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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Revenge Tour?; Democratic Race Intensifies Ahead of New Hampshire Primary. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 10, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:05]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It is the first primary of the 2020 race. Could it also be someone's last primary?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Live free or die. In just a few hours, New Hampshire voters will get their say in the presidential contest, as the leading Democrats attack one another about who is best to trounce Trump.

From a Friday night massacre to a Twitter meltdown, President Trump now insulting senators who dared cross him in the impeachment trial. One of them, Democrat Joe Manchin, is here to respond, as another senator remains firmly planted on the president's good side.

Senator Lindsey Graham attacking impeachment witnesses as part of a conspiracy and pushing the dirt Giuliani's bringing from Ukraine.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're just hours away from the first votes in the first-in-the-nation primary.

And that's our 2020 lead today.

This afternoon, Senator Bernie Sanders from neighboring Vermont and Pete Buttigieg officially called for a recanvass in parts of Iowa, as they fight for a decisive win in New Hampshire.

Today, Sanders unleashing new attacks against Buttigieg, who he clearly sees as his main competition in the Granite State, and suggested Buttigieg is getting his campaign advice from his wealthy donors.

The former South Bend mayor hit back, accusing Sanders of being divisive and unable to unite the party.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is launching his own attacks, hoping to avoid another really underwhelming finish.

But, as CNN's Ryan Nobles reports for us now, Biden's campaign now seems to be lowering expectations even lower than they already were.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sprint is on in New Hampshire.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to have to bring our party together in order to beat Donald Trump.

NOBLES: The Democratic candidates in a mad dash across the state, making their final pitch to voters and opening new lines of attacks on their rivals.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's a good guy. He's a great mayor. But guess what? He was a mayor.

NOBLES: Former Vice President Joe Biden downplaying the experience of former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

BIDEN: Come on, man. You think -- these guys -- this guy's not a Barack Obama.

NOBLES: Buttigieg quickly firing back on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he's right. I'm not, and neither is he.

NOBLES: But it's not just Biden.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The message of this campaign is us, not me.

NOBLES: Senator Bernie Sanders is attempting to hold off a Buttigieg surge by knocking the wealthy donors funding the former mayor's campaign.

SANDERS: You can see candidates conferring with their donors. You are my donors.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: We don't go to rich people's homes and get advice from millionaires and billionaires.

For his part, Buttigieg knocking Sanders for being too divisive.

BUTTIGIEG: This is a moment for bringing as many people as we can into the picture. But a picture where your only choices are between a revolution or the status quo is a picture where most of us don't see ourselves.

NOBLES: The Sanders-Buttigieg matchup here coming on the heels of their razor-thin contest in Iowa, where the final outcome remains unresolved.

The Iowa Democratic Party released results Sunday that show Buttigieg earning 14 national delegates to Sanders' 12. Today, both the Sanders and Buttigieg campaigns each filed a formal request with the state party for a partial recanvass of precincts they believe were calculated incorrectly.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us. I think having some experience is a good thing.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOBLES: And while the leading contenders battle it out, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, hoping to capitalize on her strong debate performance, raking in more than $3 million since Friday night.

KLOBUCHAR: If you are someone that has to make that decision about filling your refrigerator with food or filling a prescription, I know you and I will fight for you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: And in an event that just wrapped up here behind me in Hudson, Senator Bernie Sanders continuing to keep the pressure on Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden and their wealthy donor base.

And now Sanders using it as a way to raise money himself, sending out an e-mail solicitation to his supporters, telling them he needs all the money he can get to keep up with the super PACs supporting his two biggest rivals in this race right now -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's chat about this.

Hilary Rosen, you're the Democrat at the table.

Let me ask you, who has the most to lose here today?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: In tomorrow's vote?

TAPPER: Yes, in tomorrow's vote in New Hampshire.

ROSEN: Well, Elizabeth Warren really, because it's her next-door neighbor.

And throughout this campaign, what she and reporters and pundits have been talking about is New Hampshire is her spot. Iowa was always Bernie's. South Carolina was always going to be Biden's, and New Hampshire was supposed to be Elizabeth's.

So I do think that she has more pressure than anybody else.

TAPPER: And do you think, Toluse, if Biden comes in third or even fourth or fifth, he can keep going? I mean, he's been long talking about how South Carolina, with its large African-American vote, is his, not to mention the Super Tuesday states.

[16:05:02]

Not a big deal if he comes in fourth or fifth? TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The problem for Biden is that he needs to continue raising funds and being able to fund-raise his campaign.

And South Carolina looks further and further away when you start burning through the cash that you have on hand.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: He has enough money to get through South Carolina. He has enough money to get past Nevada and to South Carolina. That is going to be his -- either his firewall or his burning building.

I mean, it's going to be one or the other, because -- and I think whether or not the African-American vote holds with him, whether or not middle-class voters hold with him, I think that's going to be the test and his supporters will stick with him through South...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And, Jackie, just take a look.

Biden's deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, seemed to be lowering expectations today, saying -- quote -- "Regardless of what happens tomorrow night, we're going to continue with our -- on with our plan to compete hard in Nevada, South Carolina, Super Tuesday and beyond."

Still, I have to say, like, if he comes in fifth behind Sanders, Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, that's really -- it hasn't happened yet, but that would be really bad.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And all of these -- Biden's base is watching this.

Those African-American voters that he has pinned his hopes on are watching this. We have already seen it in this national Quinnipiac poll that came out today, where you're seeing Bloomberg getting a second look, Bernie Sanders starting to peel away some of that support that had been so rock-solid through this process for Joe Biden.

Momentum matters. And Joe Biden himself tried to downplay what was going to happen in New Hampshire during the New Hampshire debates.

TAPPER: Yes.

KUCINICH: And you can do that, but those results do matter in how people are -- when they're picking a winner.

TAPPER: But if Sanders comes close to winning and Iowan wins the popular vote there -- he's just a couple delegates behind right now -- and then he goes on to win New Hampshire, I mean, that's a pretty strong start. I mean, how do Democrats who don't want him to be the nominee stop him?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they're going to need to collapse the field into a choice between the progressive left and a more moderate candidate.

That always seems like it was going to be the choice for Democrats. And I just -- as a Republican at the table, I just look at this and wonder, is electability the most important thing in a general election? Because if you believe that, you would learn the lessons from the 2018 midterm elections, where moderate Democrats be Republicans in red areas.

And to me, that naturally speaks to someone like Pete Buttigieg, certainly not Bernie Sanders. And I can tell you, I see more Republicans willing than ever to give Democrats a look, a moderate Democrat a chance.

But if the Democrats say, we're going to go for it with Bernie Sanders, you are leaving all that potential support behind.

ROSEN: Amanda raises an interesting point, which Democrats are struggling with, which is, is 2016 our model or is 2018 our model?

In '16, the view was, the base didn't get excited enough about Hillary Clinton, and therefore didn't turn out. And so this -- Bernie Sanders' line is like, vote for me. I'm going to excite the base.

In 2018, it was about ideology.

My sense is, these voters are actually not focused on ideology. They're very focused. This constant line we have about the moderate lane and the progressive lane -- I was in Iowa. I haven't been in New Hampshire.

People are not that focused on ideology. They're just focused on beating Donald Trump. And that calculation is actually different in every one of these key states that we're going to compete in.

TAPPER: And let's not sleep on Amy Klobuchar. I mean, Amy Klobuchar had a strong debate performance. Her campaign says she's raised more than $3 million just since Friday night's debate.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: She is surging, and it's a good time to be surging.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes.

She had that finish in Iowa, which was fourth place, kind of far behind the pack, but she was close -- very close to Joe Biden. She talked about how she did better than expectation. She came into New Hampshire with a bounce. And that debate performance seems to be sort of giving her a little bit more pep in her step.

And she could shock some people tomorrow night. We have already seen some movement in the polls. And if she does that, she could have a very strong argument for that moderate lane, where she can compete with Pete Buttigieg, someone that she has contrasted herself in terms of her record and how much she's been able to get done.

It's a very favorable argument for her. And it could help her in trying to take up that lane.

TAPPER: Amanda...

KUCINICH: She certainly has the most to gain.

TAPPER: Yes.

Amanda, as the Trump-skeptical Republican whose mind is open to potentially voting for a Democrat, but not Bernie Sanders, it sounds like, who do you prefer of -- not that this is how Democrats should pick their candidates, but I'm just curious, who do you prefer between Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Biden, who are three kind of in this moderate so-called lane?

CARPENTER: I mean, honestly, probably Pete Buttigieg, because he speaks in a way that I think is respectful to Republican views.

I mean, that's a big thing. And I think about the contrast between someone like him and Donald Trump, who -- Donald Trump, I agree with a lot of his policies, but, man, you get out of line and he is in your face.

I feel like people could have a conversation with Pete Buttigieg. And we may not come to the same conclusions, but he would be willing to hear a Republican out in a way that I think Donald Trump doesn't.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got lots more to talk about.

Proof that President Trump does not listen to anyone, not even the Republican senators who had his back in the impeachment inquiry -- that story next.

[16:10:02]

Then: It's one of the largest hacks ever, exposing the personal information of hundreds of millions of people. And now we're learning who may have been behind the Equifax hack.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our politics lead today: President Trump can't quit Mitt.

Earlier today, the president spoke with the nation's governors. And here's what he had to say to Utah Governor Gary Herbert about Utah Senator Mitt Romney, the lone Republican in the Senate who voted to remove the president:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How's Mitt Romney?

You keep him.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: We don't want him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump on his vengeance tour, after getting acquitted and firing two key impeachment witnesses from their administration jobs, as well as the brother of one of the witnesses.

And, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, the president may just be getting warmed up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:15:03]

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, the White House is standing by the abrupt firing of two key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: They weren't fired. They were moved back to their original jobs.

COLLINS: President Trump has continued his streak of vengeance, claiming Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman deserved to be fired because of the poor reviews while in the National Security Council, though his attorneys called that obviously false. CNN has learned that before they were let go, both Vindman and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland were quietly planning to leave the administration, but Trump didn't want them going quietly and fired them instead.

Officials still claimed it wasn't retaliation.

CONWAY: If the president wants to retaliate because of the testimony -- that testimony happened, was it in November or December, it's quite a while ago now.

COLLINS: In light of the firings, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today called on the nation's inspectors general to protect whistle-blowers, telling the Pentagon Vindman was viciously attacked for bravely stepping forward to tell the truth.

The president is still lashing out at those he can't fire, continuing his onslaught against Utah Senator Mitt Romney who broke with the party and voted for impeachment.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How's Mitt Romney. You keep him. You don't want him.

COLLINS: Today, Trump also touted his administration's $4.8 trillion budget proposal that features major cuts in eligibility changes in federal safety net program like Medicaid, food stamps and disability claims while boosting military spending.

TRUMP: We're -- we're going to have a very good budget with a very powerful military budget, because we have no choice. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, of course, Jake, that budget is largely meaningless. It's a political document. It's not actually going to go anywhere, but this comes as the president is going to have his first rally here in New Hampshire tonight since he was acquitted. Of course, this is the first state that actually gave the president a big victory in 2016. And we're being told by officials to expect him to make impeachment a cornerstone of his 2020 pitch to voters and expect him to be unrestrained tonight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins with the Wings, "Live and Let Die" playing behind her. Thank you so much.

Let's chat about this.

So, Toluse, there is this push, this spin by Trump people that, oh, no, he didn't fire anybody, they were on their way out anyway. But right after President Trump fired Sondland and had Vindman reassigned from the National Security Council, his son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted this: Allow me a moment to thank -- and this maybe a bit of a surprise -- Adam Schiff. Were it not for his crack investigative skills, President Trump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired. Thanks, Adam.

So, I mean, it was pretty clear what this was all about.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, this is sort of the Trump two-step where he tweets something that maybe a little bit ambiguous, that most people know what he's talking about. And then his administration officials come out and say, no, he's not actually -- he doesn't actually mean that, he means something different, and then eventually either the president or someone close to him spills the beans and says, actually, yes, this is what I meant.

And I think it's pretty clear to anyone who's watching is that the president was waiting for his acquittal, to get rid of and to target people he thought were disloyal, even targeting the brother of a witness who no one in the White House has said, why he was marched out of the White House, the brother of Alexander Vindman, someone who is not testifying, who is not part of this Ukraine scandal in any major way. He was marched out of the White House unceremoniously, even though he's a veteran as well.

So, this is clear the president is on a revenge tour and as Kaitlan said, there's a sense more people could get caught up in this as well.

TAPPER: And --

CARPENTER: Let me say a word about John Bolton. John Bolton ha left so many people in this administration out to dry by just hiding in silence. He was the one who told people like Fiona Hill to go talk to the lawyers when they saw wrongdoing. There were people at OMB who resigned over the Ukraine hold.

You know, Vindman, he testified to Congress, he was subpoenaed. He was performing his duty, and meanwhile, John Bolton is out there waiting to sell a book, apparently. At some point, you know, I expect Senate Republicans not to do anything, but John Bolton seems to know better and he's still keeping his mouth shut letting it happen.

TAPPER: And there has been a campaign on the president's channel to smear Vindman, to go after Vindman, to insult him with gossip and all sorts of smears. So, it's not just enough that he's being reassigned from the National Security Council to some sort of Pentagon job. They're also looking to destroy his reputation.

KUCINICH: Well, they started that on the dais during the -- during his testimony. You saw the exact same thing happen to Marie Yovanovitch and her pushing back on it and other diplomats, saying, how could you do this to someone that's been a long public servant? And you're hearing that again for Vindman and that community.

Now, whether it matters to Trump supporters, it doesn't. It doesn't. And this is -- but this is a new -- this is a part of the Trump era, this slander of the enemies after the fact.

ROSEN: The Trump supporters are not my audience for this message, though, right? And I agree with you about John Bolton. But, you know, just like those attacks on John McCain prior to the 2018 election really bothered those suburban women in Philadelphia, attacking Colonel Vindman, attacking --

[16:20:12]

TAPPER: Mitt Romney --

ROSEN: Mitt Romney -- I mean, Romney's not the hero that John -- war hero that John McCain was, but he's a patriot and I think people see him that way. I don't think this is going play well. I don't think that this is ongoing. I don't think people care about a Portland developer in Gordon Sondland, but I think attacking men in uniform, attacking senators for doing their jobs, I don't think that's not going do well.

And I think that we should focus less on whether or not people will punish Donald Trump for it and more about how this becomes part of that story.

KUCINICH: But this keeps more people silent, who might come out. This has an intimidation chilling effect that is going to perhaps other people who might want to come forward.

TAPPER: Other potential whistle-blowers.

KUCINICH: Yes, exactly.

TAPPER: And the Republican senators were sending a message to Trump, don't fire Gordon Sondland. He's going leave in a month anyway. And, of course, that's not what happened.

I do want to play this sound. Senator Mitt Romney facing backlash. Here is Matt Schlapp, the chairman of Conservative Political Action Conference talking about Romney not being invited to the CPAC conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT SCHLAPP, CPAC CHAIRMAN: We won't credential him as a conservative. I supposed if he wants to come as a non-conservative and debate an issue with us, maybe in the future we would have him come. This year, I'd actually be afraid for his physical safety, people are so mad at him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Afraid for his physical safety? You've been to CPAC. I've been to CPAC.

CARPENTER: Yes, the first time I came to Washington was to attend CPAC. It was a formative, wonderful experience for me. And this is just bizarro land. Number one, Mitt Romney doesn't want to come to CPAC, you got that Matt Schlapp. Like I don't think he's going to expect an invitation from you ever and he shouldn't because you won't even guarantee his physical safety. So, let's start there.

TAPPER: But what does that even mean?

CARPENTER: It's weird.

TAPPER: The CPAC attendees, they're going to hurt Senator Romney? And there is -- is it a threat? Is he just stating the obvious? Our conservative attendees can't be trusted.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: That was for an audience of one, that speech, right? What he just said on TV.

TAPPER: It's for Trump?

ROSEN: It was for an audience of one, it was for Donald Trump. It was -- you -- I can be a bully. I can be your bully too. You know, you're not the only bully here. We all can be your bully -- and I think that that, you know, is very transparent and I don't think it goes over well in coming November.

I think that Jackie made the right point, though, earlier, which is, we still have a long way to go with this presidency. A year can be a long time. You can do a lot of damage. If whistle-blowers do not feel safe to come forward, and if Congress is not able the protect them, if the inspector generals are not able to protect them, if they have to worry about things like Donald Trump outing him and his friends in the Senate outing them, that's a problem.

TAPPER: I mean, whistleblowers not feeling safe. He's talking about U.S. senators not feeling safe going into CPAC.

CARPENTER: His event.

TAPPER: I mean, his own event. We're a strange time. President Trump attacked him on Twitter, called him names, implied

he's not good on reading comprehension thing. But Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he still likes the president. The senator will join us live to explain next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:03]

TAPPER: Today begins the first full week of the post-impeachment Trump presidency. But President Trump is still stewing, firing two key impeachment witnesses from their administration jobs and lashing out on Twitter and in speeches.

Joining me now is one subject of these attacks, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Senator, it's good too see you as always.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Great to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: In recent days, the president has tweeted about you a couple of times, calling Joe Munchkin, insulting you, suggesting you wouldn't be able to understand the transcript of that infamous July 25th phone call with President Zelensky.

Why do you think your vote in particular has struck such a nerve with President Trump?

MANCHIN: Well, let's first start. The name-calling, basically, munchkin, I guess that -- I guess he's confused on that because I am a little bit bigger than him, he's got me about 30 pounds on weight, but I'm a little taller than him, so that -- that shouldn't be --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: So, you're not a munchkin.

MANCHIN: I'm not a munchkin.

TAPPER: Fact-check true, OK.

MANCHIN: The other is, is that I think, if you look, I voted with the president and with bipartisan ways more than anybody, Jake, 56 percent of the time.

So, for me to say, Mr. President, this is wrong. This is wrong, you can't do this. You can't use a rogue proxy such as Giuliani with our national policy and threaten a poor nation that's trying to defend itself.

Here's a superpower of the world, the most powerful person, the president of the United States, calling the most inexperienced leader, Jake, and saying, hey, by the way, can you get involve in the our politics here to help us a little bit and do something?

Corruption -- fighting corruption is fine, but not going as far as they went with it. So, I think that's when I was -- that took me over the top quicker than anything.

TAPPER: You spent the weekend in West Virginia, your home state.

MANCHIN: Yes.

TAPPER: President Trump has said that West Virginians are furious at you. Are they?

MANCHIN: Well, there some are always going to be. I mean, this is part of the game. You know, when you divide the country up the way he has -- and I would say, Mr. Trump, you don't need to be a chief -- a uniter -- divider in chief. He needs to be a uniter in chief. He needs to be the head uniter for our country.

So, the country is split right now. So, there are people that get upset. I explain to them, I've always said --

[16:30:00]