Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Source: Trump Wants to Make Supreme Court Pick by July 9; DHS Tried Family Separation Pilot Program Last Year; Comedian Claims He Pranked Called Trump On Air Force One. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired June 29, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:30:00] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (voice-over): Trump dining with key senators Thursday night who could determine the court's future, including three Democrats who voted to confirm his last nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch.
The decision promising to shift the balance of power on the court, and throw landmark decisions on abortion and same-sex marriage and affirmative action into jeopardy.
Kennedy's vacancy setting the stage for an epic fight in Washington.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016. Not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This is not 2016. There aren't the final months of a second term constitutionally lame duck presidency with a presidential election fast approaching.
COLLINS: So, Jake, we're only nine days away from when sources say the president is going to name his next Supreme Court nominee and the president realizes that isn't a lot of time to move so he's trying to woo these senators. He knows there's not a lot of room to spare here, so he knows that if he's going to move, he's going to get these people to vote for his nominee, he's got to move fast -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.
Let's bring the panel back in. I don't know, Kirsten, if there is more pressure on the red state Democrats up for re-election or on the two Republicans who support abortion rights, Murkowski and Collins. It's a lot of pressure for all of them.
What do you think President Trump should do in terms of a nominee to help him get support?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he should nominate a woman and that would help the two female Republican senators who I think really are the ones that everyone is focused on, is what they're going to do? They are the only ones with the real influence here. And, you know -- and I also think -- I've seen Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society come out and say, we don't feel pressure to choose a woman because of the current composition of the court and I like Leonard a lot, but I'm not quite sure what you means by that since there are twice as many men on the court as women. So, why would that composition makes sense when women are half of the population?
So, it would be a good opportunity for him to bring a little more equity and also I think it would be something that would be appreciated probably by those female senators.
TAPPER: Do you have any favorites in the race here?
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I -- again, I obviously don't agree with Kirsten. I think we should pick the best jurist, if it's a woman, great. If it's a man, great. I think we should look for the best jurists.
I think there is a wide range of folks that are qualified on the list, two friends of mine. Tom Hardiman who was the runner-up last time and Brett Kavanaugh who I think is probably the front-runner in this instance.
I like -- I think Brett is probably the front runner for the reason that he was Justice Kennedy's clerk in the past. And so, if you want to make Justice Kennedy feel like he's going away to a safe place, you could pick one his proteges to fill his seat.
POWERS: Can I just say real quickly the idea that because I said a woman should be chosen and you immediately go to that she's not qualified --
URBAN: I'm not saying she's not qualified.
POWERS: No, you just said --
URBAN: No, no, no, Kirsten. That's not what I said.
POWERS: Let me finish --
POWERS: You just immediately went to, I think the most qualified person --
URBAN: I said pick the most qualified.
POWERS: Let me finish, let me finish.
POWERS: I said, you said, I think we should choose the most qualifying and I disagree with Kirsten.
URBAN: Whoever it is the most qualified, man or woman.
POWERS: There is nothing inherently disqualifying as a woman.
URBAN: You're exactly right. I didn't say that.
POWERS: So, why did you say that?
URBAN: I said, we should pick the most qualified, Kirsten.
POWERS: I don't want to hijack the whole show. But why do you do that? Why do you immediately say --
URBAN: Because you said we should pick a woman.
POWERS: Right, a qualified woman, why --
URBAN: I said let's pick the most qualified person.
POWERS: You just named a couple of men.
URBAN: I said, let's pick the most qualified person. I said that two people that I know --
POWERS: I disagree with Kirsten. I think we should choose the most qualified person.
URBAN: Right, absolutely.
POWERS: That is saying that by seeing a woman, that's not something --
URBAN: No, it isn't.
POWERS: Yes, it is.
URBAN: No, it isn't.
POWERS: I'm sorry, it is.
URBAN: You're not going to make me out to be a sexist --
TAPPER: So let me ask you, we're seeing a lot of politics in this -- at our table and also on the campaign trail. People are talking about this.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes, man or woman, you mentioned the red state Democrats, there are already a ton of money coming from conservative groups because they are ready for this. Ton of money going toward pressuring these red state Democrats to vote for the president. Not only that, the president himself is hop scotching in their states. He was in North Dakota the other day. He'll be in Montana and he'll be in West Virginia.
We haven't seen this president really do that sort of campaign to push something through regularly. So, this is a big deal.
TAPPER: All right. So, stick around, everyone.
Was the Trump administration testing out the separation of families at the border even before they're zero-tolerance policy was announced? That's next.
[16:38:21] TAPPER: In our national lead, we are learning that the Trump administration last year in El Paso, Texas, tested a pilot program for its zero tolerance immigration policy that has resulted in mass family separations then and this year. Leaving critics to ask why the White House currently seems so unprepared to handle this current crisis where more than 2,000 children have yet to be restored to their parents' arms.
CNN's Nick Valencia reports.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than a month after being separated from her 7-year-old son at the U.S. border, Brenda Ramirez Garcia was reunited with him at Dulles International Airport.
The El Salvador native last saw her son Kevin on May 27th, a day after she crossed the border from Arizona. Her attorney says she was fleeing domestic violence.
While this mother and son are finally back together, it's still not clear when thousands more kids in U.S. custody will see their loved ones again, and CNN is just learning even before president Trump zero- tolerance policy was announced, families were being separated at the border. It's not clear how many kids and parents were separated at that time and how or even if they have been reunited.
REP. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: It is a continuing --
VALENCIA: Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told CNN's Sunlen Serfaty that officials are struggling to answer even basic questions about the situation, let alone have a plan in place to reunite them.
DURBIN: How many children have we separated from their parents and have in our custody in our government? They said, we don't know.
Well, how many are under the age of five because the court ordered that was issued out of San Diego two days ago said within 14 days, they have to be reunited with their parents? We don't know.
Well, how many parents can you identify that have given up their children into our government? They said, 10. Ten, under ICE in custody.
Where are the rest of them? (INAUDIBLE) some of the kids under the age of five? We don't know.
VALENCIA: Congress isn't close to passing any legislation on immigration. And protests against the president's zero-tolerance policy are ramping up with massive rallies planned this weekend.
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: There is so much that needs to be done. I'm willing to sit here as long as we need to to pass all of this legislation, but I wanted to show my support for the folks here today.
VALENCIA: And we just witnessed a striking scene inside Port Isabel detention center. We were finally granted access to an immigration hearing where we saw a detainee granted asylum application. We should mention though that this detainee was not affected by the zero- tolerance policy, but nevertheless, it does give a glimmer of hope for those still in custody fighting with their asylum cases, fighting to be reunited with their children -- Jake.
TAPPER: Nick Valencia, thank you so much.
A comedian prank-calls the White House and ends up talking to President Trump on Air Force One. And that is not even the wildest part of the story. Stay with us.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
[16:45:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi Bob!
JOHN MELENDEZ, COMEDIAN: Hey, how are you?
TRUMP: How are you? Congratulations on everything. We're proud of you. Congratulations. Great job. You went through a tough, tough situation. And I don't think a very fair situation.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: That there was actually a prank call. A comedian John Melendez also known to fans of Howard Stern as stuttering John says he pretended to be Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and he called the White House and eventually got to speak with President Trump on Air Force One. The comedian who's a regular in the Stern show as I said says that's President Trump congratulating who we thought was the Senator for his corruption charges having been cleared up earlier this year. I'm back with the panel. One of the ways that the Menendez people found out about this that's the actual Senator is that people in Legislative Affairs yesterday morning called Menendez' his office to follow up on this phone call great that President Trump had with Menendez except it wasn't with Senator Menendez.
KUCINICH: Well, so Politico is reporting that they actually Legislative Affairs called Menendez' office before to see you know, did you -- did the Senator want to speak to the President, and they're like no. And then he wouldn't be got -- he got put through anyway. So how that happened, I think is still an open question but it is -- it is --
URBAN: Well, listen --
KUCINICH: Wait, you know -- do you know who?
URBAN: No. It isn't so shocking, right? Sometimes senators do things and don't tell their staffs, right? I work for a senator. I assure you, my boss did lots of things that I had no idea, made lots of phone calls --
TAPPER: I'm quite sure that is true.
URBAN: So listen, so this President erring on the side --
KUCINICH: Menendez calling Trump, it's like OK.
URBAN: Who knows?
TAPPER: Nobody is saying anything is wrong. But Kirsten, I want you to take a listen because at this point in the comedian Stuttering John Melendez pretending to be Democratic Senator Bob Menendez starts asking the real President Trump who he's going to pick for the Supreme Court.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: I'm begging you. Are you going to go more moderate or you think you're going to go more conservative?
TRUMP: Well, I haven't looked -- I mean, I have a list of people. I have a big list of people, Bob, and we'll take a look at it and we're going to make a decision. I'll probably make it over the next couple of weeks.
MENENDEZ: Because I promise you, you will have my vote. I will help you if you don't go too, too conservative. You know what I'm saying?
TRUMP: Yes. Well, we will talk to you about it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: We'll talk to you about it. And they followed up with a phone call.
POWERS: Yes, I mean it should have been a tip off that a Democrat was saying I'm definitely going to vote for your pick. That something was a little off so -- and also just the idea that that's what Bob Menendez sounds like, right? I mean, I don't know --
URBAN: Well, he's on the plane so --
POWERS: If you ever watch news -- and President Trump is not somebody who's been in the business for a long time and you know, I guess -- but he does watch a lot of cable news though. So --
TAPPER: He does. And he's been on Stern quite a number of times. Quite a number of times.
TAPPER: I want to play some other sound for you because the fake Bob Menendez real Stuttering John Melendez asks the very real President Trump about family separation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: My constituents are giving me a lot of biz about this immigration thing. I know that you did something really noble, but -- you know, by trying to you know get the kids back with their families but I have to answer to them. What can I tell them that you're going to do, you know, moving forward?
TRUMP: Bob, let me -- let me just tell you, I want to be able to take care of this situation every bit as much anybody else at the top level. I'd like to do the larger solution rather than the smaller solution. You know, they're doing them step by step. I think we can do the whole thing. You know, I have a good relationship with the party, you have a good relationship with the party and I think we could do a real immigration bill.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now the real Senator Bob Menendez put out a statement saying he would welcome the opportunity to talk to President Trump but President Trump has sabotaged any attempt to have a real immigration bill.
KUCINICH: Right. I was going to say I think that Paul Ryan might have a little bit dispute with that comment but yes, the striking thing is he's asking good questions. None of the questions were -- and none the answers were terribly crazy there other than the fact the way the wind blows seems to change what the President thinks about comprehensive immigration reform or immigration bill.
TAPPER: Well, those of us who listen to Stern, I mean, this is -- this is not typical of the Melendez, Stuttering John Melendez (INAUDIBLE). I mean --
[16:50:03] URBAN: He's pretty -- he's pretty competent asking very good questions.
TAPPER: Very senatorial.
URBAN: Maybe he should trying out for a show on CNN, who knows?
TAPPER: But a President Trump I don't think in this call does anything to embarrass himself. He handles himself well if you grant him the idea that that's of course not Senator Bob Menendez.
POWERS: No, I think that's true except for the fact that I think that there were a lot of red flags that this wasn't him and it's interesting that he wouldn't have -- I mean, and Bob Menendez obviously really cares a lot about immigration reform as well and I think it would probably be a little harder on him if they were talking. But you know, Trump was putting out there that he's open to working on immigration reform which is sort of what it seems like he does when he's talking to somebody. He sort of tells them what they want to hear but then when it --
TAPPER: Somebody is going to get fired for this though?
POWERS: It depends on who it is.
TAPPER: Like I mean, it's not like Jared Kushner is like a phone operator or something.
URBAN: Listen again -- listen again, you got to be in the situation. Senators right, have their own cell phones. They act independently.
TAPPER: Yes, but with a California area code?
URBAN: Yes, but they call the White House frequently.
POWERS: It could have been a burner. They don't ring up the White House and ask to be connected to the President ---
TAPPER: Anyway --
URBAN: My boss, it happens all the time.
TAPPER: Melendez 2020, that's what I say. He doesn't always ride along party lines so will Senator Rand Paul support the President's pick for the Supreme Court? That's next. Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD," the White House is moving quickly to try to find a new Supreme Court justice hoping to nominate a new one we are told by July 9th with Republicans under pressure to get President Trump his second nomination on the court before the midterm elections.
TAPPER: And Senator Rand Paul Republican of Kentucky joins me now to talk about the implications for another conservative on the court. Senator, do you think the President's appointment to replace Justice Kennedy will mean as CNN's Jeffrey Toobin predicted that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I don't really know. I do think that you're going to get somebody from the list of people that we've been seeing and I think that list includes people who are originalist, who believe in the original or textual interpretation of the Constitution, that it was important what the Founders intended. I think that's what you'll get. I also suspect it'll be a very partisan battle and I suspect that it'll be on party lines and I think as much as people will try to make it about Roe vs.Wade, my doubt, my belief is probably I can't imagine anybody coming forward and saying that they have a predetermined opinion on that because the history of these nominations are people who come forward who say they're going to have an open opinion to looking at all cases that will come before them.
TAPPER: So we invited you on today to talk about the criminal justice system of which you're a big critic. CNN is preparing to air a new film called American Jail. Here's a little preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's inevitable to end up here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the jails were filled with white kids from the suburbs and then they were making white kids work for no money, how long do you think that operation would be allowed to last?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The criminal justice --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPPER: Senator you've made much of your career making criminal justice reform a priority often criticizing members of your own party. Where do you think President Trump is on this issue? Is he in favor of criminal justice reform?
PAUL: You know, I've had discussions with the President, I've had the discussions with the President's son-in-law, and the President's son- in-law came in to see me, Jared Kushner, the other day and he's very much in favor of criminal justice reform. The bill they're looking at goes -- takes a small step towards that. I would go much further. I frankly think for nonviolent felonies or nonviolent crimes particularly drug crimes that if you've served your time, behave yourself, we should allow them to expunge this from their criminal record so they don't have to -- every time they apply for a job it isn't an impediment to getting a job.
This is primarily for nonviolent felonies. But I think there's a lot we can do. I've worked with Cory Booker on things like juveniles. Cory talk to me about juveniles being housed in solitary confinement, how difficult it was. I read the story of Kalief Browder who ultimately committed suicide, who was kept for three years in Rikers Island without a trial. That shouldn't happen in America. I mean, you should get a speedy trial. And three years in jail without bail? So I've also worked with Kamala Harris on how are we fixed bail. You know, it should -- really we have a $3,000 bail for a kid that's got no money.
TAPPER: President Trump recently pardoned Alice Johnson after Kim Kardashian famously urged him to do so. This is a perfect example the kind of thing you're talking about. There would be less of a need for clemency such as miss Johnson's if there was reform for nonviolent crimes such as drug convictions.
PAUL: It's one of the things I complimented President Obama on. He did a lot in his second term. Towards the end of his second term, he granted a lot of clemency and President Trump have started that and I would encourage President Trump to continue to rectify the terrible inequities of our system. I mean, if you look at drug use in our culture, blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate. But if you look at our prison population it's four to five times greater chance of being in jail if you're black. And it's a function not only of race but a really a poverty and we need to have a better system. We can't have a system where we're locking up all the young black men in our cities. It's a terrible injustice and I think we can do a lot better.
TAPPER: Senator Rand Paul thank you as always. I appreciate it. And tune in to CNN this Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the debut of the film American Jail. And tune in Sunday morning to "STATE OF THE UNION." My guest will be Senator Susan Collins and Senator Tammy Duckworth. That's at 9:00 and noon Eastern. That's it for THE LEAD. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you Sunday morning.