Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
TSA Lines; Bathroom Order; Trump's Fake Identity?; Report: Clinton Charity Funneled $2 Million to Allies. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired May 13, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, how close we could have been to first lady Madonna.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Did Donald Trump create a fake identity and pose as his own publicist to brag about Donald Trump and claim how the Material Girl had the hots for him? The tape everyone is talking about today and Donald Trump's reaction to it.
The long lines, the freak-out, the laptop you forgot to take out of your bag, passengers now telling the TSA, please remove your shoes, so we can hold your feet to the fire.
Plus, the White House leaping into further into a passionate national debate, telling schools to let transgender boys and girls use the restroom they choose or pay the price.
Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm John Berman, in for Jake today.
Donald Trump says he is flexible, but so flexible that even his name is open to negotiation? The sums up a day filled with a slew of new questions for the presumptive nominee, from his view that his taxes are not anyone's business to a flat-out strange recording that suggests Trump used to pretend being a different person to play the part of his own publicist.
Chief political correspondent Dana Bash joins us now.
Dana, Donald Trump had a lot that he wanted to accomplish this week. The question is, did he?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He seemed to. Republicans are ending this week a lot more settled, seemingly less divided than they were just one week ago, but for all the GOP kumbaya this week, there were several notes that didn't exactly hit the way Republican leaders would have preferred.
BASH (voice-over): Even as Republican leaders are getting more comfortable with Donald Trump, there are reminders that the billionaire at the top of their ticket makes more miles of unchartered political terrain, like his refusal, so far, to release his tax returns.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: What is your tax rate?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is none of your business. You will see it when I release. But I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.
BASH: The last GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, dragged his own feet on disclosing his tax returns, but eventually relented. This week, the anti-Trump Romney said withholding his taxes is disqualifying. And today a Republican Party spokesperson told CNN it's up to Trump, but:
SEAN SPICER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Mr. Trump has got to make a decision sooner rather than about whether or not to release his tax returns.
BASH: On Trump's proposed temporary ban on Muslims, he seemed to soften his stance a bit this week before meeting with Republican leaders who oppose it.
TRUMP: This is just a suggestion until we find out what's going on.
BASH: Today, he insisted he would push the Muslim ban as president.
TRUMP: I'm not the president right now. So anything I suggest is really a suggestion. And if I were president, I would put in legislation and do what I have to do.
BASH: There is some evidence the presumptive GOP nominee is settling into his leadership role.
When a former long-time Trump butler argued President Obama -- quote -- "should have been taken out by our military and shot as an enemy agent," Trump acted fast, saying through a spokeswoman, "We totally and completely disavow the horrible statements made by him regarding the president."
But then a story that would only happen with a tabloid-dogged guy like Trump, not a traditional politician, newly released recordings by "The Washington Post" reviving a suspicion that swirled about Trump from the '90s.
QUESTION: What is your name again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Miller.
BASH: That John Miller was really Trump pretending to be his own spokesman when dealing with reporters questioning his business or messy divorces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you met him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a good guy and he's not going to hurt anybody. The one article said he was going to throw her out of the apartment is total nonsense. He is going to always treat her well, as he treated his wife well.
BASH: Today, Trump denied that was him.
TRUMP: I have many, many people that are trying to imitate my voice, and you can imagine that. And this sounds like one of the scams, one of the many scams. Doesn't sound like me.
BASH: Now, the Trump campaign is still working, certainly beginning to do so, with the Republican National Committee to meld resources for the general election. That does mean for the first time Trump will have to care at least a bit what donors think.
And my understanding in talking to sources is that several are concerned about his tax returns, both his refusal to release them and then what's in them once he does -- John.
BERMAN: Yes, nothing so fickle as a donor and never shy about sharing their opinions.
Dana Bash, thank you so much.
Want to zero in on those recorded phone calls now with "People" magazine, the voice inflections, the tone. A lot of people say the conversation sounds a lot like Donald Trump, but the businessman, you just heard it, he insists it is not.
CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin, he looked into this recorded call.
Drew, what have you learned?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: John, if this is not him, an audio expert we talked to this afternoon said it's a masterful job of sounding almost exactly like him.
The fact is, the secret public relations man in Donald Trump's past may have never been a real secret.
TRUMP: Good morning.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The real amazing story of Donald Trump's old spokesman, as "The Washington Post" headline writes, may be that it's been such an open secret for so long, it's hard to believe that anyone is still questioning it.
QUESTION: What is your name again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Miller.
QUESTION: And you work with Donald Trump? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's correct.
GRIFFIN: It was back in the 1980s when the flashy New York real estate mogul needed to get a bit of news out. The newspaper reports it was common knowledge among New York reporters that Trump just assumed a different name and handled the media calls himself, like this call from reporter Sue Carswell at "People" magazine concerning Trump's breakup with girlfriend Marla Maples.
QUESTION: What kind of comment is coming from your agency or from Donald?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it is just that he really decided that he wasn't -- you know, he didn't want to make any commitment. He didn't want to make a commitment.
He really thought it was too soon. He was coming out of a -- you know, a marriage and he's starting to do tremendously well financially.
He just thought it was too soon to make any commitment to anybody.
QUESTION: So, what is going to happen to -- is she being asked to leave or is she going to be allowed to stay?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, she can -- he treats everybody well. And you don't know him, but he's a...
QUESTION: No, I have met him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you met him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a good guy and he's not going to hurt anybody. He treated his wife well. And he treated -- and he will treat Marla well.
And he's somebody that has a lot of options. And, frankly, he gets called by everybody. He gets called by everybody in the book in terms of women.
GRIFFIN: If that John Miller sounds like Trump, it's because audio forensic expert Tom Owen says, in his opinion, it is.
TOM OWEN, FORENSIC EXPERT: I can conclude with a fair degree of scientific certainty that it is Donald Trump's voice.
GRIFFIN: This afternoon, Owen compared the John Miller on that phone call with "People" magazine to the real Donald Trump interviewed on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" in the 1990s.
Due to the quality of the old recordings, he couldn't use his biometric analysis that he says would be absolutely certain, but, based on pitch, tone, cadence and his expertise, John Miller and Donald Trump are one in the same.
OWEN: Yes, it's my opinion that it's Donald Trump's voice.
GRIFFIN: Reportedly, Trump even tacitly admitted under oath to using one of his false P.R. names in a 1990 court testimony, when he said: "I believe, on occasion, I used that name."
Trump was confronted with the taped phone call and "The Washington Post" story on Friday's "Today Show."
TRUMP: No. I don't think it -- I don't know anything about it. You're telling me about it for the first time and it doesn't sound like my voice at all.
I have many, many people that are trying to imitate my voice, and you can imagine that. And this sounds like one of the scams, one of the many scams. Doesn't sound like me.
GRIFFIN: John, why would he use fake names and fake public relations spokespeople in the first place? It was a way, say those who took these calls, for Donald Trump to deliver his tough positions on real estate deals, failures or even relationships without getting his hands dirty.
And according to one Trump biographer, it's a trick Donald Trump may have learned from his dad, Fred Trump, who was also known in the New York real estate press as Mr. Green -- John.
BERMAN: One fewer spokesperson you have to hire, I suppose.
Drew Griffin, thanks so much.
BERMAN: Want to talk more about this right now.
We're joined by CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter, who once worked for Ted Cruz, CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill and "New York Times" correspondent Maggie Haberman.
Maggie, I want to talk with you.
You are a young reporter, but you have covered things going on in New York for some time. This notion that Trump did this, these stories, they have been out there.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thanks for calling me a young reporter.
These stories have been out there for some time. He, as was noted before, reportedly said under oath that he may have on occasion have used another one of these names. This is not a surprise to people around New York, as was said before.
It's sort of amazing that this hasn't come up more or that this seems like a surprise to people, but this might be a surprise to the 100 million voters or so who haven't taken part in either party primary and are just learning more about Donald Trump.
It's a reminder that he comes from this world of New York real estate, you know, which has a nexus with celebrity and a nexus with tabloid culture that seems very normal to those of us who came up in it, and might not seem so normal outside of it and is harder to explain.
If he says it was not him, your expert suggests it was him. If it was him, there's probably a lot to be gained from just saying, yes, it was me, it was a prank or it was how I did things, and then move on, but he's now going to get asked about this again.
BERMAN: Look, if it was him, he said it wasn't today, then he lied, right?
BERMAN: And then he's going to have to answer for why he said it wasn't him this morning, which is interesting.
HABERMAN: It's going to be difficult I think to definitively prove that it was him, but it certainly does sound like him, both in terms of the tone of the voice and the way the person on the phone talked.
BERMAN: Amanda, I want to turn to you. You actually think it could be an issue going beyond whether or not he's telling the truth about him.
You think that the fact that he did this, even though it may have been decades ago, is something that could be damaging.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, because if he did lie about it, he misrepresented himself to the press for improving his public image, particularly as it pertains to women.
This has direct application today to how Donald Trump conducts himself as a public figure. Listen, if he -- it's like with everything. It's not necessarily the act. It's the cover-up and the lying. If this wasn't him, it would be very easy for him to say, hey, here's Joe Miller, here's the guy I hired as my P.R. guy. Look, put him on TV. He sounds just like me.
He hasn't done that yet. I think he's going to have to admit it was him, and then explain why he would continually misrepresent himself to the press for the purpose of improving public image, and why he felt so compelled to do this to clear up questions about his marriage.
We talk all the time about the way he treats women. And so I don't think this is a subject he wants to address, but he's opened the door wide open.
BERMAN: Devil's advocate here for a second, Marc Lamont Hill. This was the New York tabloid world of the 1990s, the wacky, daffy tabloid pages, Page Six and whatnot.
What damage was done by pretending to be a flack here?
MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first, I would prefer if you called by my other name, Rahim Jenkins. I'm going to operate in the spirit of Trump from now on.
HILL: But, no, I think that no damage is really done by this. Nobody really cares.
I wish this were a bigger deal. To me, if anything, it speaks to Trump's narcissism. He could have hired a publicist and told him what to say. That's what they do. But he wanted to handle it himself; he wanted to manipulate the press. This feels like a very quintessentially Trumpian thing to do.
What is more damning to me -- and Amanda is right -- is the lying after it. He got caught in a moment and instead of just saying, hey, I made a mistake, I goofed, it was a tabloid place, it was cheap media, it meant nothing to me, I wasn't a politician back then, I owed them nothing, instead of just saying that, he doubles down on the lie.
And now he's caught in this web of lies that only will get more and more expanded when we prove that there's no person named Mr. Miller.
BERMAN: But will that even affect him right now? I actually want to play some sound, if we have it here, which is actually pretty interesting, given that it comes from some time ago of John Miller, whoever John Miller might be, talking about how the press treats Donald Trump, whoever that might be. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never seen somebody that is so immune -- he gets he wanted to immune -- some people would say he got bad press four months ago. Now he's starting to get good press, where -- I mean, I don't know what you would call this, but big press, but I have never seen somebody so immune to it. He actually thrives on the bad press initially.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, John Miller has a pretty astute -- a combination of what Donald Trump is like right there. He's immune to bad press and always gets good press.
Maggie, sounds like some people might say, the Donald Trump of today.
HABERMAN: It does.
I guess i do agree with Marc that I don't actually think this in and of itself is going to be damaging to Trump. I think it's a weird story. And I think that it might not be relatable for most people in the country. But I think it is in the realm of things that you hear about Trump, I think it will probably slide off.
You do wonder how many other recordings like that exist in the New York tabloid world or from "People" magazine? Trump -- to be fair to Trump, people who work for Trump often sound a lot like Trump in terms of the things that they say. They tend to mimic his cadences. They tend to mimic his language. That in and of itself is actually not a huge difference.
BERMAN: All right. Will not hurt Trump, will not hurt people who support Trump, people are saying that about a great many issues dealing with Trump over the last few days. So, stick around, guys. Much more to talk about specifically on that front, namely, new questions on other news and politics right now.
There are new questions about the Clinton Foundation and where it allegedly steered millions of dollars. Now former President Bill Clinton is responding. That's next.
[16:18:13] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. John Berman, in for Jake.
She is winning at math but Hillary Clinton he still cannot escape bad headlines. On the front page of today's "Wall Street Journal," "Charity aids Clinton friends". The story questions whether $2 million raised by the Clinton Foundation was steered to Democratic allies.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins us now.
Jeff, how is -- how are the Clintons responding to these accusations?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, President Clinton himself is saying that this simply is not true. Some reporters caught up with him on a rope line campaigning last night and asked specifically if he denied if any law was broken and he said, "Oh, God, yes." So, but what the campaign is saying and people around it, they always knew the Clinton Foundation was going to come back.
Of course, that was a controversy last year in terms of how it received its money from foreign governments, from wealthy donors, et cetera. So, now, it is coming back. But they that this specific company, it' called Impact Investing, that they are actually investing in a new energy company here to try and do good things, basically help people insulate their houses.
Now, the question is, this company has not succeeded. It's essentially defunct or now has a new mission here. There's no specific allegation that any laws were broken here. But it is one of those things. So much money floating around from so many donors, it does raise the question, you know, exactly this foundation, is it going to be a problem politically for Secretary Clinton? And certainly, Donald Trump seized on it today.
BERMAN: What did Donald Trump have to say about it today, Jeff?
ZELENY: I mean, not surprisingly he went after this specifically. Let's listen to a bit of sound that I think we have this morning. He was from "Fox & Friends", and this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[16:20:01] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's a bombshell. There's no doubt about it. Well, I assume you put the word "charity" in quotes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, he said right there, he said that the word "charity" should have been in quotes for the Clinton charity.
But, look, Donald Trump is going to keep going after this. He's specifically going after one person who was after one of the investors who is a close friend of the Clintons. He raised the questions this morning, how close of a friend she actually is here.
So, Jake, this is just the opening volley of what really is a new chapter in this campaign as we have Donald Trump's audiotapes from 25 years ago, we have 24 years of new material here since Bill Clinton was elected that is going to be chewed a ever again and again and again.
All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.
I want to bring back our panel now -- Amanda Carpenter, Marc Lamont Hill and Maggie Haberman.
There's an issue of transparency that relates to both campaigns that we're seeing. There's the transparency issues with the Clinton Foundation, questions being raised about, you know, what money went where and to whom, and then transparency when it comes to Donald Trump and his taxes, will he release his tax returns? He says no, because they're being audited. The IRS says that's crazy. You can release your tax returns when you're being audited. There's no problem at all.
If there is this transparency battle going on right now, does either candidate win?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the voters are going to lose, quite frankly. Both candidates have problems and a reluctance to make what I think are proper financial disclosures to the public, so that they can -- so the voters can see how these candidates have conducted their business in their personal lives throughout their careers.
But you kind of have this standoff between both top candidates if they both refuse to do it. Donald Trump is going to say, "I'm not going to release my tax returns". Hillary Clintons say, "I'm not going to be forthcoming about the activities of Clinton Global Foundation" and how can either candidate make a clean argument against the other? They are not going to bring it up against each other and voters and I guess reporters can continue to badger the candidates to try to shame them into doing it, but there is nothing that will make them do it. Ands I think voters deserve better.
BERMAN: Marc, I heard a grunt in the air. What was that for?
MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think they are apples to apples. I don't think the Clintons said we're not going to be transparent about the financials of the Clinton Foundation, whereas the Donald Trump has been very clear in saying, "I'm not giving you my taxes until a point that has yet to be determined." So, I don't think they're apples to apples.
I also think the difference is, in favor of Donald Trump is that while Donald Trump may not be forthcoming with his taxes, it's not likely that he's doing anything illegal, it's just something that might compromise his conservative bona fides. He may be donating to Planned Parenthood for example. He may not be doing enough charitable giving or too much charitable giving, demanding on how you think about it.
Whereas with the Clintons, their lack of transparency could be something that's actually illegal when it comes to private corporations meddling in political affairs. But again, let's be clear, the Clintons have not been determined to do anything wrong and I don't want to suggest that they have.
CARPENTER: Yes. But one thing with the transparency of Hillary Clinton, quickly, it doesn't have just to do with the Clinton Global Foundation. It also gets to her emails, the paid speeches that she gave to Goldman Sachs, as Bernie Sanders rightly made an issue in this campaign.
So, there is a large transparency question regarding Hillary Clinton that extends far beyond the foundation.
BERMAN: Maggie, I want to talk about Donald Trump taxes for a second here, because he changed his tone a little bit on them today with George Stephanopoulos. You know, all along, he's been saying, you know, I want to release them but I'm not going to do it while I am being audited. You know, I'll release them as soon as that's done. That's my plan.
But today, George asked him, you know, what is your affected tax rate and Donald Trump responded, "None of your business." You could even say snapped. You know, "none of your business."
That's a peculiar answer. That's an answer that I can see being something that some voters, not Donald Trump supporters, but some voters might care about. I mean, they seem to care. Some voters cared about Mitt Romney's effective tax rate. I mean, voters have cared since 1976, every presidential nominee has released their tax returns.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it reminded me a lot of 2001 when Mike Bloomberg was running for mayor in New York City and a reporter asked him, you know, why -- does every other candidate, they were all sitting elected officials and all Democrats, why has everybody else released their taxes and you haven't. And Bloomberg's response was, they don't make anything and he sort of snapped it, as in "I'm very wealthy and they don't need to see it."
Trump's response was not totally dissimilar. It wasn't along the same lines. But look, he hasn't been consistent on why he's not releasing them the whole time. Last year, he said he was thinking about it. He mentioned the audit for the first time this year.
It's certainly possible that he's being audited and a lot of tax experts have said they would probably get a client similar advice, but he's not sort of indicated in that interview with George Stephanopoulos, didn't indicate an understanding of why people might want to know. He was also asked by Stephanopoulos, do you think voters have the right to see your returns, and he said, I don't think they do.
You know, it's an interesting view. It is not one that has historically been taken in the last several decades by presidential candidates. It is one that I think is for voters, again, he's facing a whole new swath of voters, but within his party who didn't vote for him and then outside the party, who needs to appeal to, they are going to take all of these pieces and form an opinion.
[16:25:01] The Clintons, while I do think that these stories about could be very problematic for them, there's been a constant drip-drip of those for years now. So, it's not going to come as quite as shock to voters. Voters are still learning much more about Donald Trump.
BERMAN: They are. And they are learning that sometimes his language changes on things that he's been talking about for a while. Amanda Carpenter, you know, he's been talking about the temporary ban of Muslims coming to the United States since December. This has been a plan, a proposal, some might say a campaign promise.
But just over the last two days he said, no, it's a suggestion. And he said, you know, I'm flexible on all things.
I suppose there could be a difference between a campaign pledge and a suggestion? Is that something voters are going to have to get used to, one? And, two, do voters really care?
CARPENTER: Well, all things (INAUDIBLE) with Donald Trump we asked the question, will this hurt them? Do voters care? All of these things add up to a larger question eventually.
And these are big questions that voters ask when they are choosing a candidate. Can you trust this person? Can you count on what they are saying to be true?
I think in so many of these instances, Donald Trump is showing voters that, no, maybe you can't. You don't know where he's going to come down on any given issue. So, it won't be a matter of will this particular issue break Donald Trump's candidacy but how much of this are voters willing to tolerate?
BERMAN: Marc, one thing is, though, that on some of these positions, say, the ban on Muslims, Social Security, you know, there are other positions where he seems to be shifting a little bit saying he's flexible with tax increase, everything is negotiable. He's shifting in a way that might be more appealing to non-Republican primary voters, to people in the middle, or even Democrats.
Should that be a concern to the Democrats who will run against him in the fall?
HILL: It should be a concern to everybody. It should be a concern to Democrats who are running against him because if he can get a populist appeal, particularly in states where Democratic economic policies haven't been beneficial to folk, if you go to Pennsylvania or Ohio where people have had a tough economic time, you say, look, give me a shot and I'm willing to be flexible on economic issues, Social Security, taxes, et cetera, he may get some votes there.
Republicans should also be uneasy because Donald Trump doesn't have a world view. He doesn't want to change the world. He just wants to run the world. He just wants to win an election, which means he will do whatever he needs to do, and the Republican line seems just have been a shorter line to the presidency. So, that means is even if he makes back door promises to Lindsey Graham on a military or Paul Ryan on range of economic issues domestically, he can make promises that he's a dyed in the wool conservative now, but then in six months or eight months, once he's president, if he's president, he'll do something very different.
So, Republicans should be very uneasy with who they are electing and Democrats should be very uneasy about who they are running against.
BERMAN: All right. Marc Lamont Hill, Amanda Carpenter, Maggie Haberman -- thanks so much for joining us.
You will notice, we didn't have some from the Trump team here to respond. We tried. We did ask them to come on to the show today. We thought they were. It did end up happening. So, there's that.
Twenty-seven minutes after the hour right now.
Insanely long security lines at airports across the country causing thousands to miss their flights. Now, the TSA has a plan to fix the problem. Will it actually work?