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Interview With Lieutenant General Mike Flynn; Trump's V.P. Search; Nation Mourns Slain Police Officers; Clinton Issues Call for Unity, Calls Trump Divisive; Source: Trump Conflicted Over Pence, Christie. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 13, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Will Donald Trump go with his head or with his gut?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Donald Trump says it is probably down to two candidates, but which two? We are not quite sure. Will it be Gingrich or Pence or Christie or someone else entirely? Trump could make his pick any minute now, as a whole slew of new battleground state polls shows the race closer than ever.

A nation says goodbye, as five police officers murdered in the line of duty are given their final salutes.

And then they wanted to kill cops. Four suspects in Baton Rouge caught in the dead of night breaking into a pawn shop to steal guns. Now police say they planned to assassinate police officers. And one of these would-be cop killers is still on the loose.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Presidential candidates normally employ all sorts of cloak and dagger tactics when they pick their running mates, but Donald Trump again seems to be upending the way things are normally done in politics. Not much seems to be going in the dark of night.

After days of tryouts for potential running mates, today, in front of a host of TV news cameras, Mr. Trump emerged with potential V.P. candidate Indiana Governor Mike Pence after their meeting.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins me now live in studio.

Jim, some in the party and in Mr. Trump's campaign are pushing for Mike Pence, popular governor of Indiana, but he is not the only politician that Mr. Trump met with today.


Clearly, there are divisions inside the campaign over this decision. One advisory described it to me as a discussion. But for a candidate whose campaign has at times seemed like a reality show, Donald Trump's vice presidential's search is shaping up to see must-see TV and the season finale is days, maybe even hours, away.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Donald Trump's season of "The Apprentice" veepstakes edition has come down to this, an Indiana cliffhanger. That's where Trump and his family huddled behind closed doors with Indiana Governor Mike Pence. A Trump campaign source told CNN their meetings over the last 24 hours went "fabulously."

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm narrowing it down. I'm at three, potentially four, but in my own mind, I probably am thinking about two.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Nothing was offered, nothing was accepted.

ACOSTA: Trump got his Trump tryout in Indiana last night and showed off a skill that is prized by the campaign, attacking Hillary Clinton as untrustworthy.

PENCE: To paraphrase the director of the FBI, I think it would be extremely careless to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States.

ACOSTA: The presumptive GOP nominee sounded impressed, but unconvinced.

TRUMP: I don't know whether he's going to be your governor or your vice president. Who the hell knows.

ACOSTA: Which explains why Trump not only met with Pence, but other V.P. contenders, Newt Gingrich and even Senator Jeff Sessions, who was there in Indianapolis as an adviser, while he talked by phone about the number two spot with Chris Christie, calling in from Washington.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's a little bit like "The Apprentice." You find out sooner or later who is the last one standing is.

ACOSTA: Of the three finalists, Christie, Gingrich and Pence, the choice comes down to selecting an attack dog that doesn't end up biting Trump.

Christie's vetting turned up issues like the New Jersey Bridgegate scandal, but he is a fighter. Gingrich is seen as loyal and a fierce debater, but also has vetting issues. Contrast that with Pence, whose vetting was completely clean, but is more low-key.

TRUMP: I'm not doing this for surprises. I'm not doing this for games. I'm doing this because I want to pick somebody that is going to help me get elected.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We need once again to have a president who puts the safety and security of our citizens first.

ACOSTA: But it's Christie who is viewed by some inside the campaign as Trump's top choice.

TRUMP: I'll tell you, Chris Christie is somebody I have liked a long time. He is a total professional.

ACOSTA: First ex-rival to endorse Trump, he is now a close adviser and he has known Trump and his flare for the dramatic for years.

CHRISTIE: If the governor thing doesn't work out, "The Apprentice" might be a really good deal for me. But Donald is a really good friend. Donald and Melania are both good friends. And he's been very kind to me and supportive. But it's always great to have Donald Trump talking about you, because Donald Trump is as good a salesman as anybody.


ACOSTA: But keep your eyes on Mike Pence. He's favored by some in the family and some in top advisory roles in the campaign.

Donald Trump, by the way, he is expected to announce his choice at an event this Friday. Any movement of that unveiling before the convention perhaps to this weekend would all but eliminate Pence, who must inform Indiana officials by Friday that he is dropping out of his race for reelection as governor so he can become Trump's running mate.

But today, Jake, it has been like sipping through a fire hose going through all of these tea leaves. But, at this point, I think it's down to these three. And it's anyone's guess at this point who he is going to pick. We have been told no decision as been made.


TAPPER: Very exciting stuff. Jim Acosta, thank you.

ACOSTA: You bet.

TAPPER: Our next guest is one of those potential vice presidential picks. Those who watch the show know him. He is retired Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama.

And he has got a new book out, "The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies."

General, thanks so much for joining me. It's always good to have you here.

LT. GEN. MIKE FLYNN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, it's great. And thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: You're being floated as a possible V.P. pick for Donald Trump, and you're heading to Cleveland, as I understand it, after the show. One way or another, should we expect to hear from you from the stage in Cleveland next week one way or the other?

FLYNN: I think that one way or the other I will be in Cleveland

And it's an honor for me to be considered in this mix that is so important for our country. I am absolutely humbled by it, but, yes, I will be in Cleveland for sure. And you will likely hear from me, and I would like to come in and see you when you're there.

TAPPER: It does seem as though -- we will have you, of course.

FLYNN: Great. Great.

TAPPER: It does seem as though the vice president race is down to Pence, Christie, and Gingrich, although I don't know anything for sure. And who does?

FLYNN: Yes. Sure.

TAPPER: Have you been told one way or another if you're still on the short list, if you're still being considered?

FLYNN: Jake, what I would just say is, again, you would have to really kind of dig into the Trump campaign to find out where they're at. This is going to be a big decision for that Donald Trump is going to have to make.

I think it is very -- it's a critical decision, obviously. And I'm just honored to be in that mix.

TAPPER: I wanted to play a clip from an interview you did over the weekend. Let's roll some of that.


FLYNN: I think women have to be able to choose what they -- sort of the right of choice.


TAPPER: That was when you were asked your position on abortion.

FLYNN: Right.

TAPPER: You said women should be able to choose the right of choice.

And then on Monday, the next day, you told FOX News that you're pro- life and that the law should be changed. To a lot of observers, General -- and I say this with all respect, as you know -- it looked as though you said what you believed and then somebody might have told you, well, you're not going to be picked if you support abortion rights, and so you changed your mind.

Is that an unfair interpretation?

FLYNN: No, I think it is. It's not an unfair -- I think that where I am is, I am for life, but I am also for the law. And I think it is very important for people to understand that, going into this election, there are going to be big decisions to select the next group of Supreme Court justices.

So if people want to change the law, which I am a big fan of the rule of law. It's the most -- it's the biggest strategic advantage that we have. And so this election is going to decide on the Supreme Court of the United States for probably the next 30 or 40 years or longer.

So, I love life. I have my own children. I have grandchildren. I grew up in a family of nine brothers and sisters. But at the same time, this is a legal issue from my perspective. I'm not a lawyer. I just know that that is the current law of the land. And that's the way it is.

TAPPER: But you would like it changed? You would like Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade?

FLYNN: I don't know, Jake. I really don't know. It is something that I would have to really give more thought to, because I -- it's an issue that is very complex.

And in the short period of time that we have, I think that what we really have to do is, we have to worry about some of the big national security problems that we're facing.

TAPPER: And let's do that and talk about your book, "The Field of Fight."

You lay out in your book a plan to destroy ISIS. And you say -- quote -- "We have got to attack the Islamists everywhere and in every way."

What does that look like when you think of not only the kinds of attacks that are in Iraq and Syria, but also in Paris, in Brussels, in San Bernardino, in Orlando? What does mean?

FLYNN: We wrote the book for two reasons.

One, we are in a war. And we're not allowed to say that. We have to clearly define this enemy. What difference does it make? It makes all of the difference in the world to be able to clearly define your enemy.

The second thing is to lay out a campaign plan or a winning strategy to go against these guys. And there is a lot of elements in the book that we lay this out. The most important one, though, Jake, is that we have to be able to discredit the doctrines of this radical Islamism, discredit this ideology. And we're not allowed to do that right now.


TAPPER: Because we're not allowed to say radical Islam?

FLYNN: That's right.

We're not allowed to go after this ism, just like we went after communism or Nazism or fascism. And I lay this out in pretty fair detail. We have to be able to challenge these types of doctrines.

We should fear based on -- to challenge these kinds of doctrines, because we're -- we're have a country that is based on Judeo-Christian principles. And we should not be afraid of that. We should not be ashamed of that. We should challenge doctrines that are against our way of life. And this particular doctrine, this very cancerous version of radial Islam, is against our way of life.


TAPPER: "The Field of Fight" is the book.

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn is the guest. And I know you will be back again. Good luck with the book and good luck with everything else. I guess we will see you in Cleveland, sir.

FLYNN: We will see you there.

TAPPER: Thanks so much.

FLYNN: Thanks a lot, Jake. Yes. Thank you.

TAPPER: The party of Lincoln is becoming the party of Trump. That is a quote from Hillary Clinton delivering her newest line of attack on Mr. Trump from the statehouse where Lincoln once pronounced a House divided against itself cannot stand. But will Hillary Clinton's new message resonate?

That story next.


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

Sticking with politics, but turning to the Democrats now, Hillary Clinton is taking the unusual step of calling for unity in a place of tremendous historical symbolism. She visited the old statehouse in Springfield, Illinois, not because then-Senator Obama announced he was running for president there back in 2007, but because that's where Abraham Lincoln gave his famous House Divided speech at a time when this nation was being torn apart and on the verge of civil war.

[16:15:02] The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee today arguing that the Republican Party that Lincoln himself helped found is now by becoming a party of Donald Trump, a party that stands for division, hatred fear and a growing threat to American democracy. Strong words.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is with the Clinton campaign in Springfield, Illinois.

Brianna, Clinton basically calling Trump the anti-Lincoln.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, basically, and the symbolism here is not very subtle. Hillary Clinton coming to the old state house where Abraham famously quoting the Bible said a house divided against itself cannot stand and she tried to cast Donald Trump as a divider who is dangerous for the country.


KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton blasted Donald Trump in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous anti-slavery speech.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This man is the nominee of the Party of Lincoln. We are watching it become the party of Trump. And that's not just a huge loss for our democracy, it is a threat to it.

KEILAR: Clinton is criticizing Trump in the wake of the police- involved shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the killing of white police officers in Dallas, Texas, by a black gunman.

CLINTON: His campaign is as divisive as any we have seen in our lifetimes. It is built on stoking mistrust and pitting American against American. Everything he says and everything in he promises to do as president.

KEILAR: Seizing on his recent comments about racial tensions.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: There are still some black Americans who believe that the system is biased against them, that American system. Because they're black, they don't get the same kind of shot, they don't get the same kind of fairness that whites do.

What do you say to them?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran as -- you know, for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system and the system is rigged.

KEILAR: Clinton pounced.

CLINTON: Even this, the killing of people, is somehow all about him.

KEILAR: Clinton also called for criminal justice reform, a potential weakness for her it light of her 1990 support for anti-crime legislation that contributed to the era of mass incarceration she now derides.

But it's a vulnerability eclipsed by Trump's comments on the topic. Tuesday, he described himself as the law and order candidate and criticized the Black Lives Matter movement.

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think the term is very divisive. The first time I heard, I said, you have to be kidding. They can't use that.

KIELAR: Clinton also hammered Trump for reportedly telling House Republicans last week that he would defend Article 1, 2, and even Article 12 of the Constitution, though there are only seven articles. CLINTON: The very first thing a new president does is take an oath to

protect and defend the Constitution. To do that with any meaning, you've got to know what's in it and you have to respect --


KEILAR: And as Donald Trump's search for a number two is playing out very publicly, Hillary Clinton, Jake, is more hush-hush. One new name that is out there reported now by "The New York Times" is retired four-star Admiral James Stavridis. He's the former head of NATO. He is being vetted, according to "The Times". And we also know that Hillary Clinton will be campaigning tomorrow with Senator Tim Kaine in Virginia, another person who is considered to very high up there on her short list.

TAPPER: All right. Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

So, will Trump go with his gut for his V.P. pick or will he go with the pick his children like? We'll ask a senior advisor to the campaign next.

Then, a manhunt is under way for a possible suspect in connection to what police say is an alleged plot to kill cops.


[16:23:43] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Let's turn now to our political panel. Former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Amanda Carpenter, joins us here in studio. Democratic strategist Steve McMahon is here as well. And we're also joined by Trump campaign senior adviser, Ed Brookover.

Thanks one and all for being here.

Ed, let me start with you. Mr. Trump said today he's probably down to about two candidates for vice president right now. Do you think his meeting with Governor Pence this morning had any impact one way or the other?

ED BROOKOVER, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I'm sure that he is gathering information from many sources, talked to each of his prospective vice presidents personally. It will be key for him because Mr. Trump wants to pick a vice presidential nominee who will join him in his fight to change the Washington and to turn America around.

TAPPER: What do you think? If I could stay with you for one second, Ed, what do you think if it's between, as we're told from Trump advisors, Christie, Gingrich and Pence, what do you think ultimately is the thing that's going to make the decision, who he thinks will be the best attack dog? Who he has the closest relationship with? Who will help him governor the best?

What do you think is most important? BROOKOVER: I think first and foremost is going to be the relationship between the two, between the two. Mr. Trump and his businesses has always relied on working closely with this top associates. And then secondly, it's going to who he thinks will help him governor best.

[16:25:03] After all, his motivations for getting in the race was to change the direction and change Washington, D.C, and to make America great again.

TAPPER: Amanda, Governor Pence had this to say about Donald Trump just yesterday.


GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Donald Trump understands the frustrations and the hopes of the American people, like no other American leader in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan.


TAPPER: Wow, like no other American leader.

Now, I should also point out that in the last few months, Governor Pence who supported Ted Cruz, your former boss, he called Trump's comments about the Indiana Judge Curiel, he's in California now, Indiana-born Judge Curiel, inappropriate. He said that the proposed Muslim ban was offensive and unconstitutional.

Do you think that any of those earlier comments might hurt his chances today?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: In my -- here is the thing about this veepstakes thing that we're witnessing. It seems as though the Trump campaign is really trying to manufacture some chemistry with one of these vice presidential candidates, going through these dates with Mike Pence, go to dinner, go to breakfast. I think Trump is looking for some pop. Some that will cause excitement among conservative activists.

None of these veep candidates are really generating that. So, now, Trump -- it's almost as though he's uncapable of making a decision at this opponent. He is dragging it out too long. I think, ultimately, he'll probably come back to Newt Gingrich because no one else can provide that excitement, not that Newt provides a lot.

But among the people that I talk to, that is the person people would be most comfortable with, not Mike Pence because Mike Pence hasn't shown that he could stand up to Trump on any occasion.

TAPPER: I have to say, I think the one that he has the most chemistry with and for years and years and years is Chris Christie.


TAPPER: I don't know if he'll pick him and I also know the conservative -- CARPENTER: But that's not an excitement pick.

TAPPER: And it's also not somebody who will generate excitement among conservatives.


STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He has gotten very, very good at holding Mr. Trump's coat and referring to him as "Mr. Trump".


MCMAHON: So that might work out pretty well for that.

TAPPER: He's done more than that.

But, Steve, talk about Hillary Clinton. I want to talk about her V.P. search in a second. But let's look at these new battleground state polls that show really not great news for Clinton world. She's lost ground in a couple key battleground states, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio. Voters found Mr. Trump far more honesty and trustworthy. This is just the honest and trustworthy numbers.

Look at that, he dominates her in this Q poll. It looks as though this FBI investigation and the Benghazi hearings, et cetera, may have actually really had an impact just in the last few weeks.

MCMAHON: Yes. I mean, there's no question that they had an impact. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and lie to you or spin you. On the other hand, you know, these things are sort of elastic. So, sometimes you get pushed down a little bit, and over time, you pop back up and you see that pretty consistently.

This race structurally is a six or eight-point lead for Hillary Clinton pretty consistently. And I think what you're going to see is as the elastic sort of recovers, she's going to end up pretty much where she was. But it is going to be a close race going to fall. There's no question.

TAPPER: Ed, I want you to take a listen to this, from the town hall I hosted with House Speaker Paul Ryan yesterday. The speaker was asked about his support for Donald Trump from somebody who doesn't support Donald Trump but is a Republican. Take a listen.


QUESTIONNER: Speaker Ryan, I cannot and will not support Donald Trump and it concerns me when the Republican leadership is supporting somebody who is openly racist.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So, yes, things have been said that I, too, disagree with, then I'll make that point then, what I'm going to go fight for, the principles and solutions that I believe in, and the candidate that I think is so much more likely to put those into law -- because I know Hillary Clinton won't do that -- it's a binary choice. It is either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That is just an excerpt. But the larger point I'm trying to make is, no point did Speaker Ryan say, "Donald Trump is not a racist". Does that bother the campaign at all?

BROOKOVER: Well, we certainly know that Donald Trump is not a racist, not a racist bone, not a racist cell in his body. I think the larger point that Paul Ryan was making was that Americans who have learned about Donald Trump, who respect his opinions, who respect his positions, are coming together because it's the Trump administration which will enact the kind of changes in America we need working with somebody like Speaker Ryan.

TAPPER: All right. Ed, Amanda, Steve, thank you one and all. I appreciate it.

They broke into a store to steal firearms allegedly to kill police officers. And now, investigators are searching for another possible suspect who was allegedly plotting to kill cops.

That story next.