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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Biden Leads the Democratic Pack in New 2020 Poll; Trump Talks To Reporters As He Departs For Campaign Rally; Trump On Mueller: Beautiful Conclusion. I Haven't Seen Report; Trump: We'll Have Far Better Than ObamaCare Including Pre-Existing Conditions. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 28, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Buttigieg still has not officially jumped into the race, but another mayor is.

[16:30:03] WAYNE MESSAM (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's real for me.

BUCK: Miramar, Florida's Wayne Messam now joining the crowded field of 2020 hopefuls, all of whom lag behind a man who remains on the bench.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Great to see you.

BUCK: Former Vice President Joe Biden is still a commanding favorite with 29 percent of the would-be Democratic vote despite not having declared his candidacy for president in 2020.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCK: And, Brianna, Joe Biden is not the only wild card still in this race. The only person possibly getting in, in the weeks to come, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, CNN reports, is leaning toward jumping into the race. It really shows how early it is, how many variables there are and how much can change in the weeks and months to come -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Wow.

Rebecca Buck, thank you so much.

OK. We should note it's still very early. How many people are going to get in this race? But it's so early in 2020, yet at the same time when you're looking at this key time, as people are trying to establish themselves, what stands out to you, Ron?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, obviously, the size of the field would be the biggest field since 1976. It will challenge what we've seen over the last several cycles. If you look at the four contested Democratic primaries since 2000, the total number of states won by a candidate who did not first win Iowa and New Hampshire is five out of 200.

So, historically, this is whittled very quickly. We are all expecting it to be different. We're expecting three or four candidates viable through the early states going into Super Tuesday in early March but that's not guaranteed.

And the other thing I would say that really stands out to me is that you have the most diverse Democratic electorate that we'll ever have. I mean, it's likely in 2020, 40 percent of the voters will be nonwhites, 60 percent of the voters will be women. But the kind of the hidden dynamic in all of that is that it's older than people think, 60 percent of Democratic primary voters are over 45.

And that is a competitive advantage for Joe Biden, who's very strong with older voters while there are a lot of candidates who are most strong with younger voters and that younger tier is pretty competitive, Buttigieg, and Sanders, and Beto, and Kamala. Middle aged, middle of the road, middle of the country, Biden doesn't have quite as much company on that front.

KEILAR: You predicted last week that Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and I can say it right sometimes and then not the next, Buttigieg. I feel like we should be able to say his name.

MEHDI HASAN, HOST, THE INTERCEPT'S "DECONSTRUCTED" PODCAST: Mayor Pete.

KEILAR: That he would really shake up the process. At the same time, I've heard -- was it you -- I heard someone report they felt he was getting a lot of attention from older voters, to your point, Ron, not just younger voters, sort of a flip from Bernie Sanders being older and getting younger attention.

HASAN: Yes, it's been an amazing bump. I wish my podcast, you could take credit for that, but I wouldn't be that crazy, amazing. I mean, came third in the Iowa poll. He's doing well in his Quinnipiac poll. He's getting support from across the board. Most interesting is, that people seem to love him wherever they are on the kind of left, right, center political spectrum. Last week, Bill Kristol and I were agreeing on Mayor Pete.

What's not to like about him? He's very eloquent. He's smart. He got great resume. He's a progressive, he doesn't pull any punches when it comes to Trump and Pence, he's been very strong on that. And he's really radical on things that Democrats want candidates to be radical on, you know, Supreme Court, Electoral College, all of that stuff.

Can he win the presidency? Right now, it would be weird to predict that. But then again, look, 2016, 16 Republicans ran and the guy from "Home Alone 2" won. So, anyone who wants to make predictions, good luck to them.

KEILAR: All right. Go on.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say, Buttigieg can also literally be like I haven't even started yet. He hasn't even actually started his campaign and he is earning it, because he's interesting. He's not taking short cuts.

KEILAR: And even, you know, when you look at a few percentage points, it still matters at this point in time.

HAM: When somebody pops the top of the polls, it has a way of snowballing. People like to see somebody who's at the top of the polls.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, one of the things that Biden, yes, he is on top of the poll -- on top of the polls right now. And I also thought -- but he hasn't endured the vetting that a top tier candidate has ever.

I know he was vice president. I get that. I know he was on the ticket, ran twice and lost. But he has never had the glare of the spotlight.

And I know, Ron, you were talking about this before the segment. I know some people don't think the Anita Hill question is going to matter. He still hasn't addressed it in a way that makes any sense. I think he said something the other day --

HASAN: It makes it worse.

KUCINICH: He has made it worse.

KEILAR: Wish I could have done something.

HASAN: You were the chair.

KUCINICH: You were the chair. So, that's the problem. So, a whole new crop of voters that haven't seen that ever.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I covered the '88 race and the 2000. He's not been a good candidate, either time at the national level. And he does have a history of positions not only on Anita Hill but going all the way back to bussing and crime and welfare that are more difficult to explain in a Democratic Party that has evolved -- whose coalition is substantially different than it was in the '70s and '80s.

[16:35:07] KUCINICH: He's popular but not in the line of fire.

BROWNSTEIN: But having said that, but having said that, there is still -- we just have to keep in mind that there are still a lot of, as I said, middle aged, middle of the road, middle of the country voters. And that is a base for Biden that could be more substantial and enduring, even though I wouldn't use the word commanding for a 29 percent front-runner.

He is a front-runner. He's not a preponderant front-runner. There's obviously opportunity for others.

HASAN: Jeb Bush was a front-runner.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, what's that?

HASAN: Jeb Bush was a front-runner. Always good to be the front- runner. HAM: Well, I think the crime bill might even be more of an issue for

him than the Hill issue. And I think this is why Cory Booker, speaking of CNN town hall, is smart to make marijuana policy a bit of a proving ground for criminal justice reform, because in searching for a little bit of enthusiasm from the younger voters, which is what those folks are going to need, he can go up against a Kamala Harris and say, look, I know you've evolved on this but you haven't answered about your record, because she really hasn't been asked questions about this. Talk about Biden and say, you need to answer for mass incarceration and the difference on sentencing on crack and cocaine.

He has said a few things about things, but they're going to be answered --

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: He is authentic. This has been part of Cory Booker for a very long time. He was critical in passing criminal justice reform. He was really pushing the bill that went through. So, that's something that can be really --

KEILAR: Let's listen, actually, to what he said and what it's maybe going to bode for the future here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill with other senators on both sides of the aisle, first time since those horrible crime bills back in the 1990s, pass this legislation, working across the aisle to move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Paging Joe Biden, right?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

KEILAR: Paging Bernie Sanders. He voted for the bill. Joe Biden spearheaded the bill. He was a key player in that. Paging Kamala Harris and her record on criminal justice.

HASAN: He wrote the bill. If you look at some of the clips of Biden speaking in the early '90s, it makes Hillary Clinton's predatory style look like nothing.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: It's also true that every black mayor in the country support -- virtually every black that bill. We're talking about a very different era when the murder rate was vastly higher in all of those cities.

HASAN: Yes, good luck selling that now.

BROWNSTEIN: No, but again, I'm not sure about that. Good luck selling that now to a younger generation of Democrats who kind of look at this party today and can't imagine how someone had those positions. It was -- for an older generation of Democrats who realize that the three election of the '80s, the Democrats won the highest share of electoral vote.

KEILAR: So, then how do you explain it?

BROWNSTEIN: That may be different.

KEILAR: How do you explain it? How do you explain it? Because looking at the Anita Hill answer, that was hardly a good first try. How does he explain himself?

HAM: I mean, he could say he has worked on a couple of things. Did he work on sentencing reform during Obama's tenure? I think he's going to have to count on mostly sort of cover from the Obama years when he wasn't doing all that much legislatively, to sort of wash over that. And I'm not sure that the younger people are going to buy it.

But you do have a point, specifically marijuana polling, this is the policy that Booker is pushing to get this out there and it is buzz- worthy.

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: You could individually pack each one. When you put it together, it's like Hillary 2.0. It's like Iraq war, Wall Street, mass incarceration --

BROWNSTEIN: But the difference is Donald Trump is president now, right? And the question -- whether Democrats will feel as though -- whether Democrats will feel as though the advantages Biden has in the polls on Trump and particularly on that straightforward path of recapturing the three states that broke off kind of buys him some grace on some of these things on which the party has unquestionably evolved away from the positions that he tried to express in the '90s.

HAM: And the point I want to make is that in those blue wall states, this polls, marijuana policy specifically polls behind the rest of the country on this on those states. So, that will matter.

BROWNSTEIN: By the way, real quick, it's worth noting, black voters have voted with the winner in Democratic primary since 1990. But they are the critical swing constituency, and if you're Joe Biden and you're looking at candidates who are going to peel away a lot of white liberals, you have to hold a solid share of black voters, because there are not enough white moderates --

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: In the general.

BROWNSTEIN: There are not enough white moderates by themselves. And so, it's really critical. He's now polling 40 percent of African- American voters. Clinton was doing that early on too. Ultimately Obama got 80. If that happens to Biden, he's in a much tougher position and if he

can hold a big share of black voters.

KEILAR: How does Biden navigate? Maybe it's a different situation because the opponent is Donald Trump. How does he navigate explaining himself on, as Mehdi said, kind of this issue after issue after issue? How does he do that without looking like he is completely out of touch with where the Democratic Party is?

KUCINICH: I think that's the test, right, that he can have a good explanation for his previous record.

KEILAR: That he can have one?

KUCINICH: Tat he can, that he will have a good answer.

[16:40:00] That is his biggest challenge because what we've seen in these trial runs, if you will, he hasn't. And he has -- I mean, you can only evolve on so many issues before you look inauthentic.

That is one thing that voters are looking for, authenticity. I know he's Joe Biden --

HASAN: He's Joe Biden.

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: But you know what? He would be Uncle Joe once he is -- once he's running in the race and being vetted.

HASAN: And those crazy comments, and Bidenisms and gaffes and I'm going to take Trump behind the woodshed, and you can't go to 7-Eleven unless you have an Indian accent. You know, I think Trump would enjoy going up against Biden because they both say crazy stuff.

KEILAR: The question, some of the stuff he said, is that going to fly? But I wonder if he's up against -- if he's up against Cory Booker, who has made it clear he's drawing this line in the sand on these issues, how harsh is Cory Booker and others? If you can hold on a moment. Moments ago, president Trump spoke, as he was departing the White House. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're opening up car plants in Michigan again for the first time in decades. They're coming in, really, pouring in. Car companies are coming in. Toyota just announced $13.5 billion coming into our country. And Michigan is booming and Ohio is booming, and North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida. A lot of places.

We have a lot of car companies. We have a lot of companies coming back into our country and this has been happening pretty much since I've been president. It's really amazing what's going on.

But again, because I'm going to Michigan I will tell you, we'll be speaking about it tonight. We have companies coming back in, car companies. It's a great thing to see.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Well, look, I've been going through that for almost two years, but it's really much more than that, because if you look back, you can probably look at the insurance policy area in terms of timing. It's a disgrace what happened. This was a terrible thing that's been put on to our country. Nobody has ever seen anything like this, probably never happened before.

Beautiful conclusion, I haven't seen the report. Beautiful conclusion. And there was no collusion at all. There never was. Everybody knew it.

I wish it could have gone in one week instead of taking almost two years. But the result was great. No obstruction. No collusion. No anything. It was a great thing but it took a long time.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Well, I can't tell you whether it had an impact on other countries, including China. I can say this, that countries are reacting very well. We're doing very well with our trade talks with China and out trade talks and other talks with other countries.

Our country is doing great. If you look at --

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: If you look at other countries, if you look at what's happening, the economies of other countries, we're leading the world, economically. We're leading the world as far as our economy is concerned. We have a strong dollar. We have -- I mean, things are going very well.

One of the reasons I'm going out tonight from Michigan is brought back so much industry, so many car companies to Michigan. So, we're very happy.

REPORTERS: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: The Special Olympics will be funded. I just told my people I want to fund the Special Olympics, and I just authorized a funding of the Special Olympics.

I've been to the Special Olympic s. I think it's incredible. And I just authorized a funding. I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics.

REPORTERS: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: She's a very nice lady.

[16:45:00] She's a friend of mine. I hope she does well. I hope the Brexit movement and everything happening there goes very well. But Theresa May is a very good woman. And I'll tell you what, she's strong, she's tough, and she's in there fighting.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I like Boris Johnson a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

I've taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man ever. We have $91 billion going to Puerto Rico. We have $29 billion to Texas and $12 billion to Florida for the hurricane. Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being. And I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it.

But you do have a mayor in San Juan that frankly doesn't know what she's doing and the governor, they got to spend the money wisely. They don't know how to spend the money and they're not spending it wisely. But I'm giving them more money than they've ever gotten. And frankly the people of Puerto Rico, I really have a great relationship with them and I think when it comes time, they really do appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Where?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mozambique.

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: So ObamaCare has been an absolute disaster. I have asked John Barrasso, Senator Bill Cassidy who's a terrific health care person, Rick Scott, and others to take a look, form a really great plan. We're winning the lawsuit to terminate ObamaCare in Texas. We are winning the Texas lawsuit and right now we're on the winning side. Hopefully, we'll win it the Appellate Division and go to the Supreme Court to terminate ObamaCare.

The cost of ObamaCare to people is far too much. The deductibility is ridiculous. It averages more than $7,000.00 meaning, it's unusable. So ObamaCare has been a disaster. We will take care of pre-existing conditions better than their taken care of now. And I've already got rid of the individual mandate which was the worst part of ObamaCare where you had to pay for the privilege of not getting bad insurance so we are working very hard on that.

John Barrasso, Rick Scott, we have some great people. You look -- I mean we've put together a group of four or five and Bill Cassidy is a terrific health care person and they are going to work together to come up with something that's really spectacular. Maybe we'll even get support in the House from Democrats. But it's going to be far better than ObamaCare. If we win on ObamaCare it will be terminated in the court and we'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) TRUMP: Well, we're working on a plan now. There's no very great

right from the standpoint. We're waiting for decisions in the court. But we've already won the case against the termination of ObamaCare, against ObamaCare. Now we'll go to the Appellate Division. We'll see what happens there. I think we'll win. It's in Texas -- wait, wait. And then it goes to the Supreme Court of the United States.

If the decisions are held up, if we win on the termination of ObamaCare, we will have a plan that's far better than ObamaCare including very importantly pre-existing conditions which I've always been in favor of.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Well, I think the -- I think the -- I think the Smollett -- I think the case in Chicago is an absolute embarrassment to our country. And I have asked that it be -- that they look at it. I think that case is an absolute embarrassment to our country and somebody has to at least take a very good hard look at it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the President speaking as he leaves to head to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Just a few things we have to fact-check here. He said that he was cleared by the Mueller report on no obstruction, that's not true. I'm just reading an excerpt here from the Mueller report, a small smidge that we have but this is a quote from it in the Barr letter.

"While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." On Puerto Rico, he said that they're not spending money wisely. He actually has misstated previously the amount of money by a factor of 60 that they have received and actually, a recent report showed that HUD is partially to blame, a large chunk of the blame there for not getting the money to them.

[16:50:25] Another headline out of this, not to fact-check, but he said that the Special Olympics will be funded. That funding had been pulled through the Department of Education at least according to the budget which is a priority list. And then on the issue of health care, he said they are working on a plan right now. That is -- that is a bit of a headline.

And then just finally, talking about this where that health care bill is being appealed. He said it's in Texas, it's actually in New Orleans. That's where the Court of Appeals where it's being appealed will be.

All right, so let's open this up for discussion. What are -- what's the biggest headline to you is it that he has -- he's intervened with a positive headline for the Special Olympics. He has insulted -- well he said he's treated Puerto Rico the best, but what did -- what did you think? What was the big takeaway for you? JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the Puerto Rico would probably object to that. I think Jim Acosta had an interview today that also might be contrary to what the president said there. Listen, the I'm actually really anxious to e-mail Senators Scott, Cassidy, and Barrasso to see exactly what is being crafted because our understanding that this was a big surprise earlier this week that they were going back into ObamaCare war.

Because I think a lot of Republicans, at least the ones I spoke to thought that they were beyond this in part because of what happened in 2018.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, he put it in his budget. I mean it's interesting he's saying he's developing a plan. The budget that they put out, what was it, three weeks ago, has a plan. It says repeal the ACA, replace it with the Graham-Cassidy block rants that they proposed last year, block grant Medicaid and cut the combined spending for the ACA and Medicaid by $775 billion over the next ten years. That is the plan that the administration has endorsed as of three weeks ago.

And I think if you're asking what is the most significance out this, there's no question that reopening the battle over the ACA both in his budget and now in the lawsuit is the most significant in terms of 2020.

I mean it was the single most important issue for Democrats and their gains in 2018 particularly in clawing back some ground among those blue-collar whites especially women in the Midwest and he has now whatever planned the Democrats come up with I would argue that the most important health care proposal in 2020 is already on the table. It's from Donald Trump and it's to repeal the ACA.

KUCINICH: I just want to add one thing really quick. It also takes the focus off of Democrats who are not -- who don't all agree on how to address health care going forward. I mean, there's this big debate in the party about Medicare for all, what to do, single pair --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: (INAUDIBLE) pre-existing conditions, things like that.

KUCINICH: Well, right. That is true.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But they also run into the idea that when you do Medicare for all, you do take away and sometimes literally outlaw people's current plan.

KUCINICH: Right. But now we're talking about Republican again --

HAM: Of course.

KUCINICH: Because of --

HAM: Because of the administration. KEILAR: The Special Olympics headline here where he said he's

intervened and Betsy DeVos had been grilled by Congress on this. She was saying look, philanthropists fund this. They don't need the government funding. It's going to be OK. It's not like we're getting rid of the Special Olympics. They're going to be OK but the uproar was huge. What did you think of him doing this?

MEHDI HASAN, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, THE INTERCEPT: No surprise if he wants to throw Betsy DeVos under the bus. He's made it clear in public and private he's not the biggest fan of Betsy DeVos. There was reports about him wanting to replace her. You know, the smallest violin will play when she is replaced. I liked his phraseology, as usual, I've overridden my people. It's always I'm here to the rescue. I'm -- you know, even my administration is -- fools. I'm the only one who can help you. I alone can fix this.

KEILAR: There's a lot of company under the bus for cabinet secretaries so --

HASAN: Indeed. And on the -- for me, it's offensive and disgusting to hear him talk about Puerto Rico saying I have the best relationship. 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico according to a study that Trump dismissed without any basis. We saw him throwing the paper towels. We saw him blaming them for their own demise. We know that he tried to illegally transfer money from Puerto Rico to U.S. mainland States. It's an outrage.

Just one quick point and Jussie Smollett which he was asked about. He's getting very worked up as many Republicans saying it's an outrage that he was released without charge. I mean, he's saying basically that a guy who wasn't charged is still guilty of a crime. I wonder what where that could apply, that argument, where else in the news agenda.

KEILAR: There is -- there is some irony in that for sure but he was really leaning into beautiful conclusion there was no collusion, he said.

HAM: Yes. I mean, frankly, it is a beautiful conclusion. He has a way of putting things that will become something we say all the time. But I got -- I got a ask -- I think -- I would advise and I know it's going to sound like concern trolling, I would advise Democrats to talk about the health care part of this instead of the idea that he is going to be guilty of obstruction of justice someday because we have a presumption of innocence in this country.

There was a two-year investigation. He interviewed 2,800 people over 500 warrants. Do we think that Adam Schiff with less good motives and less good information is going to find more information that will finally show us the thing? To me, that doesn't seem likely. And I think that it doesn't work as a pitch.

[16:55:17] BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of all, I mean, obviously in the -- in the campaign in 2018, that's what they talked about. And in 2020, I believe health care -- health care will be front and center in the election no matter who the nominee is. KEILAR: Thank you all, and we will be back with more on the breaking

news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: That's it for THE LEAD today. You can follow me on Twitter @BRIKEILARCNN or tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.