Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

North Korea Sanctions; Russia Probe Intensifies; Report: Russian Organized U.S. Rallies Via Facebook; WH Voter Fraud Commission Meets In New Hampshire; Miami Mayor: Now Is The Time To Talk Climate Change; Clinton Describes Mistakes She Made In 2016 Campaign; WH: Sad To See Attacks In Clinton's New Book. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 12, 2017 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:02]

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Jake, you know what that is, 5:00 every morning.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

RIPLEY: -- wakeup alarm. Your favorite.

TAPPER: Oh, yes, yes, that creepy alarm for the entire country.

Will, the new U.N. Security Council resolution, as happens, it had to be -- boy, that is just so creepy.

It had to be watered down to convince Russia to China to get on board. Is there anything that China and Russia are willing to do in order to impose a full oil embargo on North Korea, to freeze Kim Jong-un's assets? Would they ever go that far?

RIPLEY: At this point, no.

I think Russia and China clearly understand what the North Koreans have told me repeatedly as well. Any action directly against their supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, they would consider tantamount to an act of war.

You remember what happened with the movie "The Interview" and then that hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. By putting Kim Jong-un's name on sanctions, by blacklisting him, putting him, freezing his assets or travel ban linked to his name, that would certainly provoke a very strong response from the North Koreans.

I think that's something China and Russia do not want to risk. That's also the reason why they vetoed the full oil embargo that the U.S. wanted and why they also have insisted that North Korea's airline, Air Koryo, keep continue flying. That was also taken off the sanctions bill.

TAPPER: Obviously, we heard all these stories about starvation and the people of North Korea suffering in this regime. But you're seeing a different side, a more positive side in terms of North Korea's economy looking at if it's booming.

RIPLEY: Right.

Obviously, we are only shown one side of life in this country. We are not allow to travel freely. We don't know the situation in all areas of the country. But I can say -- this is my 15th trip, as you said.

I have only seen the living conditions improve and the living standards improve for people who live here. Certainly, in the capital of Pyongyang, we haven't seen any noticeable effort yet of these round after round of increasingly strong sanctions.

It does not mean it is not being felt. We know gas prices are believed to have spiked considerably, but since most people don't have their own cars anyway, it does not really affect day-to-day life.

But we will have to see moving forward how these new sanctions, what kind of impact they have, if any.

TAPPER: Will Ripley in Pyongyang, where they are getting their morning wakeup call, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Across the border, in South Korea, that country is welcoming the new sanctions against its neighbor. The U.S. ally is also preparing for possible retaliations from Pyongyang by conducting live-fire drills with the U.S. military, simulating the destruction of their common enemy.

CNN's Paula Hancocks filed this story for us from South Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this U.S. Marine division is in from Japan to carry out this live-fire drill alongside their South Korean counterparts.

They say they have to train together so if it need be, they can fight together.

(voice-over): Engaging an imaginary enemy, the combined force of tanks, artillery and ground fire, two countries united on the battlefield.

South Korean air support covers for U.S. Marines on the ground.

(on camera): The U.S. military says that this kind of live-fire drill is vital to make sure that they know to cooperate, to communicate, to fight alongside their South Korean counterparts.

But this is why this training happens throughout the year here in South Korea. Now, of course, they say that they don't have a specific enemy in mind whilst they're doing these drills. It is not necessarily how North Korea sees it. CAPT. DAVID ROOKS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: U.S. Marines are always

prepared for a fight. It does not really matter who's in there. And we do our best to not specify a particular enemy.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Pyongyang has called joint exercises radical and dangerous, proof of a hostile American policy intent on invading the North.

But for the U.S. 3rd Marine Division, if you don't train, you can't fight.

ROOKS: It's really there to build, strengthen that bond that we have with them, that we have a common understanding for that combined arms approach to conflict. So it allows us to be able to shoot, move and communicate across the battlefield, wherever that battlefield may be at.

HANCOCKS: Two nationalities fight side by side, showing Pyongyang, if you engage one, you fight both.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANCOCKS: Now, China and Russia have suggested that these kinds of drills should be put on hold, so that North Korea can put its nuclear and missile program on hold.

It is a suggestion Washington does not accept and one official has called insulting -- Jake.

TAPPER: Paula Hancocks, thank you very much.

Sources tell CNN some members of President Trump's legal team discussed presidential son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner stepping down from his White House position. Why? What did they think was so concerning?

[16:35:07]

Stick around. We will discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We are back with some disappointing news in our health lead.

Republican Senator John McCain, who is battling a deadly form of brain cancer, underwent an MRI Monday at the National Institutes of Health.

And, apparently, his first round of chemo and radiation was not enough. His office today said that doctors are recommending more of both treatments.

McCain is hoping to maintain a full working schedule.

On "STATE OF THE UNION," Sunday, I spoke with the longtime senator and former presidential candidate about the road ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am facing a challenge, but I have faced other challenges.

[16:40:04]

And I am very confident about getting through this one as well. And there's two ways of looking at these things. And one of them is to celebrate. I am able to celebrate a wonderful life, and I will be grateful for additional time that I have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator McCain and his family.

Turning now to politics and two major developments in the Russia probe. Sources confirm to CNN that certain members of President Trump's legal team thought that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in- law and top adviser, should have stepped down this summer due to his prior meetings with Russian officials and businessmen.

"The Wall Street Journal" was first to report that story. meanwhile, The Daily Beast is now reporting Russian operatives used fake Facebook accounts to organize anti-immigrant rallies in the U.S. during the 2016 presidential campaign.

CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, word that White House attorneys discussed Jared Kushner stepping down as senior adviser in the spring to protect the president during the Russia probe, according to sources.

"The Wall Street Journal" first reported the development.

The main worry? That Kushner was the adviser closest to the president who had many contacts with Russian officials and business leaders during the campaign and transition.

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: The record and documents I have voluntarily provided will show that all of my actions were proper.

SCHNEIDER: Kushner briefed Senate Intelligence Committee staff in late July about four meetings with the Russians, saying he spoke briefly with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at D.C.'s Mayflower Hotel in April 2016 at Donald Trump's first foreign policy speech, met with Kislyak again at Trump Tower on December 1, 2016, during the transition, met with Russian bank chairman Sergey Gorkov on December 13, and attended the June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer and others arranged by Donald Trump Jr at Trump Tower.

Kushner had not disclosed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting until his third amended security clearance form, where he ended up documenting more than 100 contacts with foreign officials.

The idea of Kushner stepping down came up briefly in May, according to a source, and it was ultimately scrapped. The source said he had no knowledge if the president was apprised of the recommendation.

Trump's lawyer John Dowd says: "I did not agree with that view at all. I thought it was absurd. I made my views known."

But the White House denied any discussions.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No conversation that I am aware of and certainly no presentation, as both the president's attorneys have gone on record to say.

SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, there are new reports on the role of Russia and Facebook in alleged election meddling.

The Daily Beast reports that Russian operatives used fake Facebook accounts to promote political protests, like this anti-Muslim rally. Facebook tells The Daily Beast it eventually shut down the pages. And it is unclear if the events actually happened. Facebook did not reveal this days ago when it disclosed it sold about $100,000 worth of advertising to so-called Russian troll farms likely operated out of Russia during the election.

Facebook eventually shut those accounts down.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: We're seeing more evidence of additional ads and how they are used to manipulate individuals.

I think, you know, that's one of the reasons why we need to bring in Facebook, Twitter and others in some level of public hearing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And, meanwhile, the White House is leaving open the possibility that Donald Trump Jr. could appear in a public hearing before the Judiciary Committee.

Sarah Sanders did not directly answer whether the president would be comfortable with his eldest son testifying, but did say they will be -- quote -- "transparent and cooperative."

And, of course, Jake, Donald Trump Jr. did go before Senate investigators last week, but that was behind closed doors.

TAPPER: That's right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Lets talk about this with our panel.

Amanda, the idea that lawyers in the White House were talking about Jared Kushner resigning because he had these meetings with Russian official, that is surprising.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it also tells me that they are signaling to the world that they're not taking our legal advice.

And once a lawyer says, you will not take my legal advice, what they are also telling you is that we are not sure we can protect you. I think that's the takeaway from this story, and people should pay attention to that.

TAPPER: Interesting.

And, Ron, in an interview, when former White House strategist Steve Bannon was asked about the Russian interference, he basically said, the U.S. does not need to make Russia another enemy.

But even as we learn more about Russia's interference, such as this Facebook campaign, the White House continues to suggest or, I shouldn't say the White House -- I should say, the president continues to suggest that there is no evidence.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, for Steve Bannon, this is a continuation of as longstanding argument.

In his Vatican speech a few years ago, he essentially argued, Putin, yes, he is a bad guy, but he should be our ally in this civilizational struggle against Islamic extremism. That was the view that he brought into the White House.

Look, the White House is not going to waver in saying there is no there there, no matter how much there ultimately is found.

[16:45:00]

It's hard to handicap criminal investigations as the same way we watch a political campaign or a legislative fight. There's a lot that we don't know at any given moment but this is turning on and you can see the anxiety among some of the President's defenders.

TAPPER: I want to talk about voters fraud and commission. You're a former Secretary of State of the great state of Missouri. In New Hampshire, the President's Election Integrity Commission met. Now, ahead of that Commission, Kris Kobach, he's a Columnist for Breitbart in addition for being a Secretary of State of Kansas. And he recently claims in a Breitbart story, quote -- this is the tittle of the story -- "it appears that out of state voters changed the outcome of the New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race." Dave Weigel of the Washington Post looked at somebody's individuals who have no New Hampshire Drivers Licenses, within an hour, he said he was able to find four that were college students in New Hampshire and thus did not have New Hampshire's licenses but were legally to able to vote.

JASON KANDER, FORMER MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes. Secretary Kobach lied. I mean that's what he did. He went out and he lied. And more than, what he did is he accused completely unfairly, thousands of college students in New Hampshire who lives there, who pay rent, who pay tuition of being criminals. I mean, that's what he did. I was actually there this morning. There was a protest against that commission. I was there and I spoke -- there about 200 people there protesting which is by a factor of a whole lot, a lot more people than Secretary Kobak ever found guilty of voter fraud in the State of Kansas despite the many, many, however -- whatever increment of money he used of tax payer dollars in Kansas to try and find those folks. So, I think -- I hope that he was truly exposed to that.

CARPENTER: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) voter fraud thing. I think it's important to step back and look at how this started. Donald Trump came up with this theory that he should have won more votes. He would have won the popular vote if it hadn't been for voter fraud. Listen, if there is voter fraud, look into it. I am all for that. But I also know what Donald Trump is extremely good at. It's creating a narrative that will suck people in over a long period of time that always has drama, always has suspense, always has a new commission that will help find names. He's creating interest in (INAUDIBLE) for the next election, I'm certain of it.

KANDER: Well, OK. The other way to look at that is that he told a really big lie. The biggest lie --

TAPPER: Right. 25 million illegal votes.

CARPENTER: But now, they have commission that will tell us more and keep us on the hook to find out more. That where I'm giving it to how he (INAUDIBLE) America over and over again.

KANDER: Right, you're right. I think -- my point is like, that's really bad because that --

TAPPER: I don't think she's saying it's good.

(CROSSTALK)

KANDER: I was not trying to argue. I was just like wait, let's stop and think about how bad that is? I mean that the biggest lie in my argument in my mind that a sitting president has ever told was met with a presidential commission of theatrics to try to justify the lost.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: People are worried about it and Democrats dismissed it and that just adds more fuels with the fire.

BROWNSTEIN: It's not -- it's not just kind of a neutral, good government argument. I mean, you know, as the court said about the North Carolina law, they talked about surgical precision aimed at minority voters. It is a diversifying country. You have in Trump a candidate who relied on whites for 90 percent of his votes in you know, in a rapidly diversified country. He's looking at approval ratings among non-white voters under 20 percent. So there is a clear kind of direction to where this maybe going in terms of the recommendation. How of that they can kind of move forward at the federal level, perhaps providing cover for Republicans in sympathetic states to act. But none the less, I mean, this is -- there is -- there's a clear kind of dimension to this that is about resisting the implications of a changing America. KANDER: Jake, you mentioned, I'm a former Secretary State, I was a Chief Election Official in the State of Missouri, it has a Republican majority. I've seen the GOP voters suppression playbook of course. It has three steps. Step one, undermine faith in American democracy, step two, create obstacles for voting, step three, create obstacles to the obstacles. The Commission is step one. That is convincing the American people that American democracy does not work so they can then take laws to make it harder to vote and spread them all over the country. And you're right. That is the core of the Trump re-election strategy.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. Stick around. We have a lot to talk about including the first day of Hillary Clinton's book tour. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: We are back with our "POLITICS LEAD." The damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey will likely cost between 150 and $200 billion, according to Moody's Analytics after these two once in a lifetime mega storms set the U.S. Should the political conversations now be turning to the dangers of climate change? And Ron Brownstein, let me bring you. And the Republican Mayor of Miami says, yes, this is the time to talk about climate change. Tomas Regalado told the Miami Herald, this is the time and that the President and EPA, whoever makes decisions, need to talk about climate change. If this isn't climate change, I don't know what is." And you have a fascinating piece on CNN.COM today looking at why this is so tough for Republicans. Obviously, hurricanes happen one way or another but a lot of experts say the intensity of the storm. Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: Totally. And these storms totally follow the projection of what experts said. You had to fear from rising temperatures in the water and the air and rising sea level. Look, there are number of reasons why Republicans have trouble dealing with climate change, ideology, they don't like the idea of government regulation. Money, they're the recipients of 90 percent plus of the dollars from the Coal Industry and the oil and gas. One of the biggest reason is geographic. The Republican Party at every level from the electoral college through the Senate is highly dependent on the states that are the most found to the existing fossil fuel economy. Donald Trump won eight of the 10 states that produce the most coal. 13 of the 16 that produced the most natural gas, 21 of the 25 that produced the most oil.

You look at the broadest measure of a per capita carbon emission by state. He won 27 of the 32 states that admit the most carbon, Clinton won 15 of the 18 that admits the least. And when you look at the Senate, it follows the same patterns. The Democrats dominating in the low emission states which tend to be coastal states that are moving away from the industrial economy, they're not resource producing states. And Republicans dominating in those heart land states, that are not only energy producers but off of big manufacturers, more racially homogenous, more culturally conservative, pure immigrants. The energy divide now follows the broader political divide and finding a national common cause over that division is very challenging TAPPER: Very challenging indeed. I want to talk -- turn now to

Hillary Clinton's book tour. Sarah Sanders, the White House's Press Secretary was asked about whether President Trump will read the book which seems too cute a way to ask the question to raise the subject of the book. Here's what Sarah Sanders had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: I think it's sad that after Hillary Clinton ran one of the most negative campaigns in history and lost and the last chapter of her public life is going to be now defined by popping out book sales with false and reckless attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, Amanda, you are actually -- I saw you in makeup, you're actually reading the book. You have a copy of the book and unlike a lot of people on T.V. talking about it, you're actually reading it.

CARPENTER: Yes, I mean, if you live politics, I think it's worthwhile to read this book. And tell us someone that's being hammered for not admitting making mistakes. But there is one mistake he does admit in the book which I think a lot of people should pay attention to. It's in the chapter called country roads which is about West Virginia where she talks about how she made a comment saying that they were going to put coal companies and coal workers out of business. And how she tends to surprise that that (INAUDIBLE) because had people listen to the explanation for her plan, they would have understood.

Well, Hillary, once you say something like that, people aren't going to listen to your wonderful plan. And she also doesn't recognize that that came after Barack Obama who's on the campaign trail saying that we're going to bankrupt coal companies. And so when it comes to what Ron was speaking about how the red state feel very you know, defensive and insecure and upset and angry, where the Democrats come out and say you know, we're going to put coal out of business, well, I wonder why.

TAPPER: Yes, I remember Tom Steyer who was a leading environmentalist expressing some frustration about that comment by Hillary Clinton even though he's aligned with her. And what -- she made the comment actually of a CNN Town Hall in Ohio that I was co-anchoring and co- moderating. And what she was saying was, we're going to put them out of business, therefore we need to make sure that we have jobs for these people. But it came across a little careless.

KANDER: Well, sure. I mean, the interesting thing to me about the sort the back and forth about the book is, for instance, if you watch that clip, you know, the Press Secretary there, she was looking out and reading something. So, while I agree with you that it's a little odd that she was asked that question, she was clearly planning to come out there talking about it. And I think that you know, I've been with Democratic activists over the last couple of weeks and several different states as I mentioned in New Hampshire this morning this summer. I've had none of them mentioned the book to me.

TAPPER: Is that right? KANDER: Yes, none of them do. And I think that's because you know,

folks are out there looking forward, right? And that's what's going on. And that's not a bad thing.

BROWNSTEIN: She won nearly 66 million votes. She won the popular vote by more than George W Bush did in 2004. She has every right to go out saying whatever she wants to say. But I think most Republicans are happy having the choice looking forward framed as a debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as opposed to a next generation of Democratic leaders. And they find different answers on questions like we are discussing about how do you find the climate change strategy that acknowledges the real risks that the country is facing but also (INAUDIBLE) to which many states are bound to the existing possibility. I think they're perfectly happy that Hillary Clinton has the foil even if Democrats acknowledge she has every right to say whatever she wants.

TAPPER: Of course she has every right to say it. But as you note, I mean, there is a question for Democrats, there's all these young Democrats like Jason here who --

BROWNSTEIN: They would rather turn the page mostly.

TAPPER: Well, that's the question. And Amanda I mean, like you're Republican. Are Republicans happy that Hillary is out there?

CARPENTER: Sure, yes, absolutely. I mean, there's a lot of Republican, I'm (INAUDIBLE) to say that even with Donald Trump's problems, it's very likely they're going to go to the same play book. They're going to nominate somebody like George McGovern against Nixon and Nixon is going to win again. Nixon being chopped of course in this scenario. They're going to double down the liberals and continue to ignore Republican concerns and voices, they are setting themselves up to fail again.

BROWNSTEIN: At a time where a lot of Republican coalitions is expressing clear unease. I mean, all those business leaders who abandoned Trump after Charlottesville kind of left a trail of promise for Democrat in 2018 and 2020 because they reflect the reality that his approval rating among college educated white voters. For example, suburban white voters are usually staunchly Republican is lower than any republican president. You know, he's in the mid-30s. I mean, there are opportunities there. The question is can Democrats speak to voter who is are uneasy of Trump's definition of the Republican Party.

TAPPER: And although we only have like ten seconds but I mean, that's not where the grass roots activist want the Democrat Party to go. They don't want to be following the Gutierrez of the world.

KANDER: Yes, folks just want you to talk plainly. And that's what going on -- that's -- people are getting involved because somebody down the street asked them to come over and calling the members of about healthcare. That's why people are involved right now. It's not a politician on their T.V.

TAPPER: All right, great panel. Thanks so much one and all. Jason, and Amanda and Ron. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper, I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.