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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Hillary, Bernie Split Primaries; Trump Unveils Potential Supreme Court Nominees; Sanders to DNC: "Let the People In". Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired May 18, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump releasing the short list for what could be the biggest hire of his life.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Breaking news: Donald Trump releasing a list of possible Supreme Court nominees. Will it please all those passionate conservative supporters who got him this far?
The underdog gunning for a bruising fight in Rocky's home town. After another nail-biting primary night, today, Bernie Sanders telling party bosses he's going to take his fight all the way to Philadelphia.
Plus, President Obama standing with the Saudi royal family against the families of the 9/11 victims. While the Senate votes unanimously to allow victims and families the right to sue Saudi Arabia, what's the reason for the president's position?
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
TAPPER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Donald Trump giving 11 answers to one of the biggest question marks of this campaign thus far. Just whom would he consider nominating to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court? Minutes ago, Trump published a list of 11 names of conservative judges and lawyers he sits fit to help set the judicial agenda of this nation for potentially decades.
The issue of filling Scalia's seat, of course, supercharged the Republican primary. Senator Ted Cruz ran this ad during the primary, saying Trump could not be trusted with the responsibility of nominating a justice who would likely help decide cases dealing with abortion rights, same-sex marriage, religious liberty, the president's health care law, immigration, basically every single hot-button issue in the country.
Now, we have no indication right now whether this list of potential Supreme Court picks is comprehensive. Given Mr. Trump's penchant for improvisation, he could very well consider someone not on the list released today, but he did release this list. And the big question, will it appease conservatives?
Let's bring in CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeffrey, what is your take on this list? What do you think of these names?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They are a conservative dream team. This is a list that is designed to appeal to the Cruz wing of the party.
I think if President Cruz were to have taken office, this is a list very similar to the one that he would have come up with. There is not a moderate on this list. These are all very respectable, eminent judges. There are no lemons. There are no people who have ethical problems on the list.
It's a list of very conservative, very accomplished judges.
TAPPER: And the response on Capitol Hill has been very positive from Republicans. Senator John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, called the list reassuring.
Do you think that those conservatives out there who have been skeptical of Donald Trump and his actual conservative bona fides will find this reassuring as well?
TOOBIN: On this issue, absolutely.
This is a list that would please any serious conservative, because this is not a list of moderates designed to appeal to the base. This is not a John Roberts list. This is a Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia list.
Now, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett is on the Trump list. He's a frequent tweeter.
TOOBIN: Tweeter, yes.
TAPPER: I follow him on Twitter.
TOOBIN: So do I.
TAPPER: And he previously tweeted this: "Who would the Donald name to SCOTUS, Supreme Court of the United States? The mind reels, weeps. Can't tweet."
Just based on that tweet, it's fairly remarkable that he would be on this list. He has done other tweets critical of Mr. Trump. I guess either they didn't vet or they didn't care.
TOOBIN: Well, I think the argument is they didn't care. It's an interesting list. There are people there who have different
backgrounds. Diane Sykes on the Seventh Circuit is married to Charlie Sykes, who is a very big radio talk show host in Milwaukee who was very critical of Donald Trump during the Milwaukee primary, big Ted Cruz backer.
Judge Thomas Lee on the Supreme Court of Utah is the brother of Senator Mike Lee, who is Ted Cruz's closest ally in the Senate. I mean, each name has an appeal to the base of the Republican Party. And I have to believe they are going to be pleased.
TAPPER: And that also does say something, one would think positive, about his attempts to unify the party, if he's bringing in people who have been critical of him or are connected to people who have been critical of him.
TOOBIN: Well, yes, but not to the moderates in the party, to the extent they still exist.
They, I don't think, will be pleased by this list, but certainly the conservatives who have been a big problem for Donald Trump, you know, the -- that's where the third-party talk has been most loud -- they will be pleased by this list. And it's going to be, I think, part of the consolidating that he's trying to do with the party.
TAPPER: Fascinating. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
TOOBIN: All right.
TAPPER: Trump's Supreme Court list comes as the presumptive nominee tries to reach out to party establishment figures on foreign policy. He just arrived for a meeting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He arrived at Kissinger's home -- you're looking at live pictures right now -- in Manhattan about an hour ago.
It was only four months ago when Kissinger criticized Trump's idea to ban Muslims from entering the United States until we -- quote -- "figure out just what the hell is going on."
Is Trump now, right now, this minute, getting advice? You're seeing Mr. Trump, I think, walking out. There he is, waving to the cameras. This is live, leaving Henry Kissinger's house. Is this an example of him trying to mend a relationship? Only a fly on the wall knows the true conversation that just happened in this private meeting.
It comes as Trump is raising yet more eyebrows after saying he would like to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. One could only imagine what Henry Kissinger thought of that.
Let's bring in Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's also an active-duty major in the Air National Guard. He is currently not committed to endorsing the presumptive Republican nominee, not yet anyway. That's where he is. (CROSSTALK)
TAPPER: Now, Congressman Kinzinger, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: You bet, Jake. Thanks.
TAPPER: So, you have that Trump, in your view, has a violent tone and doesn't reflect Republican values. You have said his foreign policy comments will make our enemies fear us less. Today, he's meeting with Kissinger. He just met with him. Last week, he met, or spoke with at least, another former secretary of state, James Baker.
Do you think he's getting the kind of advice that he needs and realizing that there are people like you maybe have a point to make when it comes to his foreign policy approach?
KINZINGER: Yes, I hope so.
Look, I can tell you, if he gave Henry Kissinger the opportunity to speak, he's definitely going to hear a little bit about how the world works. My concern has been with the outlandish statements.
So, just a couple of days ago, says we're not going to have a great relationship with David Cameron, obviously, of course, later walked that back. But then when Vladimir Putin says something nice about him, he says, we're going to have a great relationship with the Russians and Vladimir Putin.
So, I have been critical of President Obama saying, look, our enemies don't trust -- or don't fear us and our allies don't trust us. Well, that's exactly what Donald Trump is advocating, the same mistrust and the same lack of fear.
So, it's a concern. I am not a never Trump guy. I want to support the Republican nominee. But I have been out here fighting for strong American values for six years. And I'm not about to give that up.
TAPPER: What did you make of his willingness expressed in an interview with Reuters yesterday, his willingness to meet with Kim Jong-un?
KINZINGER: Look, I just -- you know, populism -- he's a populist. Populism may work and maybe it's beneficial. But you don't meet with a dictator like Kim Jong-un. All you do is, you feed into him at that point, you strengthen him. You put him in a better position.
This is why I'm hoping Donald Trump is meeting with smart people on foreign policy that say, look, the reality is, Donald, you may have good intentions, I don't know, but you don't meet with dictators of recluse countries like North Korea that talked about wanting to basically nuke the United States. That's ludicrous.
And so, look, at the end of the day, hopefully, these meetings work. But I want to see a guy that is worthy of the job of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. And I just haven't seen that. TAPPER: You wrote in a CNN op-ed today -- quote -- "Simply put, a narcissistic foreign policy that sees our role in the world as of that an aloof mercenary nation, rather than a leader, is both dangerous and misguided."
And at the same time, as just said a few seconds ago, you would like to support Donald Trump one day. Do you think that's possible?
KINZINGER: I think it's possible. This is on Donald Trump. He's the one that has to unite the party now. He's running for president. He has to get to 51 percent of the votes. It's on him.
I have legitimate concerns. And, look, the idea that the only way we're going to defend people in the world is if they pay us to do it. We're not a mercenary unit. We don't run a mafia protection ring where we extort you for money or we leave.
The reality is, being involved in the world is to our benefit as well. There's a reason we have troops in South Korea. There's a reason we're a member of NATO. We never could have taken down the Soviet Union without it. And NATO has been engaged in the war on terror pretty intently since 9/11.
So are there ways we can look at alliances we have? Sure. But this idea that you're either going to pay us or we're going to go home makes good politics. Right? It makes for cheering crowds, but it's dangerous, and the next generation of Americans are going to have to put on a uniform to clean up this mess.
TAPPER: You recently got back from a trip to the Middle East. The world leaders and the local leaders that you spoke with, what did they say, if anything, about Donald Trump?
KINZINGER: Well, first off, they were very upset with this current administration.
They feel like they're being left behind. They feel like the president, you know, is making deals with Iran and turning their backs on other traditional allies. But they were also very worried about Donald Trump's comments.
The idea of a Muslim ban, again, it maybe -- make great politics, it may cause cheering crowds, but just a couple weeks ago, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates dealt a huge blow to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who have attacked Americans.
That's now work that American troops don't have to do. We have to use these moderate Muslim friends as among our best allies in the war on terror, because we can't do this alone. And comments like that are hurtful to those alliances.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you, as always. Good to see you, sir.
KINZINGER: You bet. Take care, Jake. See you.
TAPPER: Raucous rallies, accusations of a rigged party system, and claims the candidate is misleading supporters, if you think we're talking about the Republican race for president, think again. This is the race for the Democrat nomination.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Members of the establishment have called his campaign supporters misogynistic. Some in the media have accused the candidate of lying to supporters about having the nomination stolen. And the campaign has answered these charges by blaming the national party for trying to rig the process.
Now, if I were saying this all a few weeks ago, you would think that I was talking about Donald Trump.
[16:15:01] But actually I'm talking about the other New Yorker running for president, the one clamoring for a floor fight in Philadelphia, Senator Bernie Sanders, who said this last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I say to the leadership of the Democratic Party -- open the doors, let the people in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny is in San Jose, California, covering the Sanders campaign.
And, Jeff, Sanders last night after winning the Oregon primary by about nine points, he seemed to be suggesting that nominating him would be letting the people in and opening doors to the Democratic Party and nominating Hillary Clinton would be pursing a, quote, "sad and tragic option."
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, that gets to the heart of this all. I mean, it's important to keep in mind, Bernie Sanders is a new Democrat. In fact, he joined the party simply to run for president. Many of his supporters are not keen on following these old tried and true rules of the system. That's what's coming headlong here, the establishment and Bernie Sanders.
You can see the crowd behind me here. They are waiting for him to take the stage. He's taking the stage and this is what's at stake.
SANDERS: We are in until the last ballot is cast!
ZELENY: Tonight, the question for Bernie Sanders is what comes after those ballots are cast.
SANDERS: The Democratic Party is going to have to make a very, very profound and important decision.
ZELENY: He's frustrated at the Democratic Party and the feeling is mutual.
SANDERS: It can do the right thing and open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change.
ZELENY: A split decision in Tuesday's primaries, Sanders winning Oregon but narrowly losing Kentucky to Hillary Clinton and Democrats anxious to join forces and take on Donald Trump suddenly seem more divided than ever.
SANDERS: Now, some people say that we've got a steep hill to climb to do that and that is absolutely true.
ZELENY: This is why -- Clinton is only 88 delegates away from clinching the nomination. Sanders needs nearly 10 times as many delegates and superdelegates, more than are on the table in the remaining contests.
But that hasn't stopped Sanders from going hard after Clinton.
SANDERS: Before we will have the opportunity to defeat Donald Trump, we're going to have to defeat Secretary Clinton.
ZELENY: He's loudly challenging her on one issue after another, particularly how she raises money.
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton has a number of super PACs.
ZELENY: The tensions are spilling over across the Democratic Party, the chaotic scene at the Nevada state convention last weekend still reverberating.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein telling CNN's Manu Raju today that she worries about violence at the party's convention this summer in Philadelphia.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It worries me a great deal. You know, I don't want to go back to the '68 convention because I worry about what it does to the electorate as a whole and he should, too.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much.
ZELENY: She and other Clinton supporters increasingly calling out Sanders for not controlling his supporters. The Sanders campaign believes they have been mistreated by the Democratic establishment, particularly party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We can have a long
conversation just about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and how she's been throwing shade on the Sanders campaign since the very beginning.
ZELENY: Wasserman Schultz tried to put a good face on it all today with Wolf Blitzer, making clear the party needs Sanders army in the general election.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: I agree. Bernie Sanders should stay in the race. It's what I've said all along, until the last vote is counted.
ZELENY: But many of those Sanders supporters say they just aren't sure the party will come together.
(on camera): Do you think Hillary Clinton can unite the party?
ANGEL HUIPIO, SANDERS SUPPORTER: I don't think so honestly.
ZELENY: Why not?
HUIPIO: I know a lot of people who would, even if she gets the candidacy, would refuse to vote for her because they do not believe in anything that she stands for, they think she's two-faced, a liar, and they would rather vote for someone else or do a write-in ballot, they say Bernie or bust.
ZELENY: So, Jake, you can hear the crowd behind me right here now, chanting for Bernie Sanders. He is counting on these 475 delegates in California on June 7th to give a final message to Democrats that he should be taken seriously. The question is, what he does next when the math simply doesn't work out for him as it doesn't look like it will -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in California, thanks so much.
Joining me now is Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver.
Jeff, thanks so much for being here.
WEAVER: Happy to be here, Jake. Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: So, Jeff, we've seen the pictures of chaos and we've heard the condemnation of violence and angry rhetoric. But let's get to the substance of what Sanders supporters are upset about in Nevada, that provoked that reaction. What happened?
[16:20:02] WEAVER: Well, what happened, Jake, is that the chairwoman and the party establishment in Nevada, strong arm the process, they started off the convention by passing a set of temporary rules that aren't normally in place over the objections of the people and there was a voice vote which they lost. They proceeded anyway. Senator Nina Turner, who you know was a supporter of our campaign, was
actually in the room. Her accounts of what went on were pretty incredible and very undemocratic with a small D process going on there, a lot of strong arming. People got very frustrated.
TAPPER: I want to you take a listen to what CNN political commentator Van Jones had to say just a few minutes ago about DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's comments last night about the Nevada incident, which she condemned Bernie Sanders for adding fuel to the fire.
Take a listen to Van Jones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You may have a leadership failure in both lanes of the party, and Debbie who should be the umpire, who should be the marriage counselor, is coming in harder for Hillary Clinton than she is for herself. That is malpractice. I wish Reince Priebus was my party chair. He did a better job of handling the Trump situation than I've seen my party chair handled this situation. I'm ashamed to say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I assume you agree?
WEAVER: I'd say amen to that. Van Jones has it exactly right.
You know, the role of the party chair -- you know, ours are going to have primaries in a party, in a major party, and there's going to be disagreements and sometimes it's going to get a little sharp elbows and the duty of the party chair is to really, as he said, to be the umpire, to look out for the greater good of the party and not to come into the situation and basically squirt gasoline all over the flames.
TAPPER: What do you make of your critics in the Democratic Party who say that the tone and the tenor and anger coming from your supporters and some of the misogyny and some of the accusations, and in their view, things that sound like threats make Bernie Sanders supporters in this day and age, some of them, obviously not all of them, some of them seem like Trump supporters?
WEAVER: Well, obviously, there were a few people who engaged in conduct which we absolutely condemn, and have condemned. The senator has condemned it. It's not acceptable to use threats or to use vulgarities, but there's a tremendous amount of frustration out there and people want to have a fair process. That's what they are asking for in Nevada. They just wanted to have a fair process, have the votes, allow their motions on the floor to be offered, as are often the case in the conventions, have votes on them. If they win, they win. If they lose, they lose.
But when you shut down the process so that you can strong-arm it, it obviously creates a tremendous amount of frustration, particularly from people in Nevada, for instance, who have seen a series of these types of things happening, including at the Clark County Convention recently where the party almost had its own credentials chair arrested for being too fair to the Bernie people.
So, you know, this is a history there, Jake. It's not just to one incident. So, all anybody is asking for is fairness, have an open process. If you win you win, if you lose, you lose. But let's have a fair process. Let's not -- let's not put our fingers on the scale, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz has. Let's have the people decide.
TAPPER: What do you make of the people who say Senator Sanders message in his press statement last night and in his actual statement last night should have been more uniformly focused on condemning violence and threats and ugly rhetoric instead of saying I condemn that, but the people have a right to be angry and going on and on about that. There are those who say that that mixed message is a problem.
WEAVER: Well, it's not mixed at all. People have a right to be angry in this country. Across the country with Senator Sanders, I know many people from CNN have as well, there are people out there who are angry. I'll tell you, losing their jobs, they can't afford to send their kids to college, they can't afford their health care, they lost their job in the great recession.
So, there are angry people out there and people want real change. But what they want is a fair process. If you're going to say to people, look, on substance, you're going to get what you want to and, you know what else, you're not even going to get a chance to really articulate your views, you're going to create anger in people.
You know, what went on in Nevada, obviously the booing and the cat calling, a lot of that was uncalled for. But these claims of violence are -- I don't see any violence that happened in that room. Senator Nina Turner who was in the room said no violence occurred when she was there. There are widely spread news reports about chairs being thrown. There's absolutely no video of that anywhere, which there would be.
But, you know, a number of news agencies, I don't know if CNN has been doing it, but others have been doing it. "The New York Times" certainly erroneously printed it.
You know, this is all good fodder for media coverage but a lot of it is divorced really from reality.
TAPPER: So, you're saying that those individuals in the Nevada Democratic Party who say they feared for their life or they felt threatened, that they are making it up?
WEAVER: No. Look, if you received -- if people received phone calls that were inappropriate, we absolutely condemn that 100 percent. The senator has condemned it.
[16:25:00] I've condemned it. The whole campaign condemns it. But in that room, you know, if you talk to -- I was not in the room. Senator Nina Turner was in the room. She said no one went on the stage. No one had a right to feel threatened. You know, what happens is that when you rig the process and you get an
angry crowd, you know, they're not used to that, because what has happened is that a lot of new people have come into the process, and that's a healthy thing for the Democratic Party to have a lot of new people, young people coming into the process, Democratically aligned independents coming into the process.
And, you know, some of these party leaders are used to dealing with the same old group of people who go along to get along. Well, the new people are motivated it by change and don't feel right when they're excluded in that way.
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Weaver from the Sanders campaign, thanks so much. Good to see you.
WEAVER: Thanks, Jake. Appreciate it.
TAPPER: Sticking with our politics lead. Donald Trump talking about dodging taxes in a book published by his allegedly shady university. Could that be the reason why Trump will not show us his tax returns?
Then, a 9/11 widow speaks about President Obama threatening to veto legislation that would allow her and other families to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for its possible role in that horrible day.