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Iowa Voters Caucus Tonight; GOP Senators on Trump's Actions; Trump Congratulates Wrong State; Jill Biden is Interviewed about the Campaign. Aired 7:00-7:30a ET

Aired February 3, 2020 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He doesn't watch cable news, doesn't pay attention to the stock market, which even a passing glance at his Twitter feed would tell you isn't true.

And with a track record like that, no one should be surprised that when this president says he's innocent, he isn't telling the truth. So it's no surprise he tried to block all witnesses and evidence in congressional investigations, even before Ukraine. Heck, hours after the Senate voted to block new evidence, his administration admitted that it had been hiding two dozen emails detailing the president's role in the (INAUDIBLE). This isn't a credibility gap, it's a chasm. And, still, many Republicans seem afraid to say the obvious, let alone clearly condemn.

Here's Iowa's Joni Ernst on "State of the Union."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think it was inappropriate and wrong?

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): I think ferreting out corruption is absolutely the right thing to do. Now, if he was tying it to other things, that's the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But if the president actually cared about corruption, he wouldn't have tried to cut the budget to combat corruption by billions, including a 56 percent cut for Ukraine, wouldn't have called the global anti-bribery law horrible, and he would have started calling out Joe Biden before he made his (INAUDIBLE) official.

So to answer Senator Grassley's question, it's still not OK to lie because a president does it and it's not OK to normalize those lies just because he's a president from your political party.

And that's your "Reality Check."

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, thank you very much for a reminder of those things. All right, we are beginning a huge historic week.

NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, brought to you this morning by Shakira. I'm coming to you live from the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Alisyn is back in New York disgusted with me.

It is on, finally. The Iowa caucuses now just 13 hours away. Actual, real-life voters will cast actual, real-life votes for president. And in the Democratic race, there are so many possible outcomes. Is Bernie Sanders really surging? Will Joe Biden exceed the expectations that his campaign is very intentionally setting very low this morning? Will the Elizabeth Warren organization deliver the voters that they have counted and courted for months and months? We will finally know within just a few hours.

CAMEROTA: And, John, President Trump has one Democratic candidate on his mind. And this one is not even on the ballot in Iowa. The president is belittling former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Twitter and Bloomberg is not holding back in fighting back.

President Trump's impeachment trial is expected to wrap up this week. Closing arguments will begin today with the final vote to likely acquit the president on Wednesday.

This weekend, more Senate Republicans admitted the president's actions were wrong and bad but they still do not plan to vote guilty.

BERMAN: All right, Alisyn.

So, joining us now to talk about the caucus, which, as I said, just 13 hours away, CNN political analyst Mark Preston, CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein, and CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip.

And, friends, I want to give people a flavor of what the closing arguments have been over the last 24 hours from these candidates as they have campaigned across the state of Iowa.

So listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can be timid or we can fight back. Me, I'm fighting back. That's why I'm here.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We choose unity over division. And we choose truth over lies.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I certainly think that I am better positioned to beat Donald Trump than any of my competitors. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: if believe that

our campaign is the campaign that can bring millions of people into the political process who normally do not vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It's become almost cliche at this point, Abby, but the candidates are focused on electability, trying to make the case that he or she is the best candidate to beat Donald Trump. And the voters, when you go to these rallies, or these community town halls, that is what they are obsessed with when they're making their choice. They want to make sure whatever choice they make, that candidate can beat Donald Trump.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and they are so, so torn about this by and large. And I think there -- there are really divergent opinions and you saw it in those closing arguments, even from the candidates, about what it will take. So you see Elizabeth Warren saying we've got to fight, fight, fight. And then you have, on the other side, candidates like Klobuchar and Buttigieg saying, you know, actually what we need to do is take a completely different approach to politics, bring people together around a message of unity.

And so I think even the voters are grappling with these differing messages and wondering for themselves, what do we really need in November? And they're seeing a lot of different options. And, frankly, I think a lot of people are planning to walk into the room, caucus -- into the caucus room later tonight and they're going to decide largely based on their gut. They're going to go with what they -- what they're feeling in that moment.

[07:05:01]

And I spoke to so many people, even people who felt like they knew what they were going to do who said, you know, it's possible I might change my mind.

BERMAN: Look, I think people should also know what the buzz here is in Des Moines, Mark.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BERMAN: And when you talk to the campaigns, the sense is that the Sanders campaign is surging or is doing well and feels very confident and isn't --

PRESTON: They are.

BERMAN: Reluctant to tell you how confident they feel.

PRESTON: Right.

BERMAN: And the Biden campaign is setting lower expectations.

PRESTON: Yes, well, they certainly are. And it all comes down to the path of this all, right? So Bernie Sanders sees Iowa as a place that he can win. Some would argue that he actually won it four years ago and it wasn't Hillary Clinton. That's still up for debate.

But regardless of that, he has hit at a time right now where he's moving on all cylinders, right? He's doing it nationally. We're seeing it here in Iowa as well.

At the same time, Joe Biden, who has always looked at South Carolina at his firewall, because he is such -- does so well with African- American voters, which dominate that, as well as Hispanics, he's hoping, out in Nevada. So we're seeing the expectations game playing. And as the Sanders campaign is rising and the Biden campaign is at least flat-lining a little bit, they have to try to protect themselves by saying this is a marathon, this is not a sprint.

BERMAN: So hot off the presses --

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: Ron Brownstein, an article from you this morning.

BROWNSTEIN: Actual paper.

BERMAN: Actual paper.

BROWNSTEIN: I haven't seen that in a while.

BERMAN: 2020 Democrats are bringing butter knives to a gun fight.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. To me the most important thing that has happened this week is what didn't happen. As you're talking about, Mark, Bernie Sanders is surging and none of the other candidates have directly challenged him. I mean, in effect, I think the Biden campaign in particular has made a very cold-eyed judgment that if they go after Sanders here, they would increase the odds that Buttigieg or Warren would step through the wreckage to win. And they believe that is ultimately a bigger threat to them than Sanders is.

And the other candidates are making a calculation that by allowing Sanders in effect to rise without more direct challenge, for example, the cost of his agenda, which could be $60 trillion over the next decade, doubling the size of the federal budget, something we've never done in peace time, they are basically saying they believe in the end he cannot get quite big enough to win as last time.

That could be -- very well be a case of beware of what you wish for. But the choice by the other candidates not to go after the person who has surged into the lead really makes this a different -- I quote Jeff Link (ph), who's a local strategist of saying, this is a pillow fight compared to previous Iowa caucuses. We'll see if that lasts till tomorrow. I know Mr. Preston does not think it will. But the fact is this past week has been unusually placid.

PHILLIP: And when Pete Buttigieg did decide to go after both Biden and Bernie Sanders, it was after a long, long, long period of time in which we were asking him day after day, you know, will you make these critiques that you've been alluding to in your campaign stump? And it lasted for about two or three days. BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

PHILLIP: And then by yesterday he was back to just vaguely mentioning some of these contrasts between the other candidates. So it just goes to show, there is so much nervousness. But I think that's particularly true here in Iowa where there's nervousness about whether Iowa voters have the stomach for a knife fight. I'm not sure --

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

PHILLIP: I think a lot of the candidates are not sure (INAUDIBLE).

BROWNSTEIN: 2004, of course, is the precedent, where at the end --

BERMAN: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean went hammer and tong and John Kerry kind of walked through the wreckage to win.

PRESTON: But who is ready for a knife fight is where John and I are from, in New England, right?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

PRESTON: And when we cross this threshold tonight from Iowa and get ourselves into New Hampshire, things are going to be a lot different I believe.

BERMAN: Yes, it turns out that all the smiles in Iowa, you won't see them in New Hampshire.

PRESTON: No, no, no, no. It's a little more gritty in New Hampshire.

BERMAN: And the other thing that happens is when you leave Iowa and you go to New Hampshire, there are by definition several campaigns that just lost and all of a sudden they're quite angry about it.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Right.

PRESTON: Exactly.

BROWNSTEIN: And they're not only angry. I mean the history -- look, in this century, we've had four contested Democratic presidential contests, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2016. Out of those four, the total number of states won by candidates who did not first win Iowa or New Hampshire is five. Out of 200.

So, you know, the candidates believe that this is different this year, that you have time to grow. Iowa and New Hampshire won't win -- winnow as savagely as in the past. But we will see -- whether that -- if you're Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders finishes ahead of you here and ahead of you in New Hampshire, how do you then get past him to be the champion of the progressive wing?

BERMAN: And if he wins in Nevada, which is a state he did very well in four years ago, it could very well be that Bernie Sanders -- and, look, we don't know, anything could happen tonight, but Bernie Sanders could go three for three in the first three contests.

PRESTON: Oh, no question.

PHILLIP: You know, one of the interesting different things to me about this cycle is that you have a divergence in the candidates not just about their politics and their demeanor, but also how they're raising money.

I personally think, when we come out of Iowa and New Hampshire, those races are going to be really critical for the people who are raising money in traditional ways. The candidates who are not, like Warren and Bernie, are going to have a little bit more leg room potentially to keep going.

PRESTON: I agree.

PHILLIP: Even if they don't come out of here with a huge bump --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

PHILLIP: Because they're not raising money from donors who are going to bolt the minute that they see a sense of weakness. So that's a little bit of a different dynamic.

BROWNSTEIN: You can hold -- you can hold -- you can hold that fundraising through the online.

[07:10:02]

The question is, if you're third and fourth and third and fourth, will voters in the later states treat you as viable? I mean that is the -- kind of the wasting asset, the diminishing asset.

BERMAN: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: The viability with voters.

PHILLIP: And I don't think that they will because in this cycle voters are so pragmatic across the board. The Democrats are just looking to see who's strong, who's strong. So if you're coming out looking strong in Iowa and New Hampshire, you're going to be OK. If you're not, I think you're going to have some real problems.

BERMAN: And people need to look at not just the winner tonight, look at one through four, maybe even one through five. Look at the margins and assess there.

PRESTON: Right.

BERMAN: I want to turn a little bit of a corner here to a candidate who's not running in Iowa. And that would be Michael Bloomberg who will not run out of money.

PRESTON: Right.

BERMAN: Not now. Not ever for the foreseeable three millennia. He has had a back and forth with President Trump. I think by choice.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BERMAN: I think Michael Bloomberg has been trying to get a rise out of President Trump. But it worked completely. The president's obsessed with Michael Bloomberg.

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

BERMAN: Talking about how tall Michael Bloomberg is in a pre-Super Bowl interview.

I was struck by how the Bloomberg campaign responded. I want you to listen to Tim O'Brien, who sort of went nuclear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM O'BRIEN, SENIOR ADVISOR, BLOOMBERG 2020 CAMPAIGN: And what I've said to people is when you get inside Donald Trump's head, all you're going to discover that you find there is a putter, a cheeseburger, a porn video, and somebody else's credit card.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh.

O'BRIEN: And we're more than happy to occupy that space and see him on a debate stage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Wow.

PRESTON: OK. OK. But -- this goes to my point that here comes the knife fight right now.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

PRESTON: So Bloomberg, you know, who is not necessarily beloved by the left, left, left --

BROWNSTEIN: Exactly.

PRESTON: Right, is trying to telegraph to them, I'm the one who can take on Donald Trump. I'm the one who can take him down.

BROWNSTEIN: I think that's exactly right. I mean Bloomberg knows that a lot of Democrats are going to question his Democratic bonafides and whether he's a legitimate nominee for this party.

PRESTON: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: He has tried to respond to that with his advertising against Trump and promising that he'll keep going against Trump, even if he's not the nominee.

PRESTON: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: And that's another example of that.

I mean, to me, like the question is, is there room, you know, ultimately, for Bloomberg after these early contests? It is possible we'll have four or even five candidates in double digits tonight in Iowa in the state delegate equivalence. We've only had four once before. Only one Iowa caucus, 2004, we've never had five. And I think if that does happen, it will be a reflection of the fact that no one is really building a coalition that spans the party. They're all operating in little -- not little but there are distinct niches. And if that is the case, can Bloomberg find a niche of his own starting on Super Tuesday?

BERMAN: Thirteen hours from now, Democratic voters here in Iowa begin the voting progress. It will no longer be hypothetical after tonight.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BERMAN: And that's wonderful.

Abby, Mark, Ron, great to have you all here this morning.

Senate Republicans poised to acquit President Trump this week despite a growing number of them now saying his actions in Ukraine were inappropriate. Can they really have it both ways? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:17:03]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Closing arguments begin today in President Trump's impeachment trial. Republican senators are defending their decision to block witnesses in the trial, even though many concede that the president's actions were wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): I think he shouldn't have done it. I think it was wrong. Inappropriate was the way I'd say, improper, crossing the line. And then the only question left is, who decides what to do about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, who decides what to do about that?

ALEXANDER: The people. The people is my conclusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, let's talk about this.

Joining us now we have CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart, he was President Clinton's White House press secretary, and CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

Great to see both of you. OK, so many Republicans are saying it was wrong to freeze taxpayer money for a personal, political favor to extract from a foreign government. But when you ask them what the Senate is going to do about it in terms of punishment or holding the president accountable, I want to play again Senator Lamar Alexander's response.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you at all concerned, though, when you seek foreign interference, he does not believe he's done anything wrong, that what has happened here might encourage him that he can continue to do this?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): I don't think so. I hope not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Joe, the I hope not strategy. The fingers crossed plan for how to make sure this doesn't happen again in the future. How's that going to go?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think the kindest way to describe Republican -- the narrative yesterday coming from Republicans is tortured. They're stuck. They, you know, they did the president's bidding by denying the witnesses and making sure that this wasn't a fair and full trial. But now they're trying to have it both ways by saying, well, we think he did something wrong.

Well, on the issue which is the only remaining issue of will he do it again, the president's on the record. The president told George Stephanopoulos, yes, I'd take a look at anything that came in. The president was on the South Lawn, as Kaitlan, you know, can tell you, saying we ought to -- you know, China, why don't you get involved?

So it's ridiculous on its face to make the argument that we hope he won't do it again. And they, again, you know, Lamar Alexander is someone who built a strong reputation in Washington as someone who could reach across the aisle, was a serious guy, and has done an enormous amount of damage to that reputation, once again, to carry the water for Donald Trump, who seems oblivious to the fact that he did something wrong.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, what's the feeling in the White House about all of this? About if the president has gotten the message that senators do think it was bad and do think it was wrong and is he going to bring up -- is he going to bring up impeachment at State of the Union?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is still the question that we have not gotten an answer to. And the president was even asked it yesterday but he said he's not going to delay that address at all, even though his acquittal vote is not coming until Wednesday.

[07:20:05] Something White House officials pushed pretty hard for last week to have that vote by tomorrow at the latest because they did want the president to walk into the House chamber as an acquitted president. And, of course, he's not going to get that now.

But as far as who you're talking to in the White House about what the outcome of this is going to look like, there are aides and staffers inside the White House who say, yes, they say what essentially people like Senator Alexander, Joni Ernst, these people are saying that what the president did was wrong, he shouldn't have done it.

But the president himself does not feel that way. He doesn't -- he's not walking away from this based on the people we've spoken with who have spoken with the president, with some profound lesson that he did do something wrong because he truly doesn't think he did. He thinks it's just the Democrats coming after him. It's just -- they were unsuccessful with the Mueller investigation in his eyes, so he feels like they took this avenue instead. He's not walking away from this thinking that it is because of something he did.

CAMEROTA: Joe, the president had to delete a tweet last night because it doesn't appear that he knows that much of Kansas City is in Missouri. So the president of the United States doesn't know U.S. geography I guess is what we conclude from this.

LOCKHART: Yes, you know, again, I think a lot of people might have made that mistake. Well, maybe some people.

CAMEROTA: But they're not the president of the United States.

LOCKHART: But they're not the president of the United States. And there is -- you know, there is just some -- there's some disconnect between the president and reality. And, you know, my -- when I read that and I saw it and laughed, and it hit me what his motivation was.

And that, to me, is more interesting. He was so quick to try to disrespect California because the 49ers lost that he put out this tweet. And it's like, you know, when he took a Sharpie to, you know, the southeast of the United States and said, here's where the hurricane is. It's just -- he believes that reality is something that he shapes rather than something he reacts to.

And you see that, you know, there's probably 30 to 35 percent of the country this morning who now believes that the Kansas City Chiefs play football in Kansas City, Kansas. And that's part of the problem we have in our country right now.

CAMEROTA: The president believes he can shift reality with a Sharpie. I mean I think that that is, you know, what -- that, obviously on Twitter people are having fun with that.

But, Kaitlan, Secretary of State Pompeo fancies himself a professor of geography. Perhaps he has a map he'd like to roll out right now. How is this going over in the White House.

COLLINS: Yes, there were a lot of jokes about that. I don't think people in the White House take this too seriously. I think it -- this is actually kind of a common mistake. Not common, of course, if you live in Kansas or Missouri and you know that line very well that is drawn down the middle there. And, of course, it's a big rivalry with their sports, so they would not make this mistake. But I don't think it's going to be anything that has any kind of lasting effect on the president. I think Trump voters in Missouri are not going to be too upset over this.

CAMEROTA: No, agreed. And I'm not trying to suggest that voters will care. This is obviously not a kitchen table issue. But the president of the United States doesn't know where Kansas City -- I mean doesn't know that Kansas City straddles two states.

But let's leave it there.

Kaitlan, Joe, thank you both very much.

The Iowa caucuses are the first real test this election year, as John Berman can tell us, since he's in Iowa.

Hi, John.

BERMAN: I mean I could -- I could if you let me tell you extensively --

CAMEROTA: I'm going to let you in now.

BERMAN: That the Iowa caucuses are tonight. Less than 13 hours from now the voters will show up to their gymnasium, to those classrooms, to those caucus sites and they will cast actual votes. Up next, we're going to speak with the wife of former Vice President Joe Biden about the Biden campaign and what's next for them. Dr. Jill Biden joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:27:48]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people of Iowa tomorrow, tomorrow night when they caucus, can hold Trump accountable, causing the candidate he's trying to destroy with his smears and his lies to get to say the word which Trump fears the most, we're going to caucus for Joe Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Former vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, promising a future of unity to voters in Iowa. The first contest in this historic primary season just hours away.

Joining me now is Jill Biden, the wife of the former vice president.

Great to have you here. Thanks for joining us on the set here at Drake University. JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Thank you.

Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right, you're a big part of the Biden campaign. What does the Biden campaign need out of the Iowa caucuses tonight?

BIDEN: Well, we're going to win. We're going to win the Iowa caucuses. And then we're going to go on and we're going to win New Hampshire and Nevada and South Carolina. We're going -- we're moving forward.

BERMAN: That's a very different message than your husband is sending on a conference call yesterday suggesting, yes, I don't know, it's a tossup. I don't know. And the campaign, as you well know, is suggesting, you don't need to win here in Iowa, you just need to finish strong.

BIDEN: Well, that's true. I mean, win or finish strong, we are moving forward.

BERMAN: Why is Iowa a challenging state for the former vice president to run in?

BIDEN: Well, I -- it's not challenging, it's just -- it's hard to get around. I mean I've been traveling this state for weeks and months and it's hard to get to all 99 counties. But we keep trying and I've been to a lot of rural America, talked to a lot of Iowans, heard their -- what's on their hearts, what's on their minds. And I take my stories back to Joe. And, you know, we're going to -- we're going to work for rural Iowa.

BERMAN: No two states are alike, obviously, but Iowa, for instance, a lot less diverse than South Carolina --

BIDEN: That's right. Yes.

BERMAN: Where the former vice president has been polling very well. How does that affect things here?

BIDEN: Well, I mean, there isn't a lot of diversity, but, you know, Joe has a broad coalition of support. And we're going into every single community. Yesterday I went to an African-American church and, you know, that -- I mean the people there were just -- everybody was -- the service was so uplifting.

[07:30:05]

And then I traveled to rural Iowa and I talked to farmers.