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Interview With Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ); Trump Shares Laugh With Putin Over Election Meddling; Biden Under Fire After Debate. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2019 - 16:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Washington.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that escalated quickly.

THE LEAD starts right now.

After a contentious debate, the power rankings could be shifting. Senator Kamala Harris stands out on the stage. Who might have the next breakout moment?

And one of her many opponents, presidential candidate Cory Booker, will join me in minutes.

And Joe Biden forced to defend his record after a tough debate. One campaign ally says the former V.P. -- quote -- "knows he has to do better."

Plus, President Trump turns a coordinated cyberattack on the U.S. into a punchline with Putin, after one former president suggests that Trump's 2016 win was illegitimate.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake Tapper.

And we begin today with the 2020 lead and Senator Kamala Harris making a moment for herself in last night's Democratic debate and going right for former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Harris campaign says their fund-raising has boomed post-debate, while one Democratic source close to Biden is calling Biden's debate performance not great.

Now, as CNN's Kyung Lah reports, the former vice president is defending his record after getting quite a bruising.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The day after the debate, Joe Biden defending his record on civil rights. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I respect Senator Harris. But we all know that 30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can't do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights.

LAH: Speaking to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, a civil rights organization.

BIDEN: I never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing.

LAH: He's reacting to the debate confrontation with Kamala Harris. She challenged Biden's past when he opposed federal mandatory busing to desegregate schools.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.

LAH (on camera): What is it that turned tonight, that made you discuss that?

HARRIS: I just think that on, some of these issues, it's that the American public deserves to know how we come at our priorities. There are millions of people in our country who have personal experiences with this. And that voice needs to be on stage.

LAH (voice-over): A breakout moment, fueling a throwback tweet and making headlines.

Fund-raising jumps at the Harris campaign to its third best day.

HARRIS: America does not one witness of food fight. They want to know how we're going to put food on their table.


LAH: Supporters wished Harris well. Back on the trail just hours after the debate, 2020 hopefuls with an army of media, staged a visit to the Homestead facility. The candidates didn't follow known protocol, attempting to visit the unaccompanied children at the migrant shelter to highlight Trump administration policies.

HARRIS: We need a new president of the United States.


LAH: But Harris had a debate stumble of her own.

LESTER HOLT, NBC: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan? All right.


LAH: After the debate, Harris tried to explain her answer.

HARRIS: So the question was, would you be willing to give up your private insurance for such a plan.

QUESTION: That's not how it was asked. That's what you heard. Right?

HARRIS: That's certainly what I heard.

LAH: The Medicare for all plan Harris says she supports would effectively eliminate private insurance, with few exceptions, such as for elective surgery not covered by the federal plan.

The topic has tripped her before.

HARRIS: I don't know if your insurance company is going to cover this. Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on.

It was in the context of saying, let's get rid of all the bureaucracy. Let's get all of the ways..

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, not the insurance companies?

HARRIS: No, that's not what I meant. I know it was interpreted that way.


LAH: Now, the debate also challenged Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

He was asked a question about the officer-involved shooting in the town that he is mayor of, South Bend. The question was why black representation of police officers has not improved while he has been mayor?

And, Brianna, he said very bluntly -- quote -- "Because I couldn't get it done" -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, he was very blunt.

All right, Kyung Lah ,thank you so much for that report.

All right, let's talk about this.

So, this is a moment. We will talk about the Joe Biden side of this, but Kamala Harris had this moment. Can she capitalize on this, Karen?


I mean, look, it was an important moment for her to sort of make her case about the importance of this issue, particularly given that she's had some criticism from the left on her record as a prosecutor. And this is obviously a very personal issue for her.

And I can say, having gone to Berkeley public schools years after her, it was still messed up. So for her to have such a personal experience with this issue, I think was critical.

[16:05:03] And, look, I think likely gave her the bounce that she's going to need. The question will be, how do they keep that momentum going into the next debate?

KEILAR: He tried to turn the prosecutor-defending thing back on her. But it didn't take.

So I wonder, there's a source from the Biden -- close to Biden -- who says he's bruised, but far from out. Do you think, Amanda, that there's lasting damage here?


Even today, watching his surrogates, like, they don't have the right answer. The reason why that was such a powerful moment last night is because Kamala Harris was speaking from a place of truth. She was saying, this is my experience. This is how I felt.

And Biden's response was for that to mansplain right by her and say, well, you don't have that right.

She has a right to her feelings, and I think, if she does want to capitalize on this moment, she could play into a broader theme that women, particularly black women, deserve to be listened to.

And right now Biden isn't showing that he's willing to listen. And that's the problem.

MEHDI HASAN, THE INTERCEPT: It's more than just feelings, though. It's about facts.

He said today and he said last night that she mischaracterized my position. Actually, she was rather generous to him. She opened with, I'm not saying you're racist and all the qualifications.

Actually, if you go back and look what he said in the 1970s, there were some horrific claims. He said yesterday, I didn't oppose busing.

He did. He called busing, bankrupt, asinine, even floated a constitutional amendment to get rid of busing. He said he didn't praise segregationist senators. Just last week, he praised them for their civility. He literally gave the eulogy at Strom Thurmond's funeral.

So, yes, he was misrepresenting his own positions. And I'm amazed more Democrats didn't go after him last night. I mean, Kamala has that amazing moment. We were all on the edge of our seat. It was a very powerful debate moment.

But others didn't go after him. When Iraq came up, Rachel Maddow brought up Iraq and his disastrous vote, Bernie Sanders is standing next to him. Why didn't Bernie jump in and say, Joe, you and I were the only people on this stage who were in Congress? I got it right. You got it wrong. He didn't do it. And that was a mistake, because Kamala Harris managed to dominate all the headlines and the entire debate, and rightly so.

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I have -- I think I have an answer for that. They don't have to, because they're watching him melt down as a candidate.

HASAN: That's true, too.

SHIELDS: And I said here last week Joe Biden will not be the Democratic nominee.

HASAN: I agree with you.

SHIELDS: I believe that stronger every single day. His high watermark was the day he got into the race.

This is not a bug. This is a feature. He is Biden-ing in front of our eyes. And this is why he's lost three times before. And so when he does get challenged by somebody -- and, again, not even, as you're saying, this isn't -- this wasn't like the major leagues. This is still like the first debate.


SHIELDS: And he's not handling it well. His team's not handling it well.

And, look, this is going to continue. And so why would you -- let Kamala Harris take the first shot at him, watch him melt down.


HASAN: I meant for yourself. I meant for yourself.

Kamala, we're all talking about her having been this amazing debater.


SHIELDS: Bernie will have his shot. There's another debate in a month on CNN.


HASAN: There are lots of debates to come. Good luck, Joe Biden.

CARPENTER: Yes, she's the only one with the nerve and the spirit to do that work.


CARPENTER: People don't want to alienates his voters.


KEILAR: There was another swipe against Biden. And it was a generational one from Eric Swalwell. Let's listen.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago. He's still right today.


SWALWELL: If we're going to solve the issues of automation, pass the torch. If we're going to solve the issues of climate chaos, pass the torch. If we're going to solve the issue of student loan debt, pass the torch.

BIDEN: I'm still holding on to that torch.


FINNEY: Well done.



HASAN: It's a good line about passing the torch. The problem is, no one seriously thinks it's going to be passed to Eric Swalwell. He's not even the youngest person the stage last night. I think Pete Buttigieg is a year younger.

So the whole pass the torch thing -- look, Bernie's called it ageist, I think after the debate. Is it ageist, is it not ageist? I think there is a thing about politics, especially Democratic Party politics, which is generational.

The last two Democratic presidents were in their 40s when they were elected, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Jimmy Carter was in his early 50s. Everyone loves to reminisce about JFK. That is going to be an issue, the age of Biden and Sanders.

And also just looking at Biden yesterday, he just didn't look like he was in control of anything.

FINNEY: But, in fairness, I feel like Biden and Bernie seemed out of place. I mean, the whole -- and the point about passing the torch is, if you looked at the whole stage, he could pass the torch to just about any of the others who are on the stage

HASAN: Marianne Williamson.

CARPENTER: Maybe not.


FINNEY: I said just about. That's a whole other thing.

Being point being there are a number of very qualified people in this race who have wonderful ideas, support progressive politics, and support the ideas of the Democratic Party that you could pass the torch to.


HASAN: To be fair to Bernie, those were his ideas.


FINNEY: Not all of them.

HASAN: A lot of them.


FINNEY: Many of them.

HASAN: The Democratic Party now sees the public option as the centrist position, which was seen as heresy just a few years ago with Obama.


FINNEY: However, the point that I wanted to get to is, the other thing about both Bernie and Biden is, they sounded old.

When Bernie was talking about the assault weapons ban, and when he ran for Congress in 1988, and some of the language that Biden was using it -- I mean, you don't have to talk about 1988. Kids just got shot a week ago.


I mean, so some of it sounded and felt very old, and so in addition to sort of looking old.

KEILAR: There definitely was a generational theme that we saw.

And coming up, a presidential candidate who has already seen a surge of support since the first debate. Senator Cory Booker is going to join us live.


KEILAR: We're back with our 2020 lead.

And after two nights of fiery confrontations and policy debates, Democratic presidential hopefuls now have just one month to study their performances and plan out their next attacks and convince as many voters as possible to back their White House bid before the second Democratic debate that is hosted by CNN.

And joining me now is Democratic presidential candidate and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who is seeing a surge of support after his debate performance.

We're seeing you get a bump in fund-raising. Are you thinking you're going to get a bump in the polls? [16:15:02]?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, right now, the fundraising is key. I hope more people will go to and it is helping us to execute our strategy and build a great organization in the early states and continue the momentum, seven months plus, before a vote in Iowa alone is a long time here. We're going to focus on getting our message out and building our organization, and I'm hoping more people will get involved with me and my mission.

KEILAR: If you see a poll bounce, what's the takeaway? If you don't, what's the takeaway?

BOOKER: You know, again, and you know this history, people -- we have not had a nominee since well before Carter that was leading in the polls this far out that went on to the White House. Usually, it's people like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama who are underestimated, polling behind that win in places like Iowa and New Hampshire which are often ways to show that you have the ability to win elections in the grassroots.

So, the polling is important. We're polling high enough right now to be in the top six or seven, to be on those debate stages. I'm hoping we could continue to get momentum because the debate stage for September is set so much higher. We need 130,000 unique contributor and we're trying to push people toward

But again, the polling numbers, I'm not being distracted, but what I'm focused on is getting my heart, my vision, my plans and my passion before voters and more people who get a chance to discover who I am, the better we're going to do.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about the former vice president. He defended his record on civil rights today, after being grilled about it during last night's debate. Let's listen to the former vice president's comments.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing and as a program that Senator Harris participated in and it made a difference in her life. I did support federal action to address root causes in segregation in our schools and our communities, including taking on the banks and redlining and trying to change the way in which neighborhoods were segregated.


KEILAR: All right. We should note that he said he never opposed voluntary busing last night. He said he never opposed busing, period. What's your reaction?

BOOKER: Well, first of all, the record speaks differently from the quotes from the time and I read them, again it is decades ago, problematic and he needs to talk to his record, as we all know, from the 1994 crime bill that I was a law student at the time, and as somebody who was being, frankly, often followed or singled out by police that led to the explosion of mass incarceration, something that now I'm working in the Senate have been drawing back on mandatory minimums and in that crime bill. He has to speak to his record. And the way he speaks about it is important.

You know, I've been talking about this for the last two weeks about him invoking language that white segregationists call him son and not boy, without the understanding why that word "boy" was used by white segregationist against folks like my father and others that meant to degrade and demean and make them feel less than. The next presidential nominee, whoever they are, has to be up to the challenge of addressing these power dynamics, addressing the issues of race and racism and being able, most importantly, to call our country together to common ground and common purpose, remind us that we have more in common than separates us and we need to work together on issues of justice. You've got to be up to that challenge.

That's one of the reasons I'm running because of my history and record for bringing Americans together to get things done.

KEILAR: Was he sufficient today in his explanation?

BOOKER: You know, again, I listened to some of the language that he was using that still kind of worries me that, you know, this is a lesson on some of the issues that a nominee shouldn't at this point have to learn. And, again, voters have to make their own decision that our diverse party, what kind of leader we're going to have to that's going to inspire us to be our best.

And, by the way, none of us, certainly not me, have been perfect or without mistakes. We all do it. But when you make a mistake, don't fall into a defensive crouch, don't try to shift the blame like he said to me, that I owed him an apology for his remarks. That's not what we need right now.

You know, part of being courageous is being vulnerable, is letting people know that you're not perfect, none of us are, is letting people know that you're going to risk putting yourself out there and try to be a light to bring people together and I'm hoping that we don't fall into this no apology world that Donald Trump seems to say when you do nothing wrong and make no mistakes. I think the best leaders are the ones that step up and say, hey, I don't have a perfect record, I haven't done anything right but I stayed in the saddle, continued to work and sacrifice for the greater good. I hope you'll join me in that march.

KEILAR: Senator Cory Booker, thank you so much.

BOOKER: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: President Trump is not going to like this one. A certain former president just said he is not -- Trump is not a legitimate commander-in-chief.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:24:37] KEILAR: In our 2020 lead, this afternoon, former Vice President Biden is aggressively pushing back on attacks from last night's debate over his past stance on busing.


BIDEN: Thirty seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can't do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights. I never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing.


[16:25:01] KEILAR: CNN's Tom Foreman takes a deeper look at the facts surrounding Biden's controversial stance on busing.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the sharpest attack of the debate. Kamala Harris lighting into Joe Biden for opposing racial busing decades ago.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools. And she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.

FOREMAN: And it brought a quick rebuttal.

BIDEN: It is a mischaracterization of my position across the board.

FOREMAN: So what do the facts say?

Harris was truthful about her childhood growing up in Berkeley. She was part of the second elementary school class there to experience busing in the late 1960s, the school tells CNN. As she would eventually write, I only learned later that we were part of a national experiment in desegregation and while she, a young black girl attending a mostly white school, Joe Biden was becoming a U.S. senator.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Around that same time then Senator Joe Biden changed his position on busing and became anti-busing. He joined with Jesse Helms, I don't know if you know this.

HARRIS: I did not know that.

FOREMAN: But it's true. As courts ordered more schools to promote integration by busing kids from predominantly black schools to largely white ones and vice versa, protests often violent broke out coast to coast. And Biden, indeed, began pushing back.

Listen to what he said on this date in 1977.

BIDEN: I happen to think that the one way to ensure that you set the civil rights movement in America farther back is to continue to push busing because it is a bankrupt policy. FOREMAN: And now --

BIDEN: I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education.

FOREMAN: That split hair likely wouldn't satisfy proponents. Still, Biden has long promoted civil and voting rights for African-Americans and better housing policies to make sure black families can live and go to school where they wish.


FOREMAN: In short, the record shows Biden has fought for racial equality, even as he has refused to embrace the politically contentious reality of busing. Joining the chorus of critics who said all along there is just not enough evidence its benefits outweigh the social upheaval -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you so much for that.

I want to bring in CNN senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, and CNN political director Dave Chalian.

Is this, Nia, shaping up to be a generational divide on this issue?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think that's right. I mean, you saw folks making sort of the overt generational argument with Swalwell saying pass the torch, pass the torch, pass the torch. Well, that's essentially what Kamala Harris was doing, too, basically here she was a young girl going to this integrated school, bused to this integrated school when Joe Biden was an adult and pushing against busing. So, yes, this is a generational divide.

I think the other way this is a generational divide is in terms of black voters, right? I talked to some folks in South Carolina. One of the things that is interesting about the black voters in South Carolina is obviously they like Joe Biden. They see him as a loyal partner to Obama. They almost see him as part of the family.

And folks I talked to said, you know, leave Joe Biden alone. And this doesn't really matter. Kamala is just doing this because she's behind at this point. But there are -- I mean, these are older, more moderate black voters, particularly black women.

Younger voters see this differently. I mean, they are part of the woke generation, Black Lives Matter, and you see the activity on Twitter and also this younger generation of black voters are skeptical of Kamala Harris too because of her record as a prosecutor.

So, this is going to be an interesting dynamic to play out. I think no one saw this coming, in some ways it was the ideological divide that we were looking for, and Kamala Harris I really think did herself some good in terms of breaking out and we'll see what --

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And it was -- and it was pretty geared toward the African-American vote --


CHALIAN: -- because Kamala Harris is understood -- I don't think there is ever a presidential candidate who has worked as hard to woo the African-American vote as Kamala Harris has over the course of this campaign. And she knows it is her path to the nomination and she knows, this isn't just -- Joe Biden is not sitting on top of the polls because of name I.D., there is this real reservoir of goodwill in the party with African-Americans and more broadly.


CHALIAN: And that is -- that is real. And so, what this is going to test, what we're going to learn is, does that reservoir of goodwill give Joe Biden some sense of Teflon in this race or do we start to see that reservoir of goodwill, you know, not being there in quite the same level that it has been thus far.

KEILAR: How important is it that he brings the skill, because I'm wondering if -- you mentioned her vulnerability as a prosecutor. He tried to turn that around on her about the defender versus prosecutor, the punch didn't land.

HENDERSON: It didn't land.

KEILAR: We also saw when he was defending himself and he was -- he was on a roll and sort of -- he was I think being forceful in defending himself and then the buzzer goes off and he's out of time, I'm sorry.