Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn; Interview With Bryan Cranston; Trump's Bad Behavior Towards Women?; Super PAC to Launch Anti-Trump Ads in Swing States; ISIS Terror: Suicide Bombers Storm Iraqi Gas Plan, Kill 10. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 16, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Donald Trump accused of many things in "The New York Times." What does his model ex-girlfriend have to say?

Welcome to THE LEAD. about

A new report accusing of Donald Trump of borderline creepy behavior with dozens of women, some on his payroll, but, today, one of those women says she was misquoted, and she's voting for him. And you will hear from her.

Plus, a charity for veterans accused of raising millions and barely giving any of it to the veterans who need it. We wanted to ask the president of the charity about this, but he drove away in his Rolls- Royce, a LEAD investigation.



BRYAN CRANSTON, ACTOR: I urge you to enact President Kennedy's civil rights bill into law.


TAPPER: Say my name? Lyndon Baines Johnson is the man who knocks. The great Bryan Cranston will be here in the studio to talk about channeling our 36th president for a brand-new HBO film.

Good afternoon, everyone. What a show we have for you today. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our politics lead. Throughout his long tenure in the public eye, Donald Trump has had many insulting things to say about women. You can go listen to the Howard Stern tapes if you want more on that. Hillary Clinton's hit men are hoping to use all of these moments as silver bullets in a general election.

And now a new "New York Times" story is providing them more ammunition, calling his behavior debasing, unsettling, unwelcome and more. But, today, the woman cited as exhibit A in this story says "The Times" took her out wildly of context.

Sara Murray is here with me in Washington.

Sara, Trump himself, of course, as is his wont, blasting this story as lame, a hit piece, a fraud. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is.


And, look, it's interesting, because I have spoken to a number of women who have worked for Donald Trump in the past and they do have a nuanced view of him, essentially saying they were willing to overlook some of the off-color comments he made in favor of big opportunities.

But one thing is clear from "The New York Times" story. At least some of these women feel like Donald Trump just went a little bit too far.


MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump is going to war with the media yet again, this time taking aim at "The New York Times" for a page-one story highlighting tales of Trump appearing to objectify women and make unwelcome advances. Today, one of the woman featured in the piece says her story was misrepresented.

ROWANNE BREWER LANE, ONCE DATED DONALD TRUMP: I made it very clear many times that I had a very pleasant relationship with Donald, and that I never felt like I was being, you know, depicted as, you know, a piece of meat or anything like that. I was never offended by anything that he had said.

MURRAY: Prompting Trump to call the story a hit piece on Twitter, adding: "We have exposed the article as a fraud."

The story reveals instances of Trump critiquing women's figures, giving a pageant contestant an unwanted kiss on the lips, and promoting women to high-profile corporate positions, even as he made offhand comments that some viewed as demeaning and dismissive.

The reporters who interviewed dozens of women about their interactions with Trump are standing by their piece.

MICHAEL BARBARO, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": There's no single dimension to Donald Trump and the women. And I think our story makes that clear and I think it makes it clear through voices of the people we interviewed.

MURRAY: The transition to presumptive GOP nominee means even more media scrutiny for Trump. Last week, it was a "Washington Post" story on the billionaire posing as his own spokesman, a claim Trump and his top aides deny.

TAPPER: Is the campaign seriously claiming that that isn't Mr. Trump? PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CONVENTION MANAGER: Donald Trump says it's not

him, I believe it's not him.

TAPPER: In 1990, under oath, he testified that he did use the name John Barron. And in 1991, he told "People" magazine that he did use the name John Miller.

So, this has already been admitted previously.

MANAFORT: I don't -- I don't know those facts to be true or not. I just know that he said it's not him.

MURRAY: But the story is providing even more fodder for "Saturday Night Live" skits like this one.

DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR: Mr. Trump is the real-life inspiration for Iron Man.


HAMMOND: Who am I? I'm his publicist, Joey Pepperoni.


HAMMOND: No, I'm not Donald Trump in disguise. This is just what classy people sound like, OK?

MURRAY: All of this as some GOP leaders, including 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and "Weekly Standard" editor Bill Kristol, are still trying to recruit a third-party candidate to take on Trump. It's an effort the RNC chair denounced as a suicide mission.

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: They can try to hijack another party and get on the ballot, but, look, it's a suicide mission for our country, because what it means is that you're throwing down not just eight years of the White House, but potentially 100 years on the Supreme Court and wrecking this country for many generations.



MURRAY: Now, one of the things we're getting a better sense of is how Donald Trump is going to respond to these deep dives into his past now that he's getting even more scrutiny as the presumptive Republican nominee.

And it's clear what he's going to do is deny all these allegations and then slam the media. So, Jake, I think a lot more of this is still to come.

TAPPER: Even allegations he's admitted before. Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Joining me now, Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee Marsha Blackburn. She's endorsed Donald Trump's campaign.


TAPPER: Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. Good to see you again.

BLACKBURN: Sure. Yes, absolutely.

TAPPER: So, regardless of "The New York Times" story, according to polls, Mr. Trump does have a problem with women voters leading into November. How can he fix it?

BLACKBURN: I think he fixes it by putting the focus on issues they want to talk about, national security, jobs and economic security, retirement security, getting rid of some of this regulation that is just crippling businesses and causes a lot of wage stagnation.

That's how he fixes it, and that's what people want to talk about.

TAPPER: But do you think that this "Times" story and others out there like it, plus other interviews he's done on the record to Howard Stern, et cetera, is that going to hurt Mr. Trump with women voters in places like suburban Philadelphia and Shaker Heights, Ohio?

BLACKBURN: Yes, you know what? I think it's so interesting about this. Women know that they are going to be men that they have passed along the way in their career that have said things that they don't like.

Donald Trump has said things that I don't like. But let me tell you this. They never let those guys control what they see as the outcome they want. And in this case of this election, Jake, what people want is to beef up national security, to get rid of these terrorist cells that are here in this country, to make sure certain that the southern border is secured from illegal entry, trafficking and drugs.

And they want jobs. And they want to see some elevation in wages. And this is what they are looking to get done. And I think that they see Donald Trump as somebody who is going to come in here, shake up Washington, D.C., and hold the federal government accountable to the people. And they are saying, all right, you get that done, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

TAPPER: I want you to listen to something President Obama said at a commencement speech this weekend. A lot of observers think -- seemed to think he was talking about Donald Trump.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It's not cool to not know what you're talking about.


OBAMA: That's not keeping it real or telling it like it is. That's not challenging political correctness. That's just not knowing what you're talking about.


TAPPER: Your response?

BLACKBURN: I know the president thinks that he was being quite humorous with that, but talking about things you don't know anything about is something this president has done quite a bit of.

Look at what has happened to health care and the cost of insurance since Obamacare was passed. Looked at what has happened to the labor force participation rate. Barack Obama has shown he does not understand a lot about what he has talked about and agendas that he has pushed.

So, maybe he's the master of that.

TAPPER: All right, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, thank you so much.

BLACKBURN: Good to be with you. Thank you.

TAPPER: Good to see you, as always.


TAPPER: How could this "New York Times" article impact Trump on the trail against the first would-be woman president?

Our panel will dive into that next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

More on our politics lead. Hillary Clinton wants her husband in charge of the economy, should she become president, she says. But before she can focus on the White House, she of course will need to wrap up the Democratic primaries and try to avoid another embarrassing loss when Kentucky Democrats vote tomorrow night.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny joins me now live from Los Angeles.

Jeff, set the stage for us for tomorrow's voting.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there are 116 delegates tomorrow in both Kentucky and Oregon.

Now, mathematically speaking, Hillary Clinton does not need to win those contests, because Democrats divide these proportionally. But politically speaking, she would love to win at least one. That's why she spent all day in Kentucky trying to rally some voters, and she did so with Bill Clinton in mind.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to give up on Kentucky in November.


ZELENY (voice-over): But, before November, Hillary Clinton had a more urgent task in mind today, her battle with Bernie Sanders.


ZELENY: She's hoping to interrupt Sanders' recent winning streak, campaigning across Kentucky on the eve of Tuesday's primary.

CLINTON: I want to help bring back the kind of economy that worked for everybody in the 1990s.

ZELENY: And revealing more about Bill Clinton and his role in her White House.

CLINTON: I have already told my husband that, if I'm so fortunate enough to be president, and he will be the first gentleman...


CLINTON: ... I will expect him to go to work.

ZELENY: It's another way to fire up Democrats, offering two Clintons for the price of one.


CLINTON: ... get out of retirement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he does. Yes, he does.

ZELENY: She wants nothing more than to focus exclusively on Donald Trump.

CLINTON: Here's the question. So, what is your plan to create jobs?

ZELENY: Even envisioning what a debate with him would sound like.

CLINTON: His answer is: I'm going to create them. They're going to be great.


CLINTON: I know how to do it. But I'm not telling you what it is I'm going to do.

ZELENY: But Sanders isn't going quietly, campaigning today in Puerto Rico and trying to speak Spanish.

Clinton is only 140 delegates away from hitting the mark needed to reach the party's nomination. She needs to win only 16 percent of the remaining delegates. Sanders needs 102 percent, an unreachable goal unless a flood of superdelegates suddenly came his way.

[16:15:04] No matter the size of her lead, some Sanders supporters simply won't accept it. Raw tensions on display at the weekend Nevada Democratic convention -- booing, shouting. The fight growing so intense over delegates, authorities shutting down the meeting early.

But this Democratic family feud may seem polite compared to what's waiting Clinton in her fight with Trump. He's the one person Democratic leaders believe can unify their party.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been called nearly everything but I've never been called a quitter and I will not quit on you.


ZELENY: Now, one small role about the Bill Clinton mention, her press secretary put out a statement Jake clarifying that. He said it's far too premature to do any type of a formalized naming of anyone in her administration. They know they have to go through this campaign first here. But, clearly, Hillary Clinton campaigning across Kentucky, mentioning Bill Clinton over and over and over.

Now, tomorrow night, she's unlikely to clinch the nomination mathematically speaking. But, Jake, by the time she reaches the California primary here in three weeks, that is when mathematically she will cross that number of 2,383 -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

Let's bring in our panel, CNN political commentator Mary Katharine Ham. She's a senior writer at "The Federalist". Also with us, CNN political commentator Paul Begala. He's a Democratic strategist and adviser to the pro-Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA Action.

Mary Katharine, let's talk about this New York Times story, a very comprehensive story. They interviewed at least four dozen women, something like that. The main one, Exhibit A, says she was taken out of context. Ultimately, what do you think the story will mean?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this may sound like I'm damning with faint praise and I am. I was sort of surprised that the accusations were not more serious until you get to the Ivana Trump stuff which she has also said was not true.

The interesting thing to me is how all these media stories do end up winding to Trump in some way and to his narrative because the main woman in the front of the article, they call it debasing behavior, she comes out and says, "I didn't find it debasing at all." And I feel like what your lead anecdote, you've got to have somebody who felt like they were debased.

TAPPER: Right.

HAM: Certainly, though, the behavior speaks to many women and that's the problem for Trump.

TAPPER: Paul, the pro-Clinton super PAC you advise plans to roll out $6 million worth of anti-Trump advertising in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada. Attacks against Trump haven't seemed to have work yet. How will your attacks be affected?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's the key in the Republican primary. First of all, I have to say, I've watched the Republican primaries and I thought Trump's weak in going after him. In the end, they were ridiculous. Marco Rubio mocking his hands. That's insulting. We're not going to do that sort of thing.

There's a group of voters who are not Republican primary voters who are going to decide this election. Trump is right. He's bulletproof when he says, I hate this, but he says, I can shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and not lose any of my voters and he's right. But his voters, they are lovely people, many of them are friends of mine, but they are older, angrier, whiter, male. There's a whole country out there that has not been exposed to some of the things that Mr. Trump has said and done.

We're happy to do that. We're going to raise his name ID even more by $6 million.

TAPPER: On the other hand, Mary Katharine, polls have Donald Trump either basically tied with Hillary Clinton or in leading in Ohio, he was up four points, and certainly we've heard plenty of nasty things about him in the last week. We've had this thing about him refusing to release his taxes, these PR agents, John Baron and John Miller.

HAM: That's right.

TAPPER: Do you think anything can stop him?

HAM: Well, I think the problem sometimes with bringing these things to light is that it's a perfect example with the story about his treatment of women is that perhaps his public treatment of women is the same as the private treatment of women.

TAPPER: So, it's no a surprise?

HAM: Right. So, it's not surprising and I think that might be the story with many things you say about Donald Trump. As much as I hate to agree with Paul, I think he's right that the attacks on him are late and a little weak, and I think you can make a difference in a general election.

But you see these close numbers and you go, this is a fight between two people who a lot of people don't like, right?


HAM: And I look at the race and go, well, the GOP managed to find the one person that trust less than Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Paul, I want you to hear Clinton's reaction this morning when she was asked how closely Bill Clinton would work with her if she's elected. Take a listen.


CNN PRODUCER: Secretary Clinton, you said Bill Clinton would head up the economy. Would he be in your cabinet?



TAPPER: No. So, he wouldn't be in the cabinet but she did say this weekend that he would be basically in charge of the economy, so to speak. This is the same President Clinton, we should point, who signed into law all of those trade deals that both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump had been hammering Hillary Clinton for.

BEGALA: And the same Bill Clinton who's -- if he's done for anything in this country, it's for economic success, right? He had --his economic policy created 23 million jobs, balanced the budget, produced a huge surplus. The thing he's proud, though, if he were sitting here, he would say not only do we have great boom but it was shared prosperity.

The Reagan boom was impressive but only lifted 77,000 people out of poverty. The Clinton boom, larger, but more important to him, it raised 7 million out of poverty. So, if you're concerned about the things Senator Sanders is raising, income inequality, jobs, making more money, you couldn't have a better economic adviser that Bill Clinton. If Donald Trump wants to attack Bill Clinton in his economic record, I'd say bring it on.

TAPPER: Very quick question. Bill Clinton, net positive or net negative for Hillary Clinton?

HAM: It's hard to say. She wants to have it both ways. She wants to have that moderate economic policy shift sort of standing there but also to woo these Bernie folks. And on the other hand, she wants the positives of his personality and all that, and she ain't going to get those clean with Trump as the nominee because he will go at everything Bill Clinton brings to the table.

TAPPER: Indeed.

Mary Katharine, Paul Begala, thank you so much.

ISIS raising the stakes in Iraq, launching a deadly attack in Baghdad. This as the Iraqi army prepares to fight back on another front.

Then, the head of a veterans charity driving around in a Rolls Royce when just a fraction of the charity's money actually made it to veterans. And this story gets even worse.

Stay with us.


[16:25:43] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Time now for our world.

Several ISIS suicide bombers stormed a gas plant outside of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least ten people. Sunday's violence just the latest in a series of escalating attacks carried out by the terrorist group in and around Iraqi capital.

Let's get right to CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon. She is live in Istanbul, Turkey.

Arwa, how exactly was this attack carried out?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it clearly was very well-planned and then executed. ISIS initially launching a suicide car bomber at one of the main entrances of that gas plant and then launching in that wave of suicide bombers.

Now, the Iraqi security forces did manage to repel the attack and maintain control of the gas tank itself but the fighting did cause major damage. And we have seeing, Jake, this upped effort on the part of infrastructure to go after key infrastructure, to go after soft targets, civilian population in mostly Shia areas, perhaps someone argued as an attempt to draw the Iraqi security forces away from the other front lines where they have been battling ISIS, because the Iraqi government is very well aware of the fact that it does need to continue to secure the population in Baghdad, the capital, and also continue to secure arguably up its efforts, Jake, to try to protect these key infrastructures.

TAPPER: Arwa, the Iraqi military launched an operation on Monday to retake the western town of al-Rutba in Anbar province from ISIS. How significant would that be if that happened?

DAMON: It would definitely sever one of ISIS key logistical route into Anbar province. That is just to the west of the capital of Baghdad. Al-Rutba is located very close to the Jordanian border and the Iraqi security forces have really been concentrating their efforts on trying to clear Anbar province of ISIS. They have managed to regain solid chunks of territory but areas like al-Rutba, but also the city of Fallujah, the al-Qaim border crossing, those still stay in ISIS control or are in is control at this stage.

But if they were able to capture al-Rutba, they most certainly be able to at least say that they managed to cut off a key logistical ISIS supply route. But when talking about all of these, Jake, one really needs to be a bit cautious when it comes to terminology like winning or losing and defeating ISIS because we know only too week, looking at Iraq's history, looking at ISIS's history, that it is an entity that constantly reorganizes itself and morphs depending on the threat that it is facing.

TAPPER: All right. Arwa Damon, thanks so much. Stay safe.

It's a charity meant to help veterans that brings in millions of dollars. But when CNN tried to ask the head of the charity why only 2 percent went to veterans -- well, he drove away in a Rolls Royce.

Stay with us.