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Obama Praises Clinton; Obama Calls Sanders "Bright Shiny Object," Sanders Campaign Responds; Michael Bloomberg Considers Presidential Run; Manhunt in Southern California for Escaped Felons. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 25, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Another one of the secretary's friends is Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who is now apparently considering getting into the race. What does that say that this guy who has worked with and seen Hillary Clinton over the years thinks that maybe there needs to be someone else in the race that's not her?

KAREN FINNEY, SENIOR SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, I think he said if she's not the nominee of the Democratic Party, he would consider getting in.


BERMAN: It seems like there's a greater chance of that, but he hasn't ruled out getting in. He's supposedly unhappy with some of the stances she' taken on Wall Street and what not.

FINNEY: Here's what I would say to that. What she has said, which I agree with, is how about our campaign will focus on making sure she's the nominee so he doesn't have to worry about getting in.

BERMAN: Would it hurt? I mean, would it hurt. How much would it hurt?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It would impact something.

FINNEY: I think primaries, contested primaries, are a good thing. I think they're good for the country. They give everybody an opportunity to make their argument and lay out the differences. I think what we've seen this year in particular, the kind of conversation that we're having on the Democratic side versus the Republican side, Americans know they have a dramatic choice between those two. I don't know what Mr. Bloomberg, where his message would be. Again, it's important to talk about your ideas and for people to see here are the choices that I have. Do I want somebody who is bluster and bigotry and let's keep all the Muslims out and we're going to build a wall, or do I want people who are trying to solve problems and address the issues that people are facing today in their lives.

BOLDUAN: Karen Finney, thank you for coming in. It's great to see you.

FINNEY: Great to see you guys. BOLDUAN: So does Team Bernie -- what do they have to say about all of this ahead of tonight's big town hall? A senior advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign will join us as well.

BERMAN: Plus, it does have the potential to shake up this race. Michael Bloomberg, $35, $36 billion, give or take, considering getting in. What does that mean? Hear what insiders have to say. Hear how much he's willing to spend on a potential campaign.


[11:36:03] BOLDUAN: As we just discussed with Hillary Clinton's campaign, President Obama is wading into the Democratic primary, offering a surprisingly candid take on the race and the candidates. Listen to a little more.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot, and just letting loose. I think Hillary came in with the both privilege and burden of being perceived as the front runner.

You're always looking at the bright, shiny object that people don't -- haven't seen before. That's a disadvantage to her.


BERMAN: Let's talk more about this with Larry Cohen, the senior advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Larry, the president of the United States just called Bernie Sanders "a bright, shiny object." Your reaction?


LARRY COHEN, SENIOR ADVISOR, BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, I think he's -- that's the parallel to his own journey eight years ago, and I was actually supporting him then, that he offered hope. And I think Bernie and, actually, all the Democratic candidates are about a positive vision of the future. Bernie's is about change, not just continuity, in a similar way that Senator Obama was talking about change. And Bernie is talking about why can't we have higher education that doesn't leave our kids burdened with ridiculous debt, and why can't we have Medicare for all, and why can't we -- even though the path will be difficult, imagine a country where people are working and looking forward to a better America.

BOLDUAN: But, Larry, if you take this interview in total with "Politico," it was surprising how much the president had to say about a Democratic primary, but also how he really does seem to bend over backwards in his raise for Hillary Clinton, not so much so for Sanders. What do you say, then, to the president?

COHEN: I would say she was the secretary of state. He made a political decision after the election to unite with that part of the Democracy Party. I would say to him, with all due respect, Mr. President, the same kind of change you hoped to work for, Bernie is trying to continue on that path, not go back to the 1990s of President Clinton.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, you're reading this the same way we are. You see his comments here, and it does seem as if he's putting his thumbs on the scales in support of Hillary Clinton and not Bernie Sanders. Is that how you see it?

COHEN: Well, yeah. I see it minimally that way, and it's to be expected and to be expected the cabinet members that served with her are mostly supporting her. As Bernie puts it, the political establishment, which it doesn't mean they're bad, but they're supporting continuity. Bernie is saying to millions of Americans -- and that's where the energy is coming from -- that we can work for change. It's not simple. It won't be "just elect me." We will have to work for change on city councils and state legislatures and everything up and down the scale. But together we can create a new populous in this country.

BOLDUAN: Larry, what do you say when you hear Hillary Clinton fight back against that argument of being part of the Democratic establishment, the political establishment. She makes the point in an interview with CNN that Bernie Sanders has been in Congress longer than her, for 20-plus years. He's part of the political establishment as well.

COHEN: Yeah. Well, in actuality, he came to Congress two years before President Clinton was elected. It's not that far before, and -- but to get to your main point, yes, he is part of the political establishment, but he's part of the establishment as he's always been, saying we need to figure out how can regular Americans get together and create a different future for this country where it's not about billionaires but it's about the values and the dreams and the hopes that we all have.

BERMAN: All right. Larry Cohen, great to have you with us. Please come back.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Larry.

COHEN: My pleasure.

[11:40:08] BERMAN: So the presidential race, as if there's not enough involved already. Perhaps someone new, someone with a big wallet. Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.

BOLDUAN: John Berman.

BERMAN: Not so fat that wallet.

$36 billion and he's taking polls to see if he should get in the race. That would have to have an impact.

BOLDUAN: You'd think. You'd think. We'll see. Plus, right now, a massive search is underway for three inmates

including an accused killer who escaped from a maximum security jail in Los Angeles. How they got out and what is up with the search right now. That's ahead.


[11:45:09] BERMAN: All right. Just what this presidential race needs, more drama.

BOLDUAN: Yes, please.

BERMAN: Now not one, but two New York City millionaires could end up on the ballot. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg actively considering a third-party run, particularly, he says -- or the articles indicate, if Hillary Clinton fails to get the Democratic nomination. He is willing to spend a billion dollars on the campaign. He'll make a final decision by early March.

This is how the presidential candidates reacted to the news yesterday.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE : The way I read what he said is, if I didn't get the nomination he might consider it. I'll relieve him of that and get the nomination.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Donald Trump wins and Mr. Bloomberg gets in, you'll have two multibillionaires running for president of the United States against me, and I think the American people don't want to see our nation move toward an oligarchy where billionaires control the political process. I think we'll win that election.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would love to have Michael get in the race. And Michael's been a friend of mine over the years. Perhaps we're not friends anymore. He's wanted to do this for a long time. And he never pulled the trigger. We'll see if he does right now. But I would personally love to compete with Michael Bloomberg.


BOLDUAN: Joining us right now with the latest is CNN's Phil Mattingly.

Phil, what is the latest? What are you hearing?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now, what we know is Michael Bloomberg is actively considering this. This is a little bit different than the past. In 2008 and 2012, he considered it. The key element here is frustration and a little bit of fear about how this race currently looks. It's Donald Trump and Sanders, and what he's been telling associates over the last couple of months is his just lack of comfort with the direction of this race. He has started polling. He had a poll out in December. He's likely

to poll again sometime in the next two or three weeks. Before that decision would come, likely, in early March.

Guys, I think a couple of elements here that you need to pay attention to. First off, he can self-fund. Can't be bought by anybody. The other issue here is he has a political operation that is keenly aware of kind of the factors on the ground. The opposite part of this, though, guys, what is his pathway right now? He's a fiscal conservative who wants to take on pensions but deal with immigration reform and climate change and gun control. Where does that sit in the current issues of America, especially one that is so fired up by anger and emotion, something I don't think any of Michael Bloomberg's aides would consider him part of?

One disclosure, guys, I was a Bloomberg news correspondent for a long period of time. That element of my resume, though, gives me zero insight into his political calculation.


BERMAN: But now you're free from that possible influence, as if there was any. Look, the calendar here is fascinating because he has to decide by early March, really by March 1st is the deadline to get on a lot of these ballots. He will not know by March 1st if Hillary Clinton is in real trouble in the campaign. She could lose Iowa and New Hampshire, say, win Nevada and South Carolina, and then what do you do if you're Michael Bloomberg? You can't necessarily say she's toast or she has it made. He'll be forced to make a decision before it's clear.

MATTINGLY: The calendar forces his hand. That makes some of his aides little uncomfortable. But one element of this that has been repeated a couple of times is it's not that Bernie Sanders that gets the nomination that's going to put him in. It's whether or not Hillary Clinton comes into this as a severely wounded candidate. You've seen a couple of reports and I've actually heard from some people that he's been slightly critical, not as critical as some have reported, but slightly critical of Hillary Clinton's candidacy, how she's run over the last couple of months since she launched. If her campaign looks like it's headed in a bad direction, not if she loses, but if it's headed in a bad direction, that could be the trigger.

But, John, to your point, he's going to have to decide before kind of everything is very clear. That puts a lot of pressure on what these next couple of weeks mean for him and his political operation.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. What he really ends up taking into account when he has to make the final decision.

Phil, you've got the latest. Stick with us if you would.

Let me bring in Joyce Purnick, a former columnist and metropolitan editor at "The New York Times" and the author of the first significant biography of Michael Bloomberg entitled, "Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power and Politics." Thank you so much for coming in, Joyce.


BOLDUAN: You have covered him for years. You have interviewed him extensively for this biography and much more. If you're Michael Bloomberg right now, what is going through your mind? What are you taking into account?

PURNICK: I know this much about Mike Bloomberg. He's not going to run unless he sees a path to victory. Not a guarantee of victory, but a path to success, because he is a very careful, deliberative guy. He doesn't move impulsively. It took him over two years to decide to run for mayor, because he wanted to know if he had a chance of winning. No, not a guarantee but a chance. At every stage of his life he's made every move like that, very, very deliberately and carefully, and he's a very disciplined guy. He's not going just going to say I'm going. He wants to know if there's a chance.

[11:50:27] BERMAN: You talked to him about running for president before in 2009 where he said he didn't think there was room for a third-party candidate to win the White House. That was in 2009 --


BERMAN: So why is this election different from all others then?

PURNICK: Because this year is different than all others. It's a very, very strange year. It's a weird year. Everything that's not supposed to happen has happened, right? I mean, the idea that the country -- Bernie Sanders says the country doesn't want to elect -- choose between two billionaires. There's another argument, and you have seen that on the part of a lot of voters, that say I want someone who is independently wealthy because he or she, though there isn't one right now, a female billionaire, who is really in the running, will be independent. I'm sick of all these lobbyists having all of this impact. That's another change, I think, or at least it's coming to the fore in the electorate that we wouldn't have counted on.

BOLDUAN: Does it surprise you, Joyce, that he is mulling this over? With what you know about him?

PURNICK: Oh, no. Oh, no. He was aching to run in 2008 for sure. He wanted to run, but, again, he didn't see how he could win, and so he -- so disciplined and so careful and so measured. Said I'm not going to try. He wanted to. He said to me directly he would be better than any of the candidates. He knows the world better. He said to me, he knows the world better than any of the candidates, he knows business, he knows how to run things, but he didn't think he could win, so he didn't run.

BERMAN: Once I make a decision on things, how much is he willing to spend typically? When he decided run for mayor after spending two years thinking about it, man, oh, man, did he open that vault.

PURNICK: He did. I think he spent -- I forgot the first time --




BERMAN: Lots, yeah.


BERMAN: If he decides to run for president, the figure of $1 billion has been thrown out. Would that surprise you?

PURNICK: $1 billion? $2 billion wouldn't surprise me. He has a lot of money. He has more than he or his kids or grandkids can spend, and he wants them to be independent. So, yeah, he can spend whatever he wants, and he would if he decided to run.

BOLDUAN: Great to get your perspective. Thank you so much.


PURNICK: My pleasure.

BERMAN: Fascinating.

BOLDUAN: We appreciate it.

Phil Mattingly, thank you so much. Phil, thanks to you as well.

We have a lot more ahead, and that includes the manhunt is on right now for three inmates, including an accused killer, who escaped from a maximum security jail in Los Angeles. Wait until you hear how they got out.

We'll be right back.


[11:57:11] BOLDUAN: A manhunt is underway for three prisoners that made an elaborate escape from a maximum security jail in southern California.

BERMAN: They cut through steel bars. They crawled through plumbing tunnels. They rappelled four stories to freedom using ropes made from bed sheets and towels. The escapees, one an accused killer that fled on foot. They have not been seen since. This is scaring a lot of people in the area.

CNN's Paul Vercammen joins us from Los Angeles with the latest -- Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Kate, one of the reasons this is so scary is the extremely violent nature of all three of these men. A rap sheet that is just absolutely staggering. Let's go ahead and look at some of the charges these men have been

convicted of and why they were in prison in the first place. Let's start off with those same, kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and battery. That's the first man on the left. In the middle, the youngest of the three, only 20 years old, went into the system in juvenile hall, convicted of murder, also shooting at an inhabited dwelling. He has gang ties. And the third man, attempted murder, also assault with a deadly weapon, avoiding arrest, selling methamphetamine, and burglary. Quite a rap sheet here.

What are law enforcement officials saying? That this is a full court press and the search has expanded outside southern California. Also, the Orange County sheriff confirming that a fight or a disturbance was started at around the 8:00 p.m., basically, bed check or roll-call check, and the reason why that's significant is these men were apparently spotted after the morning check, which was 5:00 a.m. in their orange jumpsuits. They had a lot of lead time in which to get away.

And authorities saying if anybody sees these men, be sure to call 911. They are presumed to be armed. And clearly, by that rap sheet, they're extremely dangerous, and they're motivated not to be caught because of the fact that they could face life in prison if caught, considering all these charges -- John, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Horribly dangerous. That's for sure.

Thank you very much, Paul Vercammen. Appreciate it.


A big reminder for all of you. Don't forget tonight. Tonight is the night, 9:00 eastern only on CNN, the Democratic presidential town hall live from Des Moines, Iowa. Our Chris Cuomo will be moderating that event. All of the Democratic candidates will be taking the stage facing voters. Their last -- their last pitch before the Iowa caucuses. That is tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

BERMAN: Really in some ways it's the closing argument for these candidates heading into the Iowa caucuses. One week from tonight, 7:00, people show up to caucus. Tonight, at 9:00 the final town meeting. Last best chance to make that pitch.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.

[12:00:10] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Welcome to "LEGAL VIEW."