationally, and even on his politics. And that's what I think is such a scramble going into Iowa and these early contests is how different these lanes are.

BERMAN: David just mentioned Joe Biden. Joe Biden picked up an endorsement this morning. Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, who is a member from Iowa, the only member of the Iowa delegation to endorse so far in this race. Where do you think Biden is? How do you think Biden feels this morning, should I say, Frank, as we are one month from Iowa? He hasn't released his fundraising numbers yet, but there is this sense in the reportorial world that they'll be better, perhaps much better for him than last quarter where he only raised $15 million. BRUNI: I think the last several months I think people have been more

positive about him. His last debate was his best debate. His Iowa poll numbers have improved. There is this feeling that what could be happening is as we get closer to voting people are realizing Joe Biden is the safest bet. Every one of the other top four candidates we've talked about, you can make an easy argument about why they wouldn't get the nomination. Bernie and Elizabeth, both quite, quite progressive. Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old just now ex-mayor of a city of 100,000 people.

As people get -- as voters get closer to making a decision, it could be that Biden is the only person who feels like a responsible choice. And I think you're seeing a little bit of that in his rise in Iowa polling, and I think we may see that when he releases his fundraising numbers. Also important, though we haven't talked about it, isn't how much money they are raising. It's how much cash they have on hand. Those are the numbers I really want to see.

BERMAN: We talk about, take the Pete Buttigieg number, $25 million that he raised last quarter. That's what Michael Bloomberg is spending a week right now.

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: That's a great perspective-setter.

BERMAN: So just the whole money idea --

HARLOW: We have Tom Steyer coming on.

BERMAN: Yes, yes. It's a rounding error for Michael Bloomberg, but his billion is a mere rounding error, and Michael's Bloomberg $56 billion.

GREGORY: We're not really going to know, the notion of Biden as a safe bet I think has been sustaining him and made him a durable frontrunner for all of the different storylines that we follow. And now the new year begins with foreign policy trouble for the president and North Korea and Iran. That can certainly be unsettling to voters who take a look at somebody and think about them as the commander in chief. Can they imagine that person making up for the experience gap? You don't know how that's going to play. What we do know is that once voters actually start going to the polls and that generates its own momentum along with money, the picture starts to become clearer.

BRUNI: And interestingly, Biden's main campaign ad to date, the one that certainly I've seen the most often on the air, and it's generated the most discussion, is Joe Biden as world leader. It's that montage of footage of foreign leaders laughing at Donald Trump. So he's betting that this question about, is Trump a safe world leader, is going to be an animating one.

BERMAN: Do you think the events of the last few days raise new questions about that as we see these protests. They've died down now in Baghdad, protests by militia groups, we should note, they've died down, but in North Korea you have Kim Jong-un basically saying I'm going to test nuclear weapons at this point if I want to. Forget whatever deal I had with --

BRUNI: We have to see how it plays out. They raise new challenges and they up the stakes. And in both of those cases, in terms of tensions with Iran, in terms of tensions with North Korea, Donald Trump has pursued much different policies and relations with those countries than Barack Obama did. So if thing goes south, if we actually end up in a conflict in either one of those places, that isn't going to look like the logical extension of forces already at play. Donald Trump is going to own that because he took such a different foreign policy approach.

[08:10:06]

HARLOW: David, also heading into the debate mid this month, the deadline to qualify for it is January 10th, what does it also say about the state of the Democratic Party in America today that if we don't see some people -- Andrew Yang hasn't qualified yet, for example, cory Bookers and others, that that stage could, once again, it could be even whiter than it was before, and older.

GREGORY: It's possible. I just think, we're now in 2020. I think it's clear there's going to be a moderate wing of the party that represents Democratic voters who think about one thing, and that's beating Donald Trump. Then there's a progressive wing of the party that believes that the road to victory and governance is rethinking what Democrats stand for, what the future of the country looks like, what our values are, what kind of economy we have. There's such a real tension between those two views. That's where the battleground is, and I think it's going to last for a while.

BERMAN: Frank Bruni, David Gregory, it strikes me that 20 years ago today I was probably in Iowa with both of you. It's nice to see you here.

GREGORY: I wasn't on board yet. I didn't come on board yet. I was late to the party. You guys already started.

BERMAN: Your presence is so big, it felt like you were there anyway.

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: He's not trying to age anyone.

BERMAN: David and Frank, great to have you here.

HARLOW: He'll be in Iowa very soon as well.

Bernie Sanders riding high with these big 2020 -- riding high with these big fourth quarter fundraising numbers. We're going to talk about the state of the Democratic race with a former Democratic candidate himself, Joe Lieberman, who also has a lot to say about the current situation overseas. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:21] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Two big signs that the Democratic race for president just got real. First, the calendar, it's 2020, finally. Also, the Iowa caucuses now just one month away. And this morning, we have new fund-raising numbers from several top tier candidates.

The big number is from Senator Bernie Sanders who raised a whopping $34.5 million in the fourth quarter. That is his biggest fund-raising quarter of the campaign. That's the best fund-raising quarter from any Democratic candidate so far.

We have yet to hear from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Those numbers could be coming this morning.

Joining us now is former Democratic vice presidential nominee, former Connecticut senator, Joseph Lieberman.

Senator, thanks so much for being here.

JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Pleasure to be with you. Thanks, John.

BERMAN: As someone who has been in this game and ran for president yourself in 2004, when you see those fund-raising numbers this morning from Bernie Sanders, $34.5 million in the fourth quarter, how does it strike you?

LIEBERMAN: Well, it's impressive. And the way Bernie raised the money is impressive. He has proven, a little earlier in the year, it looked like he and Elizabeth Warren were going to be battling for the left part of the Democratic Party and that she was rising as the new face.

Bernie was a little worn from four years ago, but not so. He has shown real lasting power both politically, the crowds are there for him, and also monetarily. It's a great show of support.

And to be the most significant thing here in these numbers is what was said earlier, which is 99 percent of the people who have given to him in these numbers are giving an average of $18 which means they can keep giving, which means that in a fascinating way, Bernie Sanders has sort of equaled the -- it's a funny word to use -- the financial strength of Mike Bloomberg in this race.

I've always said Mike Bloomberg's great strength, not only his record, his ideas, but he can keep going and spending money as long as this race goes on. And so, too, I think, could Bernie Sanders.

BERMAN: Every great politician I know or people who have been in the game for a long time -- and you are clearly one of these people -- has a radar. What is your radar telling you about the Democratic race this morning, just one month before Iowa?

LIEBERMAN: It's telling me it's wide open. And it's also telling me this could break. If somebody carries Iowa and New Hampshire, the same person, they could go on with that momentum. But right now, if you look state by state in the primaries that are coming up, different favorites in different states. Mayor Bloomberg doesn't get into it until Super Tuesday.

For the first time in over half a century, we could have a major political party in our country go to its national convention without the obvious nominee chosen. And what happens then could be an old- fashioned brokered convention. But who brokers? A great few bosses (ph) --

BERMAN: That's a great question. It's a political reporter's dream but it might be a party's nightmare. We'll have to wait and see on that.

We've been looking at the pictures coming out of Baghdad. The demonstrations happening outside the U.S. embassy there, demonstrations by militia members.

LIEBERMAN: Right.

BERMAN: It's not as if these are protesters off the streets. And we've seen the pictures of the destruction around the embassy. I wonder how these images strike you.

LIEBERMAN: Well, this is a moment of truth we're coming to. I mean, the first thing is these militias are supported by Iran. In fact, we can identify some faces --

BERMAN: Absolutely.

LIEBERMAN: -- of members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who are there leading those demonstrations. In my opinion, incidentally, totally different from the demonstrations going on in Iraq quite significantly over the last couple of months. Hundreds of thousands of people protesting the government, corruption, economy and asking that Iran get out of their own country, Iraq.

I think what's happening today is a response to that organized by Iran which is exercising too much influence in Iraq and is a response to President Trump who's gotten tough with Iran, hurt their economy and they're trying to get his attention, in my opinion, to make a deal.

So the most important thing now is for the U.S. to hang tough and to respond every time Iran and their proxies provoke us.

BERMAN: What does it tell you that the Iraqi government or at least the Iraqi military security forces to a certain extent allowed this to happen?

[08:20:06]

And I ask you as someone who was a big supporter of the Iraq war --

LIEBERMAN: Right.

BERMAN: -- the creation of this new Iraqi government which is an experiment, what, 16 years in the making, do you still have faith in the nation of Iraq?

LIEBERMAN: I think we can't give up faith because Iraq is too important a country in the Middle East. And we have invested so much.

We're not going back with a massive ground presence into Iraq, but we ought to do everything we can to do what most of the Iraqi people want us to do, to get Iran out of their country so that they can govern themselves. That's the most important thing we can do.

BERMAN: Some of the other pictures we've seen over the last few days are tragic which is more images of anti-Semitic attacks in America.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

BERMAN: The one in Monsey, New York, the attack on the seventh day of Hanukkah there. Last night, there was a rally, or two nights ago, there was a rally in New York by Jews here.

I wonder what you think is behind this apparent rise, at least in New York, in anti-Semitic incidents.

LIEBERMAN: Well, I've asked myself that because in my life, I have confronted just about zero anti-Semitism. I mean, I was elected to office 40 years in the state of Connecticut, probably 2 percent Jewish population. Ran for vice president in 2000. First Jewish-American on a national ticket. Faced no anti-Semitism.

So, what's happened?

I think today the Internet, unfortunately. Part of it is an effect, if you will, indirect of the dissent and division in our society generally. But the key factor, in my opinion, is that the Internet and social media are playing a different kind of role. I'll tell you what my major evidence here is.

The two most violent anti-Semitic acts in American history, certainly modern history, were the killings at the synagogue in Pittsburgh and in Poway near San Diego, California.

I spent some time looking at the history of the two charged with those murders. They were not part of the neo-Nazi organizations. They were not part of white supremacist organizations. They got radicalized on the Internet. They inhaled a lot of anti-Semitic hate speech, bought guns and they went out and killed people.

And we really have to figure out how to better regulate and use this extraordinary Internet that's made our lives so much better in so many ways but it's also facilitating people who are imbalanced to commit hateful violence acts against not only Jews but against a lot of others.

One thing I think the president ought to do is to try to create a national commission in which we involve the social media and Internet companies to figure how better to do this. And part of what they have to consider, there is now a law in our country that protects the social media and Internet companies from liability for any hate- provoking material that they carry.

I think we better take a second look at that and see if that might not encourage the social medias to use their extraordinary technological capacities to develop some systems that can stop these chat rooms and websites that are leading to murder based on hate of fellow Americans.

BERMAN: Senator Joe Lieberman, great to have you here this morning.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Happy New Year.

LIEBERMAN: Happy New Year to you. Thank you.

BERMAN: Poppy?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That's a great point that the senator makes about, you know, section 230 and the protections that it gives these companies. I think that will be addressed a lot this year.

Also, we have breaking developments in the bizarre story of how the ousted CEO of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, fled Japan to avoid trial. We'll tell you about the international efforts to arrest him, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:28:00]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

HARLOW: We do have breaking news for you. Lebanese state media is reporting that Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for the ousted former Nissan executive Carlos Ghosn. He fled Japan to avoid trial on financial misconduct charges. The international fugitive now in Lebanon.

CNN's Gul Tuysuz joins us now from Istanbul with the breaking details.

So, what is the -- what is Interpol trying to do here?

GUL TUYSUZ, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Poppy, basically, Interpol has issued a red notice. And we heard that from the Lebanese justice minister saying that they have received it.

What we don't know at this point is what country requested that red notice. And those notices basically alert international law enforcement that they are looking for a suspect, that pending legal action, there could be steps that are taken against them. But at this point, again, we don't know if Lebanon is going to comply with this red notice or what's going to happen.

Another development in the case is also from here in Turkey where prosecutors have launched an investigation into Ghosn's audacious escape, basically flight tracking data shows that a flight took off from Osaka, Japan, and landed in Istanbul, Turkey. And a little while later, another flight took off again from Istanbul headed for Beirut and Ghosn is thought to have been on those flights.

So, prosecutors here are looking into it right now. And so far, they have detained seven people. Four pilots and one manager at a private aviation company as well as two ground staff service members have been detained.

Now, we don't know what their testimony is going to reveal. But at this point, the Istanbul prosecutor's investigation could reveal this one small part of the puzzle as to how Ghosn escaped -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Thank you very much. Please keep us posted on all the developments there.

Meanwhile, two days of violent protests at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad have finally subsided, but look at the damage. This was the reception area outside at America's largest, most expensive embassy after pro- Iranian.

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