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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  April 8, 2019 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

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i'm erica hill. thanks for being with us today. brooke is back tomorrow. "the lead with jake tapper" starts right now. sources tell me president trump told border agents to break the law to secure the border. "the lead" starts right now. breaking news. it seems there are no limits to how far president trump is willing to go to try to stop people from coming into the united states. we're learning about a meeting president trump held with his top advisers, ordering that they begin shutting down the border, including the port of el paso, in a day! laws be damned. then when the president didn't get what he wanted, he cleaned house. now another top homeland security secretary exits and says officials worry about a purge. plus, it's been more than 40 days since bernie sanders promised to release his tax returns soon. has he decided the unrelenting pressure is better than showing the world what's in them? >> announcer: this is cnn
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breaking news. welcome to the lead. i'm jake tapper with some breaking news about how far the president of the united states is willing to go to stop migrants from entering the country. some of this includes ordering officials to break the law. last night, the president essentially fired the secretary of the department of homeland secretary, kirstjen nielsen. conflicts with nielsen has been building for months, but escalated in recent weeks, including two thursdays ago when a meeting with president trump and other officials like secretary nielsen, mike pompeo, jared kushner, mercedes schlapp and dan scavino. the president, according to one attendee, was, quote, ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue. senior administration officials tell me that president trump then ordered nielsen and pompeo to shut down the port of el paso, texas, by the next day, friday, march 22nd, at noon. the plan was that in subsequent
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days, the trump administration would then shut down other ports. nielsen, at the meeting, told the president that would be a bad and even a dangerous idea, according to attendees, not to mention she said that the governor of texas, republican greg abbott, has been very supportive of the president. nielsen proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports, but she argued, if you close all of the ports of entry, all you're going to achieve is end legal trade and travel. that's not going to end illegal immigration, she argued to the president. the migrants will just go between ports. said the president, according to two people in the room, quote, i don't care! ultimately, it seems chief of staff mick mulvaney was able to talk the president out of closing the port of el paso and the other ports. the president, however, was insistent that his administration begin taking another action, just denying asylum seekers entry into the united states. secretary nielsen tried to explain to the president many times that the asylum laws allow migrants from central america to
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come to the u.s. and gain entry. she even talked to the white house counsel about it to see if there were any exceptions and he told her that her reading of the law was correct. now, on friday, in calexico, california, the president publicly said this. >> the system is full. can't take you anymore. whether it's asylum, whether it's anything you want, illegal immigration, can't take you anymore. we can't take you. our country is full. >> behind the scenes, according to two witnesses, president trump told border agents to simply stop letting migrants in. tell them we don't have the capacity, he said. if judges give you trouble, say, sorry, judge, i can't do it, we don't have the room. after the president left that room, border agents sought further advice from their leaders who told them they were not going to give them that direction. if they did what the president said, in fact, they would be taking on personal liability. you have to follow the law, the border agents were told.
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senior administration officials also tell me that in the last four months or so, president trump has been pushing his administration to enforce a stricter and more widespread family separation policy. not just the original policy, started by attorney general jeff sessions and undone by the president once it was criticized, that was a policy of prosecuting individuals crossing the border illegally between legal ports of entry and that substituted a separation of parents from their children. no, according to multiple sources, president trump wants an expanded version of this policy. he wants families separated even if they come in at a legal port of entry and are legal asylum seekers. the president also want families separated even if they're apprehended within the united states, these senior administration officials tell me. the president wants more of this. he thinks family separation works to deter migrants from coming. sources tell me that nielsen has tried to explain to the president, they can't bring this policy back because of various court challenges.
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hhs secretary alex azar has made it clear to the president that he opposes any policy that causes family separation. and white house staffers, especially in communications, have reportedly stride have tri explain to the president that this would be an unmitigated pr disaster. a senior administration official tells me, quote, he just wants to separate families. last night on the second floor of the east wing of the white house resident in a room called the yellow oval, nielsen, chief of staff mulvaney and president trump sat down and met. nielsen tried to present a path forward. senior administration officials tell me, a path that is legal and in compliance with u.s. laws, but the president said to her, quote, this isn't working. nielsen did not disagree. quote, at the end of the day, a senior administration official tells me, the president refuses to understand that the department of homeland security is constrained by the laws, unquote. but of course, the president may not think that's much of a barrier. the president's made no secret that he's frustrated with the laws, as he made clear in a recent interview on fox news.
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>> there's never been so many people coming up, and that's because they're gaming the system and the system has changed, for the worse, because of what happened with democrats and what they've done in terms of congress. so if we change the laws, it would be very easy. but in the meantime, mexico, if they stop the people from coming in, we won't have a lot of people coming at the border. >> so let's chew over all of this with my panel of experts. let me start with you, lonnie. the idea that president trump actually ordered pompeo and nielsen, shut down the port of el paso by tomorrow at noon. now, apparently he was talked out of this subsequently to the meeting. but that's a pretty big deal. you know, there's always this argument being made about president trump, his bark is worse than his bite, this is just rhetoric in order to achieve what he wants. but here he is, telling border agents to break the law, according to senior administration officials, and ordering the port closed. >> if true, it creates huge liability for his administration, for the people whom he asked to engage in this activity, and really the broader
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question here is, to what end? you know, what is the goal of all of this activity? in my mind, this is all part of a big political campaign effort, as we head toward 2020, the president speaking to his base. he knows immigration is a big issue. and unfortunately in this situation, it means that it put others at risk of potentially being in violation of federal law. this is a huge issue and a huge problem. >> jake, i think it's a major inconvenience when you're trying to be a dictator and there's two things against you, democracy and reality. you know, it's understood we have at least three migrant children that have died in detention, an 8-year-old boy, a 7-year-old girl and a 20-month-old girl. and now the dark head of immigration, stephen miller, is going to be in charge, i can't imagine how much worse this gets. you cannot shut down the border on your own will because you want to, because we have the three branches of government that work very government in this country. we try to make sure they work well. you cannot shut down aid because you feel like it, because those people are coming from those
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shithole countries, and i'm quoting the president. >> yep. >> so you can't get away with everything you want to, even if you're playing to that base, that you desperately need to re-activate for 2020. >> what do you make of the fact that he -- this is from current senior administration officials -- that according to them the president actually wants to expand family separation policy and separate parents from their children, even if they're applying for asylum, even if they're apprehended within the u.s., because he thinks it is an effecti ivive deterrent. >> if president trump wants to change the laws, he should go try to change the laws, which he is spend nothing time doing. if you have a real crisis and you thought these asylum laws were a mess, you wouldn't throw out one proposal a year ago and forget about it. you would actually spend a lot of political capital and a lot of time as president of the united states trying to deal with an emergency. i believe that's what other presidents have done when they thought there were genuine emergencies. he doesn't do that. he likes to -- he wishes he
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could just change the law himself and it's a serious problem. if the president of the united states is ordering unlawful acts, isn't that kind of almost the definition of what -- i hate to say the word -- but not sure it's an impeachable offense, but i will say this. congress needs to have people testify as to whether they were ordered to do that or not. >> well, the president said, again, this is according to two witnesses, the president told border agents when he was in calexico, california, stop letting them in. tell them we're at capacity, we're full. if a judge tells you -- say, sorry, judge. he's said similar things on camera, publicly, but this was behind closed doors. and according to these same witnesses, the leaders came in after president trump left and said, don't do that. if you do do it, you're going to be held personally liable. you have to follow the law. >> and the reporting has indicated, that's what nielsen tried to say. there are some legal reasons why i can't do some of the things you want me to do. look, i think we have to take this into the realm of politically, right? this president, it does not seem, the truly interested in
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solving the problem. this is a political issue for him. and it also illustrates the lack of interest in understanding the complexity of the problem. we know that between presidents clinton and bush and obama, numbers were going down, aid seemed to be working in central america. president trump comes in, cuts the aid, and whereas in the first year of his presidency, the numbers were going down, now he is actually overseeing the largest number of legal migrants in this country because his policies have failed. and so i think democrats have to be really careful in how we talk about this, because people are going to say, well, how does that impact me in my life? and i think the arguments we have made here is, this is complete incompetence. in addition to having broken the law. >> you don't think that's going to work? >> president's policies fail and presidents play politics. that's fine. presidents are not allowed to order people to break the law. and we shouldn't 12 seconds into the discussion say, let's talk about the politics of it or the
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complexity of it. if he's ordering people to break the law, there needs to be a serious investigation by relevant congressional committees as to whether he did this, whether he meant it seriously, and how the executive branch is being run. >> but what i'm arguing to you, the way you would talk to that about the public, i'm not suggesting you give them all the policy reasons, it's incompetence. he's trying to get people to break the laws and his policies failed and that's a sign of his incompetence. >> but why do people not care? it's, again, the comment that he made. "i could kill somebody on fifth avenue and nobody would care." and he would get away with it. why is it that there's a consistent hypocritical 40%. because i don't why the evangelical base would think that a lot of the things that this administration has done, children dying on the border, for example, a policy -- that is not a policy -- which is mindless, it's soulless, it's heartless, it's anti-christian. how does he get away with that is really the question we have to answer? i don't know that there's an answer. >> it seems to me that were congress to investigate, the
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challenge is that everything's seen through a political light now. it's a problem if the president of the united states is ordering people, officers of the united states, to violate federal law. the challenge is that congress itself has lost some credibility in this regard, as well. so, look, while i agree that congress should hold people to account for this, i'm not so sure that the discussion fundamentally isn't a political one. because it's going to be based on how people view and see the president and democrats in congress. >> and think about it, you know, when we were seeing these family separations, part of these among circles of friends that i talked to, some out of washington, part of where the conversation really started to have an impact for people was their own children asking them, well, could that happen to me? could people just come and take me away, the way these kids are being taken away from their parents? does that mean that we would never be reunified? that's when -- when it started to impact people very directly in their daily life is when you really, i think, started to see more people take a pause and try to understand what was really going on there. >> everyone, take one second, take a pause. president trump's wild demands on immigration are coming to a
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head as a purge gets underway at the department of homeland security, starting at the top. and then an american tourist kidnapped at gunpoint is now free after her captors demanded a $500,000 ransom. some officials worry this sets a dangerous precedent for americans abroad. stay with us. directly to because it's the easiest way to save 30% on all the medications we carry.
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we're back with our politics lead and what some even with the trump administration now call a purge of senior national security officials. it's not just homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen or the director nominee of i.c.e., but now also the secret service director, as cnn broke earlier this afternoon, president trump had chief of staff mick mulvaney fire the secret service director the week before last. one official telling cnn, this all amounts to a wholesale decapitation of the homeland security department. and as cnn's kaitlan collins now reports, there might be more to come.
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>> reporter: the secret service is fantastic. president trump pushing out the man he picked to lead the secret service. sources tell cnn, trump ordered mick mulvaney to fire randolph alles, who goes by tex and has led the secret service since 2017. alles was still on the job monday, but the white house said in a statement that he'll be leaving shortly. and president trump has selected james m. murray to take over in may. why trump dismissed alles is still unclear. five days ago, after a woman carrying chinese passports and a flash drive containing malware was accused of illegally entering his mar-a-lago club in florida, trump praised the service. >> i could not be happier with secret service. secret service has done a fantastic job from day one. >> reporter: but he also applauded the mar-a-lago employee who stopped the woman after secret service allowed her in. >> i think that the person sitting at the front desk did a
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very good job. >> reporter: alles reports directly to the homeland security secretary, kirstjen nielsen. >> i just want to thank the president -- >> reporter: who was also forced out sunday after a face-to-face meeting with president trump ended in him demanding her resignation. >> i share the president's goal of securing the border. other than that, i'm on my way to keep doing what i can for the next few days. >> reporter: the shake up comes as trump has become increasingly frustrated with immigration, blaming nielsen for a spike in border crossings and pushing her to reinstate the administration's zero tolerance immigration policy, which he ended last year after backlash. >> we're going to keep the families together. i didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated. >> reporter: sources tell cnn, stephen miller played a critical role in ousting nielsen, but she's not the only dhs official he wants to get rid of. miller has also pushed trump to dismiss the director of citizenship and immigration services, as well as the
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department's general counsel. but the next departure could be the acting deputy secretary. claire grady is technically in line to replace nielsen when she steps down on wednesday, but trump announced that customs and border protection commissioner kevin mcaleenan will step in. sources tell cnn grady has no intention of resigning and is expected to force the administration to fire her. now, jake, cnn has obtained a letter that the former outgoing secret service director sent to his employees today, talking about what happened. he claims, jake, that he was not fired, but does acknowledge that several weeks ago, he says, the administration told him that transitions in leadership should be expected across the department of homeland security and that the president has directed an orderly transition for leadership at this agency. jake, you've noted that several officials that have left dhs in just recent days and now we'll see who could be next.
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>> kaitlan collins a to the white house, thank you so much. bill kristol, let me ask you, there is a legitimate humanitarian crisis at the border, whatever you think about the president's rhetoric. you have people coming in, families, they don't have places to put them, et cetera. there's also terrorism, there's also cyber terrorism. there are a lot of challenges for the department of homeland security. and yet, you -- kaitlan just went through all of the people who have been let go or fired or shown the door. all the people who might be let go, i mean, that's not a way to run an organization that is bracing for crises. >> no, it's not. and again, this is a crisis, such an emergency that we have to probably violate -- quasi violate the constitution or the president has to arrogate all of his powers -- use funds that were not appropriated by congress. and yet he, in effect, decapitates the department that is actually in charge of these relevant policies. and yet i come back to, if there is a humanitarian crisis, we have published something about it and there should be legal
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changes, changes in the law to address it. and the president has the ability to propose changes in the law. and the republicans control one branch of congress miami not sure that nancy pelosi would resist some of these changes, a because there is a genuine humanitarian crisis. but is he doing anything about that? no. >> the obama's secretary of homeland security, jeh johnson, he flew down to the northern tribal countries and told people, don't come, you will be sent back. this is an issue that has plagued previous administrations. it's not just this one. but i don't -- what's your reaction to the news about all of these heads rolling? >> oh, well, about the heads rolling? how many days, how many heads will roll? it's constant. from hhs, defense, cia, just number them. wech had so many people who are just not -- everybody's acting. the constitution says very clearly that the senate has to consent and support your cabinet
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level secretaries? a lot of these people would never be confirmed. a lot of people not truthly. he's not bringing them in front of the senate, where he's supposed to constitutionally. everybody has to be an acting, because the more information you retain, the more -- the less transparent that you are, the better these people can do the job you want them to do, clearly. so we don't know who they are, why they're qualified, and why they're doing the jobs they're doing. >> and lonnie, one of the things that's interesting that people in the administration say, the reason you're seeing all of this turnover in homeland security is because of stephen miller. stephen miller has been empowered even more than he was before. he's a hardliner on immigration, president trump thinks very highly of him and he's getting rid of people including people who were already fairly tough on immigration like nielsen or the i.c.e. director nominee. >> the level of influence he appears to have over this process is pretty staggering. that having been said, he has been with the president for a long time, the president clearly trusts him. and the president has the right and prerogative to rely on
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advisers whom he trusts. i think the question is, is he getting the right advice here? for example, is it a good idea to have this many firings oin a row on sequential days? if one were staffing a white house, maybe not like each day in a row. maybe take a few days off. i think the question here becomes, you know, the fact that stephen miller has influence, there are aides that have influence over the president. that's how it is. the question is, is he getting the right advice not only on the substance, but on the process. >> according to former white house aide, cliff sims who wrote a book, stephen miller once said to him, quote, i would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever begun touched american soil. >> obviously, this is an issue he has cared about for some time and that he has, you know, been on a tear about for some time and in his. current role, he has power and authority to really do some things about it. it also appears that the president is increasingly wanting to listen to voices that are telling him what he wants to
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hear, that are sort of the yes people, that are more to the right, and people who will -- that their primary qualification seems to be loyalty, unless sort of what you were saying, is it the best advice? doesn't matter. they're loyal, they may do what you want them to do. the thing with the secret service, though, i think there's something interesting here on this. there's always a little bit of tension between the president and their families and the secret service detail, because usually there's a little bit of questions of privacy, you want to be able to go out to dinner with your friends or things like that. but with trump and his administration, particularly when you have our national security -- or sort of our, you know, foreign policy being conducted on whatsapp, the idea that it really becomes more about secrecy and not privacy. and so i think this will be continue to be a question as to why the head of the secret service, in addition to the broader context of the number of people fired, the sort of, as you said, decapitation at the department of homeland security, when they do deal with a whole much broader range of issues than just immigration.
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what about cybersecurity? we're heading into an election where our national security apparatus has already told us the russians are trying to have influence. so what's that about? but the specific firing and the surprise of firing the head of the secret service, i think is one people are going to keep picking at and digging on. >> if you were coming from mars and looking at what we're talking about in homeland security, you would think it was the department that was created to basically deal with immigration, which is not a security crisis. it's a humanitarian crisis. and we have bigger problems. we have real national security threats. and what are we doing? nothing. >> everyone, stick around. senator mazie hirono of hawaii has repeatedly called for secretary nielsen to resign, but is what's happening at hoechld security now more concerning? we'll ask her next, stay with us. >> tech: at safelite autoglass, we really pride ourselves on making it easy
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we're back with our breaking news. sources telling me that president trump ordered the port of el paso, texas, shut down late last month, although he was eventually toalked out of it. and in a private meeting with border patrol agents on friday, the president according to witnesses told the border patrol agents not to let in witnesses seeking asylum, though their leaders later told the agents they did, in fact, have to abide by u.s. law, contrary to what the president told them. according to sources, the president also wants an expanded family separation policy, because he believes it is an effective deterrent to the illegal immigration and asylum seeker crisis. joining me now is democratic
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senator, mazie hirono from hawaii. she serves on the senate judiciary committee. senator, always good to see you. let me start with the president telling border agents to stop letting asylum seekers into the country. what's your reaction? >> that happens to be illegal. but we have a president who thinks that the law doesn't apply to him and his ideas, so he just tosses out a lot of things and he either has to be talked off it or it leads to a law. basically one or the other happens. >> what about the president ordering, by noon the next day, the shutting down of the port of entry in el paso, and then other ports will be shut down, subsequently. >> yet another ill-conceived idea. so he comes up with a lot of these things. the bottom line is that he is so against immigrants, migrants, particularly from the southern border, from central america, that he would just do anything to stop them. so, apparently, in this
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instance, kirstjen nielsen said, that's not very practical. we can't just do it in one day, not to mention it's going to lead to illegal challenges, i'm sure. he didn't like that, so off she goes. >> let me ask you about that. you've repeatedly called for secretary nielsen to resign. sources telling us that she pushed back on these requests, pushing back on orders, ideas that the president pushed that she thought were inappropriate or were against the law. now that she's been forced out, are you concerned about somebody who's going to take her place who you like even less? >> well, of course. let's face it. this family separation policy was implemented by secretary nielsen, putting families and children into cages. that's under her watch, too. so thankfully, she finally got some, how shall i say, some sense of appropriateness and -- so there you go. but i would expect that, as is
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clear with this president, whoever he picks will understand even more clearly that he better -- he or she better toe the line, otherwise they will not last line. and that is the case with this president's entire administration. that's why it is so chaotic. >> speaking of chaos, the president has fired his secret service director, we just learned that james murray is going to take his place. what do you make of this? >> again, he probably did something that displeased the president. didn't say yes, sir, enough times or something. but that is the modus operandi of this president, you pretty much have to be a yes person, otherwise you do not last long. i'm wondering, you know, how long any of the rest of his cabinet people are going to last. but they either have to get out because they've got ethical issues or they're being investigated or something, but all of his administration people have been just one after another, usually opposite to the
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departments they're supposed to run. that's yet another characteristic. but the major characteristic for the president and his people is they better say yes to everything he wants. >> let me ask you about the crisis at the border, because there is a humanitarian crisis at the border. all of these families coming in, declaring asylum. according to customs and border patrol, there is not the room for all of these families. jeh johnson, the former homeland security secretary under president obama also says there's a crisis at the border. the u.s. simply cannot sustain this flood of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers coming to the country. we're seeing four times the apprehensions from when he ran the agency. take a listen. >> i know that a thousand overwhelms the system. i cannot begin to imagine what 4,000 a day looks like. so we are truly in a crisis. >> what should the united states do about this crisis? obviously, there is one. and something needs to be done
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beyond the status quo. >> well, that something is certainly not cutting aid to the central american countries, because of the horrible environment that is inducing so many people, children and their parents coming across the border. so, you know, we need to provide a lot more assistance to these countries. and during jeh johnson's time, i know that we sent a lot of this kind of support to columbia, for example, and that really decreased the number of people leaving that country. so there are things we can do. and certainly, that is exactly not what the president is doing. and no walls, vanity walls or otherwise or just telling his agents no t o let people throug, although that is against the law in our country, is going to stop that. so we have to have a much more comprehensive look at what we need to be doing. and it's exactly what the president is not doing, because he's much more interested in people just kowtowing to him and just taking the kinds of actions that lead to lawsuits. >> what about the laws that
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allow central american asylum seekers access into the united states? does that need to change, so as to dissuade these thousands of individuals from coming into the country? >> the thing that will dissuade many more of these people from coming is to enable their countries to provide jobs and safety for their own citizens. and that is not happening from these central american countries. and so that's what we ought to be doing more of. and those are the kinds of programs that the president wants to slash or eliminate altogether. so that's not going to stop the flow of people who want to come to a country that they think is going to provide them more safety, although with this president, that's not where he wants to be. so this is not the country that so many people thought was going to be a place where they can have a better life. >> all right, senator mazie hirono of hawaii, thank you so much. appreciate your time. >> thank you. >> so what does "soon" mean? it seems if you're presidential candidate bernie sanders, "soon" means months and months when it
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we have some breaking news in our 2020 lead today. just moments ago, senator amy klobuchar of minnesota announcing she has raised $5.2 million since entering the presidential race. when you compare that to our democratic competitors, it is less than the hauls of senators bernie sanders and kamala harris, former congressman beto o'rourke and south bend, indiana, mayor pete buttigieg. klobuchar, did, however, raise more than her fellow senator cory booker who just released his numbers last night. but as cnn's jessica dean reports, there is another money-related debate dominating the democratic race right now.
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>> reporter: show me the money. >> so, are we going to see your tax returns? >> you sure are. look, april 15th is coming. that will be the tenth year and we will make them all public. >> reporter: six weeks after saying he would release his tax returns sooner than later -- >> will you release ten years of your tax returns, as you know elizabeth warren has decided to do that? >> yes. >> reporter: bernie sanders still has not released them. pressure is mounting on the vermont senator as his democratic rivals share their returns. and democrats continue to push for the release of president trump's. >> i'm under audit. when you're under audit, you don't do it. >> reporter: when it comes to fund-raising dollars, senator cory booker announced he raised more than $5 million in the first quarter. that number lags behind others including sanders, california senator kamala harris, former texas congressman beto o'rourke, and south bend, indiana, mayor, pete buttigieg. still, booker says his campaign is on the right track. >> i feel incredible. we set goals for ourselves and
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we surpassed our own goals. we're seeing incredible energy and enthusiasm wherever we go on this campaign. >> reporter: an enthusiastic crowd welcoming buttigieg this weekend at an lbgt fund-raiser in washington. >> speaking only for myself, i can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. and that's the thing i wish the mike pences of the world would understand. that if you have a problem with who i am, your problem is not with me. your quarrel, sir, is with my creator. >> reporter: as the 2020 field takes shape, former president obama weighed in during a trip to germany, issuing a warning to his party about ideological purity. >> one of the things i do worry about sometimes, uh, among progressives in the united states, maybe it's true here as well, is a certain kind of rigidity, where we say, ah, i'm sorry, this is how it's going to
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be and then we start sometimes creating what's called a circular firing squad. >> as for president obama's involvement in the 2020 democratic primary, he's made a point of staying neutral. he's privately met with most of the candidates, but has no plans to endorse anyone in particular. he really wants to let the process play out. jake? >> jessica dean, thanks so much. i love the idea of president obama thinking he has to explain to germans what a firing squad is. i think they got it. let me start with you and bernie sanders delaying the tax returns. what is the deal? like, i mean, why not just rip off the band-aid. this has been going on for a long time, presumably his previous nine years are done and filed already. >> well, what's good for the goose, you know -- >> because of trump? >> well, why not, right? why should he be subject to releasing information that the commander in chief himself said, oh, it will happen when i'm elected. oh, it will happen as soon as the audit is over, when even the irs tells you, no, there is no such thing, we have an audit
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that we can release. >> so clearly he's doing the same thing. >> in 2016, this was also an issue with senator sanders and he ultimately released one year of his tax returns. there have been all sorts of rumors as to why not he might not to show a full ten years, some suggest that he and his wife have actually done pretty well and that they don't -- that doesn't necessarily go with the narrative of a democratic socialist. i guess we'll see on april 15th, as he claims, but i think it also shows that the dynamics have really shifted from when he was running in 2016. you can't be in this big of a field, where people are releasing their taxes and be the lone holdout when one of the big issues that democrats are trying to use against the president is the fact that he won't release his tax returns. >> also, he's the front-runner. >> correct. >> of the declared candidates, he's unabashedly of the front-runner. >> apparently you can get elected without releasing your
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taxes. >> apparently take a listen to one swing state voter from michigan explaining why he does want to see senator sanders' tax returns. >> he should definitely release them. everybody wants to see them. we want to see the president's too. and the senate congressional committee that's actually doing the investigating saying, hey, senator sanders, bring yours, too. america deserves to know. >> you went through this when you worked for mitt romney. >> yeah. you know, it was a painful process to have to go through. but it's part of the vetting that the american people do in a campaign when they're electing someone for president, or at least it probably should be and so senator sanders should put out his tax returns. if he doesn't on the 15th, i think he's going to have major problems. now that he's set himself a date skpad he's going to give us ten years, if he doesn't give us ten years on the 15th, he'll have major problems. >> as the president himself did when he was running? >> but for senator sanders, he's speaking to a different constituency. i think about primary constituencies, in a democratic party primary, to make those promises and not follow through.
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>> but why do we as media folk or as voters have higher expectations for people running for the democratic nomination than we do for president trump? president trump who said he would release his tax returns and never did, has claimed he's under audit for years, although there's no proof of it, we are still, you know, playing along with the role we normally have, which is, show us everything, even though the president has flou flouted all of these traditions. >> i assume one of the democratic talking points and talking points of democratic opponents if there is one. >> there will be. have no fear. >> hope springs eternal. people have such little faith. one of the key points people make over and over, president trump has degraded normal practices that we're used to and entitled to be used to as citizens in a represented democracy and here is me obeying the law or obeying a norm or a custom that president trump did. i think it is important for democratic voters to say, our nominee is not like president trump. >> but also, more importantly,
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he kept his word. if you say you're going to do something and keep your word. >> that's another norm that president trump -- maybe you haven't noticed that. >> not so much. >> i think with trump, it was not a factor that mattered to the republican primary electorate. i think that's what you're getting at, versus the democratic party primary electorate, he kind of got a pass because, in part, i think he was running against hillary. i don't think that bernie sanders can get away with that again in this cycle. that's what i mean by, it's changed. >> and lonnie, i want to ask you about, you heard another 2020 democrat, south bend indiana mayor pete buttigieg taking on vice president mike pence, his former governor, very directly, talking about sexuality and faith. on that topic, one voter told "usa today," quote, i'm really very excited about hearing a voice from the christian left. i think that's a voice not used in the democratic party for too long. he really is talking a lot more about his faith. and obama did, to a degree. clinton did, to a degree. but he's really saying -- he talks about his creator much more than i've heard any democrat talk. >> it's actually refreshing to
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see that there is -- you know, there really is diversity in the evangelical community in the united states. and i think he's demonstrating that. now, the vocal evangelical community clearly has allied themselves with president trump, but the reality is, i think there's an appeal and he's out there trying to express that i think is particularly appealing to younger evangelicals. i think that's the crowd he's really aiming at. maybe even younger evangelicals who are swing voters, who may have voted for republicans in the past, but would consider voting for somebody whose faith does appear to be sincere and who's trying to demonstrate how that faith influences his life and his rhetoric and his positions. >> i have heard people say, though, conservatives, why does he keep talking about vice president pence. pence isn't talking about him. why does he keep focusing on pence? obviously, they're both hoosiers and both from indiana, but do you think there's a risk there? >> i don't think there's a risk. i think mayor pete is quite exciting a candidate. and i think maybe he's trying to poke the hypocrisy about the christianity, that it's for some, not for others.
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i think if you watch him this week if you did some press, it was very exciting to listen to the uniformity and the whole class and the thoughtfulness of his comments towards choice, towards a second amendment and gun control. i particularly love what he said, that the right to bear arms doesn't mean that i'm entitled to have a nuclear women. i think the guy's brilliant. and i think it's time we had somebody like him in the field. >> all right, we'll put you down for two lawn signs then. be -- >> three. >> be sure to tune into cnn tomorrow for a line town hall with senator kirsten gillibrand of new york. it will be moderated by my colleague, erin burnett, 10:00 p.m. eastern. it was supposed to be her dream trip. an american tourist abducted at gunpoint making it a nightmare. now she's been rescued. how it went down, next. prestigious jobs over the years. news producer, executive transport manager, and a beverage distribution supervisor. now i'm a director at a security software firm. wow, you've been at it a long time.
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some breaking news on our world lead today. three u.s. service members and a contractor have been killed after an explosion in afghanistan. let's bring in cnn's ryan brown at the pentagon. ryan, what are you learning and how did this happen? >> jake, this happened when the u.s. military personnel were part of a convoy traveling near bagram air base in afghanistan. this is one of the largest u.s. military facilities in afghanistan. three u.s. service members were killed, a contractor was also killed, and we're told three additional u.s. troops were wounded in the suicide car bomb. those troops are currently receiving medical treatment, we're being told. the u.s. maintains some 14,000 troops in afghanistan. and while u.s. officials have expressed some optimism about ongoing talks with the taliban, about ending that conflict, the taliban claimed responsibility
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for this suicide attack, issuing a statement saying that it was targeting foreign troops and that it killed several of them. so, again, despite some progress in these talks, afghanistan remains very violent place for both u.s. and afghanistan personnel. and of course, the president's envoy for these peace talks was just in afghanistan yesterday, where he was trying to build some momentum, but again, a clear sign that the conflict continues to rage there this many years later. jake? >> all right, ryan brown at the pentagon, thank you so much. mpb also on our world lead, as a california woman kidnapped in uganda begins her journey home, there are concerns now being raised about the ransom that was, according to a source, paid to secure her release. kimberly sue endicott and a tour guide were taken hostage at gunpoint last tuesday on safari. her kidnappers used her cell phone to demand $500,000 in exchange for her return. but as cnn's alex marquardt now reports, while we're all grateful that she is alive and well and being returned home,
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there are some national security experts who say, if a ransom was paid, that could theoretically put a target on other american tourists. >> reporter: free at last, kim endicott steps out of a white van, barefoot, pants torn, likely shaken, but physically unharmed. welcome home, she's told, as she arrives back at the camp in uganda, where she had gone on safari to see the area's famous gorillas, a lifelong dream. endicott, who's from california and her ugandan guide were kidnapped last tuesday, as they were driving in the queen elizabeth national park. they were taken away by armed men, who later used their prisoner's cell phones to demand a ransom of $500,000. ugandan security forces backed by u.s. military support and the neighboring democratic republic of congo freed the pair on sunday. the kidnappers are still on the run. >> they knew they were being hotly pursued by the joint team of security agencies. >> today, president trump
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tweeting, uganda must bring the kidnappers to justice openly and quickly. neither the united states nor uganda pay ransoms. it was the safari tour company that paid in this case. though we don't know how much, there are fears it will only encourage more kidnappings in the area. >> that's the quickest way to get out of a situation like this, get somebody back, is pay the ransom. but again, it sets a bad precedent. >> ugandan police said the most likely reason for this kidnapping was, in fact, that ransom money, meaning this looks to be more criminal related than terrorism related, especially considering how easy the handoff of those kidnapped appears to have been. security experts will tell you, that's only incentive for more kidnappings. of course, you can't fault that safari company or endicott's loved ones for wanting to do all they could to get @thelead,
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cnn. our coverage on continues on cnn. thanks so much for watching. happening now, breaking news. security purge. president trump fires the director of the u.s. secret service after ousting homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen. sources say that followed ranting and raving by the president on the border issue. and officials ignored his orders to shut down u.s. ports of entry. miller instinct. administration sources say white house adviser stephen miller, an immigration hardliner, is one of the people behind the homeland security purge and has targeted more senior officials for firing. what's he up to? spying for china? in a court hearing, prosecutors say the chinese woman accused of breaching security at mar-a-lago, had multiple electronic devices, including one that can detect hidden