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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview with Former Nevada State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores; Trump Targets Obamacare Again; Interview With Rep. Seth Moulton (D) Massachusetts; Interview With Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; O'Rourke Kicks Off Campaign By Criticizing Trump On Immigration; Trump Touts "Great Health Care" But Hasn't Presented A Plan; Former Lawmaker Says Biden Made Her Feel "Uneasy" In 2014. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 31, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:18]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): On offense. A humanitarian nightmare at the U.S.-Mexico border has President Trump threatening to shut the border down.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will just close the border.

TAPPER: And his administration again takes on Obamacare.

TRUMP: We'll soon be known as the party of health care. You watch.

TAPPER: But what's the Republican plan? The president's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, responds in moments.

And digging in. The attorney general plans to release the Mueller report in weeks, as Democrats defend their criticism of the president.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK.

TAPPER: But with Trump claiming victory...

TRUMP: Complete vindication.

TAPPER: ... where do Democrats go from here?

Plus, moment of truth. One of the Democratic front-runners makes it official.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running to serve you as the next president.

TAPPER: As the 2020 candidates try to stand out.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't just stand up and say, not Trump. TAPPER: Who else might jump in? Potential Democratic candidate

Congressman Seth Moulton is here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is gearing up for a new phase.

President Trump is in Florida this morning, after a week of first relief and then quickly confusion for his administration, following the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.

As the attorney general prepares to release a redacted version of the full report, the president seemed to step on his own victory lap with a sudden announcement on health care, surprising even top Republicans.

Despite the reported objections of top Cabinet officials, including the vice president and the attorney general, the Trump administration announced it would join a Texas lawsuit arguing that the entire Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is unconstitutional, without any clear answer as to what would happen to the 20 million Americans who would lose health insurance if Obamacare is killed, and setting up a political battle over health care ahead of 2020.

The president is also raising the stakes on the battle over immigration, declaring his administration will cut off aid to three Central American countries. Experts within his own administration say cutting off that money would exacerbate the immigration crisis, as the president threatens again to close the U.S.-Mexico border this week.

And joining me now to discuss this and more is acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Mr. Mulvaney, as always, thanks so much for joining us.

President Trump has previously said he wants the public to see the Mueller report.

But here is what he tweeted on Friday. Help us understand this -- quote -- "The problem is no matter what the radical left Democrats get, no matter what we give them, it will never be enough. Just watch. They will harass and complain and resist, the theme of their movement. So maybe we should just take our victory and say, no, we have got a country to run."

When the president says no there in that tweet, is he suggesting that the full Mueller report should not be released?

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Jake, good morning. Thanks very much for having me on this Sunday morning.

No, take the president at his word that it is -- it is time to sort of work on policy. Yes, we need to figure out what went wrong with the Mueller report, why -- in all fairness to your network, why the media got it so wrong for so long. But it is time to talk about health care. It is time to talk about

trade. It is time to talk about other things, while, at the same time, talking about why it came down the way that it did. It was so thorough and yet so accurate. How did the media get it so wrong?

I think the president is just venting the same frustration a lot of people had when the Mueller report came out, and it turned out exactly like he said that it would.

TAPPER: Well...

MULVANEY: So, now, as usual, you take the president at his word in his tweets.

TAPPER: He wants it released.

But I'm not sure what you're saying the media got wrong. The media reported what -- the investigation was going on. Other than the people in the media on the left, not on this network, I don't know anybody who got anything wrong.

We didn't say that there was conspiracy. We said that Mueller was investigating conspiracy.

MULVANEY: That's fine. If that's your recollection of history, that's great.

Face it, come on, the media got this wrong, Jake. It's OK. People get stuff wrong all the time, just not at this level. But it's done now. The report is there. It's extraordinarily thorough, as you know. I think they talked to 500 people, issued 2,800 subpoenas.

And it completely exonerates the president. There's no collusion. There's no obstruction of justice.

TAPPER: Well, have you read the Mueller report?

MULVANEY: It's exactly what the president said it was.

No. Neither have you.

TAPPER: No.

MULVANEY: I have read the Barr summary, which is what everybody else has read.

TAPPER: I -- but you're making statements there that I -- you know, I don't know what the Mueller report says. And I was just asking, are we going to see the Mueller report?

MULVANEY: Yes.

TAPPER: There were, in addition to all the interviews you talked about, dozens of indictments, including jail time for people close to the president. Let me ask you about this. The chairman of the House Intelligence

Committee, Adam Schiff, he listed off several events, the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, Michael Flynn lying about conversations with the Russian ambassador, Paul Manafort sharing polling data.

[09:05:00]

He had this to say about those events. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I don't think it's OK. I think it's immoral. I think it's unethical. I think it's unpatriotic. And, yes, I think it's corrupt and evidence of collusion. I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, from what we know, the special counsel concluded there is not sufficient evidence for any criminal charges having to do with conspiracy or collusion.

But what do you think about his larger point that the actions were unethical?

MULVANEY: Keep in mind that everything Adam that just talked about -- and I know Adam. I used to serve with him in Congress.

Everything that he just listed right there was available to Mr. Mueller, in fact, probably in greater detail than Adam goes into right there, and yet Mr. Mueller found no collusion and no obstruction.

TAPPER: Right, not a crime, but what about the ethics or morality of those things, those incidents?

MULVANEY: Again, the -- the -- the issue is not whether it's ethical.

Mr. Schiff runs the House Intelligence Committee. People don't realize this. He gets to see stuff that a lot of members of Congress don't get to see. I didn't get to see what he was seeing when I was in the House. That role takes with it a huge responsibility.

And one of those responsibilities is to not be partisan. It's why you saw so many Republicans this week call for Adam to resign his position. That position is so critical that, if someone comes forward and they're the House Intelligence Committee chairman, and they look at the other members and say, look, I have seen a bunch of stuff. You haven't seen it, because you don't get to see it. I do. Trust me, it says X, Y, Z.

They have to be able to trust that person implicitly. And Adam has lost that ability to do it. It's why you heard so many Republicans call upon his resignation this week.

Look, there are some Democrats who simply can't get over the fact that President Trump is president. I get that. Adam is apparently one of them. But we really do think enough is enough and it's time to move on to other things.

TAPPER: All I'm saying here is that you're setting the bar on criminal charges or evidence of conspiracy. And I agree with what you're saying, that there is none there.

But he's talking about ethics and morality. And you're saying, that's not his job. OK, fair enough.

MULVANEY: Right.

TAPPER: But forgetting Adam Schiff for a second, what about the larger point about ethics and morality?

MULVANEY: Well, I think -- I think the voters are going to decide about the ethics and morality of the people they vote for on either side.

People liked Bill Clinton, even though they might not have thought he was that ethical. That's not the job of the House Intelligence Committee. It's not the job of the House Judiciary Committee. It's not the job of the House Oversight Committee.

They're supposed to review the functioning of government. Voters make decisions about the candidates in other places. And, importantly, members of Congress, even if they are the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, don't get to substitute their judgment for the voters.

And that is what this is all about at the end of the day. That's what the Mueller report was about. That's what you're seeing now on the Hill. It's about trying to figure out how to undo what the voters did in 2016. And that's where I think people have just had enough and said, look, we gave Mueller the time. We gave him all the resources in the world, millions of dollars, two years.

A lot of folks, including this station, said, give Mueller the time, give him -- let him do his job. But the decision is in. The president did not collude and did not obstruct. It's time to move on.

TAPPER: Let's move on right now in this interview and talk about health care.

The Trump administration reversed positions this week to argue that federal courts should strike down all of Obamacare, reportedly going against concerns from the health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, or the attorney general, Bill Barr, Vice President Mike Pence.

Now, more than 20 million Americans are poised to lose their health care insurance if the courts side with you.

What is your plan for those Americans who will lose their health insurance?

MULVANEY: Well, a couple different things about that. What -- what you have just said at the beginning there is not accurate. I won't go into all of the discussions we had in the White House. But there's absolutely zero daylight between the president and the vice president on this issue. Both of them campaigned on Obamacare being unconstitutional.

Keep in mind what happened this week, just for some context here. We had to decide to file a brief in a case in the Fifth Circuit. And the previous Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions had taken the position that some of the Affordable Care Act, some of Obamacare should survive that legal challenge.

The president simply said, no, I ran against Obamacare being constitutional. It is unconstitutional. We're going to take that position in the court.

That was the decision was made today.

TAPPER: OK.

MULVANEY: Look, here's what we're going to do on -- on health care. We have said this from the very beginning.

We're going to give people the choices that they want, the affordability that they need, and the quality that they deserve. We have said that from the very beginning. Every...

TAPPER: Right, but where's the plan?

MULVANEY: Well, we're -- we're doing the same thing on this that we did with taxes.

Remember, when we started with taxes, people criticized us for not giving enough details. What did we do? We sent principles to the Hill. I think it was one or two pages. And from that, following the proper legislative process, we got a tremendous tax bill that passed into law, also got rid of the individual mandate at that time just as an added benefit.

We're going to do the same thing on health care. As to preexisting conditions, I know a lot of folks have raised that. Keep in mind, every single plan that this administration has ever come out with has covered preexisting conditions.

(CROSSTALK)

[09:10:01]

TAPPER: Well, let -- let me stop you there for one second, sir.

MULVANEY: Well, let me just finish, because every single plan out of the House Republicans, every single plan out Senate Republicans has covered preexisting conditions.

The debate about preexisting conditions is over. Everybody supports it. Anybody telling you something different is just not being accurate.

TAPPER: No, but here's the thing.

Here -- yes, the Republican bills talk about protecting people with preexisting conditions. The difference between that and Obamacare is Obamacare says, we're protecting people with preexisting conditions. Just like the Republican plan, you cannot deny somebody health insurance because they have a preexisting condition.

The difference with the Obamacare plan is they say, and you can't charge those people more in insurance premiums. The Republican plans do not do that.

MULVANEY: Well, let's talk about that for a second. Let's talk about what Obamacare does. And let's talk about why the Democrats felt so incumbent upon themselves to offer plans to improve Obamacare, because they know it's broken.

Look, I used to be on Obamacare when I was a member of Congress. Don't believe the stories about how we exempted ourselves. The deductibility was tens thousands -- was over $10,000 for my family.

TAPPER: But let's talk about the preexisting conditions. You were talking about the preexisting conditions.

MULVANEY: Yes, then let's talk about it.

TAPPER: Let's talk about that.

MULVANEY: Let's talk about preexisting conditions.

If you have got a preexisting condition and you have to pay $2,000 or $3,000 a month for your premium, $10,000 for a deductible, you're talking about $25,000, $30,000 a year out-of-pocket expenses. That's not affordable care, even for folks with preexisting conditions.

Obamacare does not work. Even the Democrats admit that right now. Face it, there were tens of millions of people who were paying a fine, paying a fee, rather than take Obamacare.

That's people telling you it doesn't work. We know it. They know it. It's just a question of who's got the better idea for how to fix it.

TAPPER: But you're not addressing the idea -- first of all, larger picture here, there is no Republican plan right now. You're talking about how you want one, but there is no Republican plan right now.

You personally, as well as Republicans in Congress, have been opposing Obamacare for a decade as of this year, and yet you're talking about -- you're taking legal action to remove Obamacare, to kill Obamacare, with no replacement for these tens of millions of Americans.

MULVANEY: Now, keep in mind, the lawsuit is actually filed by 20 states' attorneys general, and they were the ones who came forward and said...

TAPPER: Right, and the administration joined it.

MULVANEY: Yes, we did. We joined that today.

But the lawsuit -- we didn't file a lawsuit to get rid of Obamacare. We simply looked at the Constitution said, you know what? The state attorney generals are correct.

So, as to the plan, keep in mind, we have offered plans in the House. We have offered plans in the Senate. We came up with a bunch of ideas out of the White House. Yes, they didn't pass, because -- primarily because John McCain went back on his word to vote for it in the middle of the night. That's another story for another day.

But you have seen the details from Republicans. And what we're going to do over the course of the next couple of months, because the lawsuit will move fairly slowly, is to -- is to come up with a -- with something that can pass into law.

We'd love to work with Democrats. We don't think they're going to do that with us until that lawsuit is over.

TAPPER: But wouldn't it be responsible to have the replacement there before you take the insurance away from the individuals, the tens of millions of Americans who are relying on it?

MULVANEY: Would it be responsible for the Democrats to pass a decent bill in the first place? They didn't do that. They admit that.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But I'm not talking about 2009. I'm talking about 2019.

MULVANEY: I'm talking about today.

No, the Democrats just introduced a bill this week to supposedly fix Obamacare, because they know it's broken. I know that didn't get a lot of coverage, but that actually happened. By the way, their answer is, spend a lot more money, let the government do more things.

TAPPER: But you don't have a plan. But you don't have a plan.

You're talking about taking away insurance from tens of millions of Americans, and you don't have a plan ready for them.

MULVANEY: Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.

Talk about taking care -- we're -- we're talking about passing something...

TAPPER: Ending Obamacare.

MULVANEY: ... that is constitutional.

TAPPER: Right.

MULVANEY: Right. If the courts are right that -- and keep in mind, Obamacare lost at

the -- at the trial court level. The trial court judge ruled that Obamacare was entirely unconstitutional. That's not the court's fault. That's the Democrats' fault and President Obama's fault for passing and signing a piece of legislation that violates the Constitution.

Even if you like that piece of legislation, you don't get to keep a law just because you like it if it's unconstitutional. We're trying to fix that.

So, no, don't -- don't tell me that we're taking action to try and kick people off of health care. That's not correct. What we're trying to do is pass a piece of legislation that meets the requirements of the United States Constitution.

TAPPER: Yes, but you haven't introduced legislation.

I want to move on, because we're running out of time, to the border.

MULVANEY: Sure.

TAPPER: President Trump threatening to close the border this week over undocumented immigration.

This would have a dramatic economic impact. The southern border facilitates $1.5 billion in trade in goods with Mexico every day. The Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Ron Johnson, he says closing the border would be -- quote -- "a self- inflicted wound on our economy."

Are you concerned at all about closing the border, given the effect it will have on the American economy?

MULVANEY: Sure.

But we're also concerned about the effect on the American economy and the nation as a whole from having 100,000 -- more than 100,000 people cross illegally this month.

If we close the borders, why would we do that? Because we need the people who are working at the legal ports of entry to go patrol -- and I'm not making this up -- where there's no wall. We were not lying to people when we said that this was an emergency. Very -- very few people believed us, especially folks in the media and the Democrat Party.

[09:15:02]

It is an emergency. I think you saw an interview with Jeh Johnson this week on another network that said that 4,000 people per day, which is what we had, I think, one day like week.

TAPPER: It's absolutely a humanitarian crisis, absolutely.

MULVANEY: Absolutely. TAPPER: And I don't question that for one second, and I never have.

MULVANEY: Congress won't give us -- Congress won't give us any money to fix it. They won't change the law to fix it.

So we're going to do the best with what we have. And if that means pulling people off the ports of entry to put them out in -- on the border where there's no wall, we will absolutely do that.

TAPPER: But let me ask you, because the State Department told CNN yesterday that the U.S., the Trump administration, is going to cut off aid to the Northern Triangle countries, the Central American countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras.

Your own border experts in your own administration say that investing in those countries is working. For instance, in El Salvador, USAID money has gone to El Salvador. The homicide rate has gone down and migration from El Salvador has gone down as well.

Isn't this also self-defeating? Taking away aid from those countries ultimately will make the migration crisis works.

MULVANEY: Look, there's -- there's -- there's a lot of good ways to help solve this problem. Congress could do it, but they're not going to. Mexico could help us do it. They need to do a little bit more.

Honduras could do more. Nicaragua could do more. El Salvador could do more. And if we're going to give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars, we would like them to do more.

That, Jake, I would respectfully submit to you, is not an unreasonable position. We could prevent a lot of what's happening on the southern border by preventing people from moving into Mexico in the first place.

And that's what...

TAPPER: Right, but that's the USAID money does, is it makes those countries more stable.

This is not according to me. This is according to experts in your administration.

MULVANEY: No, no, that's -- right. OK, career staffers, but let's talk about -- let's talk about that for a second.

If it's working so well, why are the people still coming? Why are these historic numbers -- again, 100,000 people will cross the border this month alone. That is -- that is a crisis. It's a humanitarian crisis. It's a security crisis.

I think at least now people are starting to realize that we were not exaggerating a couple months ago, when we had this nationwide debate about the wall. So I hear what you're saying, that people say it's working, but the proof is in the numbers. It's not working well enough to help us solve our border crisis. And that's what the president's focused on.

TAPPER: President Trump reversed his administration's proposed cuts for the Special Olympics on Friday.

A Department of Education official told CNN that the Education Department made repeated requests to include Special Olympics funding, but the Office of Management and Budget, which I believe you are still the formal head of...

MULVANEY: Yes.

TAPPER: ... denied those repeated requests. President Trump subsequently has overruled you and OMB and gone with what DOE, the Education Department, originally wanted to do.

Why were those requests for Special Olympics funding denied initially and repeatedly?

MULVANEY: Those debates go on all the time. I mean, there's folks on all sorts of different sides of arguments when it comes to the entire piece of the budget.

Keep in mind, the budget is $1.3 trillion. That's 1,300,000 million dollars, of which Special Olympics was 17, so 17 of 1,300,000.

These debates take place all the time. What did the president do? The president simply listened to people. That's what he does. And when the president realized that the public wanted this money, he made the change. This is what he does. It's his budget.

Yes, we have disagreements amongst ourselves. I hope that people would encourage that. We're not simply running around with a bunch of yes-people saying -- you know, not discussing anything. We have real serious issues or real serious discussions about serious issues.

The president makes the final determination. He wanted to make the change. He made the change. We're happy to move forward from here.

TAPPER: Mick Mulvaney, always good to have you, sir. Thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

MULVANEY: Thanks, Jake. You too.

TAPPER: My next guest says former Vice President Joe Biden made her feel uneasy and confused during a campaign interaction in 2014.

The vice president, former vice president, just put out a new statement in response.

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores will be here live next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:22:41]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has just responded to an article by a former Nevada state lawmaker.

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores says, before a campaign event in 2014, the vice president stood behind her backstage, smelled her hair, kissed the back of her head. Flores writes that made her feel -- quote -- "uneasy, gross and confused" -- unquote.

In a statement out just moments ago, the former vice president says he's given countless handshakes and hugs on the campaign trail -- quote -- and -- quote -- "Not once, never did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully, but it was never my intention" -- unquote.

Joining me now is former Nevada state lawmaker Lucy Flores.

Assemblywoman Flores, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's go back to that -- let's go back to that day in November 2014. The vice president, Biden, has come to Nevada for a campaign event. You're running for lieutenant governor. You're both backstage waiting to go on stage. What happened next?

LUCY FLORES (D), FORMER NEVADA STATE ASSEMBLYWOMAN: Well, it happened all so suddenly.

It's -- anyone who's ever been at a rally recognizes that there is just chaos, there's a lot of energy, that everyone's running back and forth. Eva Longoria was there. We were all lined up next to the stage. Eva was in front of me. Joe Biden was behind me.

I'm kind of preparing myself to give these remarks. It's the very last days before the election. And, very unexpectedly and out of nowhere, I feel Joe Biden put his hands on my shoulders, get up very close to me from behind, lean in, smell my hair, and then plant a slow kiss on the top of my head.

And that, in and of itself, might not sound like it's a very serious thing. That, in and of itself, might sound like it was innocent and well-intentioned.

But, in the context of it, as a person that had absolutely no relationship with him afterwards, as a candidate who was preparing to make my case for why I should be elected, elected the second in command of that state, to have the vice president of the United States do that to me so unexpectedly and just kind of out of nowhere, it was just shocking.

It was, shocking because you don't expect that kind of intimate behavior, you don't expect that kind of intimacy from someone so powerful and someone who you just have no relationship whatsoever, to touch you and to feel you, and to be so close you in that way.

[09:25:10] So, I, frankly, just didn't even know how to react. I was just shocked. I felt -- I felt powerless. I felt like I couldn't move. I just didn't even know how to process it.

And my bigger point that I have been making is that, in these power dynamic situations -- and women are subjected to this in the political setting, but in work settings all the time -- that you just kind of process it, and then you move on, because you have a job to do.

And, frankly, what do you say? Who do you tell? Who do you -- there just isn't really a mechanism to deal with it. And so that's what I did. I went on, and I made my case and campaigned and, frankly, then went on with my life, because, again, what do you do?

TAPPER: So, Vice President Biden and his team just released a statement just moments ago from Mr. Biden.

Here's what it says -- quote -- "In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort, and not once, never, did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully, but it was never my intention. We have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences and men should pay attention. And I will" -- unquote.

What's your response?

FLORES: Well, I certainly think that it's better than his first statement that they released on Saturday. I'm glad that he's willing to listen. I'm glad that he is clarifying his intentions.

Frankly, my point was never about his intentions. And they shouldn't be about his intentions. It should be about the women on the receiving end of that behavior. And this isn't the first time and it wasn't the only incident where he was acting inappropriately with women.

If he is saying that he never believed that that was inappropriate, then, frankly, I think that's a little bit of a disconnect, and not being aware, a...

(CROSSTALK)

FLORES: ... sense of not being aware, because there has been documentation, both in photos, videos, stories that were written.

Now, that being said, I think that part of the reason why I decided to finally say something is because those behaviors were not being taken very seriously. They were not being considered from the perspective of the woman on the other side of that power dynamic, on the side of -- on the receiving end.

And I just can't imagine that there was never a situation where someone said to him: "Vice President, Mr. Vice President, your -- you probably should stop doing that. You should probably stop touching women in that way. You should probably keep your hands to yourself."

TAPPER: So, Assemblywoman Flores, you write in your piece that you wrote for The Cut that you know that people might accuse you of being politically motivated here.

We should point out, you supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 running for president. He's running again. You attended a Beto O'Rourke campaign event yesterday. You have told us that you haven't endorsed any candidate yet. You haven't decided who you want to support.

But how would you respond to somebody out there who says, she's attending a Beto rally, she supported Bernie in 2016, politics might be at least partially motivating you here? What would you tell those people?

FLORES: I would say politics was definitely the impetus. The reason why we're having these conversations about Vice President Joe Biden is because he's considering running for president.

And, frankly, the reason why I felt so compelled to finally say something was because, over the years, as this behavior was documented, as it was, frankly, dismissed by the media and not taken seriously, that conversation was not coming up in the discussions about whether or not he would -- in a complete analysis of his -- of his history, of his record, as we go through the vetting process for all of these candidates, that important aspect was being left out.

And it was being dismissing. And it wasn't being acknowledged. And, for me, that was, one, incredibly offensive, and, two, I think really speaks to the fact that, when behavior isn't considered -- quote, unquote -- "serious enough" for society, for America, it's very easy to dismiss it.

I fully recognize that -- that this behavior -- never do I claim that this was -- that rises to the level of a sexual assault or anything of that nature.

What I am saying is that it's completely inappropriate, that it does not belong in any kind of a professional setting, much less in politics. And that is something that we should consider when we are talking about the background of a person who is considering running for president.

[09:30:03]

TAPPER: Did you have any conversations about what happened with any presidential campaign before you wrote that piece for The Cut?

FLORES: No.

TAPPER: No, you haven't talked to anybody?

FLORES: No. No.

TAPPER: Vice President Biden is widely expected to announce a run for president in the coming weeks. You say that that is why you decided to speak out now.

Do you think that this is disqualifying for him?

FLORES: For me, it's disqualifying.

I think it's up to everybody else to make that decision, considering, again, the entire scope of his background, of the positions that he's taken. For me, it's -- this isn't the only problematic thing.

I think that his response to the way in which he handled the Anita Hill hearing was completely also inappropriate and lacked empathy, and, frankly, lacked accountability.

Saying that he wishes that there was something more he could have done, I think, is just -- it's just -- again, just a complete lack of accountability. You were the chair. You were the chair of that hearing, and you could have done anything you wanted.

So, in addition to previous anti-abortion positions that he's taken, et cetera, I find a lot of his background problematic. But that's for me, personally.

So -- and what I think is also important and part of the reason why I felt a little bit less pressure in terms of speaking out is that we're often pressured to keep our mouths shut about anything. We, as party loyalists, as party stalwarts, as -- are foot soldiers for the party.

We are expected to -- quote, unquote -- "keep our dirty laundry" to ourselves. And it's always in service to the party. And, in this case, there are so many more incredible candidates that are just as likely and, I believe, are competent and amazing and can beat Donald trump.

And so I did feel like a little -- I felt a little less pressure, in terms of feeling like I could speak out, because we have options. We have options.

TAPPER: So...

FLORES: And I don't feel pressured to stay quiet and just take one for the team, the way in which we're always asked to do, and never speak out about the things that we believe are wrong.

TAPPER: The co-founder of the Latino Victory Project, Henry Munoz, who organized this event in November 2014, he released a statement that I know you have seen.

It says in part -- quote -- "At no time were these two leaders," you and the vice president, "alone together. And I and the organization I co-founded and those in attendance do not believe that circumstances support allegations that such an event took place" -- unquote.

What's your response to that?

FLORES: I think you left out the most important part of that quote, which is, he says that he doesn't believe that the circumstances supported that, because the premise of his statement is that we were never alone.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

FLORES: That's literally what that statement says.

TAPPER: Right.

FLORES: That he asked everyone, that him and I were never alone, and, therefore, because we were never alone, that could have never happened, and that...

TAPPER: Right, and you never claimed that you were alone, right.

FLORES: No, of course. That statement is entirely irrelevant. That literally has no application.

Henry needs to go back and actually read my piece, because I never claimed that I was alone with him. In fact, I very clearly say that this occurred in the chaos of a rally. Eva was in front of me. He was behind me.

And, frankly, there is so many -- so many more documented instances of him doing the exact same thing, that, to me, whether you believe me or not isn't as important as literally taking a look at the entire history of his behavior, because it's out there.

And it's -- and this is something that we have known for a long time, Jake. This isn't something that's new.

TAPPER: So, my last question for you, Assemblywoman Flores -- and I do want to take a moment to acknowledge it's not easy to do what you're doing, and I thank you for coming on and having the courage to do so.

But what are you looking for from the vice president here, Vice President Biden? Are you looking for an apology? Are you looking for him to change his behavior? What's the endgame here? What do you want?

FLORES: Absolutely, I would -- yes, of course I want him to change his behavior.

And I want him to acknowledge that it was wrong. And I want this to be a bigger discussion about how there is no accountability structure within our political space, either for instances in which women feel that there was inappropriate behavior or more serious instances and allegations of sexual assault, et cetera.

We are -- we are not protected in politics. And, frankly, on a much larger scale, we also need to have a conversation about powerful men feeling that they have -- that they have the right to invade a woman's space whenever they'd like.

This really is about women feeling like we have agency. We -- if we don't want you to touch us, then don't touch us. If there isn't a personal relationship, if there isn't a history there, if this is inappropriate, if he -- if this same situation occurred in a work setting, and a CEO came up to a female staffer, and did the exact same thing, that staffer would be able to complain to someone.

[09:35:15]

That staffer would say, this was very weird, and I -- it made me feel very uncomfortable, and he needs to stop doing this.

And if that CEO continued that behavior, and that was a pattern and practice, that would be a sexual harassment claim.

TAPPER: Assemblywoman...

FLORES: So, that -- there needs to be that level of accountability in our political system.

And also, just generally speaking now, as we move forward, women should have agency in their own personal space and on their own bodies.

TAPPER: Assemblywoman Flores, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

FLORES: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: My next guest stood up to Nancy Pelosi and lost. Now he is strongly considering a run for president. I will ask why he's the best person for the job next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:40:06]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke officially joined the 2020 Democratic primary this weekend, saying the 2020 campaign against Trump was a moment of truth for the United States of America.

My next guest is considering making it official. He's a Massachusetts congressman and a former Marine who served four tours in Iraq. And he just got back from a trip to Iowa.

Now joining me, Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton.

Congressman, thanks for being here.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: I want to get your reaction to what you just heard from Lucy Flores. Your Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro say they believe Lucy. That's how they phrased it.

And Senator Warren says that Vice President Biden -- quote -- "needs to answer this."

What do you think?

MOULTON: He does need to answer this.

And I also just saw his statement. He said, we need to listen to women. And he is right. We need to listen to women. The bottom line here is that women deserve the respect and the opportunity to share hear these stories. And it takes tremendous courage to do so.

And that's not easy, what she just did on TV. It takes a lot of courage. And God knows she's going to get a lot of backlash for talking about this. But women need to have the opportunity and the respect to share their stories.

TAPPER: So you have recently said you're seriously looking at running for president of the United States. You were just in Iowa. You have also made recent trips to New Hampshire, South Carolina. You're going to Nevada next week, all early voting states in 2020.

Have you learned anything from your trips so far that has brought you closer to announcing that you're running for president?

MOULTON: I have been talking to a lot of veterans especially, starting with veterans and students, and trying to understand what they want to see in the next commander in chief.

And we have a tremendous opportunity right now in this country. But we also have a lot of problems. We have a lot of people who are really, really hurting, people who've just been completely left out of this economic change, people who do not trust the commander in chief, whether they agree with him or not.

The hardest job that I had in the Marines was bringing together people from all over this country with different religious beliefs, different political beliefs, and getting them united behind a single mission, a common mission to do what's right for this country, in the midst of a very difficult environment in the Iraq War.

And I think that's what we need in the next commander in chief, someone who can make sure that every American has a job in the new economy, not the old, someone who can work hard to ensure that every American has access to health care, and we get weapons of war off our streets, and, fundamentally, a commander in chief who you might not agree with, but you can trust.

That's what this election is going to be about, jobs, security, and trust. And when I -- I will tell you what. One thing you know about me, Jake, is, I'm a patriotic American.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

MOULTON: This country is not perfect. We haven't gotten race right. We haven't -- we haven't gotten women's rights correct yet. We haven't gotten health care right. We haven't gotten education right. But, at our best, we're a country that believes that we might. I

believe in America, and I want to help other Americans believe in this country too.

TAPPER: So when are you going to make a final decision, do you think?

MOULTON: So, Liz and I, my wife, are talking about this. It's a family decision. It's something that we have to commit to together.

TAPPER: You have a new baby.

MOULTON: And we have a new baby. She's not taking part in these discussions.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Right.

MOULTON: Although she's certainly...

TAPPER: But that's a consideration.

MOULTON: Absolutely a consideration.

It was amazing when -- I knew I couldn't make a decision like this until I understood what it was like to be a father. And as much as I got advice from people about what would that -- what that would be like, we all know that it's different when it happens to you.

And I love this girl more than I could ever imagine. I mean, I have just met her. She's only five-and-a-half months old, and I'm completely in love with her. And it's hard to leave her every time I go to Washington for a few days.

But I also feel even more invested in her future than maybe I did ever before in this job, because -- because I don't want her growing up in this country. And...

TAPPER: What do you mean you don't want her growing up in this country?

MOULTON: I don't want her growing up in this country the way that it is, with a commander in chief that we fundamentally can't trust, where -- where women are disrespected, where she doesn't have the same opportunities that a little boy growing up at the same time would have.

We have a lot of things to fix in this country. And if I can be a small part of doing that, then that's a compelling reason...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Coming weeks?

MOULTON: But, ultimately, Liz and I are going to are going to talk about this. We're going to decide in the next few weeks. TAPPER: Next few weeks.

I want to talk about a couple issues.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's report said he -- quote -- "did not establish" conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to Barr's memo. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, a Democrat, is standing by his claim that he sees evidence of collusion.

Should Democrats keep talking about this, or is it time to move on?

MOULTON: Well, we should keep talking about it, as far as it's our constitutional duty.

The Republicans have just asked for Adam Schiff to resign. We don't live in a country where, when you're standing up for the Constitution and you're doing your job, you just get asked to resign because people disagree with you.

And I don't think it's lost on people the irony of Devin Nunes calling Adam Schiff to resign. I mean, that's like "The National Enquirer" calling "The New York Times" fake news.

I mean, we can do better than this. And if there's one conclusion of the Mueller report that's very clear, it's that Russia interfered in our election. So, what Democrats and Republicans should be talking about is how to prevent that from happening in the future.

And, instead -- this is why I talk about national security. I know it's not a very popular issue in this campaign right now, but national security is not just about preventing Russia from invading us with tanks into Western Europe, which is what a lot of people seem to be focused on.

[09:45:05]

Russia is trying to hack our elections. And Robert Mueller was clear about that. China is attacking us through the Internet every single day, and stealing our business ideas and our military -- that's where a lot of American jobs are going.

So let's talk about that kind of national security. Rather than build this fifth century ridiculous border wall on the southern border, let's talk about a cyber wall that will stop Russia and China from interfering in our business.

TAPPER: Speaking of jobs, I want to ask you about a big debate going on in the Democratic Party right now.

The Green New Deal has been at the forefront of climate change conversations. You have proposed your own Federal Green Corps.

One of the core tenants of the Green New Deal, as introduced by your Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, is a federal jobs guarantee. Do you support a federal jobs guarantee? MOULTON: No, but I do support increased national service. I think

we'd be a stronger country if more young people had the opportunity to serve.

And if you think back to the New Deal, the core tenet of the New Deal was the Civilian Conservation Corps. It got people to work. It gave them an opportunity to serve the country. It brought America together at a very difficult time in the 1930s, right in the lead-up to World War II.

The opportunity we have today is to make the Green New Deal not just good for the climate, but good for jobs as well, good for the economy, to put people to work helping to make energy building -- helping to make buildings more energy-efficient, helping to address climate change across this country, not just in cities, but in places like Iowa, where carbon farming should be part of the solution. I talked about that this week as well.

The point is, let -- we have two big problems in this country, two big challenges, climate change and jobs, the changing economy. Let's work on those together. And let's make sure that the Green New Deal is good for the economy, not bad.

TAPPER: You called for Nancy Pelosi to step aside after the 2018 midterms, saying the party needed new leadership.

A lot of Democrats and even some Republicans have been giving Speaker Pelosi credit for how she handled the government shutdown, how she stood up to President Trump, how she has been empowering new members of Congress.

Were you wrong? Do you think Pelosi has done a good job?

MOULTON: I do think she's done a good job.

But I also think that we need to make sure that this historically diverse class of freshmen, the most diverse class that you have ever seen, including with a lot of veterans, a lot of veterans who won tough seats to take back the House, that they have a voice in the future.

And so I'm proud of the deal we came to. We came to a compromise that enabled her to get elected speaker that set term limits for the top three leadership positions. Remember, this isn't just about Speaker Pelosi. It's about the top three.

And it's about giving the new Democrats, these new faces in the party, an opportunity to have a voice in the future. If -- frankly, Jake, if we had succeeded in just getting three new leaders at the top, and they were here for the next 20 years, that wouldn't be success.

So, where we ended up, the deal that we made with Speaker Pelosi, I think is a big win for the party. It's a big win for the future. And it's definitely a win for the younger voices in our party who want to make sure that they have a voice, that people can look at them and say, that's the future of the Democratic Party and the future of the country.

TAPPER: Thank you, Congressman. Good to see you.

And it's so -- so nice of you to say that you will -- you will commit to announcing your presidential bid on my show.

You never actually said that.

MOULTON: I didn't hear that, Jake.

TAPPER: No, you didn't actually say that.

But we will see you and we will be following. Thanks so much for being here.

MOULTON: Thanks.

TAPPER: President Trump seems to be framing the 2020 campaign around health care and the border. Will it work better now than it did in November? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:52:31]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And if you look at the border, and you look at the hundreds of thousands of people that are invading or at least trying to invade our country.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Those who are just three or four blocks from here detained under the international bridge that connects us with Mexico, they are our fellow human beings and deserve to be treated like our fellow human beings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump and former Congressman Beto O'Rourke framing the 2020 conversation around immigration and illegal immigration with the president doubling down on his divisive language and O'Rourke launching his campaign just steps from the border. Let's discuss.

Doctor El-Sayed, let me start with you. For people who don't know you you were a candidate for Michigan governor and you're a Democrat. What do you make of this? Might this be a winning issue for President Trump?

ABDUL EL-SAYED (D), FORMER CANDIDATE FOR MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: I know he's trying to make it a winning issue. The big challenge here though is coming from Michigan, I know that his policies, whether it would be starting a trade war in China or potentially closing down the border are decimating the very people he said he wanted to help.

Whether they're farmers who do business across the border or manufacturing, which we know our supply line goes all over the border. They'll get hurt the most from this. And so he's not delivering for his base. He's trying to give them raw meat but really what is happening is he's taking away the sustenance at the dinner tables.

TAPPER: What do you make of that?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually agree with that. I think the idea of closing the border is a bad idea.

I understand why the president is doing it. He's upset with Mexico. He has every reason to be upset with Mexico. Mexico could solve this problem. The people that are coming over, that are flooding, that are creating this crisis at the border are not Mexicans. They're from -- and Mexico is letting people from Honduras and El Salvador and Guatemala come through their country stacking up at the border, not controlling any kind of flow of immigration.

So the president is, you know, he does this. He sort of flails and makes what I think are not particularly helpful charges against Mexico but the core of the problem is Mexico. And he needs to go after them.

TAPPER: Jeh Johnson, Obama's secretary of Homeland Security he says this is a crisis. Is it a crisis?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He did. But he also -- more fulsomely than -- I know the Republicans have been talking about the last day or so he was also talking about the fact that you have, you know, children and families now, you know, the overcrowding. You have people being held in this sort of cages under overpasses and just that is a crisis. There's a humanitarian crisis in addition to the fact that we're just not solving the problem.

Now we know this is what -- how many years in a row do we know? This is the time of year when we have -- we see this increase in the migrations because of the temperature and the weather and before the heat of the summer.

[09:55:05]

So this was predictable. So when you then also have the president talking about cutting aid, and you talked about this with Mick Mulvaney in your interview -- when you're then talking about cutting some of the programs that actually seem to be working in Central America to keep people, what is the plan?

It's sort of like their health care. They're just sort of throwing out the red meat for the base without actually having a plan and I don't think anybody thinks that deporting children without their parents back to their home countries is a good idea.

TAPPER: Let me ask you, Amanda, because you're -- I think it's fair to say you're skeptical of President Trump's leadership. But you're a conservative Republican. You don't like Obamacare. You want the flow of undocumented immigrants to stop.

What did you think about Mick Mulvaney's answers when it came to questions about, well, where's the replacement for Obamacare or why is eliminating money for these Central American governments going to help the problem instead of making it worse?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think in both cases, President Trump is trying to scare people into taking action. Whether that's Mexico and those northern triangle countries or Republicans on Capitol Hill. I think President Trump is right to try to pop those Senate Republicans into action. They need a plan. Come up with something.

Rick Scott and Barrasso they've been kicking around plans forever. Certainly they could put something together. And so in this case I think President Trump it is a little chaotic and haphazard, but I do think he's put the spotlight on the right issues.

EL-SAYED: Jake, the question I have to ask is, at what point should we become OK with the least common denominator of destroying things? We always been the country that had a certain level of empathy and leadership in the world. And when you come -- when it comes to health care in particular, what we're seeing is just an intellectual bankruptcy from the Republican Party.

Let's tear this thing down without an actual plan. A plan, by the way, the ACA that originated out of the heritage foundation. A conservative think tank. There are not other options on the right. We're not seeing them.

FINNEY: Can I say politically -- sorry.

TAPPER: Karen then the senator.

FINNEY: That politically consistently a majority of Americans trust Democrats on health care. They do not trust the Republican Party and, frankly, if you look at 2017, there is not a reason to trust the Republicans to be able to deliver on health care. So if President Trump wants to make 2020 about health care, I say bring it on. That is great news for Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: But it cannot be about health care --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: The reality is that Democrats lost four elections in a row on the issue of health care.

FINNEY: And we won 2018 --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: And you won 2018. And the reason you won 2018 is because Republicans didn't have an answer. And the Republicans decided not to fight. They decided to bury their heads and run on taxes and hope that the health care issue went away.

And give President Trump credit. He is saying, we're not doing that this time. We're not going to following Mitch McConnell. We're not going to follow these folks who say, we want an issueless election. We want a plan and we have one it's called the Health Care Choice Act.

We've been working on it for a year or so. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy and John Barrasso and many others and Lamar Alexander have been working on this. This is a bill and it's a good bill that's going to lower costs, that's going lower premiums and is actually going to keep -- actually increase coverage among the poor.

TAPPER: I do in the time we have left, I want to talk about Lucy Flores who appeared earlier in the show. She's a former Nevada assemblywoman and she talked about how Vice President Biden at an event in November of 2014 touched her and kissed her on the back of the head. She found it inappropriate. She didn't know how to respond.

Take listen to how some of Biden's potential presidential rivals on the campaign trail are responding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I read the op-ed last night, I believe, Lucy Flores and Joe Biden needs to give an answer.

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: I believe Lucy Flores. We need to live in a nation where people can hear her truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Just to reiterate, Vice President Biden, by the way, just minutes before Lucy Flores was supposed to appear on the show, or did appear on the show issued a statement that said in part -- quote -- "In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort not once -- never -- did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention. We have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will."

Is that good enough, Karen?

FINNEY: No. Because he doesn't acknowledge that it doesn't -- it's not about what his intention was. It was about what she experienced. And this is part of why it's so hard and intimidating a lot of times for women to come forward and say, hey, that was creepy or that made me feel uncomfortable. And I think Lucy explained that pretty well in your interview.

So, no, it's -- he has got to acknowledge that regardless of his intentions this is how she felt and I have to do better. Not just listen better.

TAPPER: Doctor El-Sayed?

EL-SAYED: We have got to believe women. I mean, this is just a fact. We've watched these powerful men have leveraged their hierarchy to be able to take advantage of people in hard situations. That has got to end.

CARPENTER: But you don't have to believe Lucy Flores. You have to have a pair of eyes to observe Vice President Joe Biden in public life. There are slide shows of him inappropriately touching women in public.

Is it a crime? No. But can you see these women wriggling and grimacing?

[10:00:01]

Every woman knows what that's like. And go look how he treated Senator Heidi Heitkamp at her swearing-in on C-SPAN. He said to her, spread your legs next time you're going to be frisked - the day she was sworn in.

TAPPER: I'm afraid that's all the time we have.

Fareed Zakaria starts right now.