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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Report: Secretary of State Called Trump 'Moron'; Interview With California Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired October 4, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: One part of their investigation has hit a snag, verifying the dossier complied by a former British intelligence agent. That agent is refusing to talk to Senate investigators.
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: As it relates to the Steele Dossier, unfortunately, the committee has hit a wall. The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it, who are your sources and sub-sources.
BROWN: But one area where their investigation has gained traction, Russian subversion of social media to target American voters and sow discord using Russian-linked ads on Facebook and fake Twitter accounts.
BURR: There's no way that you can look at that and say that that was to help the right side of the ideological chart and not the left, or vice-versa. They were indiscriminate.
BROWN: One-quarter of the 3,000 Russian-linked Facebook ads were able to target specific geographical areas. According to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation, a number of those ads targeted Wisconsin and Michigan, two states Democrats hadn't lost since the 1980s, part of Democrats' so-called blue wall.
Donald Trump narrowly won both states.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no way that Donald Trump can break the blue wall, right? We didn't break it. We shattered that sucker. We shattered it.
BROWN: CNN has learned the Russians targeted at least 12 states on Facebook with ads ranging from immigration to the Second Amendment to issues of race. In total, just over $100,000 was spent on the ads, which Facebook estimates were seen by roughly 10 million people.
What investigators want to know now, did anyone in the Trump campaign assist the Russians in determining where these ads should be focused?
BURR: If there was any connection, that would be pertinent to our investigation of Russia's influence in the elections. BROWN: Senator Burr and Warner warning officials preparing for
elections next month to take precautions, as the Russians are actively looking for new ways to affect elections.
BURR: The Russian intelligence service is determined, clever, and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously as we move into this November's election.
BROWN: And the senators announced that they have invited social media companies to openly testify on November 1.
So far, Facebook has agreed, according to a source familiar with that matter -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you so much.
Joining me now to discuss this and much more is Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California. She serves on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congresswoman, thanks for joining us, as always.
The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said today that members of the Trump campaign have been cooperative with the investigation. The House Intelligence Committee that you are on is obviously conducting its own parallel investigation.
Is that a fair characterization as far as the House is concerned?
TAPPER: Yes, go ahead.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I do think it's a fair characterization that they have come forward.
They have in some cases provided documentation. In other cases, they have not. But so far, I think you would be correct in saying that.
TAPPER: We know now that these Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted at least a dozen states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, which President Trump won narrowly.
These ads have been turned over to Congress. Do you know of any evidence right now that anyone in the United States, whether they were associated with the Trump campaign or not, helped these Russian operatives with information about where to target these ads or voters to target?
SPEIER: We don't have any specific evidence.
But these were sophisticated persons who were doing the targeting. And I think it's very important for us to realize that the Russians were doing this for the long haul. This was not just for the 2016 election. They are building a universe of people that they can go back to over and over again to try and influence.
TAPPER: Facebook estimates that these ads were seen by 10 million people in aggregate. The chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said they were intended to sow chaos and could have affected theoretically the Clinton and the Trump campaign.
Does that suggest to you or do you believe that Russia was not necessarily trying to boost candidate Trump?
SPEIER: I don't know that we can say that definitively one way or the other.
I think that the Russians historically have wanted to sow division, want to dismember democratic regimes, want to cast question and doubt on the efficacy of democratic institutions. So, certainly, there is that element.
But I can't underscore enough how important it is for us to stay focused what they are doing long-term. They are building a network of people that they are going to go back to over and over again to try and influence in the years to come.
TAPPER: You mean actual voters in the countries that they are trying to influence, whether it's Belgium or Germany or the United States?
TAPPER: The Department of Homeland Security is standing by its conclusion that California, your home state, was one of 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian actors. They underscored that no actual vote tallies were affected at all, but they were trying to check for vulnerabilities in voter registrations and the like.
I want you to take a listen to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, speaking today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: The Russian intelligence service is determined, clever, and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously as we move into this November's election and as we move into preparation for the 2018 election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Again, there is no evidence that Russian interference affected the vote tallies at all. But how concerned are you about the integrity of the vote in California and across the country going forward?
SPEIER: I'm deeply concerned about vote tallies in every state and obviously in California. We didn't find out that California was hacked into until very recently. And I would say that we cannot be confident in saying that these
machines were not hacked into. I'm going to bring to Congress a number of experts who were part of this Las Vegas DEF CON hack-a-thon, in which they were able to hack into a machine in 90 minutes and were able to hack in all 10 machines that they brought to this conference before the conference was over.
In asking the question whether or not the vote tallies could have been tampered with, I was told by one of the hackers there is no way that the intelligence community can say they were hacked or they were not hacked, because there is no way of knowing.
TAPPER: You are saying that you are not confident that the vote tallies were not hacked, but you don't necessarily have any evidence that they were? Am I hearing you correctly?
SPEIER: What I'm saying is that, according to the experts, these machines are set up in a way that you couldn't tell whether they were hacked or weren't hacked.
So, for the intelligence community to say that there were no votes that were changed would be difficult to make that kind of an assertion, according to these hackers.
We are going to learn much more over the next few weeks, when we bring them to the Capitol to present to us.
TAPPER: I want to talk to you briefly about the massacre in Las Vegas, because, first of all, you were a victim of gun violence in South America a long time ago, so this is a personal issue to in a lot of ways.
But, also, you refused to attend the moment of silence on Capitol Hill Monday for the victims. Explain why.
SPEIER: Well, I haven't attended a moment of silence for a number of years, because I think it's so hypocritical.
That's all we do. We have a moment of silence, and then we are silent. There is no action.
I spoke for five minutes on the floor about the horrendous events in Las Vegas and all the horrendous events that have happened before, whether it was Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook. I mean, it just goes on and on. We never do anything about it.
So, these moments of silence are really only for the headlines. And I'm tired of the hypocrisy.
TAPPER: OK, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.
SPEIER: Thank you.
TAPPER: President Trump says he has total confidence in his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, after a report that Tillerson called the president a -- quote -- "moron."
Is the secretary of state in the president's good graces after that comment?
That story next.
TAPPER: You're looking at Air Force One right now, President Trump and his team leaving Las Vegas after visiting with first-responders and survivors and heroes from Sunday night's massacre.
In the background there from McCarran Airport, you can see the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
President Trump moving on to other news, saying today that he has total confidence in his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, after Mr. Tillerson gave a highly unusual public statement today. Tillerson called a press conference to insist that he had not and does not plan to resign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There has never been a consideration in my mind to leave. I serve at the appointment of the president and I'm here for as long as the president feels I can be useful to achieving his objectives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Those remarks after NBC News this morning broke the story that Tillerson over the summer threatened to leave the administration.
NBC and CNN have also reported that Secretary Tillerson apparently called the president a -- quote -- "moron" during a summer meeting at the Pentagon.
CNN Kaitlan Collins reports that a source tells her that President Trump knew that Tillerson called him a moron.
When asked about whether he ever called President Trump a moron today, Tillerson said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Can you address the main headline of this story, that you called the president a moron, and, if not, where do think these reports are...
TILLERSON: I'm going to deal with petty stuff like that. This is what I don't understand about Washington.
Again, I'm not from this place, but the places I come from, we don't deal with that kind of petty nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's bring in my panel to discuss all of this.
I will start with Jake Sullivan, a former Obama administration official at the State Department.
What's your reaction to this whole story?
JAKE SULLIVAN, FORMER ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, the spectacle today was quite striking of Rex Tillerson feeling the need to come out and basically saying he likes his job, he gets along with the president and he's planning on sticking around.
I can't think of a secretary of state in memory who has had to do something like that. But it just underscores that, whatever you think of Rex Tillerson the man, something has gone wrong in his tenure as Secretary of State. He's come out as the Chief Diplomat and yet seen that it is his job to hollow out America's diplomatic power. He's supposed to be the face and the voice of American diplomacy and yet aside from events like today, he's been largely invisible and silent. And he's allowed Donald Trump in many ways to undercut him and walk all over him. So it's baffling, it's troubling but the bottom line is that something is broken right now at the top of the State Department and it seems to me that that's leaving the United States in a weaker position.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Scott Jennings?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I thought the Secretary of State needed to clear the air with the President today. And clearly they were doing it in coordinated fashion because on the heels of Secretary Tillerson's statement, the President tweeted a statement. And today the White House has been sending highlights of Secretary Tillerson's press conference after reporters and people like me showing at the White House and the Secretary of State's office were in full coordination on getting this right today. They had to because having the President and the Secretary of State on different messages or sending messages that there's tension between them reduces our leverage when we're dealing with other countries. So I'm glad they cleared the air because we need them both working together to get these serious issues right around the world. Too much serious stuff going on for these two guys to be at odds with each other publicly.
TAPPER: And let's play President Trump's response today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I'm very honored by his comments. It was totally fake news. It was a totally phony story. Thank you very much. This made up -- it was made up by NBC. They just made it up. Thank you all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have confidence in him? TRUMP: Total confidence in Rex. I have total confidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Marry Katharine, for getting morongate, if I may call it that, there is obvious tension between President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson. President Trump most recently seemed to undermine Tillerson when Tillerson was in China, it had just come out that the U.S. was directly negotiating with North Korea and the President sent out a tweet basically saying, don't waste your time, Rex. There is an obvious tension here.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yes, you can sort of put aside the details of the actual name calling or the conflict in this particular case and say this is a pattern for the administration where this is a very unusual and I think problematic workplace for many of the people who are working under President Donald Trump, particularly the sort of alpha executive type that Rex Tillerson is, that's going to cause some conflict because Donald Trump is also that guy. And so he does undermine him at times. And this is sort of a rule of this administration that you're going to have to do this dance. And everything is a fight and every fight is public.
So when the fight is public you got to come out and you got to make your amends in public. I think Scott is right that that was somewhat coordinated. But he's in good graces until he's not again. And the irony -- unfortunately for the Trump Administration is like, on the issue of something like North Korea, that is an area where the most solid argument of any of their arguments to say, look, what has been not working for four administrations we can't keep doing that, so we are making changes. You can make that argument to the American people pretty credibly but not if you're undermining it from the very top while Rex Tillerson or Nikki Haley is trying to make the argument.
TAPPER: Scott, can you explain -- I mean, I understand the idea of good cop, bad cop. I understand the idea of the madman theory, that, you know, the idea that Tillerson can go and say to whoever, the Iranians or the North Koreans, you know, you got to let -- do this, deal with me because who knows what President Trump will do. I understand those. But when it comes to the undermining of Tillerson dealing directly with North Korea, trying to provide an off-ramp, I don't quite get what the strategy might be.
JENNINGS: Well, I think part of the issue for President Trump is he needs the North Koreans, he needs the Chinese and needs the Russians to believe that we have a serious military option on the table. I think something Trump is suffering from is the fact that his top strategist Steve Bannon on the way out of the White House gave an interview in which he said there's no credible military option. Well, they have the internet in Russia, in China, and some people have it. North Korea, they can read those statements and they may be thinking that the U.S. isn't serious. So I think the President has to continuously communicate we are seriously pursuing a military option if we have to. If we don't have that, then we have very little leverage on the diplomatic front. TAPPER: Jake, I want you to take a listen to comments made today by Republican Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker, a Republican of Tennessee. He had more criticism for the Trump administration today when asked about Tillerson. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos. I think he's in a very trying situation trying to solve many of the world's problems a lot of times without the kind of support and help that I'd like to see him have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[16:50:07] TAPPER: It may be that we're getting Corker uncorked as it were because he's not running for re-election. He might be more -- you know, free to say what's actually on his mind. But that's a pretty harsh statement, Jake.
SULLIVAN: Well, it's a startling rebuke from the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I mean, what's he's essentially saying is that absent having some adults in the room around President Donald Trump, we would end up in chaos. And, you know, when you are the Secretary of State or you're the Secretary of Defense, you rely on some degree of predictability and resolve from the Oval Office in order to be able to effectively carry out your policies. And if you are traveling overseas as Secretary Tillerson was in Beijing, and the President acts unpredictably, acts like that crazy man or that madman, I don't think it enhances your ability to get the job done. I think it detracts from it. And that's the kind of thing that the cabinet officials around Trump on the national security team are having to contend with on a daily basis.
TAPPER: It reminded me Mary Katharine of when Scaramucci, the short- lived Communications Director at the White House told CNN that there were people in the administration who thought it was their job to protect the country from President Trump.
HAM: Yes, I mean, you hear this here and there. And, look, I think it is problematic to have him sometimes be so unpredictable and so undermining. And then there is the part, too, where people didn't vote for predictability even though I have an issue with it. Like people sort of knew what they were getting into here, as do the people who went into the administration, but in practice in these big issues, it's a real problem.
TAPPER: Scott, the President got some criticism for his remarks in Puerto Rico where he was repeatedly praising his administration for the handling of the storm relief. Here's what he tweeted this morning. "A great day in Puerto Rico yesterday. While some of the news coverage is fake, most showed great warmth and friendship." You watch him in Las Vegas today, it did seem that he's stuck the script largely. There was the shot at NBC News and fake news there but largely, he did seem to be trying to fill the role of consoler in chief.
JENNINGS: He absolutely did. I thought he did a great job in Las Vegas today. And you know, operationally in these sorts of national moments of mourning, there's not much for the President to do. The FBI and the law enforcement people do what they do, the doctors do what they do, but the President has one job and that's to remind us we're all in this country together. We can grieve together for these victims, even though we may have our political differences. I thought he hit that note today. It reminded me of when he hit the correct note after the Scalise shooting. So I think today, the President proved that he has it inside of had him to meet the moment when it presents itself and I hope he continues to do it.
TAPPER: Scott, Mary Katharine, Jake, thanks so much one and all. I appreciate it. Be sure to tune in to CNN tonight for our special live Town Hall event with House Minority Leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Democratic, California. CNN's Chris Cuomo will moderate with a live studio audience. It all starts this evening at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Turning to our "NATIONAL LEAD" right now. President Trump's visit to Puerto Rico as I mentioned was full of praise for his own administration's handling of the relief efforts. But the island, of course, remains quite a disaster area in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Joining me now live from San Juan is CNN's Leyla Santiago. And Leyla, the President giving his administration an A+ for its relief efforts. How are actual Puerto Ricans, the people that are trying to deal with this relief efforts, how are they reacting to his comments and to his visit and -- well, start there.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. There's a lot to cover. Let's start there, Jake. You know, as talk to people today out on the streets, a lot of people you know, took offense to some of the things he said. We heard from the Mayor yesterday who took offense to him bringing up the Puerto Rico sort of has made the budget whack in the U.S. And then, as we talk to people about that moment at the church in which he wasn't just handing out hurricane relief aid, he was actually sort of tossing it into the crowd. And that has been quite the talker today, not just on social media, but also out on the streets. Many feeling that was disrespectful, that it perhaps showed that this wasn't being taken as serious as many people here think because there are lives here on the line, according to the Mayor. And especially given that the death toll has now come up.
So, you know, for some -- for many people in Puerto Rico, to see the President tossing paper towels into a group of people who may have really, really been desperate for that, it didn't go over well because the fact of the matter is that the relief is not getting to all parts of the island at this point. So while there is more FEMA aid showing up in those distribution centers, it's still not getting to the most vulnerable. And that moment right there didn't sit well with a lot of people on this island, Jake.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: And Leyla, why are the relief efforts not getting to everywhere that they need to get on the island?
SANTIAGO: I'm sorry, can you repeat that one more time, Jake? TAPPER: Why are -- why are these supplies not getting where they need to all over the island? They're getting to San Juan, but why are they not getting elsewhere on the island?
SANTIAGO: Well, you know, as we track them, within the last 48 hours, they are here, they go into the hands from FEMA to National Guard, and then National Guard to the municipality, and then the municipality to the people. When you go to the mainland U.S. that's not how it works. It goes FEMA to the people. So many will tell you this is matter of bureaucracy, that's why it's not getting to everyone on the island right now.
TAPPER: All right, leyla Santiago in Puerto Rico. Thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Wolf Blitzer is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." He'll be here next, stick around.