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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With New Jersey Senator Cory Booker; Interview With Dr. Ben Carson; Hillary V.P. Watch; Cruz Disruption; Trump Night at Republican National Convention. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 21, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:20]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. We're live inside the Q in Cleveland for the final day of the Republican National Convention.

I'm Jake Tapper.

Hours ago, we saw Donald Trump getting his bearings on the big stage behind me for what will be, I think it's fair to say, the biggest speech of his life. Will he be magnanimous to his former opponents and their millions of supporters? Will he seek to inspire those undecided voters who are skeptical of him?

Will he pivot to presidential and become a man a majority of American voters want to entrust with their lives and their futures? Or will he choose door number two?

Critics say his convention has too often been derailed, not only by some missed opportunities, but by unforced errors, a floor fight, a plagiarism scandal, a denial of the nose on your face scandal, and then last night when a boomerang shaped like Texas Senator Ted Cruz smacked Trump in the head.

Trump's former primary rival refusing to endorse the nominee from the convention stage. The Republican Party, of course, they fear that all of this discord only further fuels those undecided voters who are skeptical of Mr. Trump.

But can he quell those concerns? A sloppy convention can be forgotten by an amazing speech. What is he going to say tonight?

Joining me now to talk about this all is former Republican presidential candidate and Donald Trump supporter Dr. Ben Carson.

Dr. Carson, thanks so much for being here. Good to see you, as always.

DR. BEN CARSON, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: Always good to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: What do you think he is going to say? First of all, do you have any idea? Have you seen the speech?

CARSON: No, I have not.

TAPPER: What do you want him to do? Can he be magnanimous? Can he reach out to the Jeb Bush supporters, the Ted Cruz supporters, the skeptical voters?

CARSON: I think he can.

There are a lot of people who think that he doesn't have the temperament that is necessary. But just look at what has happened this week with people attacking his wife for her speech. We know that there are others who just when somebody attacks their wife they go berserk.

But he's held that quite well together.

TAPPER: Is that a little reference to Ted Cruz there?

CARSON: Well, just others.

And it really does show that he has the correct fiber. But I'm expecting him to really talk about some of the real policies that will help get us on the right track, because the things that threaten us are fiscal irresponsibility. And that's a problem with both parties, Democrats and Republicans.

TAPPER: Due respect on the issue of fiscal responsibility, I have not heard any big proposals from Mr. Trump or his campaign talking about getting ahold of safety net spending programs, entitlement spending, or addressing the debt and deficit in any detailed way. Have you?

CARSON: Yes, I have.

TAPPER: You have?

CARSON: I have.

TAPPER: Behind closed doors, he has presented this to you?

CARSON: He has some excellent ideas.

And in terms of the entitlements, not necessarily going after those first, but really correcting the fundamentals of the economy first, so that we create an environment that encourages entrepreneurial risk- taking and capital investment, getting the jobs moving, so that people have real options.

And once you have that going on, then you can concentrate more on the entitlements.

TAPPER: Let's talk more about Ted Cruz, since you mentioned him, I think it is fair to say.

He said Republicans should vote their conscience. And, today, Cruz said he would not back somebody who insulted his wife and father. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And that pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi, then I'm going to nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARSON: Yes. Some people are unable to take the personal out of it.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Those were personal attacks, though, from Donald Trump.

CARSON: There were personal attacks against me too.

TAPPER: By Mr. Trump.

CARSON: By Mr. Trump. If it were about me, I would not be able to get over that. But it's about so much more than me.

It's about our children, our grandchildren, about the future of our country and what kind of country are we going to have. People have to be able to make that mental transition.

TAPPER: Let me ask you how you got over that, because I have to say the attacks against you by Mr. Trump were rather vicious.

He suggested -- you have in your book that you had a pathological temper. He took the word pathological and said, oh, that's really bad. That's like child molesters are pathological.

[16:05:02]

You're a man who has spent his life saving the lives of children.

He's a pediatric neurosurgeon, if you don't know.

And you have been trying to uplift the children of Baltimore.

CARSON: Right, or of the whole country.

TAPPER: And the whole country, but specifically you spend a lot of time in Baltimore. A friend of mine, Ta-Nehisi Coates, would talk about how you would do that. And he compared you to a child molester.

How do you get over that?

CARSON: Well, first of all, because I know it's not true. And everybody else knows it's not true. So, it's a nonissue. It's a non- function. And if I let it stick in my craw, then that means that I'm very self- centered. I just believe that the issues that affect this country that will affect us are so much bigger than any individual.

TAPPER: Hard to argue with that.

Dr. Ben Carson, it's always a pleasure to see you. Safe travels. I know you're going to Philadelphia. Say hi to my hometown.

CARSON: Thank you.

TAPPER: The countdown is on to Hillary Clinton's vice presidential choice.

She could decide as early as tomorrow. And the list of candidates has narrowed. One of her potential picks, Senator Cory Booker, he will join me next. Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:10:13]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD here in Cleveland.

Donald Trump is just hours away from formally accepting the Republican nomination for president. But within a day or two, we're told that we're going to learn the name of Hillary's running mate just before the Democratic Convention kicks off in Philadelphia on Monday.

Oft-discussed short-listers include Virginia Senator and former Governor Tim Kaine and former Iowa Governor and current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

But a knowledgeable Democratic source tells me that one man still very much remains in the hunt and on the Clinton short list, and not discussed enough by the likes of me, Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey.

And look at that. I have found -- what are you doing here?

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: First of all, tell me the truth, you discuss me in ways that you can't talk about on air.

TAPPER: What do you mean?

BOOKER: You have -- you and I have -- he's been one of the blessings to my Senate career. You send me good text messages and try to get me to come on the show.

TAPPER: I try to get you to the come on the show. That's true. I'm a naked booker.

I have to ask you about this speculation. I have been told by somebody who knows that you are on the short list. And you are -- you might get picked. And I know you're not going to tell me whether or not you have been picked. But do you know who the nominee is?

BOOKER: I don't know who the nominee is.

The great thing about is, she has tremendous choices. There are really quality people within our party. We have a strong bench. But the focus is really about who our nominees are. And today, this week, we have seen such a stark contrast between the darkness, negativity, what has been spewed in this convention, something like I have never seen before.

Usually, conventions want to point where America needs to go. This has been more about the gutter.

TAPPER: What have you not liked? What do you object to?

BOOKER: Well, I object to everything, from her being referred to as if she is in a league with Lucifer, literally said, to chants. I tweeted one out this morning about "Hang the witch."

This kind of hatred, the kind of bile. The fact-checkers, I have been looking at everybody from "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," the spew of lies that have been said, just blatant counterfactual lies.

All of this in totality has probably been one of the darker, meaner- spirited conventions of my lifetime. And that is very frustrating. It's really why I came here to Cleveland just today to really...

TAPPER: To object?

BOOKER: To object To that. This is not even the best of the Republican Party.

And that's why I think over 20 of my colleagues are staying away from this spectacle, because it reflects what we have seen in the campaign so far.

TAPPER: But, Senator, I have to say, all that being said -- and certainly Donald Trump's rather unusual method of campaigning, which have certainly upset and offended millions of Americans -- it has also attracted millions of Americans.

And the polls show Hillary Clinton and Trump neck and neck. What does it say about Hillary Clinton that somebody like Donald Trump could possibly beat her for president?

BOOKER: Well, I don't believe that. I have a deep faith in my country.

And I have seen people reject this. I mean, you have everybody from Paul Ryan calling what is coming out of Donald Trump's mouth textbook racism, to people like John McCain, who is a war hero. So, I think the totality, when this gets added up, when people start really programming into this and seeing this campaign, this country is going to turn away from that kind of bile.

TAPPER: People are programmed in, Senator. They have been watching the debates. They are getting record viewership.

Let me ask you a question.

BOOKER: Please.

TAPPER: According to a "New York Times"/CBS News poll that came out last week, 67 percent of registered voters find Hillary Clinton dishonest or untrustworthy. That number went up from last month after the FBI investigation.

BOOKER: Well, it is also after you see what I have seen in this convention.

TAPPER: She bears no responsibility for it?

BOOKER: I see unrelenting attacks time after time on things that independent sources are saying lie after lie after lie about her record.

So offensive, I'm watching her getting blamed for the things that the Bush administration did, leading us into Iraq, disbanding the Republican Guard, creating an environment where terrorists like ISIS and others can spring. Things like that -- frankly, that they did are now being heaped upon her, as if they're trying to reinvent history.

TAPPER: But does she bear any responsibility for her troubles? She said things that the FBI director says were not true.

BOOKER: Again, you heard the chants, "Lock her up." You heard the chants that are far more vile than this because you're sitting right next to the arena.

That is not something that she bears responsibility for. That is a call to a dark place in American politics that we have not heard since the days of segregationists holding court within parties.

And so this is -- let's not try to create a false equivalency here..

TAPPER: I'm not...

(CROSSTALK)

BOOKER: No, no, no, I'm not saying to you. I'm talking to other folks who wanted to say, oh, this is Republicans vs Democrats.

This is not the Republican Party. This is the party of Trump. This is a guy who offers almost a bounty on people, or I will pay your legal expenses if you take physical violence.

[16:15:04] This is someone who, whether you have a disability, whether you are Latino descent, whether you are African-American, who has systematically insulted, demeaned and degraded aspects of our community, aspects of our culture, aspects of our country. So, in any way put Secretary Clinton, someone who I can go to the quotes that Mitch McConnell said about her when she was in the Senate, that even Newt Gingrich who spewed lies about her last night. TAPPER: But this is what -- this is what Democrats do. You say

something about -- you ask a question about Hillary Clinton and issues that she might have, and you change the subject to how horrible Donald Trump is and you say there's no equivalent.

BOOKER: No.

TAPPER: I'm not saying -- I'm just saying, does she bear any responsibility? She said things that the FBI director said weren't true.

BOOKER: Right. And I'm saying to you, no. I'm saying to you that she admitted she made a mistake and we should move on. This is -- let me give you an example. Benghazi, here was a horrible that the investigation, seven, eight investigations that was done to that. We investigated that with more time, more duration, millions of dollars, more than we did the JFK association, more than we did the 9/11 attacks.

This is something that every time Secretary Clinton is involved in something, it gets drawn out, infused with conspiracy theories, hate, vile and lies. So, when she herself stands up for the American public and says, hey, I'm not perfect, I made a mistake. Let's now move on.

We now have folks that will not only not allow that move on, but they take it and twist it into a perversion that bears no semblance of the truth whatsoever.

TAPPER: I know you have a flight to catch. One last quick question, abstractly, theoretically, if there were somebody who was almost exactly my age, and his job resume looked like this -- seven years as the mayor of a city, not a major city, maybe a city that's like 67th in population, and he had three years in the Senate under his belt, would that person necessarily have the qualifications to be vice president?

BOOKER: I think that this hypothetical hurts and the reality is, I trust this person --

TAPPER: I forgot Stanford University.

BOOKER: I appreciate that. The fact that you didn't exaggerate my football career hurts me.

The reality is we have somebody now who is incredibly qualified, amazing attention to detail, someone who's taking this very seriously. She's going to pick a qualified person, a great person to be her running mate. I'm excited about that announcement and I think we will go into the convention ready to elevate the country, appeal to our higher angels, not the darker ones, and really talk about a great nation, how we're gong to get greater under her leadership.

TAPPER: If she picks you, then you just called yourself a great person. Just for the record. I just --

BOOKER: This is the exchanges we have in private -- TAPPER: You just called yourself a great person.

BOOKER: Would you do what you promise me and shave your head like me. That's what I want to know.

TAPPER: I don't have a skull like that, it's hideous.

BOOKER: I think you've got it man.

TAPPER: It's hideous. No, no, it's bad.

BOOKER: Share with the people.

TAPPER: No, no.

Stay with us. Senator Cory Booker, I appreciate it.

But you stay with us. It all comes down to tonight, Donald Trump's big speech. We've just got some new details on what he's going to say. That story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:22:43] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We're live in the Land of Cleve, Cleveland in the Republican National Convention. Donald Trump the man of the night here in Cleveland. We're just getting details about his big speech tonight, and what he's going to say.

Let's bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, what are you hearing? What should we expect to hear from the Republican nominee?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, those who have been paying attention to what Donald Trump has been saying for the last 13 months will certainly hear a familiar themes according to sources I've been talking to who are familiar with the process. And they said, don't expect him to pivot off of what he as been saying over and over again, but perhaps it will be delivered and be written in a more organized, structured organized, linear way. Build a wall, talk about illegal immigration, trade deals are done all wrong, China is beating us, crooked Hillary. Those are the kinds of things you will hear.

You know, I was told the theory is that Trump has been pretty actually consistent for the past 13 months since he first announced on June 16th, 2015 about those broad themes. He certainly kind of veered in and out of different specific issues based on the news, but those have been the core structures of what his message has been. And he's going to continue that.

Just quickly on the color, I'm told he had his first real practice run this past Sunday, and that his children, especially his son-in-law Jared Kushner has been heavily, heavily involved in writing it. TAPPER: And, Dana, at times on television, the convention floor might have appeared to viewers as chaotic among the delegates. But you say you're struck by the support on the floor for Donald Trump. You're there every night.

BASH: I really am, I have to say. It really kind of crystallized last night when I was standing in the Texas delegation, Ted Cruz's home state. The people who had been working tirelessly for him for years and years and years saying, you know what, it's time for him to move on, even we support Donald Trump.

I heard that really across the board. People who are reluctant, but saying, you know what, the time has come, we've got to get behind our nominee, more than I actually anticipated coming in.

Having said that, Jeff, this is a self selecting crowd.

[16:25:01] You know a lot of people, I know a lot of people, who are die-hard Republicans who they didn't even show up. They didn't want to come because they didn't think they could get to that place. But for the people, the activists, the grassroots, the party chairman who are here, they're more behind him than I anticipated.

TAPPER: Interesting. Dana Bash, thank you so much.

Tonight's theme is make America won again. Ted Cruz sure was not about unity last night, though.

Let's go live to CNN's Jim Acosta who's on the convention floor.

Jim, Trump now has ground to make up --

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

TAPPER: -- I think, in terms of the narrative of the convention especially after that speech last night and this morning by Mr. Cruz. .

ACOSTA: That's right, Jake. It was like a Trump rally broke out at the Republican convention last night when all of those people were yelling at Ted Cruz to get off of the stage. We were watching all of it and it was amazing to see something like that unfold at a Republican convention.

I can tell you from talking to people inside the Trump campaign and what we have been hearing all day long from people like Paul Manafort, they just feel that Ted Cruz had the opportunity to help unify this Republican Party. It is somewhat broken, and that he just flat out broke that pledge that all of the candidates signed at the beginning of this primary process to support the eventual nominee. So, there's no love lost there.

But I can tell you from talking to convention sources, they feel like they just got the sort end of the deal because they gave Ted Cruz an extra eight minutes. He was supposed to have 12 minutes, instead he got 20 minutes and what happened as a result is he divided the convention, resulting in a lot of boos being rained down from the rafters and it pushed Mike Pence off of the radar screen and out of prime time to some extent. And so, they are furious with Ted Cruz.

Donald Trump does that have that chance tonight to hit the reset button somewhat, Jake. I'm told from talking to a Trump campaign source that the speech will around about 45 minutes and yes, he will use a teleprompter -- Jake.

TAPPER: A teleprompter, aha. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

TAPPER: Ted Cruz, of course, turning the Cleveland convention into his own personal Alamo last night. Now, Trump allies are saying he committed political suicide. We'll ask our panel what they think, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)