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Sources: Biden Has Factored in President Trump's 2020 Thinking; Anita Hill Bashes Biden in NY Times Interview. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired April 25, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

And do you suppose that when Senator Joe Biden lost his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination back in 1998, he took comfort in the notion that he'd get another chance more than three decades later?

Today, he is a former senator, a former two-term vice president and a favorite who's right now holding his first fundraiser in his bid for the United States. We have breaking news on how his entry into the race is being received at the White House.

Also, his attempt to reconcile with Anita Hill over her treatment at the Clarence Thomas hearing he chaired. We talked to "The New York times" reporter who spoke with her over his expression of regret and how Professor Hill is taking it. Not well.

First, though, a portion of his video today declaring that he is in. He made what happened in Charlottesville the moral keystone of it and made President Trump and his conduct in that instant and others the central theme.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I'd ever seen in my lifetime. I wrote at the time that we're in the battle for the soul of this nation. Well, that's even more true today. We are in the battle for the soul of this nation.

I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment of time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen. The core values of this nation are standing in the world our very democracy. Everything that has made America, America is at stake.


COOPER: Well, for the president's part, he replied with a tweet.

He wrote, quote: welcome to the race, Sleepy Joe. I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign. It will be nasty. You will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick and demented ideas. But if you make it, I will see you at the starting gate.

It sounds almost like a grudging compliment, a sign the president takes him seriously. As we said at the top, there is breaking news tonight along those lines.

Jeff Zeleny has the latest. He joins us now from Washington.

So, what are you learning? What does the president think about Biden throwing his hat in the ring?


Calling him "Sleepy Joe" hardly is the full story. We've been talking with several advisers around the president. We do know he has been paying very careful attention to this Democratic primary as it unfolds, but to Joe Biden in particular.

I am told inside political meetings the president often asks about Joe Biden, often asks about Pennsylvania. Of course, Pennsylvania is the home of Joe Biden. That's where he is tonight.

It's where he's going to have his final rally of this launch in Philadelphia in just two week's time. He'll be there again on Monday. So he is focusing on that.

The president asks about Pennsylvania. Of course, Pennsylvania was a state that the president flipped from blue to red. And that's sort of a benchmark in his mind for how he'll do in the general election. So, there is a sense of worry and wonder among some Trump aides.

Anderson, one told me this. He said if he would make it to a general election, yes, he's a problem. But, of course, that is the central question here. Can Joe Biden navigate this complicated Democratic primary? The White House says they're not so sure.

Democrats, of course, who want Joe Biden to do so are hoping he can, but there is a sense, a question, is he fitting the mold of today's Democratic Party? But, Anderson, he came out of the gate trying to elevate this contest, elevate the conversation to make it about defeating Donald Trump, not about the minutia, if you will, of specific policy proposals. So that was Joe Biden's one central goal today.

COOPER: You also, I understand, have some reporting about President Obama and his support of a Biden candidacy. What do you know?

ZELENY: We do. Of course, we know that President Obama is not going to issue an endorsement. And then Joe Biden said I didn't ask for one. So digging a little deeper into that, talking to several people around both men, they did have several conversations really throughout the last several months or so, not talking about necessarily the specifics of the race, but someone told me that President Obama was sort of listening as more of a friend, listening to Joe Biden sort of go through the pros and cons of running, the stress it would take on his family. But at the end of the day, they both sort of reached a mutual

conclusion that an endorsement at this point wasn't a good idea. Barack Obama said, look, I got through that '07-'08 campaign without big endorsements, and that sort of helped propel him. So there is a sense, and they both know an endorsement frankly probably wouldn't matter at this early stage. The Democratic Party has to work itself out.

But President Obama released some pretty glowing words, saying the best decision he ever made was picking Joe Biden as his vice president.

[20:05:05] But they both know that he has to win this on his own. I did ask a close confidante of President Obama if he thinks that Joe Biden can win the primary, he said, we do not know, but Joe wants to run, and we have to give him a chance to do so -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, Jeff, thanks.

We're fortunate enough to have a colleague, someone who has had a close-up view of Joe Biden, the senator and the campaigner, and the vice president, he's, of course, "AXE FILES" host and former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod.

David, were you at all surprised by the focus on President Trump during the video that Biden made? It sort of runs counter to what a lot of the other candidates are saying about this can't just be about Donald Trump.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought it was an interesting strategic move. When you think about it, what everybody says about Joe Biden, yes, he would be a very strong candidate against Donald Trump, but we don't know whether he can get through this Democratic Party and these nominating fights. And so what he decided to do was give people a preview of what that battle would look like. And he lifted the stakes in a way that I thought was very, very effective.

COOPER: So in a sense, kind of looking past the primary?

AXELROD: Exactly. Saying, you know, I think he in a subtle way kind of consigned everybody else to the kiddie table and said I'm coming back to try and make things right, and I'm ready for that fight.

COOPER: It also sort of sets an idea of what is the stakes are as opposed to important things like, you know, economic issues or health care or things like that.

AXELROD: Yes. At the end of the day, I think every election is driven by values, and this was a value-laden statement. And using Charlottesville as the centerpiece of it I thought was particularly effective because it is a -- it was a big defining, iconic event. But also, because it speaks to constituencies that he needs to mobilize among minority voters, among younger voters, among activists, voters, some of whom may have some questions about him.

COOPER: Right. Where does Biden enter this race in terms of strengths and weaknesses?

AXELROD: Well, he is a front-runner in the polls. He has been consistently a front-runner. I think his --

COOPER: There is a danger in that, isn't there?

AXELROD: Well, there is a danger that front-runners often don't win, for one thing. But he becomes a target. You know, he is a front- runner in part because of his long career in politics, but his long career in politics also carries with it many, many questions about votes, about statements that were made in a different time and a different place that are not necessarily fashionable in this Democratic Party. So that's a fraught situation for him.

COOPER: One of those issues, of course, is Anita Hill. We were told -- and his treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. His spokeswoman said he called Anita Hill this month to express regret over, quote, what she endured.

Hill told "The New York Times" in an interview: I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I'm sorry for what happened to you. I will be satisfied when I flow is real change and real accountability and real purpose.

So that -- I mean, clearly, he is hoped to put this away as an issue and it's not.

AXELROD: It didn't work, in part because it's one thing to say I'm sorry for what happened to you, and it's another thing to say I'm sorry for what I did.

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: And he apparently didn't say that. This was one of the things that disturbed her.

So, you know, this was a good day for Joe Biden. His video was a solid launch. I think he is going to have some good days in the next few days. They got a good roll-out plan.

But this is not going to be a walk in the park, and he is going to have to fight for this nomination. And I think he will emerge as a stronger candidate if he wins the nomination there, but is no certainty that he will.

COOPER: Well, it was interesting in President Trump's tweet. President Trump, whatever one may think of him, he does have kind of a genius for identifying a weakness or a perceived weakness and just opening it up more and more and more and putting it in people's minds, whether it's Beto O'Rourke and his hand gestures, whatever.


COOPER: With Joe Biden, he sent out this tweet, essentially, Sleepy Joe. He said essentially at the end of it, you know, once you get through all this stuff, you are running against all these people with dangerous ideas, and then I'll meet you at the starting line.

AXELROD: You know what I thought was interesting than, I think what Trump was signaling to activists within the Democratic Party is that Biden isn't one you have and perhaps creating mischief for Biden. But if Biden emerges from that process, what Trump has certified is he's actually kind of a centrist, which is one of the reasons why I think Republicans fear him more than the others. He reaches more into that swing voter who might vote for Trump than any of the other Democrats, at least right now.

[20:10:02] COOPER: I want to ask you what Biden said earlier today, that he asked President Obama not to endorse him. I mean, do you really buy that? I mean, it's a convenient thing to say because there is understandable reasons why President Obama wouldn't want to endorse somebody, particularly at this stage of a race.

AXELROD: Yes, I don't know what passed between them. What I know is President Obama's judgment is that his role shouldn't be to try and anoint a candidate and that he -- I think you'll see President Obama surface if he believes that candidates are inflicting unfair damage on each other. I know he worries about that, that primaries can become very acrimonious.

But, you know, I don't know what conversations they had between them. And, you know, maybe they had that conversation. And if they didn't have that conversation, probably he shouldn't say that.

COOPER: David Axelrod, thanks very much.

More now on the efforts the new candidate made before he entered the race to try to repair three decades old damage. Back in 1991, a chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden ran the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Clarence Thomas. You'll remember law Professor Anita Hill testified at the hearing, leveling sexual harassment allegations against Thomas, and some of the senators, Biden included, came under fire for the treatment that she received that they gave her.

Today, "The New York Times" is reporting details of their conversation with Professor Hill about her recent conversation with Joe Biden.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg shares the byline of the reporting. She joins us now.

Sheryl, so, what did Anita Hill say to you about the conversation she had with the former president?

SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, she didn't want to detail exactly what the former president said to, he but she made very clear that she was not satisfied with the conversation. She said that she can't accept someone saying I'm sorry for what happened to you without engaging in real change and real accountability. She made very clear to me that she does not think that Joe Biden has fully accepted responsibility for his conduct at the hearing. She faults him for failing to call other witnesses. She faults him

for letting the process run off track, as she told me, for allowing Republican senators to grill her in ways that were in her view inappropriate. She recalled Orrin Hatch, the senator from Utah, waving around a copy of "The Exorcist" at the hearing.

And in the end, she says she does not feel she can support him for president unless he demonstrates real change that an apology to her is one thing, but he needs to apologize to the other women who he failed to call and to the American public.

COOPER: So she said she didn't want to characterize her conversation as an apology certainly. Did -- do we know if Biden expressed remorse?

STOLBERG: She said that he said to her pretty much what he has said in public, and what he has said in public is that he regrets that he could not give her the hearing that she deserved. So he conveyed those same sentiments to her. She -- I said, well, what exactly did he say to you? And she said you'll have to ask him, and of course we did ask him today after his campaign put out a statement that he regretted the hearings, and they said there would be no further comment beyond the statement.

COOPER: So I guess there's no really specifics about what was lacking in their conversation in Professor Hill's opinion. Do we know what she would like to see or hear from Biden? Clearly, it seems like a direct apology to her perhaps, but also examples of real change.

STOLBERG: I think she's, frankly, a lot more interested in real change. She feels that the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearing were an example or could have been an example to the public of how these kinds of inquiries should be conducted, of how women who are feeling that they're victims of sexual harassment can be taken seriously. And she does not feel that Biden has kind of accepted his own role in failing to provide that kind of hearing.

She draws a direct connection between the 1991 hearings of Thomas and last year's hearing of Brett Kavanaugh, who was, as you know, accused of sexual assault by another professor, Christine Blasey Ford. So I think she is very interested in hearing from not only Biden, but all other candidates what they are going to do about the problem of sexual harassment and gender violence in our society. And she doesn't feel she has heard that from Biden.

COOPER: Do you know if she plans to continue to speak out? She gave you an interview. Does she plan to go on television? Does she plan to do other interviews?

Or was this sort of she said what she has to say? Do you know what her next step is?

STOLBERG: I'm not sure. I interviewed her in 2014 in conjunction with the release of her documentary about her. And she told me at the time that she felt Biden had done a terrible job. And we were preparing a story about the Anita Hill hearings, and so I went back to her.

COOPER: I see.

STOLBERG: Because I wanted obviously to update. And as far as her plans, she says she has many requests. She's not sure what she's going to do, and she hasn't told me whether she intends to speak out any further.

COOPER: Sheryl Gay Stolberg, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Coming up next, breaking news on another piece of outreach, a conversation Joe Biden had with a mother of woman, Heather Heyer, killed at Charlottesville.

Also, African-Americans responding to his message about what they think about his shortcomings. We'll take a look at that.

And later, new word on how far the White House may go to stop former White House counsel Don McGahn, the man who took notes, from testifying to Congress.


[20:20:18] COOPER: Some more breaking news tonight. It comes from Joe Biden's first fundraiser in Philadelphia and something he said. He told the gathering he spoke this afternoon with Susan Breaux, the mother of Heather Heyer who was killed in Charlottesville. He didn't reveal what he said, nor the spokesman. We'll have more on this as we learn it.

More now on his outreach to Anita Hill. Unsuccessful though it was, it speaks to the effort he appears to be making to remove any reason that African-American Democrats may have to not vote for him or not have faith in him.

Our Gary Tuchman has more on how his candidacy so far is being received.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here in the state of Delaware. Joe Biden has been a public service for almost half a century. That's when he became a county councilman, 1970.

Who knows already they're voting for Joe Biden? Nobody else?

(voice-over): Most hands republic. The three not raising their hands say they like a lot of the Democratic candidates, but will most likely vote for --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden, of course, is the native son.

TUCHMAN: Here in the Sussex County, Delaware, committee headquarters, Joe Biden's candidacy video was particularly meaningful to this group of African-American community leader.

BIDEN: Charlottesville, Virginia, is home to the author of one of the great documents in human history.

TUCHMAN: Hearing Biden take on President Trump over Charlottesville reassuring to them.

(on camera): Did y'all think it was good idea?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought about a lot of things as he was talking this morning. And one of the things that stood out is the love he had instead of hate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was Joe letting us know that once again he is going to stand for the rights of all people, not just the rights of some people.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): These voters tell us one of the reasons Joe Biden has won election after election in Delaware is because of his accessibility in the small state.


COOKIE GARFIELD, DELAWARE DEMOCRAT: I've gotten to know Joe Biden, and I got to know his grandkids and his son and Bo and the whole bit. There is a fondness, there is a relationship that I feel like have I with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was 29 years old when I first met him.

TUCHMAN: She served in the military.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I worked with Bo. I was in the unit with him.

TUCHMAN: But there are some frank acknowledgments and discussions here about dealing with Joe Biden's race.

(on camera): Back in the '70s, Joe Biden was against bussing which was a way to integrate schools, and he also helped draft the crime bill, which a lot of people felt unfairly incarcerated large numbers of people who shouldn't have been incarcerated. Does that trouble you about his past when it comes to civil rights?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, because people can change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would more say so he's grown, as we all do.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And then there was Biden's role in the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas U.S. Supreme Court Senate hearing. The Biden campaign just announcing he recently directly expressed regret to Anita Hill.

GARFIELD: I think he knows that he needs to come out and say that he back then was sorry and he overlooked a lot of what was going on in the hearts and the minds of the people.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You called Joe Biden after the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearing?

LOUISE HENRY, DELAWARE DEMOCRAT: Oh, yes, during. I called him a couple of times.

TUCHMAN: You called him on the phone?


TUCHMAN: And what did you say to him?

HENRY: Well, some things might not be appropriate. But I did not -- I did tell him I wasn't pleased with him since he was from Delaware, and we put him there. And I made it very plain back then -- I didn't have much stall in my talk. I said we can bring you home, just like we sent you there.

TUCHMAN: What did he say to you?

HENRY: Well, he listened and wanted to know how he could do better.

TUCHMAN: Have you forgiven him?

HENRY: Oh, yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Everybody here making it clear that today --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel I know his heart. His heart is right for the people.

TUCHMAN: -- there are no grudges.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Georgetown, Delaware.


COOPER: Interesting to hear from those voters in that room. Three perspective news on this from three political voices, Democratic strategist and former Congressional Black Caucus executive director, Angela Rye, Bakari Sellers, former legislator in a strategically important primary state of South Carolina, who has endorsed Kamala Harris. Also with us, Democratic strategist Paul Begala.

Bakari, what do you make of Gary's piece? Obviously, a lot of love in that room for the former vice president. It's not a scientific sampling, of course.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think you'll find people who appreciate, who love Joe Biden, who appreciate the fact that he has given up 40 years of his life for service to this country. I think that's very important.

But Joe Biden, like Kamala Harris, like Pete Buttigieg, like Amy Klobuchar, is going to have to answer questions about his record, which many people found problematic. I mean, in 1984, he was working with Strom Thurmond on expanding civil asset forfeiture, in '96 and '98, mandatory minimums, in '94, the crime bill.

[20:25:04] I mean, these things are very, very important. And because his record of service is so long, he's going to have to

answer these questions not with simply value propositions, but with policy points on how he is going to unravel some of the damage that he's done.

Look, I think that all of us, all three of us on here would proudly wear a Joe Biden for president t-shirt if he is our nominee. But the point is this is the primary right now. And Joe Biden has questions to answer, just like every other candidate.

COOPER: Angela, how much of the affection in that one particular room is actually based on his actual record and how much is based on his relationship to President Obama, his name recognition? Because as Bakari says, he has a very long record, and you can find many things to praise and many things to take fault with.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. And I think so much of what you just said is key. Joe Biden is a master at relationship building. He certainly has in that very, very friendly room of Delaware, which is of course his home state, but also more specifically with the Congressional Black Caucus, which you mentioned of course I was the executive director and general counsel.

Joe Biden when there was associate membership was an associate member of the Congressional Black Caucus. So as checkered as his record may be on a number of racial issues, and people in that room say we need to forgive him, that may be true indeed.

But I think thing are some other big looming things that exist. One, 44 of the last 45 presidents happened to be white men. Joe Biden happens to be one of those. This is the 400th anniversary of enslaved Africans to this country. There have been zero women presidents as we know.

So there are some things that are playing against Joe Biden that he has no control over whatsoever. It does not help that he fumbled the call with Anita Hill that is certainly clear. It does not help that people are now looking at the way that he engages audiences, the ways in hi has or doesn't have boundaries, physical boundaries of touching folks.

I personally like Joe Biden, but I don't know if my like of Joe Biden validates him enough to take him over the finish line for this particular race in 2020.

COOPER: Paul, where do you see his strengths and weaknesses?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he needs to begin with the black community. And this is something I think my Republican friends never understand. They think the Democratic Party is white liberals. If you look at a lot of these candidates running right now in the Democratic that, they seem to think that the whole party is white liberals.

The first strategy question James Carville and I had with Bill Clinton in 1991, we said the path to the nomination runs through the African- American community, and when Doug Wilder, the African American governor of Virginia decided not to run, we thought we could win. That's how Clinton won. That's how Barack beat Hillary. That's how Hillary beat Bernie.

So, I'm not for any of these candidates. I'm completely undecided. But somebody is going to figure that out.

The heart and soul of the Republican Party I believe is the white Christian evangelicals. They're not the majority, but president Trump's remarkable command of that constituency gives him the power of the party. The heart and soul of my party I think is people of color. I have to defer to the other two panel member here is, but I think Bakari and Angela will back me up on that. And whoever wins the nomination is going to be the person who performs best with people of color.

COOPER: Bakari, Angela mentioned Anita Hill. How much of a fumble is it that on the day he's announcing there's an interview out with her in which she's not going to details of a conversation which, you know, is to her credit, but clearly, it was not the apology she probably deserves or was expecting, however you want to characterize it.

SELLERS: I think Anita Hill's deserved this apology for nearly 30 years. And it's pretty transparent when you do it two weeks before you're running for president of the United States. And, look, people say, oh my god, why are you questioning Joe Biden. We shouldn't do this. This is going to be a replay of 2016.

Well, no, it's not. That's the purpose of a primary. And one of my very good friends who is a political consultant, Jerry Lohill (ph), always says the couch is on the ballot. It won't just be Donald Trump versus whoever the Democratic nominee is. It's also going to be the couch.

And what we found out is in Milwaukee, in Detroit, in certain cases in Pennsylvania, the couch won out and black voters simply chose to stay home. And some voters who were just disenchanted with the process chose to stay home.

So we can't just say that we're running against Donald Trump. We have to give people some reason to vote for us.

And so I hope that Joe Biden's appeal to black voters is more than Barack Obama chose me because most black voters I know are asking the question but for Barack Obama, would I vote for Joe Biden today.

COOPER: Angela, certainly he has run for president twice before, and, you know, it didn't go anywhere. So it's interesting that now he is viewed even by people who really probably don't know much about his past record over the decades as the front-runner.

RYE: Yes. I think that front- runner status, if we're going to learn anything else from 2016, it should not be an heir apparent. It should not be just automatically given. I think that the Barack Obama bona fides certainly help, but we also need to understand that there's a lot that has changed. There's a whole cadre of millennial voters who argue that they wouldn't necessarily have supported Barack Obama. Those are audiences he's going to have to speak to, that middle of the road. Centrist Democratic message is going to be a very hard one to sell during this Democratic primary.

So I would urge Joe Biden, as much as that relational loving room of his exist, right, the one that we just saw, he also has to speak specifically to the black community. He has to speak specific to agenda items and how he has pivoted completely. I respect the fact that people change and grow. Anderson, hell, I'm different than I was last week.


RYE: But at the end of the day if I can't show you good, Bakari, if I can't show you some documented proof of things that I've done to proactively help these communities, an agenda that speaks directly to them, a rising tide does not lift all boats, we know that, especially if you're not in one.

COOPER: We're going to leave there it. Paul Begala, thank you, Angela Rye, Bakari Sellers.

Another challenge by the faces is to work on his propensity for gaffes in a field this crowded. Can he afford any headline-making slip-ups? He's already had some. Someone who knows the pressures of being a front-runner may have some advice for him, ahead.


COOPER: He is number 20 of 2020. Joe Biden entered the race today at the top of the pack, that's the place perhaps you want to be, maybe not. But the question, of course, can he remain there?

[20:35:05] A lot of times it go not all front-runners taste victory. Howard Dean joins us. He's a former 2004 presidential candidate, former DNC chair and former Vermont governor. What do you make of Biden, how he entered the race and where he enters the race?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: You know, it's very hard to say. There's 20 candidates. I think the record number is going to get through the first four. The problem with -- for Joe Biden is everybody loves him. He's the former vice president associated with the most popular Democrat in America, and he's at 27, what's going to get him to 28.

COOPER: He is -- it's a long time between now and --

DEAN: Right, very long time.

COOPER: I mean, it is --

DEAN: Anything can happen.

COOPER: We forget. Yes. DEAN: Right.

COOPER: I mean at this point when you were running, where were you in the race?

DEAN: I was sort of in the top six, which -- I mean, because there were only six serious candidates.

COOPER: Right.

DEAN: What happened to me was I had a very powerful message. Actually, in retrospect, I realized I ran against the Democratic Party because they were all voting for Bush's tax cuts and the Iraq war. And then I really surged to the leader of the pack after we outraged John Kelly because we were doing crowd funding before anybody else was.

COOPER: So, do you -- I mean, Joe Biden is having a fundraiser at an executive house tonight. You know, he clearly -- you know, he's in Pennsylvania. He's clearly focusing a lot on that. How do you --

DEAN: Here's the problem with this race and with Joe Biden being in the race, and he is a good guy and, you know, may well win the nomination. This party is being taken over by 35-year-olds. The people who won the races are 35 years old and they're mostly centrists. They're not particularly liberals.

AOC gets all the press, whom I'm a big fan of. Rashida Tlaib, Omar Ilhan gets all -- they get all the press. There's 37 people that come from Orange County, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas. That's where we picked up the seats.

COOPER: Right, with more centrist Democrat.

DEAN: They're more centrist, but they're also pro-gay rights. They're, you know, they're pro-women's rights. This is a very different party than even the one Joe Biden ran in 2012, very different.

COOPER: Does he -- how does he deal with that?

DEAN: I don't know. That's the big test. Look, a lot of people could win this race. There's 20 people in there. I think it's going to take $20 million to get to the starting line. If you can't raise $20 million, you're gone. And I think that's going to take care of about six or eight of these folks, and then anybody could win, anybody can. But it is not the same party that it was five years ago.

COOPER: The people in the party who are those 35-year-olds, are they focused on somebody who speaks their values, who speak, you know, who holds their opinions and can beat Donald Trump or is beating Donald Trump?

DEAN: Great question. Nate Silver did a great article on this today on "FiveThirtyEight." I hope that I'm allowed to say that on CNN.

COOPER: No, you're not.

DEAN: And I don't read these articles, but he backs the stuff up. The fascinate thing is when you poll democratic -- likely democratic voters, they want two things. They want somebody who can beat Trump. That's more important than their values, but their values are very important and they use both. Now, how that -- look, we are eight months out from the first primary. We have a long way to go. A lot of things are going to happen that we can't possibly imagine.

COOPER: It's impossible to predict.

DEAN: Every race is like this. Nobody could have imagined I was going to be -- I remember Dick Gephardt saying when he heard I announced that he'll be gone by New Hampshire. Well, Dick Gephardt was gone by New Hampshire.

COOPER: How do you think you would do in a race today?

DEAN: Well, I don't think -- I mean, I've -- I have to be neutral and I am neutral. But I've said publicly before I got the job that -- which is coordinating the DNC data stuff that I thought this race should be run by a 50-year-old, not a 70-year-old. I wouldn't run today because I'm 70 years old and I think we need the new generation. The best thing that can happen is have the Democratic Party be taken over by 35-year-old.

COOPER: Really?

DEAN: That's happening now. That's happening now.

COOPER: I mean, there's a lot of, you know, people who aren't 35 anymore who would sort of probably beg to differ.

DEAN: Well, you know, we can do this -- unless you can lengthen your telomeres, we're going to do this the hard way and easy way, right? And I'd say do it the easy way. Help them. Get them into it. I've supported run for something, Color of Change, Voto Latino, these are all the groups emerge and other one. There are about 11 groups that do the things that the Democratic Party used to do, and they do it unbelievably well.

Run for Something recruited 15,000 candidates. They ran for county chair -- I mean, county officer and school board. That's how you have to build the party. These young people are doing it just the way they flocked to the polls for Obama. The bitter lesson they learned in 2016 is not good enough to just go out in presidential races and now they've learned that lesson.

COOPER: Governor Dean, thank you, always interesting.

DEAN: Thank you.

COOPER: President Trump denies part of the Mueller report that his own White House lawyer swore was true under oath and he has notes about it. What are Democrats next moves after getting stone walled on subpoenas, we'll talk with the congressman who says that pushing a lot of Democrats into the impeachment camp. We'll be right back.


[20:43:31] COOPER: Congressional subpoenas are still boomeranging around the White House and landing back on Capitol Hill with no sign of cooperation. Tonight, President Trump is not ruling out executive privilege to block former White House Counsel Don McGahn from testifying.

The Mueller report revealed that McGahn said under oath the President ordered him to fire Mueller. Today on Twitter, the President denied giving McGahn the order, adding that if he wanted to, he could have fired Mueller himself. It's worth noting that the President is not known for terminating people in the administration on his own.

And in fact, despite what he did on "The Apprentice," he seems to not like to fire people face-to-face. The departure from White House, the only known face-to-face firing the President himself has done is Michael Flynn. He usually gets other people to do it or does it over Twitter.

As for the subpoena fight, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings is condemning what he calls a massive, unprecedented and growing pattern of obstruction. Short time ago, I spoke with Congressman Gerry Connolly who seats on the House Oversight Committee.


COOPER: Congressman Connelly, the President's assertion that he never told Don McGahn to fire Mueller, he's basically accusing McGahn of perjuring himself under oath.

REP. GERALD CONNOLLY (D-VA): Yes. I suppose it's possible that Donald Trump had a Henry II moment, you know, will nobody rid me of this troublesome priest with respect to the archbishop of Canterbury, but I doubt it.

I -- look, Trump didn't go under oath, didn't appear before the special prosecutor. Don McGahn did, multiple times. And so he's under oath and at risk of perjury if he lies. And he testified, apparently, that Donald Trump told him to fire the special prosecutor, which is why this is an issue because that could be construed and has been as obstruction of justice.

[20:45:12] Donald Trump, who was not under oath and has a history of prevarication, you know, as long as the Mississippi River, we're supposed to suddenly take his word that this didn't happen, he could have done it on his own. I'll take Don McGahn any day over the word of Donald Trump.

COOPER: Right. I mean, Don McGahn, who, by the way, was keeping contemporaneous notes --


COOPER: -- which the President himself took issue with. CONNOLLY: That's right.

COOPER: So then the question is, yes, do you trust the general counsel of the White House who is taking notes at the time and, you know, is an attorney who has taken an oath or the President who, as you said, has the history that he has.

Yesterday you said that the President's moves have triggered a constitutional crisis. In what? In that he's -- in the way that he's trying to block these investigations?

CONNOLLY: He basically said that we're done with cooperating with any subpoenas, any subpoenas involving any of these investigations with the Congress. You don't get to do that as the chief executive of the United States government. You must respect the constitutional checks and balances written by our founders.

COOPER: I mean, Don McGahn is a private citizen now. Even if the President doesn't want him to testify, if he is subpoenaed, does the White House really have any authority over whether Don McGahn testifies, given that he is -- they already gave up executive privilege to allow McGahn to testify in front of Mueller?

CONNOLLY: I think the White House has no legs to stand on with respect to Don McGahn's testimony. I think you make a great point. Number one, he is a private citizen. He can decide to ignore the claim of executive privilege by the White House. He is no longer a federal employee, let alone a White House employee.

But secondly, I believe any reasonable interpretation of the willingness of the President to allow his general counsel, his White House counsel to testify not once, but many times before the special prosecutor can be easily construed as waiving the executive privilege.

COOPER: If the White House fights these subpoenas, which certainly seems to be what the game they plan to play here, fight everything as long as you can, try to run out the clock on them, I mean, the reality is they're only valid until 2021 when a new Congress is seated.

CONNOLLY: That's right. I'm a strict constructionist in this matter. We are a separate but coequal branch of government. We have immense powers at our disposal, both real ones that we exercise currently and latent ones that we could.

And I believe anyone who defies a legitimately issued subpoena by the Congress of the United States puts himself or herself in enormous legal peril, and that can include fines, contempt of Congress, civil pursuit in courts of law, and possible incarceration. But I think it's a very unwise thing to cooperate with an across the board defiance of constitutionally legally issued subpoenas by the Congress.

COOPER: So you could see a scenario if somebody is refusing to respond to a subpoena of actually trying to put them in jail?

CONNOLLY: I believe that that is -- that is one potential option. I hope it doesn't come to that. We haven't done it since the 1870s, apparently, but that is a latent power of Congress. We can independent of a court incarcerate somebody who fails to comply with a lawfully issued subpoena. And the consequences can go that high.

And so if people want to damage their reputation, lawyer up have fines that are, you know, $25,000 a day is one discussion under way, or put themselves in actually jeopardy of being incarcerated, have at it. But I think Trump is putting his own people in grave jeopardy.

COOPER: Congressman Gerry Connolly, appreciate it. Thank you.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, coming up, someone named Trump is on "The Ridiculist," but it's not the President. What happened when his daughter-in-law, who is, of course, a high-ranking campaign official according to the administration, went on Fox and started riffing on global affairs. Stick around.


[20:53:18] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And tonight we welcome to the list, first daughter-in-law Lara Trump. Now, normally we wouldn't mention the family member of a president, but she's made herself a public figure with a public role in the campaign. Who says the president can't hire family members. They do it in dictatorships all the time and it works great for them, so why not here? We're not that different are we?

Mrs. Trump is now a senior adviser to the Trump reelection campaign. OK. She's married to the President's son, Eric. Eric's wedding planner, by the way, was a long time Trump Organization employee, was given a job at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to "ProPublica," Lara Trump's brother was also reportedly given a job at the Energy Department.

Well, this morning on "Varney & Co.," a show on Fox Business Network, Lara Trump was, of course, appearing because, you know, that's what she does and praising the Trump administration's decision to make it more difficult for people fleeing domestic violence or gang violence in Central America to ask for asylum here in America.

Oh, she also doesn't like all those Syrian people who fled the war and ended up in Germany. And she expressed her dislike and her concern in a way that proves once again you don't have to be born into the Trump family to share the President's remarkable grasp of world history.


STUART VARNEY, VARNEY & CO. HOST: That videotape reminds me of what happened in Europe when there was a march across Europe by a million people who wanted to get into Western Europe. Angela Merkel let them in. Open borders. Let them in, catastrophic.


VARNEY: Well, it was.

TRUMP: One of the worst things that ever happened to Germany. This president knows that.


COOPER: Yes. Oh, yes, no, yes. The downfall of Germany, it was one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany, so says Lara Trump, senior campaign adviser to the President of the United States who she also now says agrees with

her belief that refugees are one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany.

[20:55:11] So there's a lot to unpack. Number one, Germany hasn't fallen. She says that, you know, led to the downfall of Germany. It's right where it's always been. It's right there. I've been there on vacation. It's doing just fine. As for refugees in Germany being one of the worst things to ever happen in Germany, come on. Come on, really? I mean, I know she said one of, but even that.

I mean, look, if you don't know what the downfall of Germany really was, here's what you do. You ask a fifth grader, maybe even a fourth grader, a really smart third grader or how about anyone who knows anything about World War II or the Nazis and you don't equate anything else with it.

You don't go on cable television and just riff about the downfall of Germany, the worst thing that ever happened to Germany. In fact, maybe just stick to your own make belief newscast on YouTube.


TRUMP: Hey, everybody, I'm Lara Trump. Thanks so much for joining us to hear all about the President's week.


COOPER: Real news. That's actually on YouTube. That actually exists. That's real. I mean, it exists in the sense that it's real. It's not -- well, you know. She's a senior adviser and it turns out a T.V. personality in an alternative universe called Real News Update.

It's a good example of what happens when like politics reaches the crossroads of authoritarianism and the cast of dynasty, though I'm not sure which character she is. I do highly recommend that YouTube channel. If you like your campaign propaganda like you like your Trump steaks heavy on branding, light on sourcing and available through the sharper image.

Remember the sourcing of the Trump steaks was -- I believe it was various countries in Europe or various places in Europe. I can't remember the exact phrasing that he -- oh, that was the vodka? Oh, you're right. I'm sorry. I mixed up my failed Trump branded products. Now to be fair, Lara Trump does have a background in television. She used to work for the Syndicated show "Inside Edition," which by the way is now hosted by Devorah Norville, who is someone I know and really like a lot. She is wonderful, smart, so talented and I'm very happy that she's back on air. She's terrific. The old "Inside Edition" was hosted by someone else entirely.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll do it live. Do it live. I could all write it and we'll do it live. Thing sucks.


COOPER: OK, so that happened. It was classic. Anyway, Lara Trump left that gig. She's now got this gig. I should also point out, she's a vocal advocate for rights for animals, wild horses and others which is great, commendable. I love animals. I think it's awesome she does that using her platform to speak out for those who can't speak, awesome.

I would just point out, human beings are good too and we can debate immigration legal and otherwise. But let's not forget, there are people's lives at stake. Aren't all good people, many of them are, and they're in fear for their lives. Again, you can debate the issues, but let's have a common basis point. These are human beings. This administration may at times have you believe otherwise.

As a student of history and an expert on geopolitics and humanitarian emergencies, Lara Trump maybe has long way to go. As a campaign envoy, she has firmly set up shop on "The Ridiculist." Welcome.

A lot more to come on this busy Thursday, more in former Vice President Biden's announcement and the reaction from the White House about his 2020 bid. And White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders actually holds her first briefing in 46 days. We cannot wait to tell you what she said and to whom she was speaking. It's -- you might think it's a joke, but it's actually real, that's coming up.