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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Bernie Sanders Raising Big Money; Will Trump Fire Dan Coats?. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 20, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:31:47]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have some more breaking news for you.

In our politics lead, White House officials are bracing for another possible exit. Two senior administration officials tell CNN that preliminary discussions are under way to replace the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats.

And yet, just moments ago, President Trump suggested he's not given any thought to such a thing.

CNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown explains what's going on behind the scenes, as the White House begins the process of replacing the nation's top intelligence chief.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: Are you considering replacing Dan Coats as your director of national intelligence?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't even thought about it.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite publicly supporting the director of national intelligence, CNN has learned White House officials have started discussions on replacing Dan Coats amid concerns President Trump may soon fire him.

Sources say the talk started this week after Trump spent the weekend at Mar-a-Lago venting to friends, like conservative media figure Chris Ruddy.

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: I'm hearing from sources around the White House that there's just general disappointment of the president with Director Coats. There's a feeling that...

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Uh-oh.

RUDDY: ... maybe there needs to be a change of leadership.

BROWN: Sources tell CNN Trump is still angry about Coats' recent congressional testimony that openly contradicted his own rosy portrayal of the threat posed by North Korea. DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently

assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.

BROWN: White House aides thought the issue between Trump and Coats had been resolved.

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you talk to your intelligence chiefs today about the displeasure you had with their testimony to Congress?

TRUMP: I did. And they said that they were totally misquoted, and they were totally -- it was taken out of context.

BROWN: But as Trump heads to Vietnam for a second summit with North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un, sources say he's concerned that Coats' comments could undermine his message that his personal relationship with Kim is strong enough to overcome their concerns.

TRUMP: Now there's no nuclear testing, no missiles going up, and we have a good relationship.

BROWN: The frustrations apparently going in both directions.

QUESTION: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.

COATS: Say that again.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Vladimir Putin coming.

COATS: Did I hear you? Yes. Yes. OK.

(LAUGHTER)

COATS: That's going to be special.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: White House officials say they're preparing for Coat's departure, but caution they're not sure how long Coats will remain in his job.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And White House officials say that the conversations about who could replace Dan Coats is still in the early stages, and that the president may end up deciding not to do anything, not to fire him.

Of course, as we know, Jake, President Trump has been known to taunt top officials in his administration, vent about them, and then not do anything at all or not take immediate action. So this is something that could take months, not weeks -- Jake. [16:35:00]

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Linda Chavez, we have seen this movie before. And it ends with that person leaving the White House.

LINDA CHAVEZ, DIRECTOR, BECOME AMERICAN INITIATIVE: Absolutely.

And, by the way, he didn't say that he wasn't going to get rid of Dan Coats. He said he hadn't given thought to who he was going to replace him with. And those are very different things.

And we have seen him do this before, where he will fire somebody, get rid of them. And then he basically takes who is ever the number two in that position and elevates them, because he hasn't really given thought to the kind of person that he wants.

So I would be very surprised to see Dan Coats around much longer.

TAPPER: Our reporting is all started in Mar-a-Lago. Trump started venting to friends about Coats, specifically his testimony last month where he publicly contradicted him on North Korea's nuclear capabilities and their willingness to get rid of them.

How much of this is about Dan Coats is not up to the job, and how much of this is just, I don't like being questioned?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I know that President Trump has had disputes with his intelligence officials, that sometimes the things that they find are different than what -- the world view that he holds. And he's been very public about saying, hey, look, the intelligence community got it wrong when it came to Iraq and so you can't always trust them.

This is the stuff that keeps me up at night, though. I mean, the intelligence community is trying to do the right thing. I don't like the idea of people saying, well, they have come to conclusions that I don't like, so I'm going to get rid of them.

I think the more justifiable reasons for parting ways with Director Coats might be that clip from the Aspen Security Forum that you showed, where he sort of publicly is exasperated by the White House tweeting.

That's what my internal monologue would have looked like. But if you are a senior official in the White House, maybe that's not the way to respond to that -- getting that kind of news publicly.

So, again, I think publicly contradicting, say, White House policy, yes, it's going to put you in a tough position for sure. But I hope that regardless who is leading America's intelligence community, that they are allowed to do their jobs and get accurate information to get to the president.

TAPPER: You are somebody who back when you were running for president and you were governor of Vermont, you are somebody who publicly questioned the U.S. intelligence community and their conclusions about -- and you were correct -- about WMD in Iraq.

Is there a difference between the criticism and skepticism you have and that which President Trump has?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I actually think that the intelligence community knew very well there were no weapons of mass destruction, and that intelligence was not -- either not conveyed and played -- conveyed to President Bush or he chose not to -- he chose to ignore it.

And the reason I came to the conclusion, I'm sort of where Hillary Clinton is on defense. I'm not a particular dove as far as Democrats go. I came out against the war, first because I grew up during the Vietnam era, where we were lied to by two consecutive presidents, one of each party, and, secondly, because I read the British papers.

And the British for some reason print stuff from MI6. And the closest intelligence relationship in the world is American intelligence and the British intelligence. MI6 was saying, A, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and, B, as Cheney was trying to hint that there might be an atomic program, which he knew very well there wasn't, the Brits were saying so.

So I do believe that there was a significant -- were a significant number in the American intelligence community who knew very well there were weapons of mass destruction. And I think there was a lot of pressure on them to come -- to not say much about it, just as Trump to crudely pressure people who try to do their job in this intelligence community.

TAPPER: Obama didn't always agree with everything that his director of national intelligence did. In fact, he got rid of Admiral Blair pretty early on.

I mean, there is a tension, a natural tension there that can be healthy.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. Yes, absolutely. And they're presenting the information they have access to, and sometimes they don't have a full picture.

Obviously, the example that Governor Dean gave is one that sticks in all of our minds. I think one of the differences here is that the context is that President Trump is about to go to a summit with Kim Jong-un that he needs to be a big success or a big win, as he would say

And this is a director of national intelligence who has contradicted President Trump's claims that they are denuclearizing. And that's significant because he needs this win, he needs this political win. And he's looking at his director of national intelligence and saying, I need you to say they're doing what I said they're doing.

And he's -- that's not his job to do TAPPER: And speaking of summits, Coats and the president have been at odds before, not just about North Korea.

Take a listen to this infamous moment when the president seemed to side with Putin over U.S. intelligence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia.

I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I mean, that's an American president both-sides-ing whether or not Russia attacked the United States, cyber-attacked, and seeming to give equal weight, if not side with Putin.

CHAVEZ: And, by the way, Putin has also told him he doesn't have to worry about intercontinental ballistic missiles, that Kim Jong-un can't build them, despite what U.S. intelligence may say in terms of their attempts to do so.

TAPPER: Yes, that's in the McCabe book, too, yes.

CHAVEZ: Yes. Yes.

So this is -- these are very troubling. And the question is not whether or not you have other sources of information which may differ. He gets his information from "FOX & Friends" and Judge Jeanine and all sorts of other places that have frankly no real bearing on this and have nothing to offer.

[16:40:08]

So that's what's scary.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

He announced his run for the presidency just yesterday. But Senator Bernie Sanders is already leaps and bounds ahead of his competition in at least one aspect of the campaign. What is it?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: And we're back with our 2020 lead.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont making a huge fund-raising splash in his first 24 hours officially in the 2020 presidential race. While his progressive ideas, which were unique in the 2016 Democratic field, are now embraced by many of his competitors

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: One thing he definitely owns is the ability to raise a lot of money from a lot of donors very quickly. Sanders campaign announced they've raised nearly $6 million easily topping the only other candidate to release his or her 24 hour total so far Senator Kamala Harris who raised $1.5 million on her first day.

So we know Sanders has this huge e-mail list because of his 2016 campaign that didn't guarantee that those people would support him again this time around but the Sanders campaign is now reporting $6 million raised from 225,000 contributors an average donation of $27.00 seems like they stuck around.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, it's an impressive number. I remember when John Edwards raised $7 million in the first quarter in the 2003 primary --

TAPPER: Three months.

PSAKI: And it blew everyone's minds.

TAPPER: Yes, three months. Right.

PSAKI: So it's a big number. What's also should be encouraging to his supporters is the average donation is about $26.00. There's about $600,000 that will come back every month. Those are all good numbers. The thing about running the second time though is that 99.9 percent of people know who you are. They've made a judgment. They're most excited now about him running so he may have a low floor but he also may -- have a high floor but he may also have a low ceiling because there's all these other progressive candidates running now, women, African-Americans who are going to take a chunk out of the Bernie Sanders pool I suspect.

TAPPER: They may, they may not. I mean, here's the thing. He's almost a victim of his own success in a way. He successfully got the Democratic Party to move to the left on some important issues like Medicare for all. And now progressives can look out there and see well, she supports Medicare for all. I mean, there are a bunch of people not just Bernie Sanders.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, DNC: Well, he's first of all, doing a great job making sure this list is well taken care of for the last four years. I mean, there's a lot of back-and-forth between Bernie and his supporters that have been going on through 2016. But the question of the ceiling is a really interesting one. Biden has exactly the same problem for Biden to be at 14 or 18 percent or whatever is that.

He has 100 percent name recognition. Everybody loves him. He has a very sympathetic personal story and he's at 14 percent. That's not a good sign.

TAPPER: Interesting. So President Trump, of course, welcomed Bernie Sanders into the race today. He tweeted crazy Bernie has just entered the race. I wish him well. Senator Sanders responded, "what's crazy is that we have a president who is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, and a fraud." We are going to -- Howard Dean laughing that. "We are going to bring people together and not only defeat Trump a transform the economic and political life of this country." I mean, you know.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's nothing that surprises me about that exchange except maybe that Crazy Bernie is like -- it's not his best in the nickname that he's given. Like --

TAPPER: I think his branding has fallen off. I'd be honest.

ANDERSON: I feel like he could he can step it up, at least get some literation there.

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: Yes. I mean, one thing that President Trump I think should be is we should be concerned about with regards to someone like a Bernie or maybe someone like an Amy Klobuchar, somebody who has done well in some of those blue wall states. Remember that was where Bernie Sanders real strength was during the 2016 primary. The ability to peel off some of those Democrat Union type folks who may not have liked Hillary Clinton really gravitated toward him.

So I think he is wise to sort of view someone like a Bernie Sanders as being a unique, potential threat to him for 2020 if he gets the nomination.

TAPPER: Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. He explained why he thinks the party should not nominate Bernie Sanders on CNN this morning. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DELANEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we want to win. If we want to beat Trump, we should not put up a candidate who embraces socialism. That's not what the American people wanted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Except it might be what the Democratic Party voters want. A poll from last August shows that 57 percent of Democrats have a positive view of socialism, 47 percent of a positive view of capitalism.

LINDA CHAVEZ, CHAIR, CENTER FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: Yes. I mean that is astonishing. It's very sad and it strikes fear into my heart because as somebody who does not want to see Trump re-elected, the idea that somebody like Bernie Sanders could end up being the nominee or some of the others I think -- I think Trump couldn't beat Bernie Sanders. I think he's the one who could.

DEAN: Here's what's happened though in this socialism debate. Red- baiting just doesn't work anymore. Our base is young people, women, and people of color. That's our core base. Unless you're 50 years old or older, you don't remember any of the red-baiting or the McCarthy or a socialist under every bed.

I mean, so capitalism is in trouble. Even capitalists agree that something's got to be done so that more people benefit from it. I don't think this hurts this at all because I don't think we'd get any of the votes of people who are alarmed by socialism.

TAPPER: You're the pollster at the table. What do you think?

ANDERSON: Yes. Well, when you take a look at the data on who really does tend warmer toward socialism, it's almost exclusively concentrated among the very young who were growing up in sort of a post-Berlin Wall era. You don't have to worry. It doesn't have to be going back 50 years thinking back to the end of the Cold War. Socialism didn't work in the Soviet Union, it's not working in Venezuela today. That's not 50 years ago, that's contemporary.

So my hope is that voices out there, perhaps the Republican Party, perhaps elsewhere, perhaps the moderate part of the Democratic Party can make the case that socialism is absolutely not the right case for America.

[16:50:13] PSAKI: And we're starting to see some of that. Look, I think on this poll of course Democrats are going to pick socialism over capitalism.

TAPPER: Really?

PSAKI: I'd be interested -- that doesn't surprise me. I would be interested if you delve further into it what they think socialism means.

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: And you know, I think also, young voters -- I would love more young voters to go vote, but if we look at 2018, it wasn't some crazy surge of young voters bringing Democrats forty seats in the house. It was actually more moderate voters, it was more voters who were older than that millennial age, and those are people that we need to also tap into and go after for 2020 if we're going to win.

DEAN: There's also this confusion between authoritarianism which young people hate and socialism. And you know Maduro is an authoritarian leaving aside I mean, he's a socialist so he says. I don't think he's any more of a socialist than Donald Trump. He's a kleptocrat just like Donald Trump.

So I think it's a bizarre debate about socialism. My prediction is Jen's right it goes away. Trump will keep tweeting about it which will satisfy his base that nobody else is going to care.

TAPPER: It may just be that some young people think socialism is universal health care.

CHAVEZ: That's exactly right. They think -- they would love to have free education, not have to pay for all of those debts. And I think that's the problem. But I think Jen is right that you know, when it comes time to voting, I mean you can count on these kids to show up at rallies and tweet and everything but they don't vote. TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. Be sure to tune in to CNN

this Monday night for a town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. CNN's Wolf Blitzer will host the live event at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

There's a scary new report out on how easy it is the trick troops on the front lines into disobeying orders and it took them less than $100 to do it. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "WORLD LEAD" today, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a new and violent threat to the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): Russia will be forced to create and develop weapons which can be used not only towards those territories from which direct threats may be directed at us but also towards those territories where centers of decision-making and rocket systems that are threatening to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: As Putin's rhetoric harkens back to the Cold War, NATO, the very organization formed to protect Western allies from the Soviets, now Russians, has discovered just how vulnerable NATO troops may be to nefarious influences and bad actors such as Russian intelligence agents. As CNN's Tom Foreman reports, all it takes is $60 and internet connection and a social media account.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Troop positions and strength, their names, their friends, and phone numbers. New reports suggest all were easily accessed through common social media apps during an unidentified NATO military exercise. What's more, researchers wanted to know if troops could be tricked into leaving their positions, not fulfilling duties, and some were lured into undesirable behavior.

STEVE HALL, RETIRED CHIEF OF RUSIA OPERATIONS, CIA: The real-life threat here, of course, first foremost is the ability of opposing forces to be able actually physically attack where they see people on a cell phone or on social media. That's the most imminent threat.

FOREMAN: How did the experiment work? Scouring news sources and official military web pages the researchers targeted units involved in the NATO exercise. And through Facebook and Instagram accounts, they identified individuals. Then through impersonation pretending to be a friendly group or real person, honey pot pages promising romantic or erotic contacts, fake close groups and more, the researchers enticed the troops to share information about their exact locations, their plans, and objectives.

The researchers enticed the troops to share information about their exact locations, their plans and objectives. The researchers collected posted photos of equipment and tapped into personal data too. Sure some social me companies have stepped up their privacy measures and Facebook quickly shut down some of the tricks the researchers tried.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: You could turn off the data related to ads, you can choose not to share any content, or control exactly who sees it.

FOREMAN: But the report notes massive amounts of metadata can be shared involuntarily by anyone carrying a smartphone. Troops likes, dislikes activities, even fitness routines like running, stuff U.S. military researchers have long noted could put their entire family at risk by making them potential targets and would be advantageous to adversaries who are looking to kidnap or exploit U.S. military personnel.

It's not all just theory. Analysts say in Ukraine, Russia use social media to track and influence opposing troop movements. In Iraq, ISIS reportedly used it to monitor American troops.

HALL: And you've got young soldiers who are used to being online all the time. You're giving up a wealth of tactical and strategic information.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Military forces around the world including the U.S. have talked about banning cell phones precisely because of this danger. So far, many have found the advantages of keeping troops connected with each other with their families and friends have outweighed the risks but this will almost certainly reignite the debate. Jake?

TAPPER: Yes, so far and it's all the first time.

FOREMAN: So far, but this is data grows, and grows, and grows, and grows, and grows.

TAPPER: Yes.

FOREMAN: The possibility is --

TAPPER: This study is terrifying. Tom Foreman, thank you so much. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.