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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump and Elizabeth Warren Trade Shots; US Infrastructure Examined; Trump's Tough Talk: Is It Part Of Strategy?; How Trump Uses Persuasion Skills On Campaign Trail; GOP Politician With Transgender Son: "Talk To Your Child". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 25, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Now that he has sewn up the Republican nomination, Donald Trump is dropping all pretense. He's kissing the fannies of the poor, misunderstood Wall Street bankers.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Their war of words on Twitter escalating again today.

"If Donald Trump actually believes every stupid lie he reads on the Internet, we're in for a truckload of trouble if he's president."

He often shoots back like this. "Goofy Elizabeth Warren didn't have the guts to run for POTUS. Her phony Native American heritage stops that and V.P. cold."

Attacking Warren's heritage is a central theme, as he did Tuesday night in Albuquerque.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did you ever hear of Pocahontas, huh? It's Pocahontas, Elizabeth Warren.

ZELENY: Her Native American ancestry caused an uproar in her Massachusetts race, with critics saying she tried passing herself off as a minority to get ahead at Harvard.

She struggled to prove her family ties, finally expressing regret for not handling it well.

WARREN: Let's have that debate.

ZELENY: Warren, one of the most popular faces of the Democratic Party, is now intent on taking down Trump.

WARREN: Let's face it. Donald Trump is about exactly one thing: Donald Trump.

ZELENY: Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And our thanks to Jeff Zeleny for that report. Are there roads and bridges on which you drive safe? One reports Americans drive over structurally deficient bridges more than 200 million times a day -- a look at the hidden and potentially hidden deadly danger across our nation next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:36:11]

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

Before I get into this next story, I would like to thank the federal government for helping in its own special way to promote the CNN documentary series "The Eighties."

The '80s are, after all, one of the decades the feds are living in when it comes to the technology they're currently using. A new report today by the Government Accountability Office says that federal agencies are in some cases relying on I.T. systems dating back more than 50 years.

So, how much does it cost to maintain such relics? That is today's segment, "America's Debt & the Economy,."

The president has requested a cool $89 billion for IT costs next year, much of it reportedly slated for maintenance of very outdated legacy systems. According to the report, the Pentagon system used to coordinate operations for ballistic missiles and other nuclear forces, that system uses eight-inch floppy disks.

That's right, eight-inch floppy disks. And that's one of the newer systems in this report. The Department of Veterans Affairs apparently tracks benefits claims and payroll on IBM mainframes that use code from the 1950s.

Many of these agencies do have plans to upgrade. So, maybe we will have Nintendo Game Boys controlling our nukes by the next presidential election.

Turning to our buried lead now, Memorial Day traditionally marks the start of the summer driving system. According to AAA, more than 30 million of you will travel more than 50 miles this weekend, many perhaps spurred by near record-low gas prices.

No matter where you're going, the beach or the countryside, you will likely drive over a bridge at some point. And while you're on that bridge, try not to think about the terrifying state of our nation's aging highway infrastructure.

CNN's Rene Marsh is here to kick off a new four-part investigative series on our crumbling infrastructure.

And, Rene, for your first story, you investigated several bridges across the country, and you found a troubling trend, I think it's fair to say. RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It's fair to say. Not in

good shape, many of these bridges. We're talking about 204 million times a day Americans are driving over nearly 60,000 bridges that are in desperate need of repair.

We're talking about major deterioration, cracks and other flaws that reduce its ability to support vehicles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): Sixty-eight thousand vehicles cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge between D.C. and Virginia every day. This is what drivers don't see.

JENNY ANZELMO-SARLES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: It's just eroding and the concrete is falling off.

MARSH (on camera): We have to wear masks and gloves inside of the bridge, because this paint is all lead paint. Now, this beam is helping to support the bridge. And if you take a look, it is badly corroded. And you see how thin that steel is. You can see holes in the steel.

(voice-over): The original support beams from 1932 have never been replaced.

RAY LAHOOD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: We're like a Third World country when it comes to infrastructure.

MARSH: Federal spending on infrastructure has declined 9 percent from 2003 to 2014. Every state has some degree of bad bridges that need to be repaired, from Los Angeles, where trees are growing out of cracks in this bridge, to Chicago, where netting is in place to protect drivers from falling concrete.

LAHOOD: The reason we have 57,000 deficient bridges is because we have not made the investment as a national government.

MARSH: Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood blames Congress for failing to raise the gas tax in 23 years, which funds projects like bridges and roads.

(on camera): Have you been against raising the tax because it's just bad politics?

REP. BILL SHUSTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: First of all, the economy hasn't been great. Raising the gas tax doesn't solve the long-term funding problem.

[16:40:05]

MARSH: As Congress tries to figure out this long-term solution, bridges are crumbling. So, what do we do right now?

SHUSTER: Our bill, the FAST Act, which we passed in December, the president signed into law, we put more dollars into focusing on the critical infrastructure.

MARSH (voice-over): His Republican colleague disagrees.

REP. JIM RENACCI (R), OHIO: It's funded for five years, but we used 10 years worth of gimmicks to pay for it. These are the kind of things that don't make sense.

MARSH: Anthony Foxx is the current head of the Department of Transportation.

(on camera): But isn't everyone guilty? I mean, when Democrats were in control of Congress, this situation is what it is today as well.

ANTHONY FOXX, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: I think every year we go by, the challenge gets that much greater, and that's why we don't have another moment to waste.

MARSH:(voice-over): Researchers at the University of Michigan believe they may have a solution, a bendable concrete that can heal itself from cracks.

VICTOR LI, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: How about if we set our targets towards creating infrastructures that will last 100 years?

MARSH: Regular concrete can fail quickly and suddenly. But professor Victor Li says the bendable concrete can withstand a force hundreds of times more powerful.

This sped-up video shows how it responds to pressure. Cracks heal themselves with the help of air and water. The technology lines portions of this bridge in Michigan. The hope is, it could help already crumbling bridges like the Memorial Bridge near the nation's capital.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: Well, that bridge will be shut down in five years if it doesn't get the $250 million needed for repairs.

And a lack of funding to fix these crumbling bridges is an issue we are seeing nationwide. We do want to point out, although they are in bad condition, they are making sure that they are monitoring them very closely, inspecting them to make sure that there are no deadly collapses.

The professor that you saw in the piece there, he was just in Washington, D.C., meeting with the Department of Defense, talking about his research for that bendable concrete. It just goes to show, even though it's in the research phase, it's got the attention of the federal government.

TAPPER: All right, Rene Marsh, thanks so much.

And for more on this story, please visit CNNPolitics.com. Be sure tune in for the rest of Rene's series all this week right here on CNN. Ten states taking the federal government to court over the transgender

bathroom controversy -- why the attorneys general claim the White House is out of line.

And then Donald Trump has not been one to say sorry after insulting people. "Dilbert" comic strip creator Scott Adams, who has studied Trump's linguistic kill shots, explains why Trump should never apologize.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's getting a little rowdy in Anaheim, California where Donald Trump just wrapped up his speaking engagement. There are some Trump supporters decked out in Trump and "Make America Great Again" clothing. They are now marching towards the protesters who are anti-Donald Trump.

While all of this is going on, we should note the larger political story going on, which is that there are a number of Republican officials here in Washington, D.C., who are waiting for presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, to change his tone in the way he campaigns.

And they might be waiting a very long time as Trump told "The New York Times, quote, "You win the pennants and now you're in the World Series. You going to change? People like the way I'm doing."

Of course, appealing to Republican voters is not the same as winning over the general election electorate. One Trump analyst predicts, however, that Trump will never apologize or change because this is all part of his master persuasion strategy.

Let's now talk to this analyst, Scott Adams, who is the creator of the comic strip "Dilbert" and expert on persuasions. Scott, good to see you as always.

So last night, Trump was in New Mexico and while there, he attacked the sitting Republican Governor Susana Martinez, who has not endorsed him and has been critical of his tone. Take a listen to Mr. Trump last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to get your governor to get going. She's got to do a better job. OK? Your governor has got to do a better job. She's not doing the job. Hey, maybe I'll run for governor of New Mexico. I'll get this place going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Susana Martinez is chair of the Republican Governor's Association. This is a time where everybody should be coming together and coalescing around Donald Trump. Do you think this is a wise tactic?

SCOTT ADAMS, CARTOONIST: Yes, it's probably wise. First of all, anytime you attack a professional politician, people think, well, I don't like professional politicians either. But the thing that Trump always does, which is a genius part of persuasion, he makes the biggest difference between being his friend and being his enemy.

And he makes sure that you know that difference. If you're a Chris Christie, you're a great guy now. I love you. Chris Christie is a great guy. If you're not going to endorse him, well, maybe you're not so great.

You know, look at Paul Ryan. I think the only thing that keeps him from a Donald Trump nickname is he used the word yet. Haven't endorsed him yet. That's the only thing protecting him, probably.

TAPPER: Earlier this week, Mr. Trump seemed to lend credence to a long ago discredited conspiracy theory about the friend of the Clintons being murdered. Mr. Trump traffics in conspiracy theories, whether about Obama's birth certificate or Justice Scalia's death. Is there an appeal in that? Is there a method to that?

ADAMS: Yes, I think he does it because it works. If you go to a jury trial and somebody says here is the accused, your brain is already saying, well, accused. They probably did something.

Now it's not the quite the same politics, but if you hear a Clinton and murder in the same sentence enough, that stuff starts to conflate in your brain and you say, well, I haven't heard any details that would prove that to be true, but I don't like those two things swirling around together.

So it's an effective way to keep your opponent off guard and it probably picks up a few people who are going to believe it.

TAPPER: You also think that Trump's potential rival, Hillary Clinton, is failing at persuading voters. And your criticism starts with her campaign signs.

ADAMS: Yes, my favorite persuasion failure on the Clinton side was the slogan, "love Trumps hate."

[16:50:02]Now if you're a lawyer and you're campaign is run by another lawyer, it makes perfect sense. The sentence makes sense and says what you wanted to say. But if you're a persuader and you've done a little bit of persuading, you know, that there is a psychological rule that says people hear the first part of the sentence.

They put more weight on it and they forget the second part and the first part is literally love Trump in very big letters. So in terms of persuasion, that's as hard as you can fail.

TAPPER: And one last note, you generously invited me to guest and illustrate a week worth of "Dilbert" comic strips, they are running right now on newspaper and on online. We are auctioning off the originals in eBay to benefit the charity, Homes for our Troops.

I've seen a lot of Scott Adams' fans criticizing my artwork. What kind of reaction have you received on our collaborate adventure? ADAMS: Well, I might be giving the opposite kind of reaction. It was mostly I'm hearing from people who say it was a huge mistake because you're a better artist than I am. I've heard you compared to (inaudible). I was hoping people would be craving my return to drawing the thing, but it's not working out the way I planned, but thank you for doing that.

TAPPER: I think you have a lot of fans waiting for your return. Scott Adams, thanks, as always. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:25]

TAPPER: We have some breaking news in our National Lead. Officials from 11 states are now suing the Obama administration over the federal guidance which instructs public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom for the gender with which they identify.

But amidst this new battle in the culture wars, one Republican is breaking away from her party, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, speaking out publicly in support of transgender rights which directly affect her son.

I want to bring in Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and her son, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen. Thank you both for joining me. Appreciate it.

So Congresswoman, you and your family released a public service announcement defending transgender rights. Here's a quick clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONGRESSWOMAN ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Every transgender person is part of someone's family and should be treated with compassion and protected from discrimination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is this PSA in some ways your reaction to North Carolina's controversial bathroom law, which requires transgender individuals to use the bathrooms assigned to the gender on their birth certificate as opposed to how they identify?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, that was purely by chance. We taped these public service announcements about two or three months before all of this controversy, but I'm glad it came out at this time because this is not about bathroom stalls and who goes where.

This is about family acceptance. This is about talking to your child, about being accepted and loved and the theme of our message that was done by a group of (inaudible) named Stave (ph).

It's about family is everything and we did it, Jake, in Spanish as well to let people know talk to your child and whether your child is gay or lesbian or trans, I know that it's a shock at first but with communication, that child has got to know that he or she is loved.

TAPPER: Congresswoman, one mother of a transgender child in North Carolina said that the number of phone calls to suicide hotlines for LGBT children has doubled since the so-called bathroom bill passed. What kind of advice do you offer to parents with transgender children having gone through this experience yourself?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, it's a shock and it gets some getting used to. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. But as Rigo has told us so many times and we've read the literature, Jake, 60 percent of transgender youth are ostracized from their family.

Not because they want to be but because their family has literally thrown them out the door. That leads to a life of isolation and suicide and drug use and gang violence and not being part of a family, well, this is our social structure for American society, to belong, to belong to our family, belong to our community.

So I encourage parents to talk to your child, to accept and love. And you don't want your child -- we were fearful of Rodrigo's safety. All of these folks are saying, we're worried about kids going to the bathrooms.

No, we were the ones that were worried about Rodrigo having some acts of violence against him because people were not accepting. But people have a kind heart and we're an accepting society. Change is hard. But I think that together we can prove that we come together as a family and we come together as a community and a nation.

TAPPER: Rodrigo, what did you say to your mother and father when you decided to tell them your feelings about this, how you truly identified?

RODRIGO HENG-LEHTINEN, LGBT RIGHTS ADVOCATE: Well, I was terrified to tell them. I've been very fortunate that I come from a loving home. My parents were always very clear with my siblings and I are their love was unconditional.

And yet, our society is so hostile towards transgender people that I was still terrified to tell them. I had packed a bag and was ready to live outside the home. I didn't know if I would be welcome back. I think that's heartbreaking.

It's not something any parent wants to think about their child having to experience. Thankfully they did accept me and we're here to say this shouldn't be an uncommon experience. This should be a no-brainer that we love our family no matter what. Family is everything and that doesn't have to change just because somebody is transgender.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Look, Jake, we still might throw him out. He's a bum. If he doesn't clean his room, he's out of there but for totally different reasons.

TAPPER: Rodrigo and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thanks for having us.

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, scathing report, sharp criticism of Hillary Clinton from a government watchdog, the lengthy report --