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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sanders vs. Warren?; Interview With Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 13, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's also unclear when a Senate trial will actually begin, what it will look like, and whether Democrats will succeed in their demand for witnesses.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): There are certainly senators who have expressed misgivings about a trial that becomes a sham or a charade.

MURRAY: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton's offer to testify in the Senate has added another wrinkle to the fight over witnesses, even prompting the White House to adjust its plans for the president's defense.

Over the weekend, Pelosi took aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for supporting a resolution to dismiss the two articles of impeachment against President Trump.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Dismissing is a cover-up. Dismissing is a cover-up. If they want to go that route, again, the senators who are thinking now about voting for witnesses or not, they will have to be accountable for not having a fair trial.

MURRAY: At the White House, the president expressed his support for an outright dismissal on Twitter.

Trump's attorneys, meantime, are laying the main arguments in Trump's defense in a brief that is nearly completed. White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who was expected to take the lead on the president's defense, spent the weekend working from his West Wing office.

While he will represent the president, along with outside counsel Jay Sekulow, on the Senate floor, Trump is already asking who will defend him on television, and making it clear he expects House Republicans to hit the airwaves on his behalf.

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MURRAY: Now, Mitch McConnell is firing back today in a statement to Nancy Pelosi, saying: "I'm glad the speaker finally realized she never had any leverage to dictate Senate procedure." As for the Senate trial, this isn't set in stone, but it could begin as early as next week, and Trump's allies are vying for it to be over completely by February 4, which is the State of the Union -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much.

Bernie Sanders denies it, but sources say that he told Senator Elizabeth Warren that he does not think a woman can win the presidency. I will just let that sit there for a moment.

We will be right back.

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[16:36:22]

TAPPER: Breaking news in our 2020 lead.

We're learning new details about what was allegedly said during a 2018 dinner between Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Sanders told Warren a woman could not win the presidency.

That's according to four sources, two of whom spoke with Warren after the dinner.

Sanders, we should note, adamantly on the record denies these claims, calling them -- quote -- "ludicrous."

And as CNN's M.J. Lee reports, this is the latest in a recent string of flare-ups between the progressive candidates, despite having made a pact during that same dinner to not go after each other on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's bring out my friend Bernie Sanders!

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In December 2018, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were getting ready to launch their presidential campaigns. The two friends knew they could soon be competing for the Democratic nomination in 2020 when they met privately at Warren's Washington, D.C., apartment.

The pair believed tearing each other down could hurt the progressive movement and agreed to avoid attacking one another. Warren telling Sanders she would be a strong candidate to beat President Trump by making a case about the economy and earning broad support among women.

Still, Sanders told Warren he did not believe a woman could win, according to four sources, two people Warren spoke with directly and two others familiar with the meeting.

Sanders himself forcefully denying the characterization as ludicrous, saying in a statement to CNN: "It's sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus, and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren't in the room are lying about what happened. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course. After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by three million votes in 2016."

The details of this conversation surfacing amid revelations first reported by Politico that volunteers for the Sanders campaign were given scripted talking points criticizing Warren and suggesting her supporters are elitist.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have differences on issues. That's what campaigning is about, but no one is going to be attacking Elizabeth.

LEE: Warren responding over the weekend that she was disappointed that Sanders sent out volunteers to -- quote -- "trash you." And her campaign is now fund-raising off of the report.

WARREN: We need someone who will excite every part of the Democratic Party, someone that every Democrat can believe in. I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction.

LEE: With only three weeks until the Iowa caucuses, the Sanders campaign is going on offense, lobbing attacks against Joe Biden.

Sanders senior campaign adviser Jeff Weaver releasing a statement targeting Biden's record on the Iraq War, writing: "It is appalling that, after 18 years, Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War."

And Sanders' national co-chair, Nina Turner, penning a South Carolina op-ed bashing Biden's record with African-Americans, and claiming Biden "has repeatedly betrayed black voters to side with Republican lawmakers and undermine our progress."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: The person we do not have an on-the-record statement from is Senator Elizabeth Warren. The next time we expect to see her, Jake, is on the CNN debate stage tomorrow night, where she will be standing one podium away from Bernie Sanders -- Jake

TAPPER: Interested to hear what she has to say.

M.J. Lee, with the scoop, thank you so much.

Let's chew over all this.

First of all, Jen Psaki, let me just ask you. Do you believe it? Do you believe that Bernie Sanders said something to Elizabeth Warren along the lines of a woman can't win?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's hard to envision in a meeting between them, to his point, him saying to her, oh, you're running? A woman can't win.

[16:40:03] But I think a lot of women in the Democratic Party do believe that Bernie Sanders is not for a woman being at the top of the ticket, because they are still burned by 2016 and the feeling that he was not on board with Hillary Clinton, he didn't endorse early, he didn't come on board, he didn't encourage the supporters to get behind her.

So there's a lot of bad juju that he's got to overcome here. And I think a lot of what he's saying is going to ring hollow with Democrat.

TAPPER: Well, he doesn't want a woman at the top of the ticket because he wants to be on the top of the ticket.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: M.J., in her print article or digital article, notes that Sanders -- correctly -- that Sanders has criticized what he calls identity politics.

TAPPER: Right. Wokeness.

BROWNSTEIN: He believes that all politics is divided in a horizontal line along the lines of class, when, in fact, the evidence over the last at least 30 years is that Americans divide more along lines of culture than class.

And he's kind of downplayed the importance of diversity of any sort vs. having someone who in his mind is kind of a warrior for the working class.

By the way, his specific criticism of Elizabeth Warren, at least from the from the canvass, is essentially true. I mean, she is a candidate whose support predominantly tilts toward wealthier upper-middle-class college-educated whites.

In the Quinnipiac poll that is out today and that we talked about before, in the Democratic poll, primary poll, her support among college educated whites is double what her support is among non- college whites.

So it is true that they do have a different base from a class basis. From an ideological basis, they're competing for many of the same voters on kind of the left edge of the Democratic coalition. And it is striking that she has chosen to kind of allow him to rise without trying to challenge him.

TAPPER: And, David, you think this pact that no one -- no one disputes that they made, this pact that they wouldn't go after -- you think it's kind of silly.

URBAN: It's insane right?

They're running for the presidency of the United States. By definition, this is full-contact sports, right? If you're not going to attack one another, then you shouldn't be running, right, because they're going to have to face the attacker in chief come the fall.

TAPPER: That's certainly..

BROWNSTEIN: No Democrat has really put -- confronted Sanders about the scope and cost of his agenda.

I mean, no one has really done that.

TAPPER: Yes.

So, Laura, Sanders is also going after Biden for voting in 2002 to authorize the use of force against Iraq. Biden backer John Kerry, who also voted for Iraq, for the war in Iraq, came out this weekend. He defended the vote, saying Sanders is distorting Biden's record. Biden did not vote for war. He voted to give President Bush leverage.

But I want you to take a listen to what candidate and then Senator Barack Obama made of that argument when then Senator Hillary Clinton was attempting to cast that 2002 Iraq War vote as something else.

This is what Obama had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Clinton has tried, I believe, to rewrite history. She voted for a resolution called -- and I quote -- a resolution to authorize the use of the United States armed forces against Iraq.

Now she's saying that she wasn't really voting for war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Tough for Biden to go against, not just Sanders, but Obama on that argument?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think it definitely will be difficult for him. And it's something that I expect Sanders is going to bring up in tomorrow night's debate.

He very much sees Biden as someone that he needs to take down, because they are consistently the two at the top of the polls. I don't expect him and Warren to go at each other tomorrow night.

I think he very much wants to laser in on Biden, which we have seen consistently again and again from his campaign in the lead-up to Iowa.

URBAN: Not because of their pact, by the way, just because she's nowhere in the polls.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Well, she's in the top four.

BROWNSTEIN: The dynamic is incredibly an extension of '16. I mean, in '16, Clinton's campaign made the determination that Sanders in the end was not going to get big enough to win. Therefore, you never really challenged him because you don't want to alienate the hard-core supporters who rally around him.

In the end, a reasonable -- an unusually high number of Sanders supporters end up voting third-party anyway. We're seeing the same sort of calculation.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: In the general election.

BROWNSTEIN: In the general election.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Some of them voted for Trump.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

And I think we're seeing the same calculation now from the Democrats. But they're -- I mean, they're saying, well, we don't want to go after Bernie because he's probably not going to win in the end and we don't want to alienate his voters.

But if he wins Iowa, I mean, it is not inconceivable that he is the nominee, and that sooner or later someone's going to draw those distinctions with him.

PSAKI: I think this dynamic that we don't know yet, though, is that the effort to try to explain your Iraq War vote has never worked. Let's just be clear.

It didn't work for Hillary Clinton. It didn't work for John Kerry, who I was working for at the time.

But is that fatigue with the Iraq War or the anger about it the same now as it was eight years ago and 12 years ago? I don't know that we know the answer to that at this point in time.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got more to talk about.

You don't want to miss the final Democratic presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses. It will be right here on CNN tomorrow night 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up next, we will ask one presidential candidate about what Senator Bernie Sanders allegedly said to Senator Warren, how the impeachment trial will affect the campaign trail, and more.

Stay with us.

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[16:49:19] TAPPER: In our 2020 lead, believe it or not, we are just three weeks away from the Iowa caucuses.

And four Democratic senators running for president look to be stuck in Washington, instead of on the campaign trail, with the impeachment trial of President Trump starting as early as this week or next.

The campaigns are weighing the impact this might have on voters from these crucial early states.

One of those senators balancing work in the Senate and the presidential race is Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. He's on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

Your colleague Cory Booker dropped out of the race for president this morning. He said partly he did so because of the impeachment trial. You have acknowledged that being pulled from Iowa or New Hampshire would be disruptive to your campaign.

At what point would it be debilitating?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we will have to see.

I mean, I love Cory Booker. I remember the day that he walked into the Senate for the first time. I had known him when I was a school superintendent and he was the mayor. And I was smiling ear to ear.

[16:50:05]

And that's how I felt when he got into this presidential race. And I'm sorry to see him leave it. I think his voice is a really important one.

And we're just going to have to see how the next couple weeks go. We have got to chew -- walk and chew gum at the same time.

I'm in the middle of a 50-town hall commitment that I intend to finish in New Hampshire, and we will have to fulfill the constitutional responsibilities each of us has in Washington as well.

TAPPER: So, the other reason that Booker said he wasn't running is that he just didn't see a path forward for his campaign.

OK, so here's the blunt question. You won't be on the debate stage in Iowa tomorrow. You haven't been invited to the last four debates. Do you have a path?

BENNET: I think I do have a path, in part, Jake, because the people are more undecided today than they have been during the entire course of the race.

New Hampshire, 33 percent of the voters say they're decided. They are less decided today than they were six weeks ago or a year ago. The field has gotten smaller and narrower.

And so I'm not saying I have got an easy path, but I do think there is a path. And I built my campaign to last until people were going to start voting. And I'm going to try to earn it, the way John McCain and Jimmy Carter and others and Gary Hart, put one foot in front of the other, did town hall after town hall after town hall in New Hampshire. And it worked.

We will see what happens.

TAPPER: Michael Bloomberg says Democrats only focusing on Iowa, New Hampshire are at risk of repeating 2016, in large part because Trump is busy campaigning aggressively in battleground states.

Does he have a point?

BENNET: I think we got to do both.

We have got to do well in the early states, or at least I do, and that is the way to get to the battlegrounds that are going to happen after that.

It's been really interesting to me to see how seriously the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are taking their responsibility, and what they're trying to figure out is who the right candidate is to beat Donald Trump, and their minds are not made up.

They are unpersuaded that the leading candidates in this race can beat Donald Trump. I'm worried about that myself, which is why I have stayed in the race.

TAPPER: How about who Julian Castro's argument that Iowa and New Hampshire, while lovely states, are so homogeneous, so white, they are not representative of the United States or the Democratic Party, and they should not have such important roles in deciding who the Democratic Party nominee will be?

BENNET: Well, it's -- I certainly can't argue that the states aren't homogeneous.

And I guess my hope is that, over time, a much greater diversity of people are in the states that we go to next.

I'm worried about that from the standpoint of the way social media is dominating our campaigns too. I want to make sure that that also reflects the demographics of our country.

I feel sometimes like we're running two different primaries here. One is a primary of living, breathing human beings that are trying to do their best and hope their best for the country, and the other is a very demanding social media that is driving people to make all kinds of, I think, false promises to the American people about what can be achieved.

And that could lead us to lose to Donald Trump. I'm deeply worried about that. TAPPER: You're on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

And President Trump said it was his belief that General Soleimani was planning attacks on four U.S. Embassy. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told me it was also his belief. And he said the president was clear to say it was his belief, not the intelligence.

Do you have any concerns, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that these decisions seem to be backed by something other than raw intelligence, this idea that it was his belief that led to this strike?

BENNET: I'm deeply worried about it.

Every American should be. The job of the commander in chief, first and foremost, is to keep Americans safe at home and abroad. And I think he's failing that test. And he has disregarded intelligence in this case. He's disregarded the intelligence for the last three years about North Korea's continued effort to build a nuclear -- to expand their nuclear capabilities.

And he's ignored the intelligence community when it comes to what Russia did with our election in 2016 and what they continue to do. It is very dangerous to have a president who disregards intelligence like that.

I doubt very much we have had -- ever had a Democratic or Republican president who's disregarded intelligence the way this president has.

TAPPER: Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, thank you so much, sir. Appreciate your time.

BENNET: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the new CNN reporting that could further undermine President Trump's justification for taking out Iran's top general when he did.

Stay with us.

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[16:59:25]

TAPPER: When intelligence is replaced by beliefs.

THE LEAD starts right now.

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Plus, breaking today, the Justice Department saying that a Saudi national who opened fire at a military base and killed innocent Americans was a terrorist.

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