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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Attacks Stone Trial Juror and Judge; Democratic Candidates Expected to Target Bernie Sanders in Debate. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He formed a literacy brigade.

You may remember -- read that. They went out, and they helped people learn to read and write. You know what? I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing.

China is an authoritarian country, becoming more and more authoritarian. But can anyone deny -- I mean, the facts are clear -- that they have taken more people out of extreme poverty than any country in history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: There are a lot of Democrats out there and even Sanders' supporters that wish he wouldn't say things like that.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a problem.

It's a political problem for them. It will be a political problem for him, I believe, in the general, but I think he believes what he said initially, and it's hard for him to fully walk it back.

Pete Buttigieg had a good line about that, saying, do we really want to fight the fall of 2020 campaign with a top of the ticket that emphasizes the bright side of a dictatorial regime?

It's simply an inconvenient truth, let's say. And as various people, Democrats, have said, yes, they taught them -- taught literacy, but they taught literacy for purposes of indoctrination. How do you separate those things?

What he said about China's true. They have reduced poverty on a massive scale. It's not a free country.

TAPPER: Yes. And they also have all these Muslims in camps, where they put gays and lesbians -- they lock them away too.

(CROSSTALK)

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: I mean, I'm a China hawk.

The funny thing about that is, why has China boomed economically over the last 40 years? I believe the normal explanation, which was correct, is they opened it up economically to competition and free markets. Why has India boomed since 1991, after being in very bad shape? Because of free markets.

So Sanders' example, in this particular case, I'm looking forward to him making the case that's because of socialism that China has done well. When China was really communist, when government -- before they let competition and markets in, they were not doing well.

And then they had the famous turn in '79, or whenever that was, and India in '91. So I do think it's -- I mean, he is very soft on authoritarianism.

But, ultimately, I do think it is the fact that if people think he is a socialist who really wants to bring socialism to the U.S., that's a problem for him politically.

TAPPER: And, Laura, I want you to take a listen. This is Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. He is somewhat hawkish when it comes to foreign policy, but he is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Take a listen to what he said about Bernie Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): I always find it interesting that he gives a passing glance to the question of authoritarianism, but then dwells on all the alleged good things.

So it's just not what I would want to see in the person who would be the leader of the free world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's a Democrat talking about the Democratic presidential front-runner. It's not what I will want to see in a person who would be the leader of the free world.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's not the only one.

Emanuel Cleaver, I was talking to weeks ago, who said if Sanders is at the top of the ticket, I don't know how I can sell "good socialism" to my boss in Missouri, how other Democrats that are in tough districts are going to sell that.

And this is something that candidates like Bloomberg and Biden are really trying to play up in these coming weeks. They have been talking to House Democrats about it. They're trying to clearly consolidate support around themselves, saying if you really don't want Sanders at the top of the ticket, we have to consolidate moderate support behind one candidate, because they're warning about the impact on down-ballot Democrats. And that's why you have seen so many of those Democrats that are in

difficult front-line districts, in those vulnerable competitive House districts, go to either Biden or Bloomberg.

HARWOOD: And it's worth saying that if Democrats elected officials wanted him to the top of the ticket, they'd find a way to talk around this, but they don't want him at the top of the ticket.

TAPPER: It's interesting because you do have -- what you have here -- and this is how the Sanders campaign would cast it, and it's not wrong -- you have your Democratic elites, people like senator Bob Menendez, vs. the will of the Democratic voters out there, who one after another after another are saying, we want Sanders.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right.

And that is his argument is, like, if you're selling a better product, then they're going to buy that. Well, you're not. Now, elections don't work how some of the moderate candidates are explaining them, saying, oh, we're all going to consolidate around one person.

That won't necessarily happen. Some people might end up going to Sanders. Some people...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: He has 70 percent approval ratings among Democrats.

KUCINICH: Exactly.

KRISTOL: Three out of 10 votes so far, if you add up the popular vote, in the three states that, fewer -- less than 3 percent...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: 2016 flashbacks.

KRISTOL: It is 2016 flashbacks.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: And that's why I hope the Democrats -- that's why the Democrats need to do better than we Republicans did, and consolidate...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

KRISTOL: Jim Clyburn tomorrow morning is going to endorse Biden, right?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: That's a Laura scoop.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Is he an elite? Is he some fancy elite who doesn't speak for...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: He's a House Democratic leader.

Anyway, stick around. We got more to talk about.

Bernie Sanders looking for his third win in a row this weekend, four if you count the popular vote in Iowa. It could all come down to one critical group of voters. Who are they?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:39:26]

TAPPER: Rivals are making new attempts to stop the momentum of Senator Bernie Sanders heading into Saturday's primary in South Carolina.

A group of black Democratic leaders who have all endorsed Michael Bloomberg for president made a show of force today in Charleston, arguing that Sanders has a poor voting record on issues disproportionately affecting black voters, such as gun violence.

Then, from former Vice President Joe Biden, a new ad recalls what Sanders said in 2011, that it would be a good idea if President Trump -- I mean -- sorry -- President Obama faced some primary opposition because he was too willing to negotiate with Republicans, among other issues.

[16:40:02]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Bernie Sanders was seriously thinking about challenging our first African-American president in a primary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: As CNN's Ryan Nobles now reports for us, these attacks are coming as Sanders looks to bolster support among black voters, voters he did not overwhelmingly get in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This time, Senator Bernie Sanders is taking a different approach, after he struggled to win broad support from voters of color in his primary battle with Hillary Clinton four years ago.

(on camera): How is your campaign different in 2016 than it is now reaching out to those communities?

SANDERS: Good question. We're much more diverse. I mean, that's the simple answer.

I can't tell you exactly, but we have hundreds of Latinos and African- Americans on our staff right now reaching out into the Latino and African-American communities.

NOBLES (voice-over): That concerted effort already yielding results.

SANDERS: My God, there are a lot of people here tonight.

NOBLES: The minority vote in Nevada helped fuel his blowout win in the caucuses there. Still, entrance polls showed Sanders trailing Joe Biden by 10 points among black voters, while here, in South Carolina, even skeptical black leaders like the Reverend Joseph Darby, a longtime ally of Biden, have noticed a change.

REV. JOSEPH DARBY, NICHOLS CHAPEL AME CHURCH: He's done a splendid job of outreach to the African-American community this time. Whoever is advising him kind of pointed him in the right direction.

NOBLES: In 2016, Sanders lost South Carolina to Clinton by nearly 50 points, getting trounced among black voters by more than 70 points.

With the primary now just four days away, the latest polls show Sanders in striking distance of the former vice president. And some voters who may not have considered him in 2016 are keeping an open mind this time around.

ROCHELLE SMITH, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I like that he's honest, and he's truthful about a lot of his topics that he speaks about.

NOBLES: Sanders is investing time, meeting with black leaders, addressing issues of specific concerns to the African-American community, and sharing his own story of participating in the civil rights movement.

NICK CRUSE, SANDERS SUPPORTER: So, he marched with MLK. He decided he's going to run and he's going to have people power campaign.

NOBLES: Sanders has also surrounded himself with prominent black leaders and activists and even celebrities such as hip-hop star Killer Mike" and actor Ray Fisher, who spent Monday stumping for Sanders in South Carolina.

RAY FISHER, ACTOR: What our mission is to do is to make people aware as to what Senator Sanders actually stands for, and to show people that they have -- that he has their best interests at heart.

NOBLES: And while Sanders has made gains, black leaders like Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, see there is still more work to do.

REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D-OH): Black people, we believe -- we're pretty conservative. We're pretty moderate people. And so, all in all, we're looking for someone who we think is kind of more center-left than far left.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: Still now, Sanders does believe there's an opportunity for him here in South Carolina to beat expectations.

And, to that end, his campaign is increasing their presence here. They have expanded their ad buy to the entire state, investing $500,000. And, Jake, in the closing days of this campaign, he will spend time in some Super Tuesday states, but he's added events here in South Carolina as well because they who believe he has a real shot -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Nobles with the Sanders campaign in Charleston, South Carolina.

Tomorrow night, you can hear more from Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Senator Elizabeth Warren in live CNN town halls, all of them in the Palmetto State, South Carolina, all starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

We have some breaking news for you now. Jurors in the Roger Stone case have been called back to court. Why?

We will tell you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:47:37]

TAPPER: And we have this breaking news for you in the case of recently convicted Trump associate and friend Roger Stone.

He's asking for a new trial today because he says the jury forewoman was politically biased. Moments ago, the judge called back part of the -- excuse me -- I'm sorry -- the judge called part of the jury back into the courthouse.

And it just happens to come after a series of Twitter attacks on that same juror by President Trump.

CNN's Sara Murray joins me now.

Sara, some of these jurors may now have to testify? Is that what's going on?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.

Some of them actually already are. But, first, let's get to these Twitter attacks. I mean, the judge kicked off her hearing today essentially warning about potential harm to jurors if they're identified, pointing to the president's Twitter feed.

And he tweeted moments after she said this, saying: "There's rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case."

He goes on to say of the forewoman: "She was totally biased, as is the judge."

The president is insisting this is a miscarriage of justice as he's on his way back from India.

What the judge is trying to do in this hearing is get to the bottom of Stone's request for a new trial. This request is based on Stone's allegation of juror misconduct. And it was almost like a reality television reveal, but we can't actually see what's happening in the courtroom.

We can only hear it, because she wants to keep the identity secret, the judge does. But she said, look, in this next room, I have 11 members of the jury that I have called here today.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson has already question two of those members of the jury, essentially saying, were you pressured in any of these deliberations? How did you reach your conclusion in this? How did you guys pick the foreperson in this jury? Did anyone bring in outside material?

She's finished that questioning. Now they're going to move on to this issue of whether the foreperson in this jury was infected biased. But it has been a pretty dramatic day as far as court goes, Jake.

TAPPER: That's right. Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Coming up: He just said Adam Schiff is helping Russia create election chaos, and he's back on President Trump's short list to be the country's top intelligence officer.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:54:08]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): And I'd like to recognize the career in public service of retired Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire.

Our country is safer and stronger when they have the tools and the resources they need and leadership that understands that political bias must have no quarter in intelligent work, and that all Americans' rights need protecting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: One might interpret that as the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, sending a clear message to President Trump: Nominate someone to be director of national intelligence who has professional intelligence and national security experience, as opposed to the sharp-elbowed Trump loyalist partisans that President Trump currently seems to be considering for the post being exited by Joseph Maguire.

Sources telling CNN that Trump is now considering his ally Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas or controversial Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra to fill the position director of national intelligence. And he met with both of them in the past few days in an attempt to assess how loyal they would be to them.

[16:55:09]

Let's talk about this with Phil Mudd and Laura Coates.

I had a feeling that Maguire's days were numbered from the very moment that he testified under oath about the Ukraine scandal. You might recall.

Here's a little bit of Admiral Maguire talking about the Ukraine scandal whistle-blower.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Would you say that the whistle-blower's complaint is remarkably consistent with the transcript that was released?

JOSEPH MAGUIRE, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I would say that the whistle-blower's complaint is in alignment with what was released yesterday by the president.

I think the whistle-blower did the right thing. I think he followed the law every step of the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Just today, President Trump said this about the whistle- blower and the whistle-blower's complaint:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a whistle-blower who was a fake, because, if you look at the whistle-blower, as an example, if you look at his report, and then you compare that to the transcripts, it bore no relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Phil, it seems to me that it's a question as to whether or not President Trump wants a director of national intelligence who tells the truth.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, let's make sure we have this question right.

It's not a question of whether he gets to pick somebody he likes. Any president does. It's a question of whether -- when you walk through the front gate of the CIA, there's a phrase you learn. Let me translate it. Speak truth to power, the truth will set you free.

The question will be not whether the nominees are loyal. It's whether they will speak truth to the president. So over the next few months, going into the election, what is that truth?

Secondary issues, Iran, North Korea, and then there's the big issue, Russian interference. Who's going to walk in and say to him, sorry, Mr. President, here's the deal?

And, secondly, finally talking to you and me or talking to a congressional committee, when somebody says, are the Russians interfering in favor of a candidate, is one of them going to say, yes, and that candidate, it kind of might be my boss?

TAPPER: And, Laura, I want you to take a listen to Congressman Ratcliffe just this week talking about the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): I don't know anyone in the last three years who has done more to help Vladimir Putin and Russia with their efforts to sow the seeds of discord in American elections and American election security than Adam Schiff has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that just gives you the interview, right? That is the entree into the president's esteem.

And he already had sufficient information to know that Ratcliffe over the course of the Mueller probe, over the course of different committee chair hearings, that he was somebody who was going to support the president, even when the evidence in front of him suggests that he should at least challenge the president's notions.

And so when you have demonstrable evidence on television that he is prepared to be the president's champion, his advocate, even if it belies the truth, that almost guarantees you the president's favor.

We saw that when it came to, of course, Attorney General William Barr when he weighed in on matters to make sure the president knew, hey, I'm the person that is going to support you. It carries over now.

The difference here -- and Philip talked about this issue -- the difference here is, the director of national intelligence's role is to assess national security threats against United States of America, to be able to assess credible threats, to be able to convey the information and to be somebody who can be entrusted with the information, not a loyalist.

It's not to the president. It's supposed to be a loyalist to the United States of America. And if the only criteria is whether you can placate or pander to the president, we're all in a lot of trouble, Jake.

TAPPER: And we had the national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, on Sunday go on the Sunday shows and misrepresent what I'm told is the intelligence, suggest that Bernie Sanders is actually the choice of the Russians and they want him to get elected. That's not what the intelligence says.

But O'Brien was willing to do that. What might that mean for this position?

MUDD: Look, let me put two things that don't look together, together, coronavirus and Russia, in both cases complicated intergovernment coordination.

And you need a president who says, look, regardless of whether this is an inconvenient truth, am I going to go speak to the American people? In both cases, the answer, no.

TAPPER: And we had -- speaking of the coronavirus, we had the president, the White House today, rather, I think it was a Kudlow, say that it's been contained.

And you have the Centers for Disease Control, where, as far as I can tell, it's still experts who are there because of their expertise, and not because of their loyalty to President Trump, saying, it's spreading in the United States.

COATES: Well, what's so tragic about that is the idea of all of the concern that the American population has.

We're hearing about what's happening in Italy. We're hearing about the Wuhan region. We're hearing about the spread. And we're concerned from the cruise ships and beyond whether the American people are safe and whether there are policies in place to ensure the pandemic does not reach our shores, and certainly affect so many people.

And so when you have this contradiction of information, that leads to the credibility problem we have seen from the very beginning, from the Sean Spicer discussion about crowd size, who can the American people believe?

And if it can't be the president of the United States, if it can't be the CDC, does anyone feel safe?

TAPPER: Laura Coates, Phil Mudd.

The question answers itself.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

Thanks so much for watching. We will see you tomorrow.

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