Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn; Scales of Justice Slanted?; Trump VP Watch; Clinton Hits Trail with Possible VP Pick Sen. Tim Kaine; Sources: Signs Point to Pence Being Trump's VP Pick. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 14, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hoosier daddy? THE LEAD starts right now.

Is the governor of Indiana Mr. Trump's new right-hand man? Sources telling CNN that signs point to Donald Trump picking Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, but there is, of course, still 19 hours left until Trump formally announces his pick, which means there is still plenty of time for a surprise.

The Democratic front-runner, he speaks Spanish, he hails from a battleground state. He's Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. He might be Hillary Clinton's pick.

The scales of justice slanted. The only African-American Republican in the Senate says on the Senate floor how he, too, has been racially profiled even by the Capitol Hill Police.

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

Donald Trump is close to making his decision. Right now, sources are telling CNN that Donald Trump is leaning strongly toward picking the governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, as his running mate, but, as we understand, Mr. Trump has not yet made a final decision or called Mr. Pence to make the offer.

CNN is staked out outside of the governor's mansion in Indianapolis, where it appears the governor just headed out perhaps to pick up some pork chops.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins me now from New York, where Trump will officially announce his choice tomorrow morning.

And, Jim, there are a lot of people in Trump's orbit pushing for Pence, but not all of them.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Jake, and the cloak and dagger business of unveiling a vice presidential running mate is well under way.

For now, it looks like Mike Pence, it sounds like Mike Pence, but officially it is not yet Mike Pence, though a senior campaign official told me earlier today that Donald Trump is leaning in that direction.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It was a day of suspense. But Indiana Governor Mike Pence was not feeling it, going for a bike ride with his wife. Yet the veepstakes wheels were in motion.

CNN learned early in the day that Donald Trump was leaning in Pence's direction. Within hours, Indiana GOP officials were milling around the governor's residence, including the state's lieutenant governor, who has been engaged in talks on replacing Pence. What is more, Pence's reelection deputy campaign manager, Marc Lotter, was spotted by reporters flying to, of all cases, New York City.

MARC LOTTER, PENCE DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I'm on this airplane with you. I have got nothing to offer.

ACOSTA: Back in Northern Virginia, one of other V.P. finalists, Newt Gingrich, was taking out the trash and refusing to comment in front of his house.

But he did tell CNN, "I would not be at all surprised if it was Pence. I think Mike has got a lot of strengths and he is substantially younger."

Still, behind the scenes, sources say Gingrich was pushing hard for the job, insisting he and Trump are cut from the same cloth.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We will find out what Donald Trump decides to do. I told him quite directly that I thought that he had a choice between having two pirates on the ticket or having a pirate and a relatively stable, more normal person.

ACOSTA: But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was also in the running staying tightlipped on a train ride home last night.

QUESTION: Can you tell us where you think you stand in the veep process?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I can't, but it's good to see you.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how the meeting went with Trump's family yesterday?

ACOSTA: Christie was also waiting on the call.

CHRISTIE: I'm a competitive person, so I'm not going to say it won't bother me if I'm not selected. Of course it bothers you a little bit.

ACOSTA: All through the process, Trump was a study in contrasts, at first telling reporters this week he wanted an attack dog as a running mate, then last night not so much, a sign advisers who wanted a toned- down pick appeared to be winning the day.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not looking for an attack dog. Frankly, I'm looking for somebody that really understands what we're talking about, because I would rather have the whole thing be on policy.

ACOSTA: Pence was hardly Trump's first choice after the Indiana governor endorsed Ted Cruz. He's also criticized Trump's past calls for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., saying that would be offensive and unconstitutional.

A Capitol Hill veteran, Pence's steadiness is revered by Republicans in Congress.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think there are a lot of good people that are being considered. It's not secret I'm a big fan of Mike Pence's. We're very good friends. Very high regard for him. I hope that he picks a good movement conservative. Clearly, Mike is one of those.


ACOSTA: And this afternoon a senior campaign official urged caution about reports that Trump has made his selection, stressing that no decision has been made.

I did talk to one pro-Pence official earlier today, Jake, who said this person was worried about saying anything out loud to avoid jinxing the outcome. So, soon we will find out if it will be Pence or a pirate. But as far as we know right now, Jake, nobody has walked the plank among those finalists -- Jake.

TAPPER: Arr. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

We're just four days away from the Republican National Convention. And from a ton of Trumps to Tim Tebow, we now know at least some of the speakers taking the stage in Cleveland.


CNN's Phil Mattingly is here now -- or there now.

Phil, some surprise speakers via video also just released?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is exactly right.

Marco Rubio who is now running for Senate down in Florida said he was not going to show up at the convention, he will be there via video. Bobby Knight, who Donald Trump has consistently referenced as a huge supporter of his campaign, a lot of people thought he would be there in person.

He will be there in video as well. What we saw in this list, an unconventional convention that Donald Trump predicted, looks like it will happen.


TRUMP: We're going to do it a little different if it's OK. MATTINGLY (voice-over): Just days away from kick off, the Trump

convention is finally taking shape.

TRUMP: The convention is going to be terrific. We have great speakers. We have fantastic speakers.

MATTINGLY: Actors, athletes, and, yes, even a few GOP stalwarts making up the speakers for Donald Trump's Republican Convention. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White, and actor/model Antonio Sabato Jr. all with roles.

TRUMP: They are winners. There are not many winners, but you take these winners and we are going to have them speak.

MATTINGLY: A fittingly unorthodox group for a candidate who said in April it's "important to put some showbiz into it or people are going to fall asleep."

Yet Trump's list also includes top party members, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and former campaign rival Ted Cruz, a decidedly more traditional lineup, even as the party's former nominees and living former occupants of the White House have chosen not to attend.

Also heavily represented on the list, Trump's family, his generally spotlight-shy wife, Melania, and the New York billionaire's adult children all scheduled to talk in support of their father.

Trump, advisers say, is planning to focus on three major themes, immigration, the economy, and national security, an area that will feature a detailed focus on the attacks on Benghazi, including two of the survivors from that night in 2012, all of this as top aides already on the ground in Cleveland work to beat back a last gasp effort to push Trump off of the ticket.

That effort boosted by top RNC officials, including chairman Reince Priebus, working behind the scenes and pressing the case for unity.

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Now is the time to stand united as Republicans. Now is time to stop Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump president of the United States.


MATTINGLY: Jake, it is tough to overstate how big of a role Reince Priebus has right now behind the scenes.

He's very well-respected among top RNC officials. As he has aligned himself with the Trump operation, they have done a pretty substantial -- put together a pretty substantial effort to beat that, any effort to take Trump off of the ticket.

Another interesting fight has broken out, though. Supporters of Ted Cruz, they are looking to position themselves via that rules committee fight for a possible 2020 run. While the unbinding effort appears to at least for the moment fallen by the wayside, there's another fight breaking out here in Cleveland, little bit in the weeds, but no doubt has big ramifications for the future, Jake.

TAPPER: And 2020 or 2024, I suppose.

Phil Mattingly, thanks so much.

Joining me right now is Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn Tennessee.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining me. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: Sources telling tell CNN that Trump is leaning towards Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Would you be happy with that?

BLACKBURN: I would be happy with that.

I'm going to be happy with whomever Mr. Trump is happy with. Pence is a known conservative. He's been a good friend. I worked closely with him while he was in the House. I spent one term on the Judiciary Committee where Mr. Pence also held a seat.

He is a solid conservative, and I think he would represent our party well.

TAPPER: I have heard some conservatives grumbling that after passing the religious liberty act in Indiana after he was criticized, he seemed to kind of blink in the face of criticism. What do you make of that?

BLACKBURN: I think that is something that he will need to explain and then move on past it.

The point is, we have a goal. The goal is to beat Hillary Clinton in November. The goal is to have President Donald Trump. The goal is to get this country back on the right track. And people are talking about three issues, national security, jobs and economic security, and retirement security.

And, Jake, I have got to tell you, that is what people want to see something done about. They're ready for a president that is given to action. And Donald Trump takes action. Hillary Clinton likes to sit around, think about it and hold a committee meeting.

TAPPER: That is one criticism potentially about Pence from the right.


One from the left, Pence has criticized Trump for his comments about the Muslim ban, for his comments Judge Curiel, a fellow Hoosier. Is that an issue, in your view? I'm sure we're going to see those comments, if Pence is picked, in attack ads from Democrats

BLACKBURN: Well, I'm sure you probably will. But I think most people look at these attack adds that come from

third-party groups and they say that is politics. What they want to know is what you're going to do that is going to affect their lives. What are you going to do to secure the southern border? What are you going to do to curtail the impact of ISIS in this country?

What are you going to do to return the respect for the rule of law? What are you going to do about jobs and wage stagnation, my goodness? "Wall Street Journal" has a great article in today about wage stagnation, and the impact we have had as -- that this country and our economic policies through the president has had on us.

TAPPER: The RNC released a list of speakers today for the convention. You're among them. Congratulations.

BLACKBURN: Yes, I am. Thank you.

TAPPER: As you know, a lot of prominent Republicans are skipping the convention. What message will you present to try to unify this party around Mr. Trump?

BLACKBURN: Sure, absolutely.

Any time a party focus on personalities, you are going to lose. When you are focusing on the people and policies and principles, you are going to win. We have a great story to tell.

We have a nontraditional candidate in a nontraditional year. It is going to a winning ticket, and it's our goal and our job to make certain that the American people are focused on that and that they're not listening to what is happening with the attack ads.

TAPPER: One last question, Congresswoman.

Donald Trump has chosen not to speak at the annual NAACP Convention next week in Ohio. Do you think that is a mistake?

BLACKBURN: I think you have to look at the fact that NAACP Convention came about nine months after the RNC Convention was set.

I think you may see more of Mr. Trump during the conviction this year than just one night. And I think also you look at his record that he has, Mar-a-Lago, and the fact that African-American and Jewish members were admitted there before most other clubs in the country admitted them. So, I look at the record that he has to stand for, and I think it speaks for itself.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, thanks so much. We will see you in Cleveland.

BLACKBURN: Good to see you. See you then.

TAPPER: All right.

Donald Trump does not have a monopoly on V.P. talk today. A live look right now at Hillary Clinton testing a name that keeps getting mentioned as one of her possible picks for running mate.

That story next.


[16:16:36] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Let's stay with politics now. Hillary Clinton on her heels after some horrific poll numbers showing her credibility has taken quite a beating in the last month. Trying to go back on track now, she's on the trail at this second in the commonwealth of Virginia.

Let's take a brief moment and listen in.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we need to join the rest of the advanced economy and have paid family leave.

So, my friends, we are -- we are going to have a great convention in Philadelphia. I have no idea what's going to happen in Cleveland. It's going to be -- it is going to be entertaining, I'm sure, if you're in to bigotry, bluster and bullying. If you're into drawing lines between Americans, if you're into insulting groups of Americans, if you're into saying you don't want to let Muslims in the country. You want to round up and deport 11 million people with a, quote, "deportation force." If you enjoy seeing women demeaned.

TAPPER: Earlier at that very stop today, Clinton was seemingly auditioning the man sitting on the stool behind here, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, as a possible running mate.

A national poll out this morning finds the presumptive Democratic nominee is in a dead heat with her Republican rival Donald Trump. That's a seven-point swing in just the last month.

Let's get right to CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who's live in Annandale, Virginia.

Jeff, how close is the Clinton camp to making their V.P. decision?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I'm told that Hillary Clinton is about eight days away from making that announcement. She intends to do it right after the Republican convention next week in Cleveland. Most Democrats believe from donors to strategists to others that Tim Kaine is on top of the list.


ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is closing in on a running mate.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Are we ready for Hillary?

ZELENY: Standing side by side today with Tim Kaine, the Virginia senator most Democrats believe is high on her list.

KAINE: If you want a "you're fired" president or a "you're hired" president, right?

ZELENY: CNN has learned that Clinton plans to reveal her choice late next week, after the Republican convention.

She is closely watching Donald Trump's pick but made clear today he remains her top target.

CLINTON: Next week in Cleveland, they will nominate someone who thinks Latino outreach is tweeting a picture of a taco bowl.

ZELENY: Four months before the election, she is unified Democrats, while many Republicans are despondent over Trump. It should be a moment of Zen for Clinton, yet it's anything but.

A new series of polls is giving the Clinton campaign heartburn.

Trump and Clinton are tied at 40 percent in a new CBS News/"New York Times" poll. Her standing has fallen in the wake of the FBI investigation into her private email server. A fiercely competitive race even though she is outspending Trump by millions on television, including this new ad today.

[16:20:02] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's like incredible.

ZELENY: She's trying to make him an unacceptable alternative, even as a growing majority of voters say she can't be trusted either. Sixty- seven percent say she's not honest.

Visiting Capitol Hill earlier today, Clinton tried to reassure Democrats she is working to right the ship and hoping a new running mate will help.

CLINTON: Great to be back here in the Senate.

ZELENY: On the campaign trail, she's been testing her comfort and chemistry with leading Democratic senators, from Elizabeth Warren, to Sherrod Brown, to Cory Booker. Yet, it's Tim Kaine, the Virginia senator and former governor many Democrats believe she is favoring.

He speaks fluent Spanish and he's from a critical battleground state. But for all of the chatter about the vice presidential contenders, this heated race is all but certain to be decided by those dueling candidates at the top of the ticket.


ZELENY: And, Jake, it is hard to remember a campaign where the top of the ticket is so important. Will dominate as will Hillary Clinton, but these running mates certainly are important. The chemistry behind, between Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton I thought was very strong. They ended with a fist bump a few minutes ago. In about a week, Tim Kaine will know if he is on her ticket -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, in Virginia, thanks so much. So, what does Governor Mike Pence potentially bring to the Donald

Trump ticket if he is indeed the business man's pick for a running mate? We'll talk to our panel, next.


[16:26:01] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Staying with politics now. We have lots to talk about with our political panel. Donald Trump national spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, battleground state director for President Obama's 2012 campaign, Mitch Stewart, and CNN's own conservative writer, S.E. Cupp.

Thanks one and all for being here.

Katrina, let me start with you. We're told that Mr. Trump is leaning very strongly towards Mr. Pence, Governor Pence. Has he made the call yet, has he made the decision or the phone call to whomever he is picking?

KATRINA PIERSON, DONALD TRUMP NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: No, he has not, not yet. There are a couple of people actually that he is trying to decide between and he wants to give it as much thought as possible. Again, this has got to be someone who he thinks can help him push forward his vision to make America great again. And, you know, it's really not an easy decision. I mean, we're at a moment in our history when we need someone strong, we need someone tough, someone that can energize people as well. And Mr. Trump is taking all that in consideration.

TAPPER: Let me ask you, Katrina, is he taking into consideration this tweet from Governor Pence from last year, quote, "Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional", unquote? Does that give Donald Trump or the people around him, the brain trust, any pause? Pence has also criticized Trump for his remarks about his fellow Hoosier judge, Judge Curiel. Those are not disqualifying disagreements?

PIERSON: No, not at all, the governor was just responding to reports he's heard. He did not talk to Mr. Trump about the policies or the reasons why he said what he said. So, no, Mr. Trump has taken all of those things into consideration. Those are very important things and he will be making his decision very soon.

TAPPER: All right. S.E., take a listen to House Speaker Paul Ryan asked today about Trump potentially picking Governor Pence.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's no secret. I'm a big fan of Mike Pence. We're very good friends. I have very high regard for him. I hope that he picks a good, movement conservative. Clearly, Mike is one of those.


TAPPER: You know Mike Pence. You covered him, you spent time with him. What do you think?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Mike Pence, along with Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich are experience picks. They are meant to reassure conservatives that it is safe to vote for Donald Trump.

And that really shows the weakness of Trump's position right now. If he were in a better position among conservatives, he could go a new voter veep pick who could maybe help get to moderates, and undecideds and independents, women, minorities, millennials. So, I think that would be a better position to be in. He's not.

So, among those three, Mike Pence is certainly one of the most conservative, sober minded, thoughtful, careful, compassionate, serious people that the Republican Party has. It's a good -- it's a good pick.

If you're someone who is nervous, though, about Donald Trump's preparedness, I'm not sure the under ticket is going to really do much to sway you. Does anyone believe that Donald Trump going to let the vice president move him in a different direction? I doubt it.

So, for conservatives like me, it's kind of like asking, you know, would you marry a jerk just because his older brother was cool? No. Mike Pence does not make Donald Trump a more stable candidate.

TAPPER: It's an interesting metaphor. I have never heard that before. I've never -- it's a scenario you talk with some of your friends.

Mitch, I want to take a look at a new national ad released today by the Clinton showing young children watching Mr. Trump.


TRUMP: You can tell them to go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) themselves.

I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's like incredible.


TAPPER: They seem to be pursuing a strategy that is very, very focused. And I know that there are positive Hillary ads. But the Clinton campaign and allies seem to be focusing specifically on making this election a referendum on Donald Trump.

MITCH STEWART, OBAMA 2012 BATTLEGROUND STATE DIRECTOR: And I think that's smart. As a matter of fact, I think that ad was perfect. Not only because of the messages that it plays out, the images, but it's so well-done that we're talking about it on CNN.