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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump: U.S., Mexico Relationship Is Critical. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 31, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president wants -- wants what's good for Mexico. And in sitting down and in talking, we both realized -- we realized this from the beginning -- that it's good for both of us, better for both of us, actually.

Yes, John?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: We didn't discuss that. We didn't discuss who pays for the wall. We didn't discuss that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, I'll start. Nothing like an easy question like that.

We did discuss the wall. We didn't discuss payment of the wall. That will be for a later date. This was a very preliminary meeting. I think it was an excellent meeting.

And we are -- I think we're very well on our way. A lot of the things I said are very strong, but we have to be strong. We have to say what's happening. There is crime, as you know. There's a lot of crime and there's a lot of problems.

But I think, together, we will solve those problems. I really believe that the president and I will solve those problems. We will get them solved. Illegal immigration is a problem for Mexico, as well as for us.

Drugs are a tremendous problem for Mexico, as well as us. It's not a one-way street. And we will work together and we will get those problems solved.

ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, MEXICAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There's absolute respect for the electoral process in the United States.

I wanted to invite both candidates, which was respond quite quickly by Mr. Trump, the candidate.

So, the meeting, besides the issues that we just discussed, we also talked about the -- how relevant is the relationship among our countries, how important it is to have a strategic alliance between our countries. I also asked and showed Mr. Trump the great responsibility that I have

to defend on the Mexican population, both Mexicans who are here and outside of Mexico, that there has been a misinterpretation or assertions that regrettably had hurt and had affected Mexicans and its perception of his candidacy, of which I am fully respectful.

Mexican people have felt hurt by the comments that had been made. But I'm sure that his genuine interest is to build a relationship that will give both of our societies better welfare. The willingness expressed of the Mexican presidency to get together with both candidates, both candidates of the United States, is based on that same premise, to work together, but, above all, in a mutual respect among nations.

This is what I have shared with candidate Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This concludes this event. And we thank all you for your attendance. This concludes this event. And we thank all you for your attendance.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: OK, we have been told buenas tardes, and the event is over, the bilateral meeting between Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, and the Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto.

Let's get some response with our panel right now.

Paul Begala, let me turn to you. You advise a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC.

Obviously, it looks like one of the goals this meeting was to depict Donald Trump not as a racist, as his opponents and sometimes his own words have depicted him as, but as somebody who wants to work with Mexico, who can be presidential. What do you think?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he was trying to do two things at once, and he failed.

He can't do two things at once, which is, his brand is strength, in the eyes of many. It is bombast even. We saw very little of that. And, in fact, he said he didn't even raise the issue of who pays for the wall, a line so central to the Trump message that when he speaks at rallies, the crowd chants it along with him.

It's like "Born to Run" at Springsteen, OK? Everybody is singing along. And he wimped out. And it's a Trump brand used to -- until one hour ago, the Trump brand stood for anything, I think it would have been strength.

And I think, in the eyes of many of his supporters, they're going to say he wimped out. We will that allow him to appeal more to the middle? Very skeptical, because we're 69 days from the election.

[16:35:08]

I think the voters say, OK, you're behind. This is a Hail Mary. I guess it's an Ave Maria, since he's south of the border. And I think that the folks he is trying to reach are deeply skeptical about his capacity to really change.

And then his voters, his people he already has, I think are going to be really angry that he went down there, he met with the Mexican president, and he didn't say the most important thing to them.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Which is that they need to pay for the wall.

TAPPER: Let me bring in Sarah Huckabee Sanders from the Trump campaign.

Sarah, why didn't he raise the issue of Mexico paying for the wall? And what is Mr. Trump's policy when it comes to the other big event today, when he gives his immigration speech later in Arizona, that he wants a deportation force that will remove all 11 million undocumented immigrants?

It does seem to be the combination of backing away from the deportation force, and not mentioning to the Mexican president, you're going to pay for the wall, it does seem to be backing away from some of the rhetoric we have heard from Mr. Trump.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, SENIOR TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I don't think he's backing away from anything.

If anything, I think this meeting showed what a strong leader Donald Trump is. He went to Mexico. He accepted the invitation. You have two sophisticated leaders who were willing to sit down and for the very first time talk about some of the things that they agreed on.

And I think that that was a first step. And I don't think that Mr. Trump felt in their first meeting it was the right direction to go to talk about who would pay for the wall. And this is the first of what I think will be many meetings over the course of the campaign and particularly when Donald Trump becomes president.

There are some big issues both leaders agree have to be addressed. And that is stopping illegal immigration, securing the border on both sides, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and modernizing NAFTA.

And these are really big issues that they had time to sit down in this first hour, this first meeting, to talk about and talk about some of the things they agree on, build that relationship and continue that to work towards big solutions that we have not seen Obama or Secretary Clinton in her role as secretary of state be able to accomplish.

If people want to continue with the status quo, then they should vote for Hillary Clinton. If they're looking for a strong leader that is willing to take big steps and bold moves, and they want to see things change, and they want solutions, then they should vote for Donald Trump.

TAPPER: I believe we have in our panel two voters who are not particularly enamored of either candidate.

Is that a fair depiction of you, Kirsten? This is your first time on my show. Welcome to CNN.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Great to be here.

TAPPER: What did you think? What was your response?

POWERS: Well, look, I think it gave him an opportunity to look presidential, and it is true that he had a different message here than he will probably have tonight or at his rallies tomorrow, which is sort of what he does.

He often will show up and you will sort of have good Donald Trump and then Donald Trump tomorrow.

TAPPER: This was good Donald Trump?

POWERS: Yes, this is him acting more presidential.

And I also think he would probably say this is him negotiating. This is how you negotiate. You don't come in the first time and you bring up that you're going to build the wall. You are going to start get to know each other and, then later on, down the road, you would bring that up.

It looks like they had a constructive conversation. It looks like he to a certain extent sort of won over the president, who was previously comparing him to some of the worst world leaders in history and is now basically saying I think I can have a constructive relationship with you.

As to whether or not this is going to scare off some of his core voters, it doesn't seem that they're going to be shaken by much. As Donald Trump has famously said, he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue. That sort of seems to be true, frankly.

And so his shifting on this issue, I'm not sure, is going to change that much, especially since he will probably be doubling down on a lot of stuff he normally says when we listen to his speech tonight.

TAPPER: All right, so, from a Democratic agnostic in the presidential race to a Republican agnostic in the presidential race.

Ana Navarro, what was your response? You have been very, very critical of Donald Trump, especially when it comes to how he has talked about Latinos and the Mexican-American community.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the Donald Trump I just saw I think had had some sort of personality transplant, because it's very different than what we have seen on the campaign trail.

And, look, Jake, brace yourself, because this could cause an earthquake. Lightning could strike. I think this was a very good maverick move by Donald Trump. He changed the narrative. We're no longer talking about his offensive tweet about Dwyane Wade's cousin, Nykea Aldridge.

He, frankly, gets some credit for going into what he knows is a hostile environment. Those two men up there, Pena Nieto and Donald Trump, together, combined, don't even get to 50 percent of favorability ratings in Mexico.

He answered questions, tough questions in a tough environment, something Hillary Clinton has been unwilling to do for days and days and days and days. For the first time in his life during this campaign, he actually said some positive, constructive things about Mexican-Americans, about Hispanics.

[16:40:00]

I thought he was actually pretty smart into turning it into a hemispheric thing, and to not turning it just about a wall, which is what we have seen on the campaign trail. So, I think we are going to see a very different Donald Trump today in Arizona, in Joe Arpaio's Arizona.

But also the imagery was very strong. He there was, in a podium, side by side next to a president of a major country talking about bilateral issues. It actually was not a bad move by Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Let me bring in right now if I can on the phone from Mexican City, we're joined by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Mr. President, thanks. Thanks for joining us.

What was your initial reaction to this event?

FELIPE CALDERON, FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT: Well, basically, like a lot of Mexicans, I'm very surprised and share some kind of resignation about this event.

I believe that to involve Mr. Trump was completely unnecessary and inconvenient for the country, due to the expressions and the insults that Trump has said about Mexico during a long year. So, I think it was a mistake.

Actually, historian Enrique Krauze say this morning it was a historical mistake for Mexico.

TAPPER: For Mexico and for the president, for President Pena, you say it's a mistake.

What do you think about the fact that we heard such different language? You mentioned some of the things that Mr. Trump has said about Mexicans. Obviously, he most famously, or in famously, when he announced his candidacy last summer, he described Mexicans crossing the border. He said Mexicans -- Mexico does not send us their best people. They're dealing drugs. They're rapists, although I'm sure some of them are now.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Today, he said Mexican-Americans are beyond reproach, spectacular, hardworking people. What did you think?

CALDERON: He's a hypocrite.

I don't believe him. He is lying. He doesn't mean what he says. Actually, the most dynastic followers he has say he means what we say.

Well, what kind of meaning we need to call, the manner in which he says we're rapists or the manner in which he says we're wonderful (INAUDIBLE) hardworking people?

I don't believe in him. And he's a hypocrite. And he is lying. And for that reason, I think it was very, very sorry. I'm very sorry to know -- to have this visit today in Mexico. I think it was a very important mistake. And (INAUDIBLE) says that tyrants should not be appeased. They should be faced with dignity and courage. And that is exactly what is not happening here in Mexico.

TAPPER: If you had been standing there, Mr. President, what would you have said to Mr. Trump?

CALDERON: First, I would not have invited him by any means.

And if he tried to reach me, I didn't -- I would not speak to him. That's what.

TAPPER: So, you would not even invite him?

CALDERON: In any case, before anything, I would demand some kind of apologize about the insults just lies about Mexican people before any -- to take any movement.

But there is some kind of naive movement related with that visit. It clearly is a movement that would support Trump's campaign exactly a few hours before he is going to try to sell his campaign with a message related with immigration policy.

It was a very bad move for Mexico, and a beautiful movement for him. I think the Mexican government is throwing a lifeline to the sinking campaign of Trump. And that was completely unnecessary and inconvenient.

TAPPER: All right, President Felipe Calderon, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Our panel is going to stick around.

But, first, he's a hard-core anti-illegal immigration sheriff from Arizona and a big-time Trump backer, so what does Joe Arpaio think of Trump possibly softening his stance on the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already in the United States?

We will talk to him about that and much more coming up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Let's continue with our breaking news. Donald Trump and Mexico's president, Enrique Pena Nieto just wrapping up a news conference and joint address hours before the Republican presidential nominee is said to deliver a major immigration address.

Let's talk about it with a Trump backer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix. He was a regional director for the DEA in Mexico City at one point and he is speaking at the Trump rally this evening.

Sheriff Joe, thanks for joining me. Congratulations on your primary victory last night.

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: So let me ask you, Sheriff, Paul Bagala points out that in front of the president of Mexico and in the private meeting, according to Mr. Trump, he did not bring up the idea that Mexico will pay for the wall. Does that bother you at all?

ARPAIO: No, what difference does it make? The wall is important no matter who pays for it. If Mexico doesn't pay for it, they do get foreign aid, maybe we can deduct the price from the foreign aid.

I'm not trying to be nasty, but isn't it great -- what a great day this is that the president of Mexico invited Donald Trump to Mexico, and he had the courage to go into the heart of Mexico to talk to the president. There is some mutual respect there.

TAPPER: Let me ask you about this evening's speech. There's been a lot of question about -- there has been a big question about whether or not Mr. Trump still stands by the pledge he made during the primaries that there will be a deportation force and there will be an effort to remove all 11 million estimated undocumented immigrants in this country, is he still standing by that as far as you know?

[16:50:09]ARPAIO: Well, I don't know, I'll see him tonight. I'll be talking to him tonight, but I'm sure that he will stick by his stance that you can't violate the law. Something has to be dealt with for that issue.

If they are violating the law, I know he wants to get rid of those on the streets for violent or any crime. If they're arrested, deport them, if they're committing another crime. So this is something he will evaluate and maybe learn something or had some conversation with the president today about that issue.

TAPPER: Isn't that position the idea that the violence offenders who are in this country illegally, that they should be immediately deported, isn't that basically the same position of Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, and all the others who Mr. Trump ran so successfully against talking about how tough he would be on illegal immigration because he would get all of the undocumented immigrants out of this country. ARPAIO: Anyone that's arrested on charges, on any type of crime, and they're here illegally, they should be deported. Not just talking about murderers and so on. So that's what he believes in. If you commit a crime, you go back to the country where you came from.

TAPPER: Right, no I hear you, but I'm wondering because there are all of these reports that people like Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, and former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and others talking about trying to push Mr. Trump on this issue a little bit, I guess, towards the center, for one of a better term.

And in fact in an interview with the "Washington Post," former Texas Governor Rick Perry said he met with Donald Trump and advised him that there is a, quote, "Thoughtful way" for undocumented immigrants who have otherwise abided by U.S. law, paid taxes, for them to stay legally and I'm wondering if that bothers you at all.

ARPAIO: Well, I don't think Donald Trump believes in amnesty, that's for sure. I don't believe in amnesty or a path way to citizenship if you come here illegally. But we both have hearts. I know him personally. He is a great guy. He does have a heart.

On the other hand, he wants to defend our country. All of the drugs coming into the United States comes from Mexico. He is the one that brought this subject out. Everybody forgets, 12 months ago, he talked about illegal immigration when nobody wanted to talk about it.

Now here we are we are talking about it, but that's one step forward. Now he met with the president. That's step number two and number three will be carrying out his promises when he becomes president.

But he is flexible. He says let's make a deal. When you go to meet the president, maybe he made a deal, who knows? But that is what is important. Mutual respect, work together, and try to get the job done together and forget all of his politics.

TAPPER: So it sounds to me like as long as he sticks by the general approach of trying to be tougher on illegal immigration, it's OK with you if he negotiates and possibly softens some of the approaches he's discussed earlier during the primaries, is that fair to say?

ARPAIO: Yes, you do negotiate. That's what I used to do with the president when I was over there, and we had difficult times, believe me, but I got lot done with mutual respect and getting the job done, working together with both countries. So yes, he is great at that.

We should be happy that he's making deals, going over there, and trying to alleviate some of the problems both our countries have. He is a great guy to do that. I'm not going to get into Hillary when she said today, he ought to be -- OK, we'll stop, I will talk about that later on.

TAPPER: We'll have you on another time. Thank you so much, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. We'll have you on to discuss Hillary Clinton at another time. We have to take break right now. Thank you so much. So what does Donald Trump gain or lose from this trip south of the border? We'll have much more on this breaking news ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:58:31]

TAPPER: We are back with our panel, and I have not had an opportunity yet to hear what Lanny Davis, long time Hillary Clinton friend, former special counsel for the Clinton White House, thinks about this event today and what the impact might be on American politics.

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: First the effects on supporters of Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and every other Republican standing on the stage, who Donald Trump denounced for favoring amnesty.

You heard from Jeb Bush already and I can imagine what you will hear from other Republicans who say you hypocrite. You didn't have the courage when you go to Mexico to say I still favor a deportation force. I predict tonight you will not hear that phrase in his speech. See if I'm right.

Secondly, what you didn't hear him do in Mexico in mutual respect is to apologize for challenging a federal judge, born in Indiana, that he can't be objective because of his Mexican heritage.

He certainly did not apologize to the president of Mexico, who should have asked him to that he described Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers. So what he didn't do is not win a single Latino vote in America. That was already written.

TAPPER: Kirsten, in 10 seconds, do you think that any Latinos will give him a second look after this?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I doubt it. I agree with Lanny on that. I don't think this is something you can undo all the damage that he has done in just a snap of a finger.

TAPPER: All right, great panel. Thank you one and all, Sara, Paul, Lanny, Kirsten, and Ana.

That is it for THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Adios.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, border crossing after --