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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Republican Party Disharmony?; Hillary Poised to Become Presumptive Nominee; Sources: Obama to Ready to Endorse Clinton; State Department Holding Clinton Emails Until After Election. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 6, 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 HOST: The big question: Isn't prejudging judges based solely on their race, ethnicity or religion, isn't that, by definition, prejudiced?
THE LEAD starts right now.
With just weeks until Donald Trump officially becomes the Republican nominee, increasing blowback from Republicans from his comments about the Mexican heritage of the judge presiding over his Trump University case. And now even a possible running mate says Trump may have gone too far.
The math suggests it will be very tough for Bernie Sanders to win, but Sanders tells me a lot can happen before the convention. Was that a flare to the FBI investigation?
Plus, the tone-deaf plea that a rapist shouldn't have to pay such a steep price for -- quote -- "20 minutes of action." Why did a college athlete found guilty get just six months for raping an unconscious woman?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Donald Trump once again roiling the Republican Party establishment, digging in on a heated, inflammatory attack, namely his argument that a judge's Mexican heritage makes him inherently unable to be a fair judge a case involving Trump since Trump wants to build that wall at the Mexican border.
Now, never mind the district judge court, Gonzalo Curiel, has never expressed an opinion on the wall publicly or that before a Republican governor appointed him to the bench, then Assistant U.S. Attorney Curiel had to live under tight security after taking on a Mexican drug cartel.
Republican officials of all stripes are strongly condemning Trump's words just six weeks before he officially becomes their standard- bearer at the Republican Party Convention in Cleveland.
CNN politics reporter Sara Murray joins me now.
And, Sara, Marco Rubio the latest high-profile Republican to take on Trump's comments.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.
And he's talking the same tone that we're seeing from other high- profile Republicans, slamming what Donald Trump has had to say, saying it reflects badly on the party, it reflects badly on our nation. He even went so far as to say, "I ran for president and warned this was going to happen."
But, of course, if you think Donald Trump is backing away from these comments whatsoever, think again. Even in the face of all of this criticism, he's sticking by his critique of the judge.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.
MURRAY (voice-over): GOP leaders are rushing to distance themselves from Donald Trump, the backlash brewing after his ongoing attacks against a judge with Mexican heritage.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I couldn't disagree more with what he had to say.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I completely disagree with the thinking behind that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very disturbing.
MURRAY: As usual, Trump is doubling down, telling Jake Tapper U.S. district Judge Gonzalo Curiel should be recused from a lawsuit involving the now-defunct Trump University, saying Curiel is biased based on his heritage.
TRUMP: case. This is a case that should have ended.
This judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now I say why. Well, I want to -- I'm building a wall, OK? And it's a wall between Mexico, not another country, and...
TAPPER: But he's not -- he's not from Mexico. He's from Indiana.
TRUMP: In my opinion -- he is -- his Mexican -- Mexican heritage. And he's very proud of it.
TAPPER: If you are saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?
TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all.
MURRAY: Trump telling CBS a Muslim judge may also be biased towards him because of his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: If it were a Muslim judge, would you also feel like they wouldn't be able to treat you fairly because of that policy of yours?
TRUMP: It's possible, yes. Yes. That would be possible, absolutely.
MURRAY: Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who some view as a potential V.P. pick, says Trump went too far.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is one of the worst mistakes Trump made. And I think it's inexcusable.
MURRAY: All as Trump says he's been taken aback by the party's response.
TRUMP: As far as Newt is concerned, I saw Newt. I was surprised at Newt. I thought it was inappropriate, what he said.
MURRAY: Still, some in the GOP are holding out hope Trump will tone it down as the primary season officially winds down this week.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: He's talking with people all around the country that are experts in this regard. And I think they know that they are in a place where this campaign has to evolve.
MURRAY: Now, one of the sentiments right now is, in Donald Trump's own campaign, is, you really can't get him to change his tone, to change his tenor.
But, Jake, this is supposed to be a moment of unity for the Republican Party. Tomorrow is the last set of GOP primaries. And instead we're seeing some of the leaders openly disagreeing with the GOP nominee, an insane time for politics.
TAPPER: Except, of course, that they will all fall firmly in line and endorse him and get behind him at the Republican Convention.
Sara Murray, thank you so much.
The CNN investigative team is digging into documents from another Trump University investigation, this time in Texas. In 2010, the state attorney general there accused Trump University of using deceptive practices to recruit and train students.
And while vociferously denying all of the allegations against Trump University, Trump's lawyer acknowledges in those documents that Trump personally signed off on the course materials.
CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin joins me now live from Austin, Texas.
Drew, what are you finding in these materials?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, that what was going on here in Texas in 2010 was very serious, that Trump University and Donald Trump himself were under intense investigation, and that Donald Trump not only knew it at the time, Jake, but he also knew he was facing potentially millions of dollars in fines and restitution.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): It was a serious enough investigation that the state of Texas attorney general's office were seeking $5.4 million from Donald Trump and Trump University to avoid a lawsuit, the maybe to pay back the 456 Texans investigators say the school defrauded, which makes this comment from Donald Trump in an interview with Jake Tapper last week seem, at the very least, completely misleading.
TRUMP: And do you know this case was turned down by almost every attorney general, from Texas to Florida to many of these states?
GRIFFIN: In Texas, Trump University was subject of a full-scale investigation by the attorney general's Department of Consumer Affairs. It alleged Trump University violated five different Texas commercial codes and accused the school and Trump himself of false, misleading and deceptive acts and practices that were unlawful.
Documents obtained by CNN show Texas state investigators actually went undercover to Trump real estate seminars here in Texas and found the same pattern and practices going on that now has Donald Trump and his university defending lawsuits in California and New York.
TRUMP: Success, it's going to happen to you.
GRIFFIN: Trump University can turn anyone into a successful real estate investor. The reality? Trump University was all about bait and switch. According to the Texas attorney general, the free seminars were really infomercials for the three-day $1,495 course.
And that three-day $1495 course had a primary goal, to use more high- pressure sales tactics to get students to buy the gold elite package for $35,000. Dozens of students told the Texas attorney general's office they didn't learn anything, except how to prey upon homeowners in financial turmoil and to target foreclosure properties.
And there is this, acknowledgement from Donald Trump's attorney that Trump personally reviewed and approved the course materials. Texas state officials felt they thought they had a solid, evidence-filled case, but just before the settlement meeting, Trump U. lawyers told Texas they would completely pull out of the Lone Star State, never to return, and the state's lawsuit was dropped, leaving those Texans who felt defrauded forced to pursue refunds on their own.
GRIFFIN: Jake, this takes a little political turn here because now a retired former investigator with the Department of Consumer Affairs has gone on record with CNN saying the whole reason the Trump case in Texas was dropped was political, that the then attorney general, Greg Abbott, didn't want to tick off Donald Trump.
Now, Greg Abbott of course is now the Texas governor, and the governor's spokesperson called that allegation ridiculous, saying Abbott had nothing to do with the Trump case being dropped. Well, that's a little political fight going on here in Texas, but the bottom line is, what Donald Trump told you about the case here in Texas is completely false.
Texas investigated and literally drove him out of the state of Texas -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Drew Griffin in Austin, Texas, thanks so much.
Many in the Republican Party establishment have perhaps reluctantly accepted the fact that Donald Trump will be the party's nominee, but there are some conservatives still holding out hope that a white knight will come along and challenge the billionaire businessman as an independent candidate for president.
Among those who considered running was David French, a lawyer, conservative writer and an Iraq War veteran. In an editorial last night, however, French bowed out of the race, saying -- quote -- "It is plain to me that I am not the right person for this effort."
Joining me now is David French.
David, good to see you. Thanks so much for being here.
DAVID FRENCH, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
TAPPER: So, you describe this as a -- quote -- "national moment." So why are you not the right person to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton?
FRENCH: Well, you know, first, I think it should be clear to everyone that there is a path, there is a path to defeat Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
That much was made apparent to me in eight days of extensive study. You know, 65 percent of Americans that are willing to consider somebody else.
But on the GOP side, look at what happened last week. RNC Chair Reince Priebus says this effort is embarrassing. Senator McConnell had endorsed Donald Trump long ago. Paul Ryan endorses. It became very clear to me that what is needed is somebody with an independent constituency, a preexisting constituency that can step into the breach here.
And, in fact, if I continue this effort, I may in fact block somebody who would have exactly the kind of constituency that is needed to hit the ground running, not just hit the ground running, but hit the ground sprinting.
TAPPER: Is there somebody you're thinking of in particular, somebody who should run as an independent?
FRENCH: You know, there are a number. And I think this is an excellent moment for one of the many very popular GOP governors to step up to say that they have experience uniting people, not dividing people.
As we just saw from this Mexican judge controversy, he's an American judge, not a Mexican judge. As we have seen from that controversy, Donald Trump is in the business of racial division. He is in the business of turning Americans against other Americans. This is antithetical to the party of Lincoln.
And I'm sorry, GOP officials, all of you who are now reacting with outrage. Unless you're retracting your endorsement of him, he's still your guy. You are tainted by that, and, frankly, it's embarrassing and it's shameful.
TAPPER: You wrote in your op-ed yesterday -- quote -- "Never before have both parties failed so spectacularly, producing two dishonest, deceitful candidates who should be disqualified from running for town council, much less leader of the free world."
You're talking of course not only about Mr. Trump there, but about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Now, I have talked to many conservatives who say at the end of the day Donald Trump will appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, he will support the tax cuts they want, he will be anti-abortion and on and on. Why is that not enough for you?
FRENCH: Why would anyone believe a word that comes out of that man's mouth?
I mean, honestly, is there a single, credible, rational argument that he tells the truth? He contradicts himself by the minute. Let's take the Supreme Court issue. When he articulated his list -- and that was a pretty good list -- what did he follow it up with? With a tweet saying, well, there might be more people to add.
We have no idea. Whatever his policy is, he makes it up on the fly. He will contradicts his own Web site. I served in Iraq, and my unit, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, fought the precursor to ISIS. They called themselves the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq.
And he said -- let's just say what he says about defeating ISIS. Well, he's going to commit war crime, order Americans to commit war crimes. He's going to Sean Duffy in Exxon. He's going to have a secret plan that he's not going to tell anybody about. He doesn't know what he's talking about. He contradicts himself day by day.
No one can believe a word that he says. So, why would you think that he would appoint good judges? Why would you think he would have a rational foreign policy?
TAPPER: David French, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Good to see you again, sir.
FRENCH: Thank you.
TAPPER: It's information that might be useful to you, the voter, and the Trump campaign even, before November. But now the U.S. State Department is waiting until the election to release some of Hillary Clinton's e-mails. What don't they want us to see?
That story next.
[16:17:18] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
You've seen the smoke signals coming from the White House for a while now, but CNN is now reporting that President Obama is readying his official endorsement of Hillary Clinton and it could come as early as Wednesday.
Let's get right to Jeff Zeleny. He's in San Francisco.
Jeff, I assume this is welcome news for the Clinton campaign and not so for Mr. Sanders.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it's welcome news indeed. And the fact that this long Democratic primary process is nearly over after tomorrow, that is the most welcome news of all here.
But the Clinton campaign does believe that this is the week that the conversation shifts, that the votes all come in. The president, I'm told, will not be doing a joint appearance but he will be offering his support as early as this week. They will be doing joint appearances in the future.
But, Jake, I just came from a press conference with Bernie Sanders. He is still pledging to stay until the end but his tone has shifted over the last couple days.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to finish strong here in California. It means the world to me.
ZELENY (voice-over): One final day of campaigning in the long Democratic primary.
CLINTON: I need your help tomorrow.
ZELENY: Hillary Clinton is on the cusp of becoming the party's presumptive nominee. Tonight, she's still fighting hard for California. Not only to finish strong, but hoping to vanquish Bernie Sanders once and for all. CLINTON: I'm going to do everything I can to unify the Democratic
Party and I certainly am going to be reaching out to Senator Sanders and hope he will join me in that, because we got to be unified going into the convention and coming out of the convention to take on Donald Trump and to repudiate the kind of campaign he is running.
ZELENY: But Sanders is still vowing to take his fight to the Democratic convention, an improbable quest made nearly impossible if Clinton wins California. He says he's the stronger candidate to take on Donald Trump.
(on camera): At one point do you become a spoiler, though, sir?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there are superdelegates out there who say, you know what, looking at the objective evidence of polling, looking at the objective evidence of who has the strongest grassroots campaign and can bring out the larger voter turnout, which I think is crucial for November, if some of those superdelegates begin to think it is Bernie Sanders, I think that that is not an insignificant factor.
ZELENY (voice-over): Still, Sanders would need to flip nearly three- quarters of Clinton's superdelegates to surpass her total, which seems highly unlikely since Sanders has yet to sway a single one.
The rivals have battled it out in all corners of the country. Sanders winning 20 states and Clinton 24, with the final six states weighing on Tuesday, Clinton has 6 million more votes than sanders and she holds a comfortable lead in delegates, only 26 away from the magic number of 2,383 in pledged and superdelegates.
[16:20:06] The Democratic Party is slowly coming together. And Clinton is embracing the history-making moment of becoming the first woman to be a presumptive nominee.
CLINTON: It's really emotional. It will make a very big difference for a father or a mother to be able to look at their daughter just like they can look at their son and say you can be anything you want to be in this country.
ZELENY: Her supporters worry Sanders could stand in a way of this history, a point he angrily reputed today.
SANDERS: Is that a serious question?
ZELENY: Sanders supporters insist they are settling in for a fight and hope a California victory will force the Democratic Party to take a second look. Yet today, Sanders tone seemed softer, barely mentioning Clinton at a press conference.
SANDERS: Let's assess where we are after tomorrow before we make statements based on speculation.
ZELENY: And, Jake, that is what I meant by a slightly different change in the tone of Senator Sanders. He says he's fighting until the end and he deserves the space here he argued for and I think he's right in the sense that, look, let's let the six states vote tomorrow and he'll make a decision after that.
Jake, I can tell you, his supporters who are beginning to gather here behind me in this field in San Francisco for a rally tonight, they want him to stay in. So, that is going to be the reconciling here, how does he sort of get his supporters on board here? But a win in California tomorrow would certainly give him more fuel to stay in this race until the convention -- Jake.
TAPPER: And, Jeff, I wanted to ask you, Roger Clinton, the half- brother of President Bill Clinton, he got arrested in California. What's the charge and have we heard anything from the Clinton campaign about this?
ZELENY: Jake, the Clinton campaign has not responded to this, to our request for comment about this. But it's the half-brother of the former president. He was arrested on Sunday evening for driving under the influence in Redondo Beach, California. He posted some bond and his bail was $15,000.
It's not the first time there's been a controversy there. Of course, the president when he was leaving office in the final days of 2001, he pardoned him for a cocaine charge. This is totally unrelated but certainly not the type of news that the Clinton campaign would like to see headlined on the day before the California primary -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.
Turning now to an Obama administration decision that we learned about today, one that is, once again, at odds with President Obama's much ballyhooed pledge to be the most transparent administration in history. The issue at hand: Hillary Clinton's role in crafting the Trans Pacific Partnership, which is the largest regional trade deal in history brokered while Hillary Clinton led the State Department. It's a deal which the likely Democratic nominee vouched for as secretary of state, no fewer than 45 times between 2010 and 2013, and called it the gold standard of all trade deals.
But as a candidate with harsh criticism of the trade deal coming from Bernie Sanders and desiring the support of labor unions that oppose the deal, Clinton said she did not work on the controversial trade deal and she came out against it, arguing that Congress should reject it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. I have said from the very beginning that we had to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security. And I still believe that's the high bar we have to meet. I don't believe it's going to meet the high bar.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Now, Clinton's role or lack thereof in the behind the scenes formation of this trade deal has been of real interest. Almost a year ago, last July, the senior editor for investigations at the "International Business Times", David Sirota, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the State Department for then Secretary Clinton's correspondence related to the specific trade deal.
Now, this is certainly in the public interest. Sanders is not the only Clinton opponent of the trade deal. So is Donald Trump. He's also critical of the trade deal.
Last November, State Department official Charlotte Duckett estimated that Sirota's request would be completed by April of this year. That did not happen, however.
And today, Sirota announced that the State Department has told him that his request will not be completed until the end of November, after the presidential election.
Now, the average Freedom of Information Act request made of the State Department takes 111 days to process. Sirota says this one, according to his calculation, will take 489 days.
That means that you as a voter will not have information that you want about Hillary Clinton and an important substantive issue dealing with jobs and trade. You won't have that information until after you've decided whether or not you will vote for him or for Donald Trump.
The department inspector general in January noted that the State Department is particularly weak among Obama administration agencies when it comes to fulfilling the obligations of this law.
[16:25:06] The I.G. said the responses to these requests are deficient, that there aren't enough personnel at the State Department to carry out requests and that State Department leaders have not played a meaningful role in making any improvements.
And at a certain point, one begins to wonder if these weaknesses are deliberate and these efforts to conceal information do not conceal a certain disdain for the public and your right to know.
Critics calling Trump's Mexican comments about a judge racist. But almost all GOP lawmakers condemning his comments are refusing to use that label. Should they? That's next.
Plus, a woman now afraid to be alone, now afraid to sleep in the dark after being raped. So, how did her convicted attacker get only six months behind bars?