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Bernie Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign; Sanders Speaks after Suspending Run for White House. Aired 11:30a-12p ET
Aired April 8, 2020 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's be clear. There is, I think, it's fair to say, a minority of Sanders supporters who Joe Biden will never get.
You know, as we were going through the process, I was texting with somebody who was a Bernie Sanders delegate in 2016 who was telling me that he and several people who he went with were never going to be Joe Biden. But it's in the hopes of the Joe Biden campaign the minority.
What is going on right now is people in and around Bernie Sanders -- I've been texting with a couple of them as our colleagues have been speaking -- are working with and have been working with Bernie Sanders to extract maximum leverage.
And even though he has suspended his campaign, he still has leverage because -- and when I say leverage, I mean leverage to get Joe Biden to at least give voice to some of the issues beyond what he's already done that Sanders has been pushing for, for decades, never mind in this campaign.
He has that leverage because Joe Biden and his campaign understand recent history in 2016, understand the perils of brushing those ideas aside. And that means that more Bernie Sanders people are going to stay home if they don't feel included.
That is happening as we speak, John. That sort of to and fro, the negotiation, and it will continue to happen up until the convention, whenever that will be, however that happens, and, more importantly, through the general election.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And I want -- Ryan Nobles -- we were talking a lot about how this impacts Joe Biden and the campaign. I want to come back to Senator Sanders.
As I do, I may have to interrupt you if Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, comes out to give his daily coronavirus briefing. He has had to say, in recent days, he does not plan to make a late entry into the Democratic race because of all the high-profile attention he's received leading his state.
But in terms of Senator Sanders, he ran in 2016. He was very formidable in the beginning of 2020. It did not turn out the way he liked. But we often forget the personal challenge of running for president.
He had a heart attack in the middle of the campaign, and he came back and was just as aggressive and energetic on the trail.
When they went back to Vermont, after the week after week -- three in a row Tuesdays where he was shellacked by Joe Biden -- and he said he had to think about this.
Take us inside of that, because whether you're a Sanders supporter watching or not, it's a highly personal thing to run for president, for yourself, for your family, and for all the people who get up every day and support you.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, John. And also when you take into account that Bernie Sanders felt he had brought a movement for a long time had been just not appreciated by many in the political class and brought it to the forefront, brought it to the mainstream, the idea that he was just going to abandon it in quick fashion is not what was going to happen.
When he came back to Burlington after every one of those Super Tuesdays, he had a very close group of associates he sat with, a very tight circle of advisers he trusts the most, including his wife, Jane Sanders.
What they talked about wasn't just Bernie Sanders' future t was the future of the progressive movement. If he exits the stage, who is going to be there to pick up the mantle, and how important will it be to make sure the big issues, like health care for everyone, eliminating college debt, making college more affordable, creating a more level playing field when it comes to economic inequality.
He's very concerned about those issues no longer being a priority to the people running for president.
And I think the other thing a lot of folks don't take into account enough about is just how well Sanders really understands his supporters. I think he knew if he just abandoned his campaign say after the second Super Tuesday when it looked pretty unlikely that he would be able to capture the nomination, that would go a long way to actually alienating that group of supporters he is hoping he can bring into the fold to support Joe Biden.
He needed to show them that he was going to fight until his last breath, and then only at that point, when he felt that there was no fight left, that he would then turn around and throw his support behind Joe Biden.
I think that's actually going to go a long way to bringing some of those Sanders supporters into the Biden fold. But they know that Sanders left it all on the table, that there was nothing left for him to do, and now it was time for him to exit the stage.
I want to make one other point about his relationship with Joe Biden and how different that is with his relationship with Hillary Clinton. He didn't really have a personal relationship with Hillary Clinton. He didn't -- wasn't someone that didn't like her, but he didn't have the same personal relationship that he has with Joe Biden. They are legitimately friends.
And while they don't see eye to eye on a number of policy issues, you know, there was a fierce debate within the campaign as to just how aggressive Sanders should be in attacking Joe Biden. And it was actually Sanders himself who really held the line on any kind of personal attack.
There was a period of time when one of the Sanders supporters described Joe Biden as corrupt. If you remember, it was Sanders himself who stood up and said he was not going to tolerate that.
Now, there's a serious internal disagreement within his campaign with folks who believe that Sanders didn't go far enough, but there was a reason for that. It is because he admires and appreciates Joe Biden as a human being.
And that is going to make it a lot easier for him to rally not only his personal support behind Joe Biden but also give an authentic plea to his supporters that they need to support Joe Biden as well, especially if it means beating Donald Trump in November.
KING: And you could see that, the clubbiness of the United States Senate in breaks in the debates, before and after the debates. Senator Sanders and former Vice President Biden, but they would often spend time together, put their arms around each other.
To that point, David Chalian, about putting their arms around each other, we live in the new normal. If this were six months ago, or the campaign four years ago, we know roughly how this would pay out. Joe Biden would go to Burlington. Bernie Sanders, from Vermont, would go to Wilmington. If they want to go to each other's home and make peace, have a meal.
They would stage a rally somewhere and Elizabeth Warren would show up to and some of the other vanquished candidates. Or maybe you just give Senator Sanders one big event for him. But there's a playbook for how to do a come-together rally and moment. Except now.
How do you play this out in this environment? Virtual town hall, virtual link up?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I would imagine so, John. I mean, it's starting, as Ryan was reporting, with Senator Sanders giving a virtual speech, you know, through virtual means to his supporters in just a few minutes to talk through his reasoning and his thinking about suspending his campaign.
I think you're right, with that television studio that's been built in Joe Biden's basement in Wilmington, Delaware, you may see Bernie Sanders being piped in there for some kind of joint event.
I also was thinking about Elizabeth Warren, who had been holding on the sidelines, and now can be part of this effort to sort of turbo charge that left-wing more liberal progressive side of the party into the Biden fold here.
But I do think there will be lost opportunities here, as you said. It's not like just because this big development of Sanders getting out is now upon us that, all of a sudden, the campaign is going to come roaring back in some fashion.
We're in the midst of this national public health crisis and that's still going to dominate. They will find a way to get some kind of image out there, I'm sure, of them in some unified fashion when that gets worked out.
But you're right, you're not going to be able to extend this moment the way that other campaigns in the past have been able to do to just get news cycle after news cycle and more headline victories as you're doing the hard work of making sure the party is unified going forward.
KING: And one would assume they have spoken, as Bernie Sanders prepares a live stream to address his supporters. Joe Biden did call Bernie Sanders to say, I don't want you to take offense, but I'm going to start my vetting process.
They have tried to keep in touch, in you will, to keep a relationship so nobody shocks the other with something.
Maggie Haberman, as Joe Biden tries to do this and as Bernie Sanders decides how to do it, he has the lesson of 2016. He said he did everything Hillary Clinton wanted for him. There's tension between the two camps.
Let's set that aside. My question is more this. Joe Biden does have something to prove to the Sanders base, to the degree he wants to prove something to the Sanders base.
We also now have an incredibly different campaign than if we were having this conversation three, four, five, six weeks ago in the sense that this campaign, because of coronavirus, and because it is with us through the campaign, through the election, is going to be about President Trump and leadership.
Will the issues that matter so much to the Sanders supporters be pushed down anyway?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": I think to some extent, John. But I do -- and I agree with you that I think this is now going to be a referendum on Donald Trump in a way it's not going to be a binary choice as people thought it was going to be heading into 2020 prior to January.
But I do think that the of the issues that Bernie Sanders has been focusing on, inequality, a number of progressive checklist items have been acerbated by coronavirus.
And I think you'll hear more about that as the months go ahead, as we emerge from the very darkest period we're in right now in various parts of the country. So I don't think it totally goes away.
Where I do think there's a difference is, I think, that Sanders, and we touched on this a few times in the last several minutes, but Sanders was able to get a lot of media attention for his issues that he won't be able to, his supporters won't be able to now. It will be easier for Biden to look past that.
Again, I think there's a danger in doing that. I think how he unites the party, when you can't meet in person for several more weeks, is an enormous challenge, but it is not likely to define the remaining six and a half months or so of the election. And I think that he is going to have to tend to it.
Yes, this is a redefined election, but there are going to be issues from, you know, pre-coronavirus that will remain.
KING: And the issue will be, as Joe Biden often talks about, how he can get in a room with Mitch McConnell, with anybody and work it out. Maybe he can do this privately when it's not such a public campaign, do that outreach. That will be a test for him.
We're going to take a quick break. We're still waiting to hear from the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. He's pushed his press conference back a little bit.
We're also just moments away from Senator Bernie Sanders making official what we're reporting to you, he has decided to suspend his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
A quick break. Our political coverage, our coronavirus coverage will be back in just a moment.
KING: Major breaking news on the Democratic presidential campaign trail. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is moments away from officially dropping out of the 2020 race. He has told his supporters he plans to suspend his campaign. We're waiting for a live stream from Senator Sanders. We'll bring it to you when he begins to speak
Joining me to discuss are CNN correspondent, Ryan Nobles, our CNN political director, David Chalian, and chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.
Dana, this makes Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. It also makes Bernie Sanders someone who still has enormous influence on the party and on this campaign.
I guess my question is, how much. Again, he did not run as strong in this race as he did against Hillary Clinton. But his supporters are not about -- his supporters don't quite accept that, I guess is the best way to put it. They believe Joe Biden has something to do to prove it.
BASH: Oh, absolutely, they do.
And on the Joe Biden note, look, this, the next hours certainly when we listen to Bernie Sanders and the next day or so, there's going to be a lot of looking at and talking about the remarkable campaign, really remarkable campaign that Bernie Sanders ran.
But I think it does behoove us to take a second and note that we expected it, but this makes it even more on the road to official, that Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee.
And that's where the polls started out in this Democratic primary race. There was a lot of -- there was a big roller coaster, as happens in a lot of these races on both sides of the aisle. But that is where we are right now, which is kind of remarkable given Joe Biden's history in trying and failing at this, at least to be the nominee.
On the question of getting Bernie Sanders supporters onboard, it is an open question how far he will go. But the one thing that we have to keep in mind -- well, there are lots of things different between now and 2016 -- but the biggest, according to a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters, but more importantly, the candidate himself, is Donald Trump is president.
It's not a question of, well, if we don't go and vote for the Democratic nominee, you know, they'll still win. They saw what happened in 2016. That did not happen. Hillary Clinton lost. Donald Trump became president. And that is, by all accounts, one of the most, if not the biggest goal of Bernie Sanders right now.
Yes, he cares a lot about his issues that he's been promoting for decades. But right now, at this moment in time, because he cares most about defeating Donald Trump. And that will, I think, go a long way in his messaging towards his supporters on how much they need to get behind Joe Biden.
KING: And, David Chalian, Dana mentioned President Trump a couple times. You see the countdown clock on the Sanders live feed. I like that. Gives us a good clue of what to wait for.
David, President Trump, throughout the primary campaign, especially late in the primary campaign when Biden was winning, kept saying there they go again, suggesting the Democratic establishment was putting their thumb on the scale. That was a Sanders complaint in 2016. And he had reason to complain about it in 2016.
He did not have that reason this time. Joe Biden just flat-out beat him after being given up for lost and coming back in South Carolina and beyond.
You know the current president of the United States is going to try to stoke that, that the establishment went after Sanders again, which again, makes what Senator Sanders says in a couple minutes and then for the rest of this campaign so important. CHALIAN: So very important. And you know, I think President Trump was
doing that in a way to try to elongate the Democratic nomination process for as long as possible. No incumbent president wants somebody to emerge early and focus all of their attention on them.
But also, I think it was to create real division for Joe Biden, to make his task of uniting the party that much harder. I think that is what the president was up to when he was doing that.
I will just note, though, the coronavirus moment that we're in and the economic impact that this virus is going to have across the country is going to actually create opportunities for Joe Biden to come in with some policy prescriptions that might be very appealing to Bernie Sanders and the Sanders wing of the party.
And that shouldn't be lost here. There's going to need to be a massive rebuilding. Look at what the government has already done with the stimulus that's already there.
And as you know, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell are already all onboard with the notion there's more to come.
Looking for how to tailor that money and government spending into fixing some of the economic ills that will be so apparent in this recovery period after coronavirus that I think there's real opportunity for Joe Biden to appeal to some of those Sanders -- he's not going to support Medicare For All. That's not going to happen. And he has made that clear.
But I do think there's some combining of interests here in these wings of the party because of the current economic crisis that the country will be facing.
KING: That's an excellent point, government reinvestment.
You see the president of the United States, a Republican president spending $2 trillion on the last stimulus, talking about another $2 trillion here, infrastructure pushed down the road. There may be opportunities here. They just reset the clock.
We do that sometimes in our business. They just reset the clock to 1:57 as we see this play out. Senator Sanders getting ready. This is obviously a big moment for him.
To the point of how this plays out, we are in a new world. But even as the math started to work in his way and as he started to pull away in the delegate chase, Joe Biden did understand, one of his challenges as the presumptive Democratic nominee was to extend an olive branch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues. Together, they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country.
So, let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders, I hear you. I know what's at stake. I know what we have to do. Our goal, as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president, is to unify this party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Ryan Nobles, that was the one giant weakness, if you will, in what became a Biden rout.
He was running it up among African-Americans. He was holding his own with the exception of Nevada and California among Latinos. He was doing much better with those blue-collar men, people who work with their hands. That was a Bernie Sanders strength against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Not so much this time.
Joe Biden was running it up in the suburbs, but he had a giant weakness.
Audio dropped from the feed there. We will try to fix that as soon as we can.
As we do so, Ryan Nobles, we see Senator Sanders speaking in Vermont. As we try to pull this up, we're going to try to correct the audio issues here.
Joe Biden's weakness was younger voters. He was doing well among every other Democratic constituency. Younger voters was the giant hole. Senator Sanders has that base.
NOBLES: Yes, that is right, John. And I think it was a source of frustration for Senator Sanders that he continued to do so well with young voters, particularly in polling, but then they would not necessarily see the turnout numbers that they were hoping from young voters, despite what their polling was telling them and despite the energy and enthusiasm that he saw from the big crowds he was drawing on a regular basis.
Even after it seemed impossible for him to win the Democratic nomination, he was still drawing huge, huge crowds.
And another point I think that was a source of frustration for Senator Sanders and is going to have to be something that Joe Biden --
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): And I want to thank the many hundreds of thousands of Americans who have attended our rallies, town meetings and house parties from New York to California. Some of these events are over 25,000 people. Some had a few hundred. Some had a dozen. But all were important. And let me thank those who made these many events possible. I also want to thank our surrogates, too many to name. I can't imagine
that any candidate has ever been blessed with a stronger and more dedicated group of people who have taken our message to every part of this country.
And I want to thank all of those who made the music and the art an integral part of our campaign.
I want to thank all of you who spoke to your friends and neighbors, posted on social media, and worked as hard as you could to make this a better country.
Together we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice.
I also want to thank the many hundreds of people on our campaign staff. You were willing to move from one state to another and do all the work that had to be done. No job was too big or too small for you. You rolled up your sleeves and you did it.
You embodied the words that are at the core of our movement -- not me, but us. And I thank each and every one of you for what you've done.
As many of you will recall, Nelson Mandela, one of the great freedom fighters in history, famously said, and I quote, "It always seems impossible until it is done," end quote.
And what he meant by that is that the greatest obstacle to reach social change has everything to do with the power of the corporate and political establishment to limit our vision as to what is possible and what we are entitled to as human beings.
If we don't believe that we are entitled to health care as a human right, we will never achieve universal health care.
If we don't believe that we are entitled to decent wages and working conditions, millions of us will continue to live in poverty.
If we don't believe that we are entitled to all of the education we require to fulfill our dreams, many of us will leave schools saddled with huge debt or never get the education we need.
If we don't believe that we are entitled to live in a world that has a clean environment and is not ravaged by climate change, we will continue to see more drought, floods, rising sea levels, and an increasingly uninhabitable planet.
If we don't believe that we are entitled to live in a world of justice, democracy, and fairness, without racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, or religious bigotry, we will continue to have massive income and wealthy inequality, prejudice and hatred, mass incarceration, terrified immigrants, and hundreds of thousands of Americans sleeping out on the streets in the richest country on earth.
And focusing on that new vision for America is what our campaign has been about and what, in fact, we have accomplished.
Few would deny that over the course of the past five years our movement has won the ideological struggle. In so-called red states and blue states and purple states, a majority of the American people now understand that we must raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, that we must guarantee health care as a right to all of our people, that we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, and that higher education must be available to all, regardless of income.
It was not long ago that people considered these ideas radical and fringe. Today, they are mainstream ideas, and many of them are already being implemented in cities and states across the country. That is what we have accomplished together.
In terms of health care, even before this horrific pandemic we are now experiencing, more Americans understood that we must move to a Medicare For All, single-payer program.
During the primary elections, exit polls showed in state after state a strong majority of Democratic primary voters supported a single government health insurance program to replace private insurance. That was true even in states where our campaign did not prevail.
And let me just say this. In terms of health care, this current, horrific crisis that we are now in has exposed for all to see how absurd our current employer-based health insurance system is.
The current economic downturn we are experiencing has not only led to a massive loss of jobs but has also resulted in millions of Americans losing their health insurance.
While Americans have been told over and over again how wonderful our employer-based private-insurance system is, those claims sound very hollow today as a growing number of unemployed workers struggle with how they can afford to go to the doctor or not go bankrupt with a huge hospital bill.
We have always believed that health care must be considered as a human right, not an employee benefit, and we are right.
Please also appreciate that not only are we winning the struggle ideologically, we are also winning it generationally. The future of our country rests with young people.
And in state after state, whether we won or whether we lost, the Democratic primaries or caucuses, we received a significant majority of the votes, sometimes overwhelming majority, from people not only 30 years of age or under, but 50 years of age or younger. In other words, the future of this country is with our ideas.
As we are all painfully aware, we now face an unprecedented crisis. Not only are we dealing with a coronavirus pandemic, which is taking the lives of many thousands of our people, we are also dealing with an economic meltdown that has resulted in the loss of millions of jobs.
Today, families all across our country face financial hardship unimaginable only a few months ago. And because of the unacceptable levels of income and wealth inequality in our economy, many of our friends and neighbors have little or no savings and are desperately trying to pay their rent or their mortgage or even put food on the table.
This reality makes it clear to me that Congress must address this unprecedented crisis in an unprecedented way that protects the health and economic well-being of the working families of our country, not just powerful special interests.