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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Donald Trump Cancels Public Endorsement Event with Black Religions Leaders; Interview with Michael Cohen. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 30, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:05]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Shackled and handcuffed, Jason Van Dyke appeared in court in his brown prison uniform today. The judge decided on bail after viewing this chilling dash-cam video in court. Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times within 15 seconds. The officer claims he feared for his life.

Today's decision could bring more protests and unrest to Chicago, because activists demanded that Van Dyke be held without bond. Protesters are also calling for the resignation of the city's top officials, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city's police chief, alleging a year-long cover-up of that dash-cam video.

In our politics lead, he's bragged about his support from African- Americans, even announcing he would be endorsed by 100 black religious leaders today. But Republican front-runner Donald Trump suddenly canceled the public event. Why? A top member of Trump's campaign team will be here to talk about it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:01]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Time now for our politics lead.

Donald Trump wanted to kick off the post-Thanksgiving dash to voting season with a bang, 100 African-American pastors standing behind the Republican front-runner in political solidarity. But what the campaign initially advertised as a public endorsement of Trump's presidential hopes was quickly downgraded into just a private meeting and may have become a trial of sorts for Mr. Trump, as many of the pastors who made the trek to Trump Tower have already said Trump does not represent their views, much less deserve their endorsement.

CNN political reporter Sara Murray is in Macon, Georgia, where Trump will go tonight.

Sara, what happened with this endorsement? It was supposed to be a big deal.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, you're absolutely right.

And the Trump campaign blasted it out to reporters as a major endorsement. And even though there was a very scaled-back version of that today, Donald Trump still declared it a big success.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Trump's splashy endorsement from 100 black pastors quickly fizzling today into a closed-door meeting.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was told it was an endorsement, and that was fine. Whether it is or not, that's fine. I think having a meeting is a good thing anyway.

MURRAY: That's after a number of pastors invited said they had no intention of backing the GOP front-runner or even attending the meet- and-greet.

BISHOP PAUL MORTON, CHANGING A GENERATION: If you talk down to women, if you a lot talk down to documented immigrants, calling them rapists and then, black lives, get them out of here, no, you can't represent me. So I don't even need to hear your platform.

MURRAY: Said he came to talk with Trump, nothing more.

BISHOP VICTOR COUZENS, VSC MINISTRIES: It's really incumbent upon me to take advantage of the opportunity to query him about exactly the types of things we should expect from a potential Trump administration. I'm not here to endorse Mr. Trump. I'm here to have a dialogue.

MURRAY: The pastors' caution and outright criticism comes as Trump faces scrutiny for retweeting a racially charged message, suggesting a Black Lives Matter protester deserved to be roughed up at a Trump campaign rally.

Others attending today's meeting said they would attempt to convince their colleagues to support Trump.

PASTOR STEPHEN PARSON, RICHMOND CHRISTIAN CENTER: Anybody that knows Donald Trump personally knows that he's not a racist. He's provided more jobs for minorities, for Mexicans, for African-Americans. He's exactly what not only the African-American community needs, but what America needs.

MURRAY: Trump's campaign originally promoted the meeting as an endorsement event, only to walk that back. Today, Trump said he saw love in the room and walked away with a few endorsements.

TRUMP: We actually didn't think we were going to be having a press conference. But we all thought it was such a good meeting, we would do that. And we have many, many endorsements that came out of the meeting.

MURRAY: Trump's also facing scrutiny for repeatedly insisting he saw large crowds of people celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11. TRUMP: I have had hundreds and hundreds of calls and tweets of people

that saw it. And plenty of people saw it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, you can see there Trump continuing to repeat this long- debunked story. There is no proof that there were crowds of people celebrating in New Jersey when the Twin Towers fell. But you can see, even though it lacks substance, why Trump continues to say it. It's certainly something that riles up his supporters -- Jake.

TAPPER: Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Let's talk about Mr. Trump's bid for the Republican nomination with the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, Michael Cohen.

Sir, thanks for being here.

MICHAEL COHEN, SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: Jake, how are you?

TAPPER: Good to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Yes.

COHEN: Happy Thanksgiving.

TAPPER: So, just clear this up. It's not the hugest deal in the world, but the campaign did initially describe the meeting with the African-American pastors as an endorsement.

COHEN: You certainly are right about that. It's not the hugest deal in the world. I think there are much bigger issues going on in the world.

TAPPER: Absolutely. But just what happened? Why the confusion? Why the confusion?

COHEN: Well, as Pastor Darrell Scott, who is one of the organizers, said today, there was a misstatement, there was a confusion between his group and the Trump campaign in putting out the endorsement.

What ended up happening was exactly what we were hoping was going to happen. Many people endorsed Mr. Trump. Others left the meeting with a great feeling of love and a great feeling of mutual respect between the parties. And they are now going back to their respective churches to pray upon their decision.

TAPPER: All right. Fair enough.

I want to ask you about this claim, Mr. Trump saying he saw thousands and thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering as the Twin Towers came down on 9/11. Now, media organizations left, right and center have searched for any footage of this. No one has produced even a still photo. The former New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer, who was on the

9/11 Commission, says his office heard the same rumor at the time. They investigated it. They found nothing. Farmer says -- quote -- "It..."

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: How come I'm under the impression that the FBI had detained quite a large number of people?

And even over this weekend, at a function that I was attending, I had a significant number of people turn around and say, it wasn't just taking place in Jersey City. It also took place on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

TAPPER: I just want to ask you, detaining people and terrorist suspects or whatever happened with the FBI, a separate issue...

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: Well, people -- don't -- wait, wait, Jake, people don't normally -- Jake, people don't normally get detained because they're sitting and having an ice cream at their local ice cream shop.

[16:40:06]

COHEN: They were clearly doing something which gave enough cause to the FBI within which to detain people.

TAPPER: It's a separate issue, sir.

But the basic question is this. How do you explain that there's no evidence, no video evidence for what Mr. Trump claims he saw on television? How do you explain that?

COHEN: Well, I'm not so sure that that's true. And I have worked for Mr. Trump now for a long time.

And I do -- and I can tell you that Mr. Trump's memory is fantastic. And I have never come across a situation where Mr. Trump has said something that's not accurate.

TAPPER: There are -- seriously?

COHEN: Yes, seriously.

TAPPER: All right. Well, there is no video of this, is all I'm saying. There's no video of this.

And you would think that by now somebody would have come forward and said -- I mean, you have a lot of supporters out there. You're the Republican front-runner.

COHEN: You have a lot of people on Mr. Trump's social media saying, I saw it. I saw it with my own eyes. But then again, look, here's the problem. The problem is that the

accusers, meaning the mainstream media, no matter what Donald Trump says, they're going to try to refute to the best of their ability. And it's just not working. That's really the problem. It's just not working.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You don't think that there are conservative media outlets out there who want Donald Trump to win, who want Donald Trump to be the next president who would desperately love to put this up on their video -- this video on their Web sites or on TV?

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: And they put up other things that corroborate Mr. Trump's statement.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Nobody's produced one photograph.

COHEN: At the end of the day, we're talking about there are Christians that are getting their heads chopped off. There was a photo of a Christian woman who was killed by having a cross basically rammed through her head.

We have our president off somewhere talking about climate change. We have a very serious issue in the United States, according to the FBI, that there are Islamic terrorist groups, ISIS-linked groups in every single state in this country. And we want to talk about whether or not that there were 1,000 people or 2,000 people that were sitting there and cheering, right?

TAPPER: Or any.

COHEN: You have thousands of people on Mr. Trump's social media that attest to it.

TAPPER: All right.

COHEN: Are you calling all of them liars?

TAPPER: I don't know who you're talking about. You're talking about people on Twitter.

But let me move on, because, obviously, I have gotten as far as I can with this line of questioning. I do want to ask...

COHEN: And at the end of the day, this line of questioning is really silly. And, I mean, Sara Murray with even her previous statements, Sara Murray is exactly one of those accusers that, no matter what Donald Trump says, you guys are going to go ahead and take a look at and try to figure out a way how to diminish and demean Mr. Trump.

TAPPER: No, it's the scrutiny that comes with being a front-runner when somebody...

COHEN: I don't see any other scrutiny being thrown at anybody to the extent that you're throwing it against Donald Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: Let's move on from...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: He is the front-runner.

But let me -- I want -- I do want to ask you, because I have not asked you yet. In defending his remarks about 9/11 and Muslims in New Jersey, Trump cited this report from 2001 in "The Washington Post" from Serge Kovaleski. Kovaleski is a reporter. He suffers from a condition that limits movement in his arms.

Now, this is Trump at a rally talking about this reporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: ... about Northern New Jersey draws the prober's eye, written by a nice reporter. Now, the poor guy, you got to see this guy. Oh, I don't know what I said. Ah, I don't remember. He's going like, I don't remember. Maybe that's what I said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: All right. Let's put up. There's a still photo of Donald Trump from the event, and a picture of Mr. Kovaleski.

Now, Mr. Trump insists he was not making fun of Kovaleski's disability and says he doesn't remember even meeting Kovaleski, who covered him in the past. But at that event...

COHEN: Jake, how many people do you think have covered Donald Trump in the past? Thousands upon thousands.

TAPPER: How many people with that disability? I would guess one.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: Do you really think that Mr. Trump remembers this specific reporter? The answer is Mr. Trump himself said he does not remember this reporter.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You said he has a fantastic memory.

COHEN: He most certainly does. He sees thousands and thousands of reporters a year.

TAPPER: But he said...

COHEN: He does not remember this guy.

Now, let me say one more thing to you.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Michael, he said, this was written by a nice reporter. He said, it was written by a nice reporter. You got to see this guy.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: He was talking about the article, until he ended up pulling it back, which he did for whatever the reason that he did. But let me say this to you.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: He said, you got to see this guy, and then he mimics his injury.

COHEN: Mr. Trump donates millions and millions of dollars each and every year in order to combat disabilities, in order to combat cancer, whether it's children.

He donates millions of dollars a year. Mr. Trump is not the type of individual that's going to make fun of somebody's disability. He wouldn't know this guy prior to this entire nonsense.

TAPPER: But we just saw him do it. We just saw him make fun of his disability.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: He was not making fun. He was being gesticulate, which Donald Trump is.

And he was basically showing the exasperation of a reporter that is pulling back on a story, exasperation and basically saying something like, oh, now I don't remember, now I don't remember. Had nothing to do with his disability.

TAPPER: And it just so happened -- first of all, he said, he's a nice guy.

COHEN: Well, you know...

TAPPER: You got to -- and then he said, you got to see this guy. And then he twists his arms to mimic the disability.

COHEN: He wasn't twisting his arm to mimic anything. Going back to the guy from the Black Lives Matter, the guy was so far away from the group. Mr. Trump had no idea if it was a male, if it was female though from the voice. He probably could tell, but he was so far away with lights in his eyes, he had no idea the guy was African-American. He had no idea --

TAPPER: I'm not even talking about that issue. COHEN: It's the same issue. It's the accusers will continue to accuse Mr. Trump and not give him a fair chance.

TAPPER: Michael, no matter --

COHEN: I disagree with you.

TAPPER: Let me just ask you a question.

COHEN: Mr. Trump would never ever make fun of somebody's disability.

TAPPER: OK.

COHEN: End of story.

TAPPER: Let me ask you this question. Do you ever have a conversation with him and say, you know, you really actually could be president. You're the frontrunner. You could get the Republican nomination. You actually could win. Now is maybe a time to be a little bit more of a statesman and not attack people on Twitter, and not make fun of whatever? Do you guys ever have that conversation?

COHEN: Well, we definitely talk about Mr. Trump being the frontrunner and we definitely talk about Mr. Trump winning the presidential bid in this upcoming election. And I will tell you that at this meeting that we had today with the pastors I will tell you that the topic did come up.

That many of the pastors said we are taking a tremendous amount of heat as a result of some of these comments despite the fact that they are inaccurate, that the media loves to portray Mr. Trump in a negative light.

TAPPER: I'm just airing video of him, Michael. I'm not portraying him in a negative light. We just aired video.

COHEN: You also aired video of Mr. Trump when he turned around and said that Mexico is sending in, you know, all different types of people. He never said that they're Hispanic, never said that they're Mexican. The whole world knows that there's 2,000 miles of open border that people are sifting through. He was bringing that up. He's not scripted. This is something that we understand.

TAPPER: Sure.

COHEN: Mr. Trump is not your prototypical politician.

TAPPER: Absolutely, agreed.

COHEN: He is an entrepreneur extraordinaire. He's insanely bright.

TAPPER: But my question is --

COHEN: He is a doer. What he will do is his mantra he will make America great again. And this is the takeaway that these pastors who came to see him today. TAPPER: Michael, what's your message to the disabled little boy or little girl who see that video and say it sure looks as though the Republican frontrunner is making fun of a physical disability. And even though he says he's not, it sure looks as though he is. And what's the message to that little boy and little girl?

COHEN: The message is that Donald Trump would never, not today, not yesterday, not ever, would never make fun of another person's disability ever, end of story.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question. Donald Trump continues to lead both in the national polls and almost all of the early state polls, you could argue with Iowa. But there are a lot of insiders in the Republican Party who attribute that to the Republican base being angry. That's what they say. Their words, not mine.

COHEN: And rightfully so.

TAPPER: The 32 percent of Republicans describing themselves as angry. Only 12 percent of Democrats describe themselves as angry. If Mr. Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination, how will voters who may not be feeling angry, how will he appeal to them? How will they respond to his message?

COHEN: Who are we referring to with this question?

TAPPER: Well, like independent voters, the persuadables, the voters in the middle, not the necessarily like Republicans who might switch tickets, Democrats who might switch tickets, independent voters.

COHEN: Donald Trump is going to transcend the Republican Party. He beats Hillary in a head-to-head today and he will if in fact it becomes a Trump versus Clinton election. Donald Trump is a uniter. What he plans on doing is he plans on reaching out to all of the minority communities.

And basically Donald Trump provides inspiration, hope. They know him to be a doer. This country is in terrible shape both as a country domestic as well as internationally. We have horrible things going on across this globe.

We have refugee situation that, you know, is really out of control. And what Donald Trump is going to do like he does in his own business put things back on track and make this country great very much like he did his own company.

TAPPER: Michael Cohen, we thank you. As always you and Mr. Trump, you take the questions. You answer them. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

COHEN: Good to see you, Jake.

TAPPER: Good to see you, Michael.

It may have been the best day of Chris Christie's campaign. On Sunday he earned the coveted endorsement of an influential New Hampshire newspaper, "The New Hampshire Union Leader."

[16:50:08]It gave him a boost one could argue in his New Hampshire or bust strategy. And our own Jamie Gangel just spoke with Governor Christie about the race including rare criticism from Christie about his friend, Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Does this make you the comeback kid?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll see. You know, that will be determined on February 9th when we see how votes come in. But I think what it shows is that the work we've been putting in here in New Hampshire, the plans we've laid out that people are taking them seriously and taking them to heart. And we're thrilled to have the endorsement.

GANGEL: Apparently this endorsement is enough to worry your friend, Donald Trump. Up to now he has steered clear of criticizing you, for the most part. But first thing this morning he was on Twitter.

How is Chris Christie running the state of New Jersey, which is deeply troubled, when he is spending all of his time in New Hampshire? New Jerseyans not happy. You say?

CHRISTIE: I'm just so glad to be noticed by Donald. Isn't that nice? It's great. And I'm happy to take whatever input he wants to give me in 140 characters or less, which is apparently the way he communicates best so fine.

GANGEL: Is this a compliment that he's now taking a punch at you?

CHRISTIE: Who knows? You know, Jamie, it's like I think I'm not going to play into the business of spending the precious time you and I have together talking about Donald Trump.

GANGEL: Yes, we are.

CHRISTIE: He's just one of a number of candidates for us to talk about and chew over.

GANGEL: Right. But he is the frontrunner. You have avoided criticizing him, but he has gotten more outrageous by the day. He insists he's now double down and triple down that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating after 9/11 in Jersey City.

Then he says from four miles away in his office he could see people jumping from the World Trade Center. Do you believe that either of those things happened?

CHRISTIE: No. All I know are the facts. You know, what went on that day in new jersey was not anything like what he said. And there's no film or video of it to prove it. He says he saw it on TV. It didn't happen. GANGEL: But the first time you were asked about it you said you didn't think it was true, but you didn't recall it. And as a former prosecutor you know when a witness says I don't recall that, it sounds as if they don't want to answer the question.

CHRISTIE: No, it's an honest answer. What I said -- you have to read the whole answer. What I said was, I don't recall that happening. Then I qualified by saying it was a very emotional day for me. I was not focused on everything else that was going on in New Jersey that day.

My wife and my brother were both trapped in Lower Manhattan. I didn't know if they were dead or alive. So I said I don't think it happened, but I have to put that qualifier in there because I was not completely focused on what happened.

GANGEL: Did it happen?

CHRISTIE: No.

GANGEL: Absolutely not?

CHRISTIE: No.

GANGEL: So why don't you call Donald Trump out on this? He's doubled down. He's tripled down.

CHRISTIE: What's the use? Everybody knows it didn't happen. So what's the use? Join the cacophony? I'm about distinguishing myself and making myself different from everybody else in a 14-person field. Not the same. And so, you know, to just pile on, I don't see that as being useful. Listen, Jamie, I'm trying to win this race.

GANGEL: Yes or no, is it outrageous that Donald Trump keeps saying these things?

CHRISTIE: It's wrong. It's just wrong. It's factually wrong. Everybody else can determine what they think is outrageous or not outrageous. In the context of Donald, outrageous is a high bar.

GANGEL: His latest controversy is that he is mocking a "New York Times" reporter who has a physical disability. He now claims that he didn't know that the reporter had a physical disability. But if you watch the video, it's pretty hard --

CHRISTIE: I saw the video.

GANGEL: Do you think that he knew what he was doing?

CHRISTIE: Appears that way, but you know, he's got to answer for himself. I mean, I think part of the folly of all this is that we're answering for him. He said what he said. Now the people who vote will judge him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Our thanks to Jamie Gangel for that interview.

We can now show you the powerful force that made cars appeared to levitate in china. The surveillance video is floating all over social media at least three cars seem to just lift in the air.

But let's look at it again. Two vans and a car look as though someone took control of them with puppet strings. Why do some cars lift up yet others travel normally? I will show you. It turns out the force was the street sweeper on the right. Its brush snagged a cable on the other side of the road.

[16:55:07]And that's what lifted the vehicles and flipped that minivan. Thankfully no one was hurt.

Coming up next, Americans on high alert after credible reports of an imminent attack, what the State Department is saying about the threat coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news 48-hour warning, an American embassy warning of an imminent attack. The threat deemed significant, active and credible. U.S. citizens urged to use extreme caution. Which terror group is plotting to strike and where?

On the run, one of the fugitive Paris terrorists now believed to possibly be back in Syria. Has he rejoined ISIS ranks to plot new attacks?

Face-to-face, as Russia steps up air strikes and deploys more weapons to Syria, President Obama and Vladimir Putin meet in person to talk about the ISIS threat. Is Putin ready to work with the U.S.-led coalition to fight the terrorist?

New ISIS ambition, terrorist forces creating a new stronghold on another confidant now bringing their depraved brutality to Libya with its self-proclaimed capital in Syria under increasing assault.