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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Elizabeth Warren Under Fire; Will Joe Biden Run?. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 6, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What if he steps down? What if he's not the person that you're running against? You have got to have more than just, "I can beat Donald Trump" as your answer.

And so -- and I think that's part of the problem for some of these candidates who may be trying to build their narrative solely around that idea, and also because I don't think that's going to work in every community in this country, who will say, that's great, you can beat him, but then what are you going to do for me? What are you going to do for our community?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What do the White House officials say in terms of who they fear the most, you two, as White House reporters?

Do they fear Biden? Chris Christie was here not long ago. Well, let me roll the tape. I asked Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and close ally of President Trump, who he thought posed the biggest threat to Trump.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Vice President Biden, because he's going to be able to potentially appeal to the white working-class voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio that determine this race in 2016.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Do you hear that at the White House?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, definitely.

You hear -- that is a major line of thinking from a lot of people around the president about the some of the demographic mechanics of Trump's win. But I think any -- if you talk to people really about Trump, it's not just demographics. It's not just white working-class people.

I think there's a sense that this person needs to be charismatic enough to compete with Trump, who is a major entertainer out on the campaign trail. And in some ways, Joe Biden actually does kind of have that draw. He has an ability in some ways to connect, although his previous runs did not -- were not successful.

He has been known to be a more charismatic person. And I think the idea that Biden has been in the past discounted or disqualified because of his gaffes, Donald Trump sort of makes the path a little easier for him. I mean, Trump is not exactly the most gaffe-prone candidate we have ever had.

And so it makes it easier for someone like Biden to go on out there.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No question. I think they are worried about that part of the country.

But President Trump also watches stagecraft. He watches crowds' electricity. And he said several times now both privately and publicly he's watching Kamala Harris, I think largely because he saw her announcement rally a week-and-a-half or so. He saw the town hall that you did with her, Jake, and he watched all that.

So the reality here is I think that he is not -- he knows how to run against a Joe Biden, an older white man. I do not know that he would know how to run necessarily against a younger black woman. And that is something that people around the president aren't quite as convinced that Biden would be the hardest candidate.

PHILLIP: And I'm not sure that they have figured out just quickly how to brand Kamala Harris. He's branded a lot of the other people in the race. He hasn't really touched her in that way.

(CROSSTALK)

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Outside of the geographic argument for Biden, the kinds of states he might appeal to, it strikes me that one of the greatest dangers to the Democrats as they take on Trump is going too far to the left on cultural issues, on some of these fringe matters. The abortion issue flared up this week.

That's an example. Identity politics. I think some of their younger candidates might be prone to falling into that trap. The one person who might not feel like they have to go out to the fringes to please everybody is somebody who's well known, somebody who's held a big office.

So where I worry about Biden is he might be able to resist getting pulled too far to the left and too far into issues that would make anyone else unelectable.

TAPPER: And, Karen, I want to ask you about that because actually Biden does face a problem if Kamala Harris -- Senator Kamala Harris, people who are skeptics of hers on the left are saying you were too aggressive as a district attorney in San Francisco. You were too aggressive as the attorney general in California.

Well, take a look at Joe Biden talking in 1989, his response to George H.W. Bush's drug strategy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1989) SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: In a nutshell, the president's plan doesn't include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, not enough prosecutors to convict them, not enough judges to sentence them, and not enough prison cells to put them away for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, last month, the vice president said that he had maybe gone too far and apologized for his role in some of those tough-on- crime measures from the '90s.

But that's -- that's going to be tough for a lot of progressive voters to take.

FINNEY: Well, and as you recall in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, who didn't even have a vote in the crime bill, it was an issue that we had to deal with throughout the election into the general election.

So Joe Biden, who was a champion of that legislation...

TAPPER: It was his legislation.

FINNEY: Absolutely. will have to deal with it.

Here's the other challenge I think that Joe Biden would have. I love Barack Obama, I miss him. That's not the same thing as there are some unresolved issues that people have on the left actually with some parts, like not going after the big banks, under the Obama administration, so the Obama legacy.

Joe Biden will have to answer for that. So his ability to -- even when he's trying to appeal to some of these voters that we're talking about, he's still going to have to be accountable for the Obama record, and then try to say, and here's what I would do differently, in a way that will feel credible to people.

[16:35:02]

TAPPER: And talk about racial issues, you remember when then Senator Biden was talking about then Senator Obama and praising him and the way that he praised him, take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: You have got the first sort of mainstream African-American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. That's a storybook.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

PHILLIP: Then he went on to be Barack Obama's vice president.

TAPPER: Well, obviously, he was forgiven, but, I mean, clean? ZELENY: But he was picked for a reason, though. He was picked because Senator Obama then needed an elder statesman.

So that's why we can never make any predictions now that who will be someone's vice president or who won't be, because the reality is they weren't close then, but then they grew close.

But I think the question for Vice President Biden is, is his first day going to be his best day? Front-runners seldom hold that position. So there's good and bad in those numbers. It might encourage him to get in the race, but I'm not sure it tells us any more than that.

TAPPER: President Jeb Bush would agree with you, would agree with you, Jeff.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Senator Elizabeth Warren can't get away from this issue that has haunted her for years. She's apologizing again this afternoon after a new document just surfaced.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:45]

TAPPER: And sticking with our politics lead, on Sunday, we're expecting Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democratic of Minnesota, to officially announced that she's running for president, adding to the quickly growing group of up to nine sitting senators who caucus with the Democrats eying the Oval Office.

As CNN's Phil Mattingly reports, last night was a rare moment where we saw them all together each giving his or her best unimpressed face to the man they are hoping to kick out of the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The State of the Union was punctuated by pomp, circumstance.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together.

MATTINGLY: And, if you look closely, no shortage of Democratic senators who think they may be the next Oval Office occupant. There are already two running, two exploring, one who is listening, and another four actively considering.

The sheer size leaving even their Senate colleagues guessing.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I have seen nine. I have seen seven. We will see what happens in the end.

MATTINGLY: Whatever the number,it creates a fascinating and potentially awkward dynamic amongst colleagues, one Democrats not running for president are keenly observing.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I have been struck, frankly, at how well all of my different colleagues who are running for president have been able to handle the challenge of continuing to work together in the Senate.

MATTINGLY: How long do you think that lasts?

COONS: I hope months, maybe even years. We will see.

MATTINGLY: There are the friends, like Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They are friends. They are sisters. There will be some sibling rivalry. But at the end of the day, we're family.

MATTINGLY: And some who are perhaps less so.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: I like all of my colleagues that are running. I like some more than others. But I will leave it at that.

MATTINGLY: Nine Senate Democrats with their eye on the White House. But what about the other 38?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: First and foremost, it's important for a few of us to stay in the United States Senate.

MATTINGLY: There's an array of policy and political fights the left- behind caucus has their eyes on, with the hope that their colleagues on the trail may actually amplify their effort.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen of the crucial first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire won't be endorsing anyone, but she will utilize the state's outsized influence in the party's primaries to influence the policy debate.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Having an opportunity to have so many people running for president who will go through the state, who will hear the challenges that we're facing.

MATTINGLY: Chris Murphy of Connecticut wants to focus on a progressive foreign policy, Hawaii's Brian Schatz kitchen table issues and climate change, but both want their colleagues to keep the competition friendly.

SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D), HAWAII: Statistically speaking, if you're running among seven or eight Senate colleagues, and then a handful of governors and mayors and others, the chances of you returning to the Senate are very, very high. And so it behooves anybody who's running to just be nice.

MATTINGLY: And as to why so many of the world's greatest deliberative body fancy themselves executive material:

COONS: It's hard to be a senator and not see yourself as president. I so far have resisted the temptation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Jake, you mentioned Amy Klobuchar teasing a big announcement this weekend. Also Senator Elizabeth Warren teasing a big announcement this weekend.

The understanding here on Capitol Hill is there will be two new participants officially in the presidential race come just a few days from now, Jake.

TAPPER: And they're off.

Phil Mattingly, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's chat about this, because Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a rare hallway interview today to talk about a "Washington Post" story that, in 1986, she identified herself as an American Indian on a Texas bar registration card.

Let's take a listen to what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There really is an important distinction of tribal citizenship. I am not a member of a tribe and I have apologized for not being more sensitive to that distinction.

It's an important distinction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And here's the card from the application for -- it's actually not the application, the registration card for the Texas bar.

Do you think this is enough to derail her campaign?

FINNEY: I feel like I'm doing a lot of Dem-splaining today, but OK.

It could be, to be perfectly honest. Part of the problem with this story is, number one, it came up when she first ran for the Senate. So you would have expected -- I feel like again we go back to, where were your opposition research people? They should have found this.

And they should -- and before she ever said any kind of declaration about what's out there or what's not out there or what she did or didn't do to know what is out there. And clearly, they should have found it then. Now she's in this situation where she keeps apologizing, keeps apologizing, and it does sort of raise the question, is there more out there?

And you know you do see representatives from some of the different tribes coming forward and they're very hurt by this and they're offended by this. So and again, that's I think will continue to be an issue potentially throughout the campaign as she travels to different states where there are different tribes.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And I should note also, they are very offended, a lot of these Native American groups. I should also say they're not particularly happy with President Trump calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas. They think that's very offensive as well.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I agree with virtually everything you just said about my friend Karen. I agree with everything she just said. And I would just say that in politics -- and this is true no matter what party you're in. When you lose honesty and authenticity, it's really hard to get it back. I mean, she just said she apologized for not being more sensitive. How about apologizing for being flat dishonest?

That's a form. She's signed a form. She wrote it down on a form that was you know sort of like part of a job application for her profession. That's not a sensitivity issue. It's an honesty issue and people are going to accuse her that and say, sensitivity -- no it's honesty and that's hard to get back.

TAPPER: I'm not disagreeing with you, but just to tell you what she said. She said that this is what she believed because of family lore and that's what she believed, that's what her brothers believed. But this doesn't appear to be going away any time.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't appear to be going away. And as Karen said, I mean, she's been planning a bid for the presidency for quite some time. The reality is that if she -- and they try to deal with this last fall, had a difficult time dealing with it, and she would not answer that question from reporters on Capitol Hill about if there are others like that.

So the reality is, think how many forms you sign in a public life. She's a lawyer, she was a professor, she lived in a bunch of different places. There's likely something else. So the question is do voters care about this? In the moment, it sounds like a big crisis for any young or any new presidential candidate. How you get out of it is a big deal. But the authenticity thing is really an issue here. But she was taking questions on it today. She's trying to push it aside before her actual announcement on Saturday. We'll see if she can.'

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: To the question of whether voters care, they might care in this respect. You're not running for president in a vacuum. You're running against Donald Trump who's a real person, who has seized on this issue, and to some voters this could be just a sign of weakness for her, that if you were to put this person up to run against the man that you want to not be in the White House, they might have a big Achilles heel that could be a real problem for them.

So she's playing a bit -- she's trying to win a bit of an expectations game. Maybe not being too much of the front-runner, but not looking so weak that voters don't want to entrust her with the nomination at the end of the day.

FINNEY: And I think the other challenge is I mean, she has been a progressive heroine when it comes to economic policy.

TAPPER: For years. Yes.

FINNEY: And that is what we have -- that is what we had been talking about her for so long. And now what have we been -- what have we been talking about for the last several weeks?

ZELENY: As people are getting to know her.

FINNEY: Exactly.

ZELENY: Most of us really don't know about Elizabeth Warren. That is a problem. This is all part of her introduction tour. That wasn't the plan.

TAPPER: So let me -- let me turn to the other woman senator announcing this weekend, senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. I want to point out, CNN's Harry Enten tweeted Amy Klobuchar has run for Senate three times. She's won every election by 20 points or more -- and remember, Donald Trump almost won Minnesota in 2016. He didn't but it was close -- and each time she vastly outran the political lean of the state. If past elections are viewed as a guide for electability, there are a few who are stronger. But I don't hear Republicans saying that they fear her, Scott.

JENNINGS: Well, I think they should. I think Harris, and Gillibrand, and Klobuchar are exactly the kind of candidates Democrats just had success with in the Midterm. Clearly, they were able to motivate voters to turnout for those kinds of candidacies. They're not going to be the frontrunners today. It's not necessarily a good thing to be the front-runner so early. These are exactly the kinds of candidates who could peak later in the cycle at the right time.

So she's formidable, although I think Gillibrand was a little late to the Northam Party on Friday night. I still think she's formidable and Harris. Those three candidacies and Klobuchar is right there with them, could absolutely spell trouble if they catch fire at the right moment. Timing is a lot in this -- in this process.

ZELENY: Let's probably talk about how she can win Trump country. That is a constant conversation I hear from voters. I was out in Iowa last Friday at a Sherrod Brown event, a small event. Two people came up to me and asked me if I knew when Amy Klobuchar was getting in the race. There is a sense out there that you know, she can win that and thinks Democrats should play in the middle of the country.

Again, can she raise the money, can she go the distance, we don't know. But I would not discount her at all.

JENNINGS: She's more capable of winning in the middle of the country than Elizabeth Warren. So if I'm sitting here looking at Warren --

TAPPER: Well, she's --

JENNINGS: -- Warren with a baggage versus Klobuchar who's you know, doesn't have that same kind of baggage and a track record of not you know, sort of alienating a lot of Middle America voters. If I were a Democrat trying to calibrate my vote, I know where I'd look.

FINNEY: But I think this issue of timing is really important. Because with so many people -- just do the math which I'm not particularly good at. However, if you do the basic math of four early estates it's going to be I think virtually impossible for one person to dominate coming out of Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina or even Nevada.

So I think this issue of timing is really going to be critical and I think you're going to see people play in these four states differently and make different arguments. I can win in a in a diverse electorate. I can win in a more -- in an electorate that is more like the middle of the country. So I mean, take a -- keep an eye out for how people campaign, where they campaign in order to actually get that timing.

[16:50:29] TAPPER: And on a lighter note, presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey was on the Breakfast Club's radio show. Take a listen to this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't want to marry somebody now. Once you start getting hot, you might become president, somebody just wants you for that to be first lady.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: No, I got -- before I declare president, I'm dating somebody that's really special, so --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, so Corey Booker got a boo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Cory Booker got a boo.

PHILLIP: Thanks for letting us know.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, he's a bachelor running for president which is we haven't had as far as I can remember.

PHILLIP: And it's unusual and it would be -- I mean he's not the it's not the only kind of first in a while or first-ever candidate that we're going to have this cycle but it is no all because he is not coming to this race with a spouse that he's carrying around, going out on the trail with them, and he's going to get some questions about who this boo is and he hasn't answered.

FINNEY: He's going to get some question.

TAPPER: There's been some -- there's been some gossip column reporting and we'll leave it where it is. It's quickly becoming the go-to three word phrase among some Democrats but when we ask what it means, some had almost no words to explain. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Our Earth Matter series now. In the next two days -- in the next few days, two Democrats will finally reveal what they say is a massive plan to not only create jobs in the United States but to help start saving the planet. They call it the green New Deal, a nod to FDR's New Deal during the Great Depression.

The progressive left is lining up to back it and they want their presidential hopefuls to fall in line. Freshmen Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped write the bill and the bill Senate sponsor Senator Ed Markey brought a special guest on the topic to the State of the Union as CNN's Bill Weir looked into how this became a litmus test on the Left.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The problem is so big it's hard to imagine. But America and the world's top scientists widely agree that we are running out of time. That mankind has as little as a dozen years to stop burning so much carbon and save life on earth as we know it. But you'd never know it listening to the State of the Union.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.

STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, GEORGIA: We can do so much more. Take action on climate change.

WEIR: And while Stacey Abrams' rebuttal only mention the end of the world in passing -- a new generation of activists are now forcing the issue in the halls of Congress.

VARSHINI PRAKASH, CO-FOUNDER, SUNRISE MOVEMENT: We brought 200 young people to tell Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership we need you to step up. We need you to back something like a green new deal.

WEIR: They call themselves the Sunrise Movements. And after dozens were arrested for occupying the offices of top Democrats, dozens of top Democrats are now singing their song.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I support a green new deal --

WEIR: And when one of the Sunrise Founders came back to Capitol Hill, instead of calling police, Senator Ed Markey gave her a ticket to the State of the Union and he is drafting a New Deal resolution with Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

And how specific are we getting? Is there a moratorium on oil and gas? Is there a conservation core that you're going to pay to plant trees? What are we talking about?

SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We haven't announced the specifics of it yet but it does set a high goal for a 100 percent deployment of non-greenhouse gas emitted sources into our atmosphere.

WEIR: By 2030?

MARKEY: Again we're going to announce at the right time what it is. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This mission is asking for action and action now.

WEIR: The original New Deal help all America out of the Great Depression with massive public works projects, dams, and grids, and a Civilian Conservation Corps, over two million strong. But it also set up the modern welfare state. And so the Sunrisers are demanding not just clean power but Medicare for all, resettlement funds, and climate related jobs for the neediest population.

PRAKASH: And so more than anything, I'm actually feeling heartened in this moment.

WEIR: Yes, you do.

PRAKASH: Yes.

WEIR: You're going to look out on that floor lawmakers and think oh no, if we have to wait for them to agree on something, we're doomed.

PRAKASH: Probably. But we're not waiting on them. And we are actually building a movement that is going to be powerful enough to make something like a Green New Deal a political inevitability in this country.

WEIR: But in an age of bitter division, they are calling for trillions in new spending and the kind of national unity not seen since the Apollo project. Ironic since Cape Canaveral moonshot launch pads are currently being fortified against sea level rise caused by climate change.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: 10 years ago, President Obama threw about $90 billion into sort of a mini-green new deal as part of that big stimulus bailout plan, Jake. You'll remember, Republicans like to point out (INAUDIBLE) the solar company that went belly up as a result. But Democrats point to all the successes, huge advances in efficiency and batteries and jobs and clean energy. Now, how you scale it up on the grander scale is the question.

TAPPER: All right, Bill Weir, thank you so much.