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Trump Appointee Disputes Ideas That Leaders Need to Condemn Hate Speech; New Details Emerge on Newspaper Attack; NY Times: Rosenstein Felt Used by White House Comey Firing; Mueller Says in Court Docs Michael Flynn is not Ready to be Sentenced; Trump Summons Swing Vote Senators to White House. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 29, 2018 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're sending out our thoughts to the families and colleagues of the fallen journalists in Annapolis today.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Horrifying new details in "The Capital Gazette" shooting that left five dead -- how the suspect barricaded staffers into the newsroom, and why a man who had raised so many red flags for years wasn't stopped.

A CNN exclusive: a Trump administration official taking his red pen to a U.N. resolution, one combating hate speech, the official disputing the idea that racism is a threat to democracy. Where did that idea come from?

And who may I say who is calling? A radio shock jock says he pretended to be a U.S. senator and phoned the White House, and President Trump called him back from Air Force One. How he did it, and hear for yourself what the president told him about his Supreme Court pick coming up.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news in the national lead.

Police are revealing more horrifying details about what happened yesterday as "The Capital Gazette" newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. The suspect, police say, wanted to kill as many people as he could. He worked his way through the newsroom hunting and shooting innocent victims, even barricading the backdoor, so the journalists could not escape.

The suspect had been upset for years apparently about a 2011 story the newspaper had written about a court case about his harassing and stalking a high school classmate.

A reporter with WBAL-TV spoke with that woman yesterday and she said -- quote -- "He is a F-ing nut job."

And the woman said she had warned police he will be your next mass shooter.

The former publisher and editor of "The Capital Gazette," Tom Marquardt, told "The Baltimore Sun" -- quote -- "I remember telling our attorneys this is a guy who was going to come in and shoot us."

CNN's Tom Foreman joins me now from Annapolis.

And, Tom, you have some new reporting about the suspect. What can you tell us?


We now know that, four years ago, he was fired from a job as a subcontractor to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal bureau. And what they cited at the time were security suitability concerns, security suitability concerns

We don't know exactly what that means. We know that he sued them for some back wages. And it was never clarified what that was about.

What. is very clear is that this was a very troubled man.


TIMOTHY ALTOMARE, ANNE ARUNDEL POLICE CHIEF: The fellow was there to kill as many people as he could.

FOREMAN: The attack was planned, the newspaper a specific target, the weapon a pump-action shotgun. That's what police said even as the suspect, Jarrod Ramos, was denied bail on five counts of first-degree murder.

President Trump, a frequent and harsh critic of the media, weighed in too.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The glass shattered. I turned around to see it.

FOREMAN: But amid recollections of the horror, police and folks at the paper are also sharing stories of that 38-year-old man's apparently simmering rage and years of warning signs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was going down our newsroom, starting from the front. And the -- yes, just continually shooting people.

FOREMAN: People at the paper say it started when "The Capital Gazette" covered a criminal harassment claim against him by a woman in 2011. He was convicted and tried to sue the newspaper for defamation.

After a relentless campaign to keep his claim active, it was thrown out, but, by 2013, police say he was routinely raging online against the newspaper.

TOM MARQUARDT, FORMER EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE CAPITAL GAZETTE": I alerted my staff to call 911 if anybody resembling him came into the room.

FOREMAN: Threats, hints of violence, furious obscenities.

ALTOMARE: You have all looked at the social media platforms. There's clearly a history there.

FOREMAN: Detectives had talked to the newspaper staff, but:

ALTOMARE: "The Capital Gazette" did not wish to pursue criminal charges. There was a fear that doing so would exacerbate an already flammable situation.

FOREMAN: And yet police say he bought a shotgun anyway, legally purchased about a year ago. And that's what he used to storm through the open newsroom, where some escaped, some hid, and one was shot trying to open a door the alleged shooter had barricaded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The person is still shooting.

FOREMAN: When police found the suspected gunman, he was hiding under a desk.

Intern Anthony Messenger describes the scene.

ANTHONY MESSENGER, SURVIVOR: There's chaos. The office was kind of in shambles. Unfortunately, we saw -- we had to pass two bodies of our colleagues, which was something that nobody should have to stomach.


FOREMAN: Now, amid questions of how all of that played out begins the long morning by families and friends of the victims.

Robert Hiaasen, assistant editor and columnist, known as Big Rob, not just because he was tall.

CARL HIAASEN, BROTHER OF VICTIM: He was just this big, generous, gentle guy.

FOREMAN: Gerald Fischman, editorial page editor, quiet, reserved, with an encyclopedia knowledge of everything.

John McNamara love sports and history, a jack of all trades, and a fantastic person.

Rebecca Smith, sales assistant, kind and considerate and willing to help.

And Wendi Winters, editor, reporter, and columnist, her life was a gift to everyone who knew her. Despite their grief, the surviving staff is doing what journalists do, reporting on what happened, with one big difference. The first editorial page after the shooting was blank.


FOREMAN: Often, when these things happen, people say, how is it possible that this could have been seen?

In this case, it's -- everyone is saying, how is it possible that people didn't see it coming? Because many simply did. The question is, why wasn't anything done to head it off before it got here, Jake?

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: And I want to turn to some more breaking news in our politics lead.

CNN is breaking the news right now that one of President Trump's political appointees at the State Department, a deputy assistant secretary of state, pushed for a United Nations statement, to soften language in the statement that condemned racism and xenophobia.

This official also disputed the idea that leaders have a duty to condemn hate speech.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski brings us this exclusive story.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The State Department's new deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration apparently has some big problems with two seemingly benign U.N. documents.

In one, a resolution called "The Incompatibility Between Democracy and Racism," which is adopted without vote every few years in much the same form, Andrew Veprek, identified by his initials, outright disputes that officials have a duty to condemn racism or that combating racism and xenophobia complements democratic multicultural societies, writing: "What is the evidence? Some commentators assert that a unifying culture, as opposed to multiculturalism, is the best way to promote social trust and combat racism."

Also crossed out are references to racism in political parties or groups that seek to normalize racism. In another statement on the importance of preventing war crimes, Veprek strikes out some simple thanks for the outgoing high commissioner for human rights, saying that's because the U.N. official had criticized Trump.

ZEID BIN RA'AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN, UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists?

KOSINSKI: Including for the president's attacks on the press.

TRUMP: It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions.

KOSINSKI: Where one document says, "We have witnessed a discouraging trend of populism and nationalism, as well as rising signs of xenophobia."

Veprek has crossed all that out, writing in the margins: "The drafters they populism and nationalism as if these are dirty words. There are millions of Americans who would describe themselves as adhering to these concepts, maybe even the president."

And he doesn't like the word xenophobia, "due to concerns over the malleability of the term now and in the future. What real or perceived offense is next to be considered xenophobic?" he writes.

The State Department, responding to these attempted edits with some standard language of its own: "No comment."


KOSINSKI: I did reach out directly to Veprek by e-mail. He did not respond.

But he's raised concerns before, when he was named to this position -- and he has been a Foreign Service officer. Most recently, he was at the White House working with Stephen Miller, a policy adviser.

So, Veprek worked on the Domestic Policy Council. But Senate Democrats raised concerns over his level of experience, over his hard- line views on immigration, which are known among his colleagues, and that he wasn't the right fit for this job. Again, that was Senate Democrats saying this.

But we did talk to a former administration official also who has experience at the U.N. and the National Security Council. This is somebody who worked in the Obama administration. He felt that these kinds of comments on these types of documents were explosive, in his words, and show that this administration also has a thin skin for criticism -- Jake.

TAPPER: Michelle, just to be clear, we don't know what happened with these edits, right?


TAPPER: He did them. And we don't know if the State Department sent them to the U.N. or not. They might have. We don't know.


TAPPER: They won't answer.


And also just after he made some of these edits, according to a source, the U.S. left the Human Rights Council. So it's kind of a moot point where this went or whether other nations would have listened to these suggested edits.


The point is, the types of things that he wrote -- and there's a lot in these documents that we have -- we have only showed you part of them. But it goes along that same theme of questioning, why are we calling out political parties who are accused of using racist speech?

So, the sources we talked to found this so surprising. That's why these documents leaked out. But where this went after the point, we don't know. I mean, we don't know the final version of some of these edits.

TAPPER: It's still interesting.

Kirsten -- let's bring in my panel right.

Kirsten Powers, you hear about individuals with these thoughts in the Trump administration, whether it's Stephen Miller or this individual.


TAPPER: Or President Trump.

POWERS: Yes, because, I mean, when you look at the words that he's objecting to, what is -- condemning racism? How is that out of bounds?

That's where we have come to, is that now we actually are going to say that it's dangerous to condemn racism?

KOSINSKI: Well, no, we have to be careful. He's not condemning racism.

He -- well, I mean, he's not not condemning racism.


TAPPER: He's not -- he's saying that whether or not it's compatible with democracy.

KOSINSKI: Yes, he's splitting hairs. He's basically saying, why are we saying that leaders have a duty to combat racism?

Normally, for these types of...


POWERS: That's actually was what I was saying.


KOSINSKI: Go ahead.

POWERS: So, now we are now saying that you don't have a duty to condemn racism.

And I think that this was something that most reasonable people would agree on, that a leader should not be engaging in racist behavior, and if racist behavior happens, that they would condemn it

But we have seen, with the president, that he doesn't do that. And these words are not actually that malleable. Like, xenophobia isn't actually a malleable word. They can look it up in the dictionary. It has a meaning. And it means you have a sort of irrational fear of people who are from other countries.

So if they don't like the definition of it, and they don't like someone calling them xenophobia, that's one thing, but it's a real thing and they can't just pretend like it's some vague term that we don't know what it means.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, look, first of all, let me -- I will condemn racism.

TAPPER: Right.

URBAN: It's terrible, right? Nobody is pro-racism in this administration.

So I obviously take umbrage with that. Number one -- number two point maybe on this, I don't know Mr. Veprek. I don't know him at all. But you know who I do know at the State Department? My West Point classmate Mike Pompeo, great guy.

And I guarantee you he will condemn racism from the seventh floor on down. I promise you that. So I don't know what this document fully entails. I don't know if they seen it over there. I haven't had a chance to investigate it.

But if it is racist in any sense, I promise you the secretary will speak out forcefully about it. He's a guy who's -- who's bringing swagger back to the State Department. He's a guy who is...


POWERS: Did he condemn the president for saying shithole countries?

URBAN: I don't know. I don't know.


POWERS: What do you mean you don't know? You just said you know for sure that he will condemn it.


URBAN: If it's in his department, right, and this is existing, and this is a racist document, I guarantee you that Mike will speak out about it.

POWERS: How is the president talking about shithole countries not in his department?

URBAN: Because it's a disputed fact whether that actually occurred or not to begin with, right?

TAPPER: I think -- just to be clear, I think the dispute was whether the president said shithole or shithouse.



URBAN: Again, right, so, again, I'm not -- I'm not defending it. I don't know if the president said it or not.

And whether the president has a view of a country that is unfavorable or not unfavorable, I don't think that's a racist comment that he makes about a country.


TAPPER: What do you make of all this, Jackie?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It seems like he was applying the both sides logic that we heard the president talk about in Charlottesville to this U.N. document.

It struck me, just reading through the edits that he made, it seems like he was applying like campaign logic to this. Like, we don't want to be hit with this later. We don't want to be on the receiving end of this.

That's how I read it, that that is what they were concerned about.


And we're splitting hairs here, because that's what he's doing. He's splitting hairs.


KOSINSKI: I wouldn't say, that based on this -- I would not say that this person appears to be a racist.

I would say, why question this language, language that people have not questioned for years in one of the cases of the documents? I mean, it's boilerplate language that keeps coming up. People are like, OK, right.



But the thing that really -- that made me think that was, it said something to the effect of, we can't condemn everything that people say, which is something you hear from politicians when someone is -- someone says something and they're asked to comment about it, someone in their party, for example.

That -- you don't usually hear that sort of thing in a U.N. document. I'm not rationalizing it, but that's what rung very familiar to my ears.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

We got a lot more to talk about. We have more breaking news coming up.

A new report says that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein felt used by the White House when James Comey was fired. We will bring that story to you next and talk about it with the panel.

Stay with us.


[16:18:42] TAPPER: We got some breaking news.

Just in, "The New York Times" reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein repeatedly expressed anger about how the White House used him in his view to rationalize the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. This was in the days following the ouster of the FBI director. You might remember Rosenstein wrote a memo outlining all the alleged problems he had with Comey's actions leading up to the 2016 election, having to do with how he handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. The White House then used that to justify firing Comey.

"The New York Times" reports that Rosenstein, according to one person, with whom he spoke shortly after the firing was, quote, shaken, unsteady and overwhelmed.

My political panel is back with me.

Jackie, your initial response?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Oh my gosh. Someone give that man a hug. I mean, you're a grown up. You signed the letter, you stood by it. I mean, he stood by it when he talked to Congress about it and what did he think was going to be done with it? They were going to put it in a file and say, oh, this is going in his personnel file now?

TAPPER: Right.

KUCINICH: No. This is -- this is an explosive letter and, of course, it would be used. And you made this point. It is not like during the break, it is not like people haven't stepped down from that position before if they weren't happy with it.

TAPPER: Right. And I want to get your reaction to this, David, one passage of this "New York Times" report, Rosenstein ultimately defended his involvement, expressed remorse at the tumult it unleashed, said the White House has manipulated him, fumed how the media had portrayed the events and said the full story would vindicate him, said the people with whom "The Times" interviewed who in recent weeks described the previously undisclosed episodes.

[16:20:14] Sounds like a lot of emotions going on.

URBAN: Right. I mean, like we said, he's a grown ass man. You're a deputy attorney general of the United States, Harvard law grad. He's a grown up. If you don't want to participate in this, at the outset, you leave your resignation on the desk and you walk out of the Department of Justice.

He wrote the memo. He had to know what was in the content and he signed it, sent it out, participated and now, it sounds like he's got a buyer's remorse on the thing. You can't -- you can't have it both ways, right? You can't have it both ways.

TAPPER: So, Kirsten, I -- it's entirely possible to believe that Rosenstein viewed Comey's actions negatively about how he handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. That he actually -- that actually was his feeling. But he had to have known that that wasn't why President Trump fired him.

POWERS: Right, because -- and the idea that would be the motivation for Trump just strains credulity. So, I think he did know and maybe he was unhappy with the way he was portrayed in the press and I understand it's upsetting when you get attacked -- and when the media storm is coming after you, it is very stressful, it is very upsetting.

But he -- I think the writing was on the wall, you know, when that letter was written and he know he knew what he was doing, and we know that he knew what he was doing, so he should have made that decision before he helped President Trump -- give President Trump cover at least, what, for 12 hours until he came out and said the real reason that he fired Comey.

TAPPER: So typical Trump news cycle, we have some more breaking news.


TAPPER: CNN has learned that the special counsels say that Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser, is not yet ready to be sentenced and special counsel Robert Mueller is requesting another 60 days. Flynn, of course, has been cooperating with the investigation after pleading guilty. The news that prosecutors are not yet ready to set a sentencing hearing suggests that Flynn may still be in the process of cooperating with investigators.

Your response, Jackie?

KUCINICH: My gosh, I would imagine they are nervous over at the White House and they hear he is still talking. And it doesn't seem like he's been reached out to lately.

TAPPER: You are the lawyer at the table. So give us a --

URBAN: I play one on the show. TAPPER: But what -- stepping aside from your defender of Trump and

your Republican hat, what might that mean?

URBAN: Look, there is more there, obviously, right? This is a guy who has been -- he's the first guy in the cue. He's been the first guy that the Department of Justice talked to.

It means there is something new they've uncovered that he could offer some insight on and that is -- that can't be good, right? I mean, you think they've asked him everything possible under the sun and they keep turning over rocks, they find something new and so he's participating.

So I don't think it is great, whatever it is. But I thought he would have been sentenced and done early on. But the fact that he isn't is not a great sign.

TAPPER: It also shows that Mueller is not planning on wrapping the investigation in the next couple of days.

POWERS: Yes. I mean, big surprise. Like we never really thought he was. These investigations take a long time. I think the way the Republicans have convinced their supporters that this is dragging on for some inhumane amount of time is a real coupe because it's just not -- it's not accurate. It takes time for an investigation of this depth and I think -- if you do it properly.

URBAN: And to Kirsten's point, when Director Mueller did the investigation of the ravens, involving domestic violence situation there, I mean, he went to the mail room, he knew when the mail got delivered and when it was opened. I mean, this guy turns over every rock. He knew better how the ravens operations were than the GM did.

So, I promise you he's doing a thorough investigation and it is great for the American public what he's done should feel confident there when he finds nothing.

TAPPER: All right. Whether or not he finds nothing, I'm glad you're expressing support for special counsel Mueller.

Everyone, stay right there.

How a comedian got a call back from President Trump from Air Force One. Stay with us.


[16:28:20] TAPPER: Politics now. As he gets close to naming his Supreme Court nominee, his second one, President Trump quietly and strategically met with six senators who could be key in the confirmation process. With the decision expected within the next week or so, President Trump is not giving himself much time to win over potentially critical votes.

CNN's Kaitlin Collins picks up our coverage from the White House.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Trump on deadline for one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, hoping to nominate a new Supreme Court justice in less than two weeks. Sources tell CNN the administration will name their pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy by July 9th, even though Kennedy doesn't official retire until the end of the month.

"The New York Times" reporting that the White House conducted a quiet campaign to create an opening on the court. Not pressuring 81-year- old Kennedy directly, but assuring him his seat was in good hands.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Throughout his nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy has been praised by all for his dedicated and dignified service.

COLLINS: Trump promising to choose from a list of conservative judges the White House published last fall.

TRUMP: It will be somebody from that list. So we have now boiled it down to about 25 people.

COLLINS: Fulfilling a campaign promise that could transform the court for decades.

TRUMP: If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that is what is going to be -- that will happen. And that will happen automatically in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.

COLLINS: A raiser thin majority in the Senate has sent the White House into overdrive to mobilize support.