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Interview With California Senator Kamala Harris and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul; President Trump Delivers Political Speech to Boy Scouts. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 25, 2017 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But despite their best efforts, nothing could have possibly prepared the Boy Scouts for what happened last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I saw him at a cocktail party, and it was very sad, because the hottest people in New York were at this party.


TAPPER: That was the president of the United States reminiscing about his salad days in New York City, among other things, all in front of tens of thousands of children and teenagers in his address -- and I use that word loosely -- to the annual Boy Scout Jamboree.


TRUMP: I said, who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts, right?



TAPPER: Who the hell wants to speak about politics in front of the Boy Scouts? I think I know someone who does.


TRUMP: But do you remember that incredible night with the maps, and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable? And they didn't know what to say.


TAPPER: That's right.

Breaking with precedents set by Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 and respected until last night, ignoring Scout regulations that -- quote -- "the Boy Scouts of America must not involve scouting in political matters," President Trump ran right for partisan politics last night. He trashed Obamacare. He assailed the nation's capital.


TRUMP: We ought to change it from the word swamp to the word cesspool or perhaps the word sewer.


TAPPER: He attacked the free press.


TRUMP: Fake media, fake news.


TAPPER: He went after Hillary Clinton.


TRUMP: My opponent didn't do work hard there because she was told...



TAPPER: He also told the children this long story about a tycoon that included this curious section.


TRUMP: He went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won't go any more than that, because you're Boy Scouts, so I'm not going to tell you what he did.


TRUMP: Should I tell you? Should I tell you?


TAPPER: The president thanked the audience of 12-to-18-year-olds for voting for him.

The Scout oath incidentally is that -- quote -- "On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

Let's bring in the panel now, CNN political commentators Andre Bauer, Mary Katharine Ham, and Angela Rye.

I'm going to start with you, Angela Rye, just because I think you will enjoy it the most.

What were your impressions of the speech last night? ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think President Trump gives us all a front-row seat about as why it's so important to teach civics in schools.

I think he missed all of the classes, and unfortunately for the Boy Scouts, they didn't learn anything from the commander in chief.

TAPPER: It's just interesting. You go back and look at the speeches given by previous presidents, George W. Bush. I was reading one. They're appropriate speeches to 13-, 14-year-old boys about serving your country, serving your causes greater than yourself.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, just give a nice commencement-like speech. Stick to the oath and the law.

I am a proud sister of two Eagle Scouts, barely made it under 18, but they did make it. Look, it's not hard. Go out there and give a nice speech to the young people and move on. But that is not what we were doing.

TAPPER: Andre, your thoughts?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: These young people get to see that you don't have to be a career politician to be president of the United States.

You don't have been to the most polished person. He talked about loyalty and trustworthiness. He talked about do what you love, work hard, never give up. He gave an inspirational speech.

Look, the left has been trying to destroy the Boy Scouts for years. I can't believe they're concerned about them now.


BAUER: They want to bring girls into Boy Scouts. I mean, it's the craziest thing I ever heard.

Look, this guy is the commander in chief. The last president didn't come once in eight years, and so now we're condemning this guy because he said something that doesn't fit with the political mold that we put up with for so long? It was probably refreshing to these guys.

RYE: Andre, the only thing I would say to you is there is still something called human decency.

And regardless of your political leanings, regardless of what party you vote -- and, again, these are not voting people, to Jake's point in his rundown of this particular speech. This was inappropriate.

And I think that the first rule in public speaking is to know your audience, and I think either he's delusional or he just doesn't care, but this was not an appropriate speech. And, normally, you know I just say, oh, Andre, because, normally, I can trust you to come through with one good polished moment.

And is I think you have to be honest and say this is not OK.

TAPPER: Andre, would you give that speech?


TAPPER: What would you do if you were asked to address a bunch of Boy Scouts? You are a former lieutenant governor of South Carolina.

BAUER: Well, I have addressed a group of Boy Scouts, not the big group, but I have addressed them in South Carolina. And I gave them somewhat of a non-normal speech as well, probably not what Donald Trump did.


But I gave them something they weren't used to having. Look, they have heard these political speeches before. Lots of politicians come and visit the Boy Scouts.

Number one, he pointed out people in his administration who had achieved great success that they, too, had been Boy Scouts, so it gave them something to relate to, that people had been through the same process they had been through, had achieved great success.

And I think that gives these Boy Scouts -- I think if you go back and ask them several years from now, were they excited and do they remember the president of the United States speaking to them? Absolutely. Was he motivational? Yes, absolutely.

And I think that's what you take away from this. Look, we can criticize anybody. He made the effort as president of the United States to accept the invitation to go talk to these young people, and I guarantee they're better off because of it.

TAPPER: Well, it's definitely memorable.

But let me turn to an interesting segue that I can make here, which is he did bring some members of the Cabinet who were former Eagle Scouts, Ryan Zinke, the secretary of interior, also a former Navy SEAL, but he was going full Scout with his outfit last night, although I don't think it was regulation.

An Eagle Scout in his administration that was not invited last night was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was alluded to, I think, in the section where President Trump talked about loyalty, how they need more loyalty.

What is going on with this drama? Obviously, the president wants the Russia investigation to end, but why is he not just firing him?

HAM: Let me briefly say to Andre's point that it is something to watch a bunch of people have vapors over the institution of the Boy Scouts who like five ago minutes thought it was just a homophobic travesty of an organization. I think there is a point there. But it doesn't make the speech great. On the Sessions threat, this is something that continues to bother me

about Trump. Whether you like the person who is in the administration, whether it's Comey or Sessions, I think these folks deserve a face-to-face conversation and somebody being straight about with them about whether they're supposed to be in that administration or not.

We have not seen that happen. If he wants to fire the guy, he can fire the guy. But this sort of standoff is going to become extremely awkward as we move forward.

RYE: And to say it's going to become extremely awkward, I think it already is.

We just watched this press conference where you see the Donald Trump who was the bully on the campaign trail come back, like fully committed to making this man feel very uncomfortable in this role.

I thought it would be impossible for me to ever feel bad for Jeff Sessions. I almost feel bad for Jeff Sessions.

TAPPER: Not quite there.


RYE: Not just yet.

TAPPER: Not yet, OK.

RYE: But almost, because you're watching this play out.

This is someone who has dedicated his life to public service. Whether I think it's good service or not is not to be debated, but it's really something to watch.

He talks about loyalty and wanting someone to in some way pledge allegiance to him in some way, and he's not loyal at all. He's willing to throw the baby, the bathwater and the tub out the window.

TAPPER: Andre, why not just fire him? Obviously, the president has made his position very clear. He wishes that Jeff Sessions were not the attorney general. Why not just fire him?

BAUER: This is somewhere where I actually differ with the president.

I'm a big loyalty person, too. But Jeff Sessions is a class act. He is a good man who has given a lot of his years of his life to this country, and I wish they would really do this behind closed doors. This is one area where I would actually ask the president to handle it differently.

I'm not the president. But I admire what Jeff Sessions has done. I understand why he's disappointed and disagrees with him, but I wish they would do it in the Oval Office and not out on Twitter.

HAM: Well, and here's the other thing. Who is left of the RNC faction now? Is it just Reince hanging on? Chris Christie never got a slot. Jeff Sessions was one of the early endorsers from the GOP part of this group.

And is group not hanging together. But there are plenty of Trump supporters who do like some of the things Sessions has been working on in the DOJ. And that will be an interesting dynamic. Of course, he still has the power to fire him if he wants to.

TAPPER: He does have the power to fire them.

How much do you think this is just a prelude to getting Mueller fired?

RYE: That, I think, is definitely on the table.

We know already that he's asking for Jeff Sessions to limit the investigation, which, of course, he can't do. I think that Donald Trump, again, going back to just basic physics, doesn't understand that the Department of Justice reports to the American people.

They have an obligation to Congress that's responsible for the oversight of the department, not to the president. Of course, he can pick his Cabinet, but that's it.

I think it's a huge issue that's on the table, and it continues to make him look very compromised. All of his team is lawyered up, including him, on the Russia investigation. And as of late, it's Ivanka as well. They all have lawyers.

TAPPER: Andre, quickly, if you can, do you think this could cost President Trump support among the people who like Jeff Sessions, whatever you would call them, nationalists, people who want strong, hard-line immigration policies?

Could they actually side with Sessions over President Trump politically?

BAUER: They could.

I don't see them going anywhere, though. They don't have anywhere else -- they're not going to go to the other side. The other side is not coming to the middle. They're not trying to work with anybody. It seems like they get further and further away, so the moderates among Republicans and Democrats, you don't see that anymore.


When I was in the legislature, you had a close line, and so both parties worked together and got a lot done. You're not seeing that at all in Washington. So, whether they stick with Sessions, I don't think they have anywhere else they can leave to against Trump.

So, I think they're going to going to still work with the administration.

TAPPER: All right, great panel, Mary Katharine Ham, Angela Rye, and Andre Bauer, thanks, one and all, for being here. Bipartisanship seems to be going extinct on Capitol Hill, but we will

talk to two lawmakers from very opposite sides of the political aisle, Senators Rand Paul and Kamala Harris, who are working together for a common goal -- that exclusive interview next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Now it's time for the buried lead. That's what we call stories that we think are not getting enough attention.

Today, our focus is criminal justice reform.

Despite so much division in the nation's capital these days, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California are teaming up to combat what they see is gross inequities in how Americans are punished for crimes in this country. They say the process is often unfair to lower income individuals and minorities while those with money and connections enjoy almost completely separate and distinct justice system. The first joint bill focuses on the issue of bail.

The bill would offer states a $10 billion grant to help convert to assist them where bail is set depending more on the risk of each individual based on risk assessments about behavior. The two Senators say this is just the first of several laws they want to write to reform the Criminal Justice System. I went to Capitol Hill earlier today to talk with the U.S. Senators about their work together.


TAPPER: It's interesting that we're doing this today about - talking about a bill that you guys have come together on because this is a big day for different legislation that you probably could not be farther apart on, health care legislation.


TAPPER: Does that make the relationship on justice reform and bail reform tougher?

HARRIS: There are just certain issues that are not bipartisan or nonpartisan. And on the issue of what we need to do to correct the problems with our bail systems in this country, I think it's a nonpartisan issue and I'm - and I'm very proud and pleased to work with Senator Paul on it.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I think what's interesting about it is we do - we seem to be at each other's throats, and sometimes I think the media overdoes how much we are at each other's throats, but we're good friends. Kamala's new to Washington but we immediately started talking about Criminal Justice Reform.

TAPPER: You home state of California tried and failed to move similar legislation. You were the Attorney General at that time so you know how difficult this can be. What do you say to the critics out there both in California and also, I'm sure you'll hear from today in the Senate who say if a person is accused of a crime, we should want them behind bars as long as possible?

HARRIS: That - what we have to understand about Criminal Justice Policy is that crime is not a monolith. We cannot have a one size fits all approach to Criminal Justice Policy. And so on the issue of bail reform and the work that Rand and I are doing together, it's about recognizing that for some of the lowest level offenses, non- violent offenses, the only difference between someone being in jail pretrial or being out is if they can afford to write a check. And that's just not fair, it's not right and it's not reflective of the system of justice that is supposed to be blind to who you are in terms of your wealth. A wealthy person should not have freedom while a working person can't just because they can't pay for it for the same crime.

PAUL: One of the things that affected me more than anything was the story of Cleef Rider who was a New Yorker a couple of years ago, 16- year-old kid accused of stealing a backpack. He was put in prison with a $3,000 bail. But he spent three years in prison without a trial. That shouldn't happen in America. He tried to commit suicide, he was beaten in prison. It was just awful, and he eventually did commit suicide. That shouldn't happen in our country.

HARRIS: What happens in the typical case is the Judge says OK, I'm going to look at the bail schedule. Let's say its $20,000. So, who has $20,000 just sitting around in cash in their home? Most working people do not.

TAPPER: So there - but there inevitably will be if this were to pass. Some instance where somebody gets out on bail because of this legislation or similar legislation and then does something horrible. I mean, that just - the odds are it will happen. What do you say to critics who say, look what you did, Senator Paul, look what you did, Senator Harris?

PAUL: What I think it needs to be is to be individualized. So I'm not telling judge they can't have bail, in fact, I think there are people who should be in jail with no bail. And so - but it needs to be individualized. We need to look at each individual situation. So, if you're caught in the act of killing somebody and you still have to have a trial but there's a deal of evidence that you killed someone and could kill somebody else, I don't want you to go free at all. But the thing is, there's part of the Constitution that says we should get a speedy trial.

HARRIS: And Jake, you should understand that in our - in our bill, what we are suggesting is better public policy. Is that when that person appears before the judge where the judge has to make a determination, let the person out or stay in pending trial. Instead of basing it on whether they can afford to write a check, base it on an assessment of the risk they pose to their community if they're released. So instead, let's have a risk assessment policy where we look at objective factors including the nature of the crime that was committed, look at their background, do they have previous convictions. And by the way, I will say that in that point, it shouldn't just be previous arrest because we know that in particular after American and Latino men have a disproportionately higher rate of arrest even though they may not be charged with a crime.

PAUL: And so the denominator is not race, it's poverty. The people are being treated differently. If you look at the drug war, who's in prison? Disproportionately black and brown people are in prison for drugs, but if you look at the drug usage, it's about the same between whites and blacks. If you look at what's the plea bargain if a white kid goes before or rich kid, which sometimes there's more white than black, what you find is they get a better plea bargain. Every step of the judicial system - but I don't think it's over racism so much. It has a racial outcome, but I think it's mostly poverty.

[16:50:17] TAPPER: How did you two first start talking about the issues? You're new.

HARRIS: I'll remind you - I'll remind you -

PAUL: That's right.

HARRIS: A - that back in 2014 when I was AG of California, you were doing incredible criminal justice reform then, and I knocked on his door. We had a meeting set up and we talked briefly about what could be possible and I wanted to talk about some of the work we were doing in California. But Rand, you've been doing work for -

PAUL: So you thought I was going to get a Democratic endorsement for my Republican nomination, and then she thought she was going to get a Republican endorsement for her Senate bid. That didn't work out.

HARRIS: He's joking. He's joking about all of that.

PAUL: Yes, but we did find commonality and I like it also because it really isn't splitting the difference to come to a crummy product. We both I think have strong feelings on this and they tend to overlap, and they're regardless of party.

TAPPER: Let me just say, I hear from my viewers all the time, why can't Democrats and Republicans sit down and find a common ground? And whatever they might think about the merits of the policy you're proposing, I think a lot of people will be very happy to see you two talking and proposing something together. Thanks so much for talking to us today.

HARRIS: Thank you, Jake.

PAUL: Thank you.


TAPPER: Is Russia arming the Taliban so that Taliban fighters can kill Americans in Afghanistan? The exclusive images obtained by CNN, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back, turning to our "WORLD LEAD" now. And America's longest war, the war in Afghanistan. Now, six months into his term, President Trump has yet to decide on a new Afghanistan strategy. This as new claims that the Taliban is getting support from none other in the country the President Trump wants a close relationship with, Russia. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more on exclusive images obtained by CNN.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Decades of war in Afghanistan meaning enemies have turned friends and back again. But one new devastating alliance risk redrawing the map here. The Russians once fought the Taliban here then (INAUDIBLE). The loss brought down the Soviet Empire but now Moscow may actually be arming their old enemies, the Taliban according to American and Afghan officials bolstered by (INAUDIBLE) images obtained by CNN. This is the breakaway Taliban group in the west but with they say a Russian government-supplied weapons they've seized (INAUDIBLE) Taliban group they defeated. These were given to the fighters Mullah Haibatullah by the Russians via Iran, he says.

The Russians give enemies weapons to fight ISIS in Afghanistan, but they're using them against us, too. We captured six of them with guns when they attacked. And these weapons, too, the Taliban fighter in the mosque claims they supply three (INAUDIBLE) by the Russians. These pistols have been brought to us recently, he says. They were made in Russia and they're very good stuff. Small arms experts told us there's nothing here tying the guns to the Russian state. They are new or rare, various markings missing or scratched off. Even this Chinese-made scope is readily available online. But the American Commander here was outspoken with the Russian threat.

GEN. JOHN NICHOLSON, COMMANDER OF U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: By arming belligerence who are legitimizing belligerence who perpetrate attacks like we saw two days ago in is not the best way forward to a peaceful reconciliation.

WALSH: So you're not refuting that they're sending weapons?

NICHOLSON: No, I'm not refuting that.

WALSH: Afghan officials suspect Russian deliveries for at least two months.

SEDIQ SEDIQI, AFGHAN GOVERNMENT MEDIA, AND INFORMATION CENTER DIRECTOR: The Russians have said that they are - you know, they maintain contact with the Taliban. But we have lots of valid reports from people that they are arming the Taliban.

WALSH: There's no smoke without fire, is there?

SEDIQI: Absolutely, we believe that there's no smoke without fire.

WALSH: These pictures aren't incontrovertible proof. The Russians, if they did this, would have tried to hide their tracks. And in Afghanistan war-torn as it (INAUDIBLE) behind countless agendas. But these pictures will spark questions as to the true extent of Moscow's involvement here in the country where the Soviets, they suffered a crushing defeat at the hand of American-backed fighters. Russia said claims they're arming the Taliban are "utterly false and made to cover up for American failure." They talk to Taliban, and they say, purely to promote peace talks.

WALSH: (INAUDIBLE) that they are arming the Taliban.

SEDIQI: Absolutely, they have denied that. The issue of contact with a Taliban by the Russians, that was something that really concerned us as well, so no contacts would be made with non-state groups.

WALSH: Another new agenda, another new fuel to Afghanistan's endless fire. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN Kabul, Afghanistan.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Nick Paton Walsh for that report. Our "SPORTS LEAD" now, a stunning new show - study shows that a possible link between football and a neurodegenerative brain disease might exist. It revealed 99 percent of NFL players brains study. They were donated to scientific research showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (AUDIO GAP) two hundred and (AUDIO GAP) these former football players (AUDIO GAP) all levels. Research (AUDIO GAP) is caused by repeated hits to the head. It can cause memory loss, depression, anxiety and sometimes suicidal behavior. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper, I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM" thanks for watching.