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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Trump Campaign Accused of Plagiarizing Michelle Obama; CNN Republican National Convention. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired July 19, 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: Welcome to THE LEAD live from the Republican National Convention in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. I'm Jake Tapper.
Day one of the convention began with some chaos. The Republican National Committee forced to quell a rebellion on the floor of the convention. Night one ended with what most people thought would be a high, Melania Trump delivering a very well-received speech, earning almost universal praise, until viewers started to notice awkward similarities, word for word similarities, word for word for word for word similarities between sections of her speech and the one delivered by Michelle Obama at the Democratic Convention in 2008.
The Trump campaign, though, says there is nothing to see here, folks. Campaign chief Paul Manafort today denying anyone cribbed anything and sources telling CNN the campaign has no plans to fire or discipline anyone involved in the speechwriting process.
And then as they try to move on, the Trump campaign is right now also girding for another possible insurrection at the convention. Today is the day it becomes officially official. Donald Trump's name gets placed into official nomination. But supporters of Texas Senator Ted Cruz could try to place the senator's name into nomination as well.
Will they succeed in getting his name into nomination? What could be messy nomination process is set to begin in the next hour.
CNN's Sara Murray joins me now live from the convention floor.
Sara, also on tonight's schedule, two more Trump family speeches intended to present a warmer and fuzzier side of Mr. Trump.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jake.
And Melania Trump was trying to do just that last night, a little bit of controversy along the way. Today, the Trump campaign is hoping to turn the page on that. They're hoping speeches by two of Donald Trump's children will help him do exactly that.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: In 2006, I was very proud to become a citizen of the United States, the greatest privilege on planet Earth.
MURRAY (voice-over): Melania Trump's moment in spotlight dampened as it became clear some of the lines in her convention speech were lifted from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention address.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values, like you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond, that you do what you say you are going to do.
TRUMP: My parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond, and you do what you say and keep your promise.
OBAMA: That you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.
TRUMP: That you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son, and we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow.
OBAMA: And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values and to pass them on to the next generation, because want our children and children in this nation to know that the only limit to the height of your achievement is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.
TRUMP: Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
MURRAY: Today, Trump top adviser Paul Manafort is denying that the similarities even exist.
PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CONVENTION MANAGER: There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech.
These were common words and values, that she cares about her family, that -- things like that. I mean, she was speaking in front of 35 million people last night. She knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy.
MURRAY: But others are pointing to this as the latest trip-up in a campaign prone to missteps.
And former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was fired, says if Manafort is responsible for the copied lines, it's time for him to go.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Paul needs take a deep look inside, and understand what the process was. Make sure the protocols are in place. Make sure that there is a check and balance of every speech that is going to go going forward. And whoever signed off, was the final sign-off that allowed this to go forward should be held accountable.
QUESTION: And if there was Paul Manafort, he should be held accountable?
LEWANDOWSKI: I think if it was Paul Manafort, he would do the right thing and resign.
MURRAY: Despite the dark mark on last night's speech, the Trump campaign says no staffers will be fired or disciplined.
In a statement last night, a campaign spokesman said: "Melania worked with a team of writers on a speech that included fragments that reflected her own thinking."
And Melania says she played a prominent role in crafting the speech.
TRUMP: I wrote it, with a little help as possible.
MURRAY: Now Trump's team is looking to refocus the attention on other members of the Trump family.
Donald Trump Jr. and Tiffany Trump, two of the candidate's children, are slated to speak tonight.
MURRAY: Now, in terms of Melania's speech, the Trump campaign firmly believes that this is a media-generated controversy, that it will blow over.
But in talking to some staffers and some advisers, there is a little bit of a sense of disappointment this frenzy could overshadow what they thought was an otherwise very poised and polished performance by Melania Trump last night. Like I said, Jake, they are hoping to see more of that personal side from Donald Trump Jr., from Tiffany Trump tonight, hopefully with none of the snafus that they saw last night -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much.
Another big question facing Donald Trump right now, will supporters of Senator Ted Cruz try to stage a convention coup? Cruz remains a presidential candidate and we will hear his name as a contender during the roll call that will be called soon.
CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash is also on the convention floor.
Dana, frankly, what gives here? Mr. Trump, he won the nomination, end of story, full stop.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is true when you look at the numbers, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow for people here on the convention floor who will be gathering later who want Ted Cruz and more importantly are just not satisfied with Donald Trump as their nominee.
So what we're going to look for, Jake, is whether or not eight state delegations can get a majority of signatures from their delegates to nominate Ted Cruz. If they're able to do that, then Ted Cruz can, by the rules of the convention, formally be nominated.
What will that mean? Will it mean that he actually will suddenly take over and there will be a coup, as you mentioned? No. It will be largely symbolic, but it will be a symbolic move that the Trump campaign, especially at this point, could do without, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash, on the convention floor, thank you.
Joining me now is the Republican Senator from Florida Marco Rubio.
Sir, thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Thank you. Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Watching Melania Trump last night, many observers noticed some striking similarities between her speech and Michelle Obama's 2008 speech to the DNC. It's pretty clear some somebody, presumably a member of the speechwriting team, accidentally or not, plagiarized some of that speech.
I'm just wondering, if the same thing happened on your staff, what would your reaction be? The Trump campaign is just denying that there was plagiarism.
RUBIO: Well, I would not have been happy simply because, instead of talking about the speech, you guys and others are going to be talking about how similar it may have been to somebody else's speech.
But suffice it to say, she is not a candidate. She's not running for president. She is not public officeholder or someone that is seeking officeholder. She is the potential first lady of the United States who gave a speech last night that, as long as it truly reflected how she felt, I think that is what really matters.
I get why it's a big deal in terms of the internal inside baseball of political coverage. But I think for the vast majority of Americans, it doesn't really matter one way or other. It's not a big deal to them. I think they got a chance to meet her last night and hear from her and hear her story, a story that a lot of Americans hadn't heard before.
And I think that is really what is going to matter to voters, probably not to the political punditry class, but to voters. That's not going to be a big deal for voters.
TAPPER: I know the most important job that you have, you always say, is being the father. If one of the teachers of one of your four beautiful children came to you and said that sentences in a term paper that they had handed in seemed clearly plagiarized from other material, you would not be upset about that?
RUBIO: I would, but that is different from what you're asking me.
Last night was a convention speech, one that I don't think she claims to have written. Obviously, she sat down and talked to somebody about her background, and someone put those words together for them.
And I'm sure the Trump campaign is going to be talking to whoever that is. And they're probably not pleased by the fact that there were other words they could have chosen that could have equally captured what she meant.
But that's different than saying she did it deliberately. In the case of a kid and a term paper, that would be something they did on purpose to try to cheat. I don't think she had any reason herself to do that, because she has a great story to tell and there were other words they could have used to tell it.
So that's what I'm telling you, for most voters, they recognize this. Ms. Trump is not a politician. She's not a political figure. This is new to her. And I think, from what I have seen in the coverage and the last 10 minutes of the speech that I caught, she did a good very job in a very difficult circumstance. I have been on that stage before. It's a lot of eyes on you. For something who has never done it before, she did a great job.
TAPPER: Let's turn to foreign policy for a second.
Here is Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday talking to me about the battle against ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: They are on the run.
And I believe what we're seeing are the desperate actions of an entity that sees the noose closing around it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: He is obviously talking about they're on the run in Iraq and Syria, and the argument from the Obama administration is these attacks we keep seeing are desperate acts and not a suggestion that ISIS is actually expanding.
What do you think, sir?
RUBIO: Well, I think ISIS is morphing into something different.
From the very beginning, the Obama administration has consistently underestimated the threat from ISIS. I recall early on when they crossed over from Syria into Iraq, I began warning about them. And the president called them the J.V. team.
So, on the one hand, they had have some battlefield losses in Iraq and in Syria, but on the other hand, they have shown a growing capable to both inspire and direct attacks in Turkey, in Europe, in San Bernardino, in Orlando, Florida, where I find myself today.
So they are morphing into an even more difficult group to be able to confront, given the fact that in the time they have been there and have been underestimated, they have created these additional capacities for themselves.
TAPPER: I want to turn to another subject in foreign policy, Russia and Vladimir Putin.
You have called Putin a gangster and a thug. You have said he needs to be diplomatically shunned by the world. Donald Trump has a very different take on Putin. He seems to be cozying up to the Russian leader. According to "The Washington Post," the Trump campaign actually lobbied behind the scenes to take out of the Republican platform a provision that would have called for arming Ukraine to fight the Russian and the Russian-backed forces.
I should also note, of course, that Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked as a lobbyist for the Russia-backed former Ukrainian president.
Are you at all concerned about Mr. Trump and his campaign, their apparent affinity for Vladimir Putin?
RUBIO: Well, I disagreed with his assessment on Russia during the campaign. I disagree with it now.
And that's why I have said, if elected, reelected to the United States Senate, I'm prepared to, when we disagree on something, confront even a president in my own party.
My hope is that once Donald gets there and begins to learn more about this and all of the information regarding not just what Putin is doing, but who Putin is and what he is trying to do, that he will change opinion on some of these things based on new information he will have access to, that perhaps he doesn't have access to right now.
But, irrespective, I have a very strong feeling about what our policies towards Russia and in particular towards Vladimir Putin should be, and that is what I'm going to advocate for no matter who is president, even if it's a president in my own party.
TAPPER: Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir.
RUBIO: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Melania Trump hit with a plagiarism charge. Could there be other -- where she has borrowed quotes? Our panel will discuss it all next.
[16:17:34] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Joining us at the -- well, what's going on right there? Oh, look at that, House Speaker Paul Ryan. He's checking out the podium, checking out the teleprompter. OK. That's where his kids are going to seat. Good, Paul Ryan.
All right. So, let's get right to our panel.
Nia-Malika Henderson is here to talk about it all, along with John King and Gloria Borger and Michael Smerconish. National campaign spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, Katrina Pierson. Former senior advisor to Mitt Romney, Dan Senor. Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Donald Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord.
Jeffrey, let me start with you.
We'll talk about Melania Trump's speech. This has been called horrific staff work. Reince Priebus said he would fire the speechwriter. Corey Lewandowski said he would fire the speechwriter and throw in Paul Manafort if he signed off on the speech. The Trump campaign says nothing happened and they're not going to do anything.
Do you think that they are dealing with this appropriately?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would fire the speechwriter, or just go along with the public flogging so they never do it again. This kind of thing -- I mean, there's two things. First, this is enormous distraction. I mean, this is so unprofessional.
TAPPER: One that they could have ended this morning by acknowledging that it was a problem and admitting it and moving on.
LORD: So, they're going to do what they're going to do. I think this was a serious mistake on somebody's part. Now that said, let's just put this over here for a minute and I will say, bring back my Trump hat on here, that I personally turned in then-Senator Biden to "The New York Times" in 1987 when I was on the Reagan staff for plagiarism. Senator Obama was accused of it with Deval Patrick. Michelle Obama taking something from Saul Alinsky.
Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders as a matter of was asked about something that she apparently took from him. I think it was on "Meet the Press" and he says, well, we're exploring the copyright issues here.
So, my point is that this is a danger at large for people like this, but a mistake here, I think someone should walk the plank, and apparently, they're not.
TAPPER: Katrina, let me ask you, Jeffrey Lord is a huge supporter of Donald Trump. He has defended him for a year, doing the lord's work, in your view.
This is not the first time that the Internet has found instances of Melania using other people's words as her own.
[16:20:06] All those detectives on Twitter today found in October 2012, she posted in Twitter this quote. Always trust yourself, think for yourself, speak for yourself, be yourself. That is a quote from the late educator and activist Marva Collins in the book, "Ordinary Children, Extraordinary Teachers." She left out a key passage, which is kind of interesting. The actual original quote, "the exact same, trust yourself, think for yourself, act for yourself, speak for yourself, be yourself," all lifted word for word, she left out "imitation is suicide", which is an interesting thing to leave out.
Is it possible, I don't know what happened, is it possible that given this is the fourth language she speaks and she is from another culture that she does not know that appropriating other people's words as your own is frowned upon in public life?
KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP NATIONAL CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: Well, I think what you're seeing happened is she was being inspirational. A lot of people hear quotes that inspire them and they repeat them. In this particular case, we're talking about the amazing speech that Mrs. Trump gave last night. We're talking about phrases --
TAPPER: That Mrs. Obama partially gave eight years ago.
PIERSON: Mrs. Trump gave a phenomenal speech last night, and these were phrases. This wasn't a story. This wasn't a life story. This wasn't even a passage out of a book. These were just phrases used to describe her values, which many people happen to have in this country.
I will point to Elizabeth Dole in 1996, who was actually the one to talk about her husband with his words being his bond. So, did Michelle Obama plagiarize Elizabeth Dole? It was Laura Bush in 2004 who also talk about hard work and dedication to achieve what he wants. These are goals, transitional goals.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But it wasn't just one word. It was sentences strung together.
And these other examples I think are great and fine, and Joe Biden did, after all, end his run for the presidency if you will recall.
So, there is a difference here because Melania Trump is not the candidate. Melania Trump may have been very involved in this speech, but we all assume that it was a speechwriter who wrote the speech. And I think this goes to a larger point about the organization of the campaign, and how well it's run, how vetted the speeches are, and, you know, something larger than just Melania, which is Jake points out, the candidate himself could have put an end to if he come out there this morning and said, OK, we have taken care of this.
TAPPER: Dan, you did -- you were a spokesman for the government in Iraq, for the U.S. -- so you know crisis communication.
DAN SENOR, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO MITT ROMNEY: Yes, yes.
TAPPER: How would you advise him to deal with this? You just heard Katrina's response, which is as if this didn't happen, as if we're not --
SENOR: First of all, don't do it and that can be protected against by having a serious vetting process of every speech. In 2012 convention that I was involved with, every speech, like the speeches that about to happen in a couple of hours, and everybody semicolon and word is vetted by a team. There's no infrastructure to do that. Once you make that mistake --
TAPPER: There are computer programs to do that. Yes.
SENOR: Once you're caught -- and there are teams of, you know, sort of interns and staffers read through this stuff. Once you're caught, just acknowledge the mistake and move on. They're trying to explain this away and compare it to others, it's just a loser.
And I just want to come back to what Gloria said, we have a tendency in these situations to do lots of process stuff. It's this person's fault, that person's fault, this one needs to be -- at the end of the day, campaign organizations are a reflection of the candidate. This candidate is a one-man band. He is impulsive. The full organization is basically an advanced team of Twitter feed. That's it.
So, huge mistakes are going to happen. Now, we Republicans have been told for a long time, wait for the pivot, he's going to start waiting for a real presidential candidate and a real presidential campaign organization. Wait for the general election.
We're here. This is the first day of the convention that we saw this. What on earth is he going to do when he needs to fill 5,000 positions in administration.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She spoke last night with great poised and with great dignity.
SMERCONISH: I was very impressed with the delivery. I don't hold her so accountable for this plagiarism. I don't believe that Melania Trump lifted two paragraphs from the first lady. But it really says a lot about him and I have to say, it says a lot about the campaign for the inability to be self reflective, to say wow, we made a mistake. And I think it's a troublesome sign in terms of picking a commander in chief.
PIERSON: But it's only a mistake --
TAPPER: As Marva Collins once said, imitation is suicide.
PIERSON: What happened here, again, these were phrases. This was not a story. This was not an entire --
PIERSON: But they were phrases, Elizabeth Dole, Laura Bush, some of the exact same phrases ion the past.
TAPPER: Donna, I want to -- DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thief, it's a thief of
TAPPER: You're supposed to attribute. And if my children are watching, and you do this, you're going to get in a lot of trouble.
All right. Dan --
BRAZILE: If my children are watching this, they will be dismissed from college.
TAPPER: Dan, I want to ask you about a tweet. You knew I was going to ask you about this, about Mike Pence.
[16:25:01] After he was named to the ticket, you tweeted Friday, "It's disorienting to have had commiserated with someone regarding Trump about how he was unacceptable and then to see that someone becomes Trump's V.P." Tell me more about that.
SENOR: I'm a huge fan, I encouraged him in the past. It is disorienting to see someone who is a pro internationalist in foreign policy, supports a muscular foreign policy, pro-free trade, pro- immigration, he spoken out publicly against the Muslim ban, talked about its constitutionality or lack thereof. He's always been someone who cultivated civility in politics.
And to see him sign on to a nominee that I know from a personal conversation and the things he said publicly, that he had real skepticism about was disorienting. And I think leave Pence aside, he is a symbol -- he's emblematic of what's going on here, which is an entire Republican establishment that I think for the most people so craven and so opportunistic that they're willing to sign on with someone who's world view is so diametrically opposed to most of the people who've been active in this party for sometime.
LORD: But that was George Herbert Walker Bush assailed to joining Ronald Reagan ticket.
SENOR: There's difference, Jeffrey. There's difference. George H.W. Bush never questioned when -
LORD: Voodoo economics. Voodoo economics.
SENOR: Let me finish. He didn't question whether or not the central pillars of Ronald Reagan's agenda was constitutional. Weeks ago, Mike Pence said something that Donald Trump proposed was offensive and unconstitutional. Now, he's on board.
PIERSON: Or maybe Governor Pence believes in coming together for the sake of the party and beating Hillary Clinton in November.
TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much to our panel. We really appreciate it.
With all eyes on Cleveland, Hillary Clinton is quietly making her decision on who she's going to pick as vice president. Plus, he painted a bleak picture last night suggesting that President
Obama's America is weaker by design. What did the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee mean by that? We'll talk to him next.