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Axelrod: Bloomberg Ads Making It Seem Like Obama Endorsed Him; White House Cites Fox & TV Personalities In Trump's Pardon Spree; In A CNN Op-Ed, Nevada Voter Ed Lyngar Discusses How He Went from A Libertarian To A Bernie Sanders Supporter. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 19, 2020 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Michael Bloomberg is spending tens of millions of dollars on ads that specifically tout his relationship with former President Obama. Some of these ads go so far to give the impression that Obama has endorsed the former New York City mayor.

For instance, this.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's been a leader throughout the country the past 12 years, Mr. Michael Bloomberg.

At a time when Washington is divided by old ideological battles, he shows us what can be achieved when we bring people together to seek pragmatic solutions.


KEILAR: The only problem, besides the fact Obama hasn't endorsed anyone, is apparently Obama and Bloomberg are not so close as this ad would lead you to believe and never were.

Joe Biden is already calling out Bloomberg. He just tweeted this.



MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a health care bill that does absolutely nothing to fix the big health care problems in this country. It is a disgrace.


KEILAR: Clearly a dig there at Bloomberg's latest social media ads.

With now is veteran New York reporter, Errol Louis. He's an political anchor for "Spectrum News." Errol, put this relationship into context with us. Having spoken with

a former Obama insider, they kind of laugh at the portrayal in this ad, although they say it does really make it look like he's endorsing -- that Obama has endorsed Bloomberg, which he hasn't.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's interesting, Brianna. On one hand, it does look like an endorsement. On the other hand, if the president was really upset and his people were really truly upset, there's no way that ad would continue to run. They could have made enough noise that it would have slipped out of existence.

These are two professional politicians doing what professional politicians do. They seem to have an alliance, perhaps an alliance of convenience, mutual convenience.

But it is true they -- look, in 2008, Mike Bloomberg did not endorse Barack Obama for president. The following year, 2009, when Mike Bloomberg was running for his third term, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, did not endorse him.

They have found their way to common ground on a number of different issues. Again, there's a sort of political alliance that seems to be in place here. It might be a little shaky. And I can see how and why Joe Biden might want to shake that alliance a little bit.

KEILAR: As you said, if they wanted to disappear this ad or step in and make it clear this ad is not being honest, they could. You don't see the Obama camp doing that.

Do you think that is an admission that Biden is faltering? Right now, they have Bernie Sanders leading the pack. And they think Mike Bloomberg might actually be someone who could throw enough money at the problem to gain enough delegates, and that he could ultimately be successful. What do you think?

LOUIS: That's exactly right. Listen, there's love and loyalty in politics. But there's one rule that reigns above all the rest, which is that nobody has the right to ask you to back somebody who is going to lose.

If it is the assessment of the Obama team and the president himself, Joe Biden is not going anywhere, or maybe they want to see what happens after a few more contests, perhaps after Super Tuesday, then it would make sense to maybe spread one's bets a little bit, so to speak, and encourage some of the other stronger candidates.

The reality is you have an anti-establishment candidate in the form of Bernie Sanders. I'd be very surprised if the Obama folks and president himself ended up endorsing Bernie Sanders.

I don't know if Bernie Sanders would even want that endorsement frankly. He's running against the Democratic establishment. That's what Joe Biden represents. That's what President Obama represents.

Mike Bloomberg is trying to take a seat at the table. He laid down a pretty big bet to show that he's serious about trying to be at that table.

KEILAR: Indeed, a very large bet.

Errol Louis, thank you very much. Nice to see you.

LOUIS: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: President Trump is flexing his pardon power. Is the president getting his ideas on who he should pardon from TV personalities?


Plus, Pete Buttigieg firing back after Rush Limbaugh's homophobic attack on him last week. Hear what he has to say.



KEILAR: It's good to have the president's ear. If you want to get President Trump's undivided attention, there's one place to go, and that is FOX News. Many are using it as a powerful tool to get the president interested in a cause or a particular case.

A prime example, the Rod Blagojevich's commutation. The president even pointed an appearance on Fox News by Rod Blagojevich's wife when he announced his decision.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich. He served eight years in jail. It's a long time. I watched his wife on television.

I don't know him very well. I met him a couple times. He was on for a short while on "The Apprentice" years ago.

Many people disagree with the sentence. He is a Democrat. He's not a Republican.


KEILAR: Carl Cameron is with me now to discussed. He's a former FOX News chief political correspondent. And he is cofounder of

Carl, so great to have you on. Thank you so much.


KEILAR: Let's take a look at what has become this platform of FOX News for the president, really seeming to be the only way to get what you want from him.

These are some of the faces and voices who acted as advocates in one way or another, mostly on FOX for the people that President Trump has pardoned or commuted sentences for them. Guests like Rudy Giuliani, Christopher Rudy, Geraldo Rivers, who is a FOX News personality, who pushed for Bernie Kerik's pardon, convicted junk bond king, Michael Milken had Rupert Murdoch and FOX personality, Maria Bartiromo who were pushing for his pardon.

What do you make of this influence and how unprecedented it is?

CAMERON: It could be a two-way street. This could be people Trump had seen on the list and decided he wanted publicized on FOX News. And it may have been people who went to FOX News to use the venue in order to get to the president. As you saw, the president said, I saw it on news, on television. It was a FOX News interview that that happened. I suppose that's fair game.

But in the greater picture of all of this, this is a man now president, who promised as a candidate to drain the swamp.

Some of the crimes and some of the commutations and pardons he's offered are for people who have done damage to the American public, Medicare fraud, tax fraud, political corruption by trying to essentially extort money to fill Obama's seat in the case of Blagojevich, who has the wonderful distinction - in Illinois, they've had like six governors who have gone to jail.

KEILAR: Right.

CAMERON: He's the only one who has gone to jail and been impeached and removed from office, a big distinction.

All of these things hurt the American public and hurt our government. It speaks volumes that those would be the types of things that Trump would brush away as though there's not a lasting impact on that.

KEILAR: They're swamp monsters, right --


CAMERON: Yes. He's not draining it. He's deepening it.

KEILAR: These are very swampy folks that he is pardoning. How do you make sense with of this FOX News, I guess, echo chamber, that he's got going, how do you make sense then of why he's picking these folks?

CAMERON: I think it speaks more to his own sort of sense of ethics and business practices than anything else. This is a guy who claims to be the greatest businessman in the history of the United States of America.

We know, because of all the debt he wrote off, he's probably the worst businessman in that regard, and who plays loose and fast with the facts with the American people and with our election laws.

The idea he will make excuses and still keep perpetuating the notion that Ukraine was somehow behind what we know the Russians did is him again trying to bend the rules with a short-term political advantage, with his base only. And the rest of the world only and trying to figure out why the hell it's being allowed.

KEILAR: Do you think part of it is normalizing pardons? Roger Stone will be sentenced. There's the question now of Michael Flynn as well. Perhaps Rudy Giuliani could be in some deep water. Obviously, for the president, he wants to keep them on his side. Michael Flynn aside, he pleaded guilty.


KEILAR: But he wants to signal to people he has the currency --


KEILAR: -- to keep them out of trouble if they're on his side.

CAMERON: One of the things Trump has been incredibly gifted at is the life's blood of voter suppression, to make people think there's absolutely nothing to be done about it. That He has omnipotent power. Even if you bark to the moon, there's nothing that will stop him and get away with it.

It's not just normalizing it. It's deadening the sensitivities of American voters and communities because there's a sense of hopelessness because of how outrageous he can be. The outrageous has to start, now that we're getting into the primary process for Democrats and we'll soon find out who will be running against him.

This is a moment that our country has not seen with the presidency before. And we only have a few months before we go to the voting place for the real presidential race.


KEILAR: Carl, thank you so much.

CAMERON: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Carl Cameron, really appreciate it.

A top Pentagon official resigns at the president's request after conflicts over the administration's policies. Details ahead on that.

Plus, I'll speak with a Nevada voter who says he went from being a Ron Paul guy to being a Bernie Sanders supporter. Hear why.


KEILAR: The Democratic presidential race is kicking into high gear and Senator Bernie Sanders is surging with the Nevada caucuses just days away. A new CNN poll of polls shows him with a strong 12-point lead over Joe Biden after a hard-fought victory last week in the New Hampshire primary.


My next guest is a Sanders supporter, Ed Lyngar is with us. He is a CNN op-ed contributor.

Ed, you recently wrote this piece on where you explained how you once supported the Libertarian party. Take us through this. How did you come to support a candidate like Bernie Sanders from being a Libertarian?

ED LYNGAR, CNN OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Brianna, thanks for having me.

This sort of march leftward makes perfect sense if you think about Nevada. I'm from here. I'm from the rurals. We have a long history of Libertarianism where we support LGBTQ rights. We believe in marijuana legalization. All the social issues match up very nicely with what happened on the left.

What I discovered in my own life was that -- I grew up in Nevada and now I live in Reno where the housing collapse just decimated us. The government came in, they had all this money. Well, in 2008, we're going to give billions of dollars to who? Banks to bail us out.

And I realized then we already live in a very sort of government- controlled Socialist economy. But it's available to those people that already have money, right? The rest of us can just pound sand or suffer or go off and die early, as the statistics show as people struggle more and more with their finances and they've got these deaths of addiction.

It's because the government is here to protect you if you're rich and wealthy and well connected. Just like the people Trump just gave pardons and commutations to. If you're rich we've got all kinds of benefits, we're going to take care of you.

When I realized that the government was already involved in the economy, in taking care of all this, I realized how foolish it was just to say, hey, regular people, your own boot straps, you're going to suffer whatever it may be, while the wealthy are wrapped in this gossamer cocoon of delight and protected from any harm.

KEILAR: I love your way with words. I will definitely say that, Ed. And it's so interesting to hear your perspective on this.

I want to know about something that we saw last night. This is Bernie Sanders on a CNN town hall. He said he's not planning to release his medical records, additional records that he said he would release before he suffered a heart attack. Now he suffered one this last fall, and he's not going to.

For you, as a supporter of Bernie Sanders, as you've sort of looked at the corporate Socialism and said, hey, I want something that helps more Americans and Americans who are not wealthy, I know you're for Bernie Sanders in that regard, but what do you think about this? Should he release these records?

LYNGAR: You know, I put some thought into this, and I have to say what drives me insane about this Trump era we're in is how Trump can break all the rules. He hasn't released his medical records. He's an old man himself. He's got god knows what kind of health problems. But consistently he only does what he absolutely has to do.

We ask every other candidate to play by a much tougher set of rules, and we come down on them. Why aren't you being so forthright with your medical records, Bernie Sanders? We don't hold Trump to that same account.

We're fighting this battle with this person who's willing to do anything, to break any law, to break any norm, and yet we're still holding his opponents to the same standard.

I would like it if there was more forthrightness, if people were honest, if we had transparency. Yet, I can't really hold Bernie Sanders to some standard I'm not willing to hold Donald Trump to.


KEILAR: Let me ask, are you not willing to hold Donald Trump to that standard? Or do you feel he isn't held to that? I mean, would you like to see him held to that standard? And if so, why shouldn't Bernie Sanders be held to that standard?

LYNGAR: Well, you know, I would love to see him held to that standard. And if he didn't break every norm, particularly things like releasing his tax return or releasing his medical records, why do we shame and tut-tut other people who might not want to release their medical records because there's a lot in there. Let's be honest with you, years, a lifetime of medical records.

My own medical records, I'm young and relatively healthy. There's a million things in there I don't want people to see or be released or that can be taken and twisted and misconstrued.

So if we're not going to hold the president of the United States, it seems petty that we're going to hold every single other person to this standard or we're going to really question whether they have the judgment of the presidency.

And this sort of, you know, fake comparison between what Trump has been able to get away with and what we demand of other people is driving me crazy. It's driving this country insane, you know? There's nothing that can be done. There's no standard that he can be held to. And then we're going to put this on other candidates. I don't think it's fair.

And if I were Bernie Sanders, I would, you know, look at this and judge it based on what I think the best move is. And I think that's what he's doing.

KEILAR: He clearly does think it's the best move.

Ed Lyngar. Ed, thank you so much. This was a pleasure talking to you.

LYNGAR: It was a delight. Thanks for having me on.

KEILAR: What was the gossamer? What did you say it was? Gossamer cocoon? [13:55:05]

LYNGAR: A gossamer cocoon of love and warmth. You know, we just wrap the rich in just this warm, loving embrace. They're never going to suffer. Don't you worry. America's coddled wealthy will never have to pay. Don't you worry.

KEILAR: It was a delight, Ed. We'll talk to you soon hopefully. Thank you so much --

LYNGAR: Thank you. Hope so.

KEILAR: -- from Reno, Nevada.

CNN is hosting two more town halls ahead of Nevada's critical vote, Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren. That will start at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night on CNN.

As rivals sharpen their attacks on Michael Bloomberg, hear why allegations about sexism in his past loom over tonight's debate.

Plus, just 48 hours after that terrifying wreck at Daytona, driver, Ryan Newman, is now walking out of the hospital. We have details ahead.