Return to Transcripts main page


FBI Raids Giuliani's Home and Office, Seizing Computers and Cellphones; India Sees World's Highest Daily COVID Cases Amid Oxygen Shortage; Biden Marks 100th Day of His Presidency with Ambitious Economic Agenda. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2021 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


One hundred days. A milestone today for President Biden and his administration. In the next hour we will see the president as he departs the White House, kicking off a nationwide tour. His hope to highlight the accomplishments of his first 100 days. This as America recovers from the pandemic and economic downturn and the assault on the Capitol.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation, America is on the move again. But the rest of the world is not waiting for us. I just want to be clear. From my perspective, doing nothing is not an option.


HARLOW: You could sense the urgency from him in his remarks last night. His first speech before a Joint Session of Congress was like no other before for a number of reasons, including the dramatically scaled down audience due to COVID and, of course, the historic pair of women sitting behind him for the first time.


BIDEN: Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President --


BIDEN: No president has ever said those words from this podium. No president has ever said those words. And it's about time.



HARLOW: President Biden also laid out his agenda for the future of the country, one where he sees big government as a benefit, not a barrier to progress. Promising to uplift working class Americans with what he calls a blue-collar blueprint for building America. But in total, those plans will add up to some $6 trillion in new spending.

SCIUTTO: It is notable to see Pelosi and Harris right behind him there.

Let's get right to CNN's Jeremy Diamond. He's at the White House.

Jeremy, tell us how the speech was received, not just by Democrats, but by Republicans.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Republicans came into this speech by the president unified in their opposition to this $4 trillion in new spending that President Biden is proposing on top of that $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. And they left the speech equally unified in opposition to this new spending. Republicans making the case here in the wake of this speech that this is too much spending.

Mitt Romney, for example, said, I'm sure Bernie Sanders is happy. That is how Republicans are framing this. As a wish list of progressive policies that President Biden is packaging under the auspices of infrastructure.

Now to be clear, President Biden for his part, he was trying to depart from that framing, of course. He's talking about these as necessary investments not only because of what's happening at home but in order to compete globally. And he also framed this as a way to invest in blue-collar jobs. Listen.


BIDEN: These are good-paying jobs that can't be outsourced. Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree. 75 percent don't require an associate's degree. The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar, blueprint to build America. That's what it is.


DIAMOND: And one thing that the president made clear last night as he has before is that he knows that this is going to require negotiation. He is not going to get every item in these packages that he is proposing but he is willing to work with Congress. We will see whether or not Republicans are willing to work with him.

HARLOW: We'll see, right? And he really did emphasize the urgency of action. What I thought was interesting is namely in the face of a rising China, which it sounded like he said China is such a threat we're going with or without you on these, Republicans.

DIAMOND: That's right. And this is something that I've been reporting on. Senior officials have told me that the president is fixated on this idea of the future of democracy, not only in terms of a domestic context but across the world. And a lot of this is driven by the rise of China. You heard the president talk about this yesterday. Listen to this.


BIDEN: Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us apart? America's adversaries, the autocrats of the world, are betting we can't.


And I promise you, they are betting we can't. They believe we're too full of anger and division and rage. They look at the images of the mobs that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy. But they're wrong. You know it, I know it. But we have to prove them wrong.


DIAMOND: And one official told me that President Biden sees this idea of democracy versus autocracy as a defining challenge for the century as a central organizing principle of his presidency. He believes that this is something that history will judge him on, and I've spoken with officials who've told me that the president has raised this in a number of meetings, including one last week where they were talking about electric vehicle batteries with China.

The president talking about the role of government to prove that it can work and deliver for people, not only in the sense of government but in the sense of democracy, and that other countries around the world are watching. They will see what the United States can do to see whether or not democracy can indeed continue to compete with some of these brutally efficient autocracies -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. China well ahead of the U.S. on electric vehicles, by the way, and they have been for a number of years.

HARLOW: Totally. All right, Jeremy, thank you very much.

Let's talk more about all this. David Gergen is with us, former adviser to four presidents, and Tom Perez, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Good morning, gentlemen. Thank you for being here. It was striking, and it's been obviously widely reporting and analyzed this morning, but how different this big government push was from Clinton back in '96. So let's take a trip down memory lane and listen to his promise then.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The era of big government is over.


HARLOW: Biden thinks this. He said it last night. Listen.


BIDEN: Scientific breakthroughs took us to the moon. Now we're on Mars, discovering vaccines, gave us the internet and so much more. These are investments we made together as one country. And investments that only the government was in the position to make.


HARLOW: David, you advised President Clinton. He thinks Clinton, at least his sentiment then, doesn't work now. What do you say?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I say the era of big government is back. You know, that just came through loud and clear last night. You know, what President Clinton was trying to do, he thought the Democratic Party had shifted too far to the left. And in fact, it had lost two straight presidential elections when liberals were on the ticket and they lost badly. And so what President Clinton was trying to do was find some third way, as he called it, something in the middle between the Republicans and the Democrats. And it worked, by and large.

But what we saw last night was historic. We haven't seen -- only twice in American history have we seen a president take the podium and drive the country toward building -- transforming the social safety net. Transforming the relationship between government and the middle class and working-class people. We saw that with Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society, 1965. And we saw it certainly with Franklin Roosevelt, the New Deal in the 1930s.

So that's the lane that Joe Biden has now chosen for himself. It's going to make or break his presidency. So far it's been a homerun.

SCIUTTO: To Tom Perez, David Gergen, I'm giving him credit here. He makes a smart point that the difference between Biden and FDR with the New Deal, LBJ with Great Society programs, is the size of their majority. FDR, he had 60 Senate seats held by Democrats. 313 House seats. LBJ had 68 Senate seats, 295 in the House. Biden has single- digit advantage in the House and a split decision in effect in the Senate broken by the vice president's vote.

I just wonder, is he overestimating his mandate here?

TOM PEREZ, FORMER CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think he has a secret weapon, which is the facts and the support of the American people. Yes, there were no Republicans that supported the American Rescue Plan, but when you look at the American Rescue Plan it was broadly supported by Democrats, independents and even a sizable number of Republicans. You talk to Republican mayors on the ground. They've got to feed their communities, they've got to open schools, and the American Rescue Plan was a homerun.

So I think there's a real disconnect between Republicans in Washington right now and the American people. And I think Joe Biden has his finger on the pulse of where we are as a nation. The New Deal, as David pointed out, in the '60s were moments of great crisis and great opportunity. And Joe Biden is a student of history. I think we are not only in a moment of crisis and opportunity but as the president pointed out last night, we're in a moment of necessity.

Women took it on the chin in this pandemic. And we need to make sure we invest in childcare. So many people feel left behind and blue- collar blueprint of this president is tailormade to rebuild our economy from the bottom and the middle up.


And that's where I think his secret weapon is. It's not going to be easy. No doubt about it. But I think he has the American people on his side. And the Republicans continue to oppose this. I think at their political peril because they're on the wrong side of these issues.

HARLOW: Except, David Gergen, to Tom's argument, you have people like Lisa Murkowski who in the last week has just made a significant bipartisan vote saying in response to last night, I think it makes it very difficult to be truly bipartisan. You have Tim Scott in his response pointing out that under the Trump administration there were five COVID related bipartisan bills passed on that front. And we saw straight partisan lines on the American Rescue Plan.

And you've got concerns from Democrats about paying for all of this, like Senator Joe Manchin, Mark Kelly, Kyrsten Sinema, a few others. Is it what Tom argued or is it somewhere in the middle there?

GERGEN: Well, I do think that, Poppy, with LBJ and with FDR, they both won landslide elections. They have massive majorities as Jim was just pointing out when they were governing, and they were able to get through all of the -- a lot of the big things they were doing as a result of that. In Biden's case, his power is not in Washington. You know, he's holding on to power by a thread in Washington and what's critical for him if he's going to get a lot of this passed is to maintain the public support.

As Tom says, the more he can maintain public support outside Washington, the more likely he is to get to a lot of this through. But I have to tell you one other thing. I think Republicans are going to drive this home. The expense of this $6 trillion. It is easier to persuade people to like you if you're giving them programs and saying, by the way, somebody else over there is going to pay for it.

And so if you are a working-class person and saw this cornucopia of things that Biden wants to do for you, of course you'd like that. But whether the Republicans can now chip away and say, but it's going to cost the country so much here or there, we'll wait and see.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, I get --



SCIUTTO: Tom Perez, I get that Republicans don't have a leg to stand on, on paying for it, right? I mean, you know, because fiscal conservative went out the window when you look, for instance, at the 2017 tax cuts. But as much as people like to get money, they don't like their taxes going up. Right? And I know they're talking about, you know, just $400,000-a-year earners and above, but that's a good 2 percent of the population. It's not a tiny fraction of 1 percent. And people don't like talk of taxes in general. How big of an obstacle is that for these plans?

PEREZ: Well, I think the American people have figured out that the 2017 tax cut -- remember they said it was going to pay for -- it was going to get paid for by all this growth we're going to have. And what we saw is that the 2017 tax cut was a reckless giveaway to wealthy people, uber wealthy people who didn't need it and corporations who didn't deserve it. And what the president talked about last night was basic fairness.

Ninety-nine percent of the American people aren't going to see a tax increase. Period. Hard stop. And I think we -- what the president is doing now today, and the vice president, getting out there and David pointed this out, where we fell short in 2010 and in 1994, as Democrats, is people didn't see the connection between actions taken by Democratic administrations and improvements in their lives.

This time around, I think it's going to be very different. 200 million shots already in people's arms, 160 million checks already in people's pockets. You see improvement day in and day out. Cutting the child poverty rate in half. Wait until people file their taxes and they see the benefits of what's happening now. That's what we have to do, is continue to sell it to the American people because this good for the vast majority of Americans.

HARLOW: I would just say, they're making a bet that a new Congress and new administration wouldn't reverse the tax increases they're betting on to pay for these things because they're saying it's over 15 years.

Thank you, both, David and Tom. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, much more on the investigation into Rudy Giuliani. Where it could lead. How far it could go. Also, how President Trump fits into this investigation. That's next.

HARLOW: Plus, COVID cases are on the decline in this country, but there's a new poll that shows 36 percent of adults under the age of 35 are not even planning on getting a vaccine shot. Why is that, and why is it a problem for all of us?

And federal agencies are investigating new reports of mysterious attacks taking place on U.S. soil, some even near the White House. We'll explain what these so-called energy attacks really are.



POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Ahead of President Biden's speech yesterday, a bombshell move by the Justice Department. Federal agents executed a search warrant at Rudy Giuliani's apartment and law office advancing a two-year investigation into Giuliani's political activities and lobbying in Ukraine. JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: CNN's Kara Scannell joins us now

outside Giuliani's New York City apartment where the raid took place. What were they looking for, and what crime or potential crime are they investigating?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Jim and Poppy. So, I'm outside of Rudy Giuliani's apartment where the FBI executed that search warrant just around dawn yesterday morning.


And what we've learned is that they took a number of electronic devices from Giuliani's apartment. They also went to his law office in Manhattan where they also seized electronic devices including a computer belonging to his assistant. They also served his assistant with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury next month. So, definitely a significant step up in this investigation. What prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan are investigating are Giuliani's activities in the Ukraine, both his efforts to try to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his family, as well as that push to remove the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, someone who was known for her anti-corruption stance.

Now, the big question that prosecutors are looking into is, was Giuliani doing this on behalf of his client, then President Trump, or was he working for Ukrainians, and did he not disclose that work for Ukrainians? That could cross the line into illegal activity. Now, Giuliani's Attorney Robert Costello has denied that Giuliani has done anything wrong. He suggested that this investigation and the execution of the search warrants was political. He said he twice tried to meet with prosecutors to try to convince them that Giuliani's activities were lawful. But he never got that meeting.

Now, he's also kind of previewed that we might see a fight here over the electronic devices. In a statement, Costello said "the electronics taken are also replete with the material covered by the attorney- client privilege and other constitutional privileges. The warrant served on Mr. Giuliani's law office is another disturbing example of complete disregard for the attorney-client privilege protected by the Sixth Amendment to the constitution." Now, as you may recall, when prosecutors had served that search warrant on Michael Cohen, that led to a fight over how they would be able to review those materials. This could be something that we see take place here, too. Jim, Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Well, as district attorney years ago, he sought and executed a lot of search warrants himself. Remarkable to be on the other side of it. Kara Scannell, thanks very much. Let's speak more about what this all means with Renato Mariotti, former federal prosecutor, John Avlon as well, CNN senior political analyst. Good to have both of you. Renato, you've been involved in investigations, many search warrants before. To get one, you've got to show there's a reasonable chance of finding evidence of a potential crime and particularly to get one to search a lawyer's residence here. What does this tell you about the degree of trouble Giuliani is in now?

RENATO MARIOTTI, HOST, ON TOPIC PODCAST: If I represented Giuliani, I would be very concerned and I would be preparing him for indictment in the future. And what this means is a federal judge looked at the evidence, decided there was good reason to believe a federal crime was committed, and evidence of that crime was likely to exist in his apartment and his electronic devices. And so that's not good news for Mr. Giuliani, and the fact that you know, you mentioned a moment ago the complaints about him being an attorney. The DOJ does not execute a search warrant on an attorney -- a defense attorney's apartment or conduct an investigation of them without approval of the high levels of DOJ, at least running it past them. So, I think you know, what this means, it's the sort of thing that they take a lot of care with, and I think that this means they're serious about going forward with this investigation.

HARLOW: Let alone the former attorney to the president, right? I mean --


HARLOW: John Avlon, you have a unique view because you were a speechwriter for Giuliani. The youngest speechwriter he ever had. And you were like by his side when he was America's mayor. I mean, someone recounting a story to me yesterday about standing in their apartment in Brooklyn and there was a parade and they remember Giuliani waving to them from the parade in New York City. That was the same Giuliani we're talking about now. It's just a remarkable downfall.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a tragic turn. You know, and the earlier chapters of Rudy's life and the sort of operatic arc of his career, it is ending on a tragedy. But people should not forget his role as a U.S. attorney for the Southern District, as mayor of New York during 9/11, but I'm afraid that this last chapter may come to define him in people's minds. And it's one of the reasons why I think, yesterday's news was so stunning. The fact that he was one of the revered leaders of the Southern District of New York when he was U.S. attorney, that for the SDNY to be investigating him means this is -- this could be very serious indeed whether or not Rudy believes or is aware that he commit -- broke any laws.

I think he's very much a true believer when it comes to Donald Trump right now, and that has been to his discredit in the public eye. But it's a tragic turn of events for someone whose total career has a lot of -- a lot of highs in it that are now being eclipsed.

SCIUTTO: Renato, his exposure here, that there's a seedy business side to it, right? Was he taking money from Ukrainian oligarchs to influence U.S. policy and not registering himself as a foreign agent as you're required to do under the law.


But the other threats here, right, are his digging up dirt on Trump's opponent, including meeting Russian connected Ukrainian officials, you know, some tied to Russian intelligence, basically taking part in a Russian disinformation campaign against the election. From a legal, criminal perspective, are they just examining the business side of this, or is there a bigger picture part of this investigation? MARIOTTI: Well, I think that the actual crimes that are being

investigated here may be more narrow. In other words, for example, you mentioned what's called the FARA violation --


MARIOTTI: That you just spoke about, same thing that Paul Manafort was ultimately charged with at some point. So -- but I think that the interesting thing here, of course, the facts correspond with and relate to their first impeachment inquiry which really was truncated and cut short. So, I suspect that what's going to happen is the investigation and if there's ever a trial are going to reveal a lot of facts that are more interesting and they're going to warrant more investigation by the public.

SCIUTTO: Yes, too.

HARLOW: Something is notable, John, that the fact that prosecutors here in New York went to the Justice Department when it was under Trump and Barr was leading it to ask for these warrants and didn't get them. And we don't know why? But we know for -- and Renato rightly pointed out that they got them now, and that it would have had to go up to the highest levels, so Merrick Garland on down, and his lieutenants on down. You heard the accusation from Rudy Giuliani's son yesterday, this is all political, et cetera. How does the Biden administration, the Justice Department respond to that? Do they at all?

AVLON: I imagine not because, look, the situational ethics are ripe in politics right now, particularly for Trump associated folks to be complaining about politicization of the DOJ, given all that we know about what happened during that administration, doesn't really carry a lot of water. I think the Biden administration has been trying and is going to try to depoliticize the Justice Department. But the key point is the one you point -- the one you made, that apparently, the Trump administration pumped the brakes on a request from SDNY --


AVLON: To execute this before the election and even after the election while they were in office. And that's why the claims of politicization probably don't carry water. Typically, you wouldn't necessarily see, you know, a kind of morning raid for a FARA violation. And I think that's why this may be much bigger than that. We know that Rudy was working with folks in the Ukraine who now appear to have been Russian agents. There's no way, shape or form that's good, and his judgment around those things, it does not reflect Rudy at his best.

HARLOW: Thank you both. John, Renato, good to have you.

AVLON: Take care, guys.

HARLOW: All right, ahead, these images out of India are appalling, tragic. These are makeshift crematoriums that are lining streets in India as the country yet again hits an all-time coronavirus high in terms of deaths. Our Sam Kiley is there, next.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm standing at a crematorium that's been burning about 150 people today as India is overwhelmed by the COVID pandemic. Find out more after the break.