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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Will Ted Cruz Endorse Donald Trump?; Gov. Chris Christie Slams Hillary Clinton; Sources: Clinton To Introduce VP Choice This Week; Prominent Republicans Missing At RNC. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 20, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:31:40]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

You're looking at live pictures from outside the Q, the Quicken Loans Center here in Cleveland, where the Republican National Convention is being held.

There is a massive show of force by law enforcement confronting some protesters. At least two have been arrested. We are going to keep an eye on these protests. We have some reporters out there. And if anything warrants, we will go out.

But in the meantime, let's turn back to our panel here.

And let me start with you, John King. Ted Cruz, the big question right now, he is speaking. The big question, will he endorse Donald Trump? I have to say, just on its face, if you're not going to endorse him, why are you speaking at his convention?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a great question.

And we saw as the roll call played out, the vote on the rules played out, there are a lot of people on the floor that still want Ted Cruz to be their candidate. And guess what? They're going to be sorely disappointed. The Republicans already have their nominee.

But Ted Cruz -- is an interesting calculation, because in his head, he is trying to navigate what does he do at this convention that doesn't hurt him and then he's trying to help himself, because he's planning to run in 2020.

There are a lot of Cruz people who say he's planning to run in 2020 even if Donald Trump is the Republican president of the United States, challenge a sitting president. Some people around him are talking about that.

What does he do tonight? But you had this conversation with Rick Perry on the floor the other day. We're going to hear it from Scott Walker tonight. I don't know what it is so hard for Ted Cruz to say he is not my first choice, I wish you were voting for me, but we have two choices left, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. That's an easy when it comes to the Supreme Court. That's an easy when it comes to that. The other Republicans have gotten there. Now, Rick Perry is not going

to run for president again, we don't think. Scott Walker might and he will be here tonight.

I'm told that when Trump met with Cruz in Washington a week or so ago, that Trump went in saying I need your endorsement, and Cruz said, I can't do it. I'm not ready to do it right now. Plus, I can't do it as part of a deal. It can't look like a currency transaction. I endorse, you give me a speaking role.

Inside the Trump campaign, they believe that Cruz will get there. We're a few hours away from finding out.

TAPPER: I don't know how confident they are.

We're going to play -- I talked to Chris Christie earlier. And he was very vociferous, the kind of energy you see from a Chris Christie if he is worried that it's not going to happen.

Michael Smerconish, walk me through the counterargument why not endorse, because I understand that it was very contentious. I understand that Donald Trump retweeted a photo, something that was unflattering and insulting about his wife, about Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi. I understand that Donald Trump suggested that his father, Rafael, preposterously suggested, that his father played a role in the Kennedy assassination.

But if you're going to speak at his convention, why would you not endorse him?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the reasons you have just identified, which is to say, it's a matter of honor, right? To an about-face and to forget all that and to now say I'm with him asks too much.

But the further answer is because this could all still end ugly. And I think he wants some distance in the event if that that's the way it goes down on November 8. It is one of several uncomfortable moments (INAUDIBLE) out here. Another is John Kasich. yesterday at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a mile away, and not stepping foot inside the Q Center.

I think what he will do tonight is continue with this indictment of Hillary Clinton, a la Rudy Giuliani, a la Chris Christie last night. It will all about her. It will be nothing about Trump.

[16:35:00]

TAPPER: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, I don't even know if you can hear me right now, because of the sound check, so I will yell it.

How would the Trump organization feel if Ted Cruz comes out, gives a very strong speech in favor of conservative values, very strong speech attacking Hillary Clinton, but doesn't actually say vote for Donald Trump? Would that be seen as a betrayal?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, SENIOR TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I think we will see Ted Cruz draw a very clear contrast of the two choices left.

Obviously, Ted Cruz came into the race not wanting to support Donald Trump and campaigning for himself. So Donald Trump is not his first choice, probably was not his second choice, but now he is his only choice. And I think he's going to make that contrast very clear tonight.

TAPPER: And, Jan Brewer, what do you think?

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: I'm having a hard time hearing Sarah.

TAPPER: What do you -- just tell me what think about the idea of Ted Cruz speaking, but not endorsing Donald Trump.

BREWER: I had not heard that he wasn't going to endorse.

TAPPER: We don't know.

BREWER: OK. OK.

No, I think that if he is speaking, he ought to be there, he ought to throw his support behind Donald Trump. And if he doesn't, I don't understand why he has been invited to speak. I would think the campaign, obviously, would look and see what he was going to say.

And the party is coming together after last night. I have had Trump people and I have had Cruz people come up to me to tell me that the alternative now, the alternative is just not going to work.

They're not going to vote for Hillary, and they're too conservative and they're too Republican to not vote. So they're going to show up, and as we move forward with our game face on, come November, they will go and they will vote for Donald Trump.

TAPPER: All right.

I'm about to turn behind me and start yelling "Free Bird."

Everybody, thank you so much for being here.

Chris Christie mincing no words, saying Ted Cruz was kissing Donald Trump's rear end for months, and if Cruz does not endorse Trump tonight, he's not the person he says he is.

Chris Christie talking to me coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:27]

TAPPER: Welcome back to the Q Center and the Republican National Convention. I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie delivered a fiery speech at the convention last night, essentially putting Hillary Clinton on a mock trial, the former prosecutor laying out a case against her policies as secretary of state and about the FBI investigation into her private e- mail server.

On day three here, the New Jersey governor, who heads the Trump transition team, continues to rally for his longtime friend and former competitor. Earlier today, Governor Christie sat down with me to make a case for the Republican presidential nominee.

I asked him about the reluctance of the Trump campaign to acknowledge that parts of Melania Trump's speech had been plagiarized and what this might say about Trump's leadership style.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I don't know the dynamic is that is going on inside the Trump household right now.

But I know Melania pretty well. And I know Melania is a very private person, really intelligent. Really cares about Donald. Loves him and loves her son. And now there is all of this stuff from a speech that she probably didn't want to give in the first place that is demeaning to her, even by extension.

So, part of what people can't forget about people in public life is, we have a private life. We go home, and our wives don't treat us like the governor, or the congressman, or, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trust me on this. This is true.

CHRISTIE: Right? Or the presidential candidate.

Or, listen, like, you're the guy I married when no one knew who the hell you were and nobody cared what you said and nobody wanted a picture of you on the street.

That personal interaction -- I spoke to Donald a little bit last night. But we didn't get into this topic. But I'm going to see him later today, and I'm sure we will.

And we will talk based on our relationship as friends, and as husbands. And I will tell you, it would make me enormously uncomfortable if a member of my staff had done that to my wife.

And negotiating that triangle between -- in politics, family, candidate, staff, and any politician who has achieved anything in this country will tell you that that is a love triangle.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: It just is.

TAPPER: ISIS is obviously a huge concern among the American people, and I guess one of the confusion -- there is a confusion, I think, about what specifically would Donald Trump do differently in terms of specifics? He says he would bomb the hell out of ISIS. He says that we need to have better intelligence, along those lines. But he's also said that he would not have very many troops -- there are about 4,000 troops in Iraq -- U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria right now.

In terms of the threat there and in terms of the threat here, what are the specifics as to what he would do differently?

CHRISTIE: I do think he will wind up, wind up having to commit more troops there.

And I think -- but that is something I think that he will have to come to a conclusion on as he continues to get more regular briefings that he will do now as the nominee. He will be given now access to intelligence that he simply doesn't have now.

And my experience with Donald has been ,when you sit and you talk with him dispassionately about facts, he listens, he absorbs it, and then it alters his view of particular topics.

I think that is what we want in political leaders, folks who are willing to listen and are not wed to having to do one thing in one particular way because I said it six months ago on "STATE OF THE UNION."

You got to be able to go, OK, well, I now have new facts that make me want to change my position.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:45:06] TAPPER: We also discussed the fact that Senator Ted Cruz has yet to endorse Donald Trump even though he is speaking this evening and Governor Christie made a very strong argument that Cruz needs to endorse Donald Trump tonight in his speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: If you want to sign the pledge, adhere to the pledge, and you're supposed to keep your word. That is part of the problem and the continued friction. So I hope Ted Cruz gets up tonight when he speaks at the convention and keeps his word and endorses Donald Trump.

He should and especially the way he was kissing Donald's rear end for the first six months of the campaign, all of us -- right they're doing rallies together on Capitol Hill. I mean seriously, they don't understand that Donald is not a politician.

He thought Ted really meant it. He thought Ted was being honest. When he said all of these nice things about Donald. Then he starts attacking Donald and Donald called me and said I thought this guy liked me.

I said he never liked you, are you kidding? He was faking it. So I hope that Ted ends that tonight and keeps his word and endorses Trump. If he doesn't, he is less of a person than he presents himself to be for the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Our thanks to Governor Christie and Congressman Mike Rogers as well as Americans for Peace, Prosperity, and Security for hosting the panel.

We are now one day closer to Hillary Clinton's vice presidential pick. The list has been narrowed again. Who is at the top of Hillary Clinton's short list right now? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:51]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper live at the Q Center in Cleveland where the Republican National Convention has entered day three.

While Donald Trump's running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, is getting ready to take the stage in just a few hours, Hillary Clinton is narrowing down her own vice presidential choice.

Let's bring CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, how close is Clinton to finalizing her decision. Do you think we are going to hear it this week?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, without question, she is very close to this decision. I'm told she will introduce her running mate at a rally this week in Florida either on Friday in Tampa or on Saturday in Miami.

The person at the top of the list, many Democrats were talking to, believe is Tim Kaine, the Virginia senator and former Virginia governor. A just a couple of moments ago, he addressed all the speculation about him being on the list.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: You know, I guess all I can say is I went through the process in 2008 so I kind of know the rhythm of it and I'm glad that I do. But a decision is very late so I don't expect the decision will be made or announced until the weekend between the two conventions. That's all I really know right now. It is wonderful to be mentioned, but I love my job, and trying not to, you know, overly think it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Now we have learned that also leading this list of contenders is Tom Vilsack, the current agriculture secretary, long time governor of Iowa, and very close and loyal personal friend of Hillary Clinton.

Those two were at the top. Some others are also still on the outer list including Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown, maybe Cory Booker, and Tom Perez, the Labor Secretary, but it is Vilsack and Kaine who are the leading contenders. Now if you're wondering if Hillary Clinton is watching this Republican convention in Cleveland, as she sits at in her house in Chappaqua, the answer is yes.

She responded on Twitter to Chris Christie. She said, "If you think Chris Christie can lecture anyone on ethics, we have a bridge to sell you" -- Jake.

TAPPER: Christie told me that that was not a substantive response from the Clinton team to the case he laid out against her. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

There is one big thing missing from this year's Republican convention and it's not going unnoticed. What is it? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:57:25]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Here in Cleveland, we have heard a wide range of excuses about why so many high level Republicans are not here. Last night, while Donald Trump officially became the 2016 nominee, I wondered what the delegates made of these notable absences and if they cared.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCEMENT: To the announcement of the delegation --

TAPPER: I'm here on the floor of the Republican National Convention, and it is a very exciting moment. Donald Trump's name is being formally placed into nomination, but I have to say having covered so many conventions, one thing is very different about this convention, there are a lot of very notable absences, where is Senator Lindsay Graham?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know Mr. Graham's schedule and he wasn't elected as delegate, I am, and I'm from Eakins, South Carolina, but I have a vote tonight and he doesn't.

TAPPER: Where are your senators, John McCain or Jeff Flake? They are not here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could care less if they are here. I'm supporting Donald Trump and I don't care what the establishment does because without them we can still win.

TAPPER: Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are not here right now at this exciting moment for the Florida delegation, where are they?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they are probably home watching the primary convention here. I was a Jeb Bush fan when it started out, but Florida spoke very loud and clear. Every single county except one voted for Donald Trump. I'm going to be supporting the state of Florida in their request.

TAPPER: Do you think that was a little Floridian slip there? Do you wish that every single county voted for Jeb Bush?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't put words in my mouth.

TAPPER: Would it have been great for Mitt Romney to be there casting the delegates for Massachusetts for Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, right now, it is the people's movement right now. This is a grass roots movement.

TAPPER: Not about the elites?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not about the other politicians, it's about the grass roots movement coming together and supporting our nominee.

TAPPER: George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, neither of them are here and it's not because they're out doing boat repairs. They're not here because they don't support Mr. Trump, does that bother you as a Texas Republican?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love both of those gentlemen, and I'm sorry that they're going to miss out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper turning you over to Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper in "THE SITUATION ROOM."