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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Indiana Subrub Suffers Rash Of Childhood Cancers; Christie: Trump Has Found Himself Saddled With Riffraff; Rudy Giuliani's Shifting Stories; Cancer Concerns in Indiana. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 21, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with breaking news in the politics lead.

Rudy Giuliani today playing cleanup, but seemingly making things even more confusing. This round started in a series of interviews on Sunday when the president's lawyer said that candidate Trump may have discussed the Trump Tower Moscow project with Michael Cohen all the way up until Election Day in 2016, much longer than previously acknowledged.

Now Giuliani tells CNN that his comments were based on hypotheticals, not actual conversations with Trump.

CNN's Sara Murray joins me now.

Sarah, tough question to ask, because it's a difficult one to answer. But can you make sense of what the bottom line here is, at least from Giuliani standpoint?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, the bottom line seems to be that Rudy Giuliani decided to talk first and then figure out the facts later.

My favorite part about the latest statement from Rudy Giuliani, it still doesn't clarify when the conversations about Trump Tower Moscow actually ended. All of this as Rudy Giuliani tries to clean up a mess seemingly of his own making.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani doing damage control today over his own media blitz.

After first admitting the president had conversations about a Trump Tower Moscow deal all the way through the 2016 election...

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Could be up to as far as October, November. Our answers cover until the election, so anytime during that period they could have talked about it.

MURRAY: Giuliani now tells CNN President Trump has no recollection of discussions as late as Election Day. Trump couldn't know the exact date the talks ended, Giuliani claims, because there's no record of the negotiations.

But just yesterday, Giuliani said Trump had acknowledged discussing the Moscow project with his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, during the election.

GIULIANI: He acknowledged that they had conversations about it throughout 2015, 2016.

MURRAY: Giuliani even telling "The New York Times" that Trump told them, the discussions were -- quote -- "going on from the day I announced to the day I won."

Giuliani's comments flying in the face of Trump's claims ever since he was campaigning.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia.

MURRAY: The new timeline of discussions revealing how Trump's business dealings with Russia coincided with his foreign policy proclamations on the campaign trail, like in March 2016, when he disparaged our most critical international alliance, NATO, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has also frequently criticized.

TRUMP: And I said it's obsolete. And it is. It was done at a different time. It was done at a time when you had the Soviet Union, which was different than Russia.

MURRAY: The conversations also happening in July of that year when then candidate Trump made this call to action to Russian hackers:

TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

MURRAY: The discussions may have even been happening during the transition, when Trump's incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was communicating with the Russian ambassador about sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration.

Yet the president-elect kept claiming:

TRUMP: I have no loans, no dealings and no current pending deals.

MURRAY: Giuliani causing another star Sunday, telling Jake Tapper, it is possible Cohen did discuss his congressional testimony with the president ahead of time.

GIULIANI: If he had any discussions with him, they'd be about the version of the events that Michael Cohen gave them, which they all believed was true. I believed it was true. I still believe it may be true.

If Corsi...

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But you just acknowledged that President Trump might have talked to him about his testimony.

GIULIANI: And so what if he talked to him about it?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, we're also learning today from Rudy Giuliani that Trump's legal team actually reached out to Mueller's office on Friday about the BuzzFeed story that was causing such a stir.

We saw Friday night that the special counsel's office took this extraordinary step of putting out a statement that really rejected the central premise of this BuzzFeed story. The BuzzFeed story claimed the special counsel's office had evidence that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump to lie in his congressional testimony.

So theoretically this should have been a really good news cycle for the president and his legal team. Instead, we're muddling through the latest statements from Rudy Giuliani yet again, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, indeed, muddling.

Sara Murray, thanks very much.

I want to just begin here, because the president lied about his dealings with Moscow fulsomely and repeatedly. And I'm just going to play his full sound from January 2017, just before his inauguration, denying any dealings with Russia. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we have stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to. I just don't want to, because I think that would be a conflict.

So I have no loans, no dealings and no current pending deals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: I mean, virtually every word he said there, Amanda Carpenter, is just false. It's been established by Michael Cohen's sworn testimony. It's been established by his lawyer Rudy Giuliani now.

Does that lying matter?

[16:35:00]

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it should, because now we know that there were long talks about the Moscow project.

And the only thing that you can take away from Rudy Giuliani's muddled interviews is that they are dead set, intent on not coming clean with the timeline of those talks. Remember the reason that Robert Mueller sentenced Michael Cohen. In the sentencing document, he points out two things. Michael Cohen lied to Congress about the duration of those talks and the links between Trump and those talks. They want to stuff that down into a black box.

Michael Cohen lied because he was trying to coordinate with the political messaging from the White House. I guess it's an open question whether or not Trump had knowledge of how Cohen was going to lie. But he went before the cameras and essentially said, hey, this is what I'm telling everybody.

And now Rudy Giuliani, still even though Donald Trump is his client, can't tell us when those talks ended and if he talked to Michael Cohen about it?

SCIUTTO: So deliberate obfuscation, is that part of the legal strategy here?

JENNICE FUENTES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hey, I think that we all know the president.

SCIUTTO: Forgive my amazement, but maybe I shouldn't be amazed.

FUENTES: Rudy Giuliani knows what we know. The president lies every day.

So I think he may be always trying to leave space for interpretation, or maybe perhaps his politics of confusion, attrition. Whatever it is, it's clear that this is not a very coordinated, cohesive legal strategy. That much is clear.

So maybe, maybe Rudy Giuliani will be the fall guy. Maybe at the end of day, they will blame it on him. Who is to know? I think it's confusion upon confusion, which makes it even harder for people like you to report, for people like us to analyze, and keeps us all distracted.

SCIUTTO: M.K., so, as you know, the Trump administration and President Trump himself has accused our outlet and others from being obsessed with this story.

The fact is, though, the president has had a complete inability to tell the truth about his dealings with Russia. From your perspective, what is your reaction to that? Is that important for Republican voters?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have suspected from the beginning that, when you got to the bottom of this, it would likely be a business deal at issue, not the giant global collusion to get Trump elected, that what they're trying to hide is a money thing.

And there is no -- what I do know is that there's no separation in Trump's mind or in the Trump family between business and the business he is now doing as the head of the government.

And a problem and has been a problem since the primaries. I have talked about it 1,000 times. I do think maybe BuzzFeed and Rudy could get together and talk about how to get things straight before they go public with them.

But I do not know from the Trump administration ever whether it is stupidity, strategy, or nefariousness or what combination thereof. It is -- what he is saying is entirely confusing. It's clear there's something that they were trying to hide here.

What level it rises to, we do not know yet.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

Symone, the other headline from Rudy Giuliani as well is saying, OK,, and this is even post the confusion about the BuzzFeed story, saying that if the president did speak to Michael Cohen prior to his testimony to Congress, it's no big deal.

Your reaction?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Rudy Giuliani continues to move the goalposts.

And I watched that interview live. And I'm confused. I don't know if Rudy Giuliani is telling the truth, if he's hedging his bets, if he's trying to confuse us. And that's why, at the end of the day, this Mueller investigation and protecting the investigation is very important.

And that's why you have seen bipartisan bills that have come together in the Senate that Mitch McConnell has refused to put on the floor, mind you, to protect the special counsel. And I think it is incumbent upon every American, regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on, to say that this investigation is important, and we need to let it go to the duration.

But then we need to see the report.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: I think Mueller did himself a lot of favors by being -- like saying, look, I'm going to be an honest broker, even when it's working against Trump here, when he came out in an extraordinary step with a statement, with people who are skeptical of him.

SCIUTTO: Right. Understood.

And Amanda?

CARPENTER: And I would just say there's two things that we have to look at going forward.

There is a timeline for these Moscow project talk discussions. There's also the timeline of the Russians interfering in the election. There may be points where those things match up. And I suspect that is what the Trump team is desperately trying to hide. SCIUTTO: And the other thing is this.

Even if it was without the knowledge of Trump, right, and I have spoken to intelligence officials about this, that Russia, when it behaves, it's trying to influence people, offers some stuff.

And here you have a very lucrative real estate deal in Moscow, right? That's part of the point here is that you could be an unwitting cooperator, if that's the right word. You could be unwittingly involved.

(CROSSTALK)

FUENTES: Russia, Trump, whatever it's called, right next to the White House, I mean, the business has never stopped, right?

It's what M.K. just said. The business has never stopped. So at some point, those questions, those points, like Amanda has said, will collude, and at some point there will be a lot of nefarious business going on, which is I think what they're trying desperately to confuse us about.

SANDERS: It shouldn't be overlooked that there's been recent reporting that Donald Trump has met with Putin, at this point, I think about two, maybe three times.

And there have not been other people in the room for all of those meetings. We do not know what was said. Our intelligence officials are looking to Moscow to know what was said in those meetings. I think that is very concerning, and also something that I hope congressional investigators are looking at.

[16:40:11]

SCIUTTO: Thanks to all of you. We have got more to discuss.

A group of Indiana parents are demanding answers from President Trump's EPA, this after dozens of children from a single town are now diagnosed with cancer.

Then, Chris Christie is doing a lot of talking about his time running the Trump transition team and it involves tossing plans into a flaming dumpster.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back now for our "Buried Lead."

And this is an important one, the stories we don't think are getting enough attention.

In Johnson County, Indiana, an alarming number of childhood cancer diagnoses have parents wondering whether their environment is safe.

[16:45:00] And their challenge the EPA to do better. It is happening in a place where more than half the county voted for Donald Trump and his promise his to roll back such regulations.

Now, parents are asking the President what would you do if it were your children. CNN's Miguel Marquez has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARI RHINEHART, LOST DAUGHTER TO BRAIN CANCER: I said, I love you baby girl and she said I love you too, mom.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kari Rhinehart 13-year- old daughter Emma developed a rare and aggressive brain cancer in 2014. Her last words --

RHINEHART: She said mommy something's not right. I said, I know. I said they're trying -- they're trying to fix it.

MARQUEZ: Emma died the next day less than four months after her diagnosis. At the same hospital that same year, Stacie Davidson's ten-year-old stepson Zane was diagnosed with leukemia. Three years later, he's in remission.

STACIE DAVIDSON, STEPSON DIAGNOSED WITH LEUKEMIA: When you start to see the lineup of the kids getting chemo and you knew three of them at least from Johnson County every time you're in the hospital.

MARQUEZ: Dozens of children developing cancer in this once industrial suburb south of Indianapolis. Some parents increasingly convinced a toxic chemical is to blame. One concern here Donald Trump who easily won this county.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The regulation business has become a terrible business and we're going to bring it down to where it should be.

MARQUEZ: His administration's environmental rollback may be complicating efforts to get answers and do what they feel necessary to protect their children.

Last June Erin Tilley's family got the news.

ERIN TILLEY" SON DIAGNOSED WITH LEUKEMIA: He's 12 years old and was diagnosed with b-cell AOL. There was just some warning signs that I noticed so we took him to the pediatrician and she did some blood work and then called us and let us know that it was leukemia.

MARQUEZ: A hunch but all these cancers stem from a common source. A mother's hunch.

RHINEHART: Mom gut.

DAVIDSON: Mom gut.

MARQUEZ" Driven by loss and love, Davidson and Rhinehart created the group If It Was Your Child. They have since logged 58 pediatric cancer cases across Johnson County from 2008 to 20 18. 24 of them in the town of Franklin alone. With the help of a local reporter, their mom gut led them to this nondescript old industrial site on the northern end of town where the carcinogen TCE or trichloroethylene had been dumped directly into city sewers for decades.

The EPA studied the contaminated site in the 1980s and a system to remove TCE was finally installed in the 90s. But decades later revisiting the site to the city now more interested in economic development was for some unwelcome.

DAVIDSON: We've been called fear mongers by agencies.

RHINEHART: Overly emotional.

DAVIDSON: Paranoid moms.

RHINEHART: The whole like if you're critical then you -- you know, you don't like Franklin or you're bashing Franklin to me is the equivalent of saying, if I criticize Donald Trump I'm anti-American. And to me those two -- that does not go hand-in-hand. In fact, I feel I'm more American.

MARQUEZ: They wanted more testing. When government agencies didn't step up, the environmental nonprofit Edison Wetlands Association did. It hired local environmental consultant John Mundell.

JOHN MUNDELL, ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT: We found impacts in the air, ambient air that matched some of the indoor air chemicals were found in the homes.

MARQUEZ: The results changed everything.

DAVIDSON: That went from "we knew it" to "are you kidding me?" "Are you actually kidding me?"

MARQUEZ: They prompted the EPA to retest the site last year revealing an underground plume of TCE under homes and neighborhoods and possibly expanding. The government put TCE on a list of cancer-causing chemicals in 2005 and Obama planned to restrict its use. The Trump administration has moved to delay that and many other environmental rules deemed too onerous on business and industry.

MUNDELL: I think when you're relaxing environmental laws like is happening currently, the tendency is to not be aggressive in assessing sites. And so sites like this across the country would probably continue to be kind of put it on the back burner.

MARQ UEZ: The cancers in Franklin have not been directly linked to TCE but persistence mom gut drives Davidson and Rhinehart to seek further testing and a remedy to make their town TCE free. In a statement, the EPA said we take the situation in the city of Franklin seriously and have worked expeditiously to investigate, develop a plan, implement the plan, and communicate our findings to the mayor and citizens of Franklin. EPA is committed to continuing this effort as long as it takes to ensure all contamination is addressed.

Nationwide there are hundreds possibly thousands of sites similar to Franklin. What is your message to the President? [16:50:10] DAVIDSON: He has children. You know, I mean, it just goes to our namesake of our organization. What would you do if it was your child? How hard would you fight?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now the Indiana Department of Health has officially tracked even more cases of pediatric cancer in Johnson County than these moms did through their group. Now, these moms also want the EPA to investigate why the toxic plume went unnoticed for so long and they want this testing done this winter, as in right now. The EPA said it would do that but all of that is on hold right now because of the government shutdown. Jim?

SCIUTTO: It's one more cost of a shutdown those investigations not getting done. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much. He was fired from his job running Trump's transition team. Now, Chris Christie, the former Governor of New Jersey is naming names and telling all.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] SCIUTTO: We're back now with our "POLITICS LEAD" and really just a scathing rebuke of the Trump administration by man once considered an insider. In fact, he was an insider. Newly released excerpts from Chris Christie's upcoming book, the former head of the Trump transition team admonishes the people in Trump's inner circle especially those who joined right after the election.

According to Axios, Chris Christie wrote the following. "Donald so urgently needed the right people around him in a solid structure in place. Far too often he's found himself saddled with the riffraff. Riffraff, is that a word that you would use to describe the Trump team?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean it certainly has been chaotic. And I am dying to know what Chris Christie's fantasy cabinet would have been. Maybe he put that in the notes but a lot of it has been baited his book over his beef with Jared Kushner. Certainly, they do have drama dating way back to his prosecution of Jared's father.

But Jared Kushner's advice to Trump has been back. He advocated the hiring of Mike Flynn, the firing of James Comey, and oh by the way he was present at Trump Tower meeting as well. And so I think there may be more here than just family alone at play.

SCIUTTO: Well, he rants through the folks he says we're not qualified for the job. This is Chris Christie's list. Michael Flynn, you mentioned Scott Pruitt, where is he now, Tom Price, where is he now, Jeff Sessions where is he now, Rex Tillerson, Omarosa. I mean, that list have been just based on track records, right?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, you're always the hero of your own story and it's been a while since Chris has been the hero of this moment. But look, I actually -- I don't -- I don't doubt too much that he would have had a more conventional more detailed plan for a transition than the rest of the Trump team which is very unconventional, to say the least and that that would have been disregarded. But as usually, you never know how much this is backbiting and paying back and how much of it is actually truth.

SCIUTTO: Well, one thing --

HAM: His diagnosis is correct though. It reminds me of mine.

SCIUTTO: Well, I was going to ask you that. So I mean, because some of it is just true based on what we've seen right? I mean, you see Mattis, Kelly, Nikki Haley is some of the "adults in the room" but most respected by both parties, by international leaders, they're gone now. And now there's talk that Mike Pompeo will leave to run for a Senate seat in Kansas.

JENNICE FUENTES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hey, listen. I think that this fact that the beef between Kushner and Christie is ancient history. Has Christine said way back when is not true. Riffraff, I think there many things perhaps including that. But I think that history speaks for itself. They're all gone. A lot of them may be going to jail or cutting their own deals.

So you know, it is true that in one sense he's criticizing the ineffectiveness and perhaps the riffraff-ness of those -- of those staffers including the son-in-law of the President. Well, curiously enough not criticizing the President. What he's really saying is like well, he's not being served well because of those people.

SCIUTTO: You should -- it should be me perhaps.

FUENTES: Right, and really bring me back in. So it's interesting that I don't know if he's looking at -- to maybe the President winning the second time and then he's going back in there as a chief of staff this time, and maybe Jared Kushner is in jail, who knows. What is true it seems to me all this time is that Kushner himself does have a problem with Christie. He put his daddy in jail for two years for tax evasion. So I don't think those things are ever called ancient history.

HAM: (INAUDIBLE) beef ever end really?

SCIUTTO: No.

FUENTES: It doesn't.

SCIUTTO: I'm from across the river, but no it never ends. I won't -- I don't have time to quote it fully but he does tell the story in there of dumping all these kind of binders that had been prepared for the transition team by transition team led at the time by Chris Christie. Literally, he says thrown in the trash all 30 binders tossed in the Trump Tower dumpster and never to be seen again.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look I am totally here for Chris Christie's petty account of what his view was of the transition of Donald Trump presidency. Look, I had the opportunity to sit at dinner mind you with Chris Christie early last year and I can't wait to read this book, Jim. I will just say he -- I will say that his diagnosis is correct. Basically, Chris Christie is saying they're a mess. You all know it's a mess. But let me tell you from my perspective how much of mess they are.

SCIUTTO: The dumpster fire image did come right. Sorry, I made a quick final thought for you.

CARPENTER: If the title of this book is Let Me Finish. I think he said it all.

FUENTES: Well, he needs the book so he's doing that.

SCIUTTO: All right, well listen, there's a lot to discuss. Thanks to have -- these four great ladies with me for the show. Be sure to tune in next Monday on CNN for our Iowa town hall with presidential candidate Kamala Harris. My colleague Jake Tapper, he will moderate that. It's going to be 10:00 Eastern time. Certainly most watched there. And our coverage on CNN continues right now.

END