Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

New Revelations Emerge About Ivanka Trump's Private E-Mail Use; Obama Speaks Out on Trump. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 20, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He thinks the country needs that, is hungry for that. And he said he didn't care what the particular demographic group that candidate fell in to. But that's the kind of candidate he believed could win.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Now, I know he's very careful. That said, you know him well.

And you're good at asking questions. I have seen you ask a lot of tough questions before.

Do you believe, based on that description, that kind of profile, that the president has a favorite Democratic can't for 2020 or somebody he believes, if not his favorite, is most likely one to defeat a President Trump?

AXELROD: You know, I asked him some questions that were submitted by students. And one of them asked about Beto O'Rourke, who, of course, has captured the imagination of a lot of young people.

And he said a lot of nice things about him, but he was very, very clear that he thinks that there are other candidates who represented some really significant upside.

And the sense he gave and the sense I got from him is, he thinks that everybody who wants to aspire to this should get on the field, and we should what people have to offer, and that the party needs this campaign. So he was not ready to lay hands on any particular candidate.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Got to kind of road-test them, as you say there, and see how they do on the road.

AXELROD: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: David Axelrod, thanks very much.

Folks at home, you can listen to David's full interview with former President Obama on "THE AXE FILES" podcast. I listened to it, and it's a really good one.

And just now, we should note, President Trump has just weighed in on his daughter using private e-mail for government business. Spoiler alert: He did not use the phrase "Lock her up."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:47]

SCIUTTO: We are back now with our politics lead and what critics are calling really a stunning act of hypocrisy.

First daughter and adviser to the president Ivanka Trump last year used a personal e-mail account for official White House business. That is according to e-mails released by a nonpartisan watchdog group.

Ivanka Trump's hundreds of e-mails traded with Cabinet officials, White House aides and other government officials bears an obvious resemblance to Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal.

President Trump staked his presidential campaign, you may remember, on painting his 2016 opponent as crooked Hillary, sparring chants of "Lock her up" at this rallies that continue to this day.

A spokesman for Ivanka's attorney tried to draw a distinction, saying that Ivanka Trump did not have a private server or transmit classified information.

President Trump echoing those points just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're all in presidential records. There was no hiding. There was no deleting, like Hillary Clinton did. There was no servers in the basement like Hillary Clinton had. You're talking about a whole different -- you're talking about all fake news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well, it's not fake news. There's a paper trail there of these e-mails.

The White House, we should say, had no comment on Ivanka Trump's e- mail practices.

Let's discuss.

Scott Jennings, you have to admit, this looks and sounds awfully hypocritical.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

The headline and what most people are going to hear about the story does look hypocritical. I think a reading of the two stories, you can see the differences between the two. There was no, as far as we know, intent to delete e-mails, go around the Presidential Records Act.

They say they have made an effort to preserve everything. I think what the White House has to do, Jim, is create their own timeline and transparency here about exactly how they handled the situation when it was discovered what she was doing.

And if they can do that and get out in front of it, it will take some of the sting out of what the House Democrats are clearly going to do, which is open another line of investigations into this White House over this e-mail issue.

SCIUTTO: Well, there's a line of investigation that may be warranted. Again, we don't know the answer to this question yet. And there is a big difference, what you note, Scott.

Hillary Clinton, it turned out, she sent 113 e-mails, sent or received, that contain some classified information. At least three of those were marked as classified. That's a difference here. And there's no evidence at this point, Angela Rye, that Ivanka Trump's many hundreds of e-mails included classified information.

But it is something that I imagine the House might be interested in investigating.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. And we don't -- there's no evidence yet. That doesn't mean that that doesn't exist.

I think the real challenge that we have here, coming from someone who worked on Capitol Hill, I sent e-mails from my official House account to my personal account, so I could print things at home all of the time. I think, one, we do make this issue huge.

And we started making it huge around 2015, right? That's our reality. And so now we have to deal with the outcome. We do have to figure out what's really there, and if there is a there there.

The other challenge that we have is understanding that my House.gov e- mails having information in them that is sensitive, that could put the country at risk is very different than what Ivanka is dealing with.

I think the reality is, she is in a very high-profile role, and she is a target. I think another target that the House should focus on is Donald Trump's iPhone, because he continues to use a personal phone to transmit all kinds of information that is absolutely sensitive, probably some of it classified in this country.

So we should look at the phone and the e-mails.

SCIUTTO: Phil Mudd, Angela raises a point there. Listen, again, let's not make an equivalency here, because it doesn't have -- one being, of course, the classified information, to our knowledge, at this point.

That said, I imagine the foreign intelligence services would like to know what the communications are like between the daughter of a president and other senior White House officials about a whole host of things, including personal movements, travel, their views of issues currently under negotiation.

Is it correct to say that using a private e-mail account, unprotected, the way a White House e-mail account would be, opens the door to outsiders, other intelligence services mining information from that?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure.

[16:45:00]

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure. Any hostile intelligence service thinks the Russians or the Chinese are going to -- is going to hack accounts like this. That said, let's step back for a moment. Let me pick up on what both Scott and Angela said. There are a couple of questions here. I don't think there's anything here that I as a security professional would say is of concern, but I don't know that yet. Let me give you two questions I would ask to cut through all the nonsense here.

Number one, did you commit an ethical violation that someone like me would be charged with? I'm not saying we'd be fired, I'm not saying we'd be fined, you're not supposed to use your private server or in this case a private e-mail account for government business. That's not a huge deal. How about I made a mistake and I'm sorry. Number two, and I think this is more significant. I don't believe, Jim, that there is anything secure on here but how does the defense attorney get to look through the information to decide what's classified? Does Mr. Lowell even have a security clearance? How do we know what's classified in here? We don't even know what's in there because the attorney gets to say my client didn't do anything wrong.

SCIUTTO: That's a fair point. We should remind folks did that President Trump's attacks on Hillary Clinton's e-mail use not focused purely on the classified question. Here's a reminder. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with e- mails.

Hillary Clinton can't keep her e-mails safe. And you know what folks she sure as hell can't keep our country safe.

She deleted the e-mails, she has to go to jail.

AMERICAN CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Jackie, of course, those "lock her up" chant, they continue today. But you heard the President there. She can't keep her e-mail safe seems to be same possible issue here with Ivanka. Does this create a political problem for this White House, a lasting one?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know that it's a lasting political problem but let's take a step back whether or not there was classified information or her lunch order in these e-mails. One of the biggest things that was -- the Clintons were criticized before was they didn't think the rules applied to them. Well, now we're seeing the same thing with the Trump's. Be it the President, be it his daughter, be it his son-in-law.

Again, if you were going into the Trump White House after the 26 camp -- 2016 campaign, one thing you should know is how to handle your e- mails at this point but -- and the idea that they didn't know it, she didn't know what the rules were just is a little tough to believe at this point. I mean, I think you could probably walk into Iowa and people could tell you what classified markings were on e-mails. They were covered so closely. So again, the fact that the rules don't apply to them and this is another problem with having your family work in the White House is problematic and it's a hypocritical, frankly.

SCIUTTO: Listen, thanks to all of you on this and other topics much appreciated. It is the election that could give Vladimir Putin more control of a key global law enforcement agency. That's the same Vladimir Putin who has assassinated his critics among many other things. We'll have that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] SCIUTTO: Today, urgent warnings ahead of a vote that could give Russia control of one of the world's most powerful law enforcement organizations. Tomorrow, the heads of Interpol will select a new president and a leading candidate, the leading candidate is a Russian with ties, direct ties to Vladimir Putin. If he wins, would Russia tried to arrest more Kremlin critics or access sensitive law enforcement databases. A group of U.S. Senators warned a Russian heading Interpol would be like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse. CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow. Matthew, is there an organized effort to stop this Russian from winning tomorrow's election?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The certainly is some kind of effort underway. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has led that charge throwing his weight behind the south and -- South Korean candidate for the Interpol presidency. And also Kremlin critics of course been up in arms. There's widespread concern that a country like Russia that has been so routinely accused itself of violating international law could be -- could be up for a job like this. And worse, you know, Russia has used Interpol specifically to harass and to pursue its opponents abroad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: It's an election that's causing concern around the world. This is the man may tipped to be elected Interpol's next president and he's Russian. Alexander Prokopchuk is Moscow's senior-most Interpol official. He could be elected as early as this week to the top job. It would be an extraordinary coup for the Kremlin accused the flagrant disregard for international law, the use of chemical weapons on the streets of Britain to election meddling in the United States. In an open letter, a group of U.S. Senators say the election of a Russian would be like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.

Interpol helps law enforcement agencies around the world cooperate and coordinate but critics say the agency has become a tool for the Kremlin to target his opponents abroad, a way of quashing dissent at home. Even the Russian environmental campaigners organized these protests against the building of a highway through a protected forest was singled out for an Interpol red notice at Moscow's request.

[16:55:08] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) and just normally arrived in the airport, checked in in a cheap hostel and the next morning 5 a.m. the door open then there's quite a few tourist police rushed in and they called my name.

CHANCE: Others from political dissidents too out of favor businessman have also been targeted by Russia with the closest thing Interpol has to an international arrest warrant and abuse say critics of the Interpol system. The Kremlin says U.S. senators publicly opposing Prokopchuk selection is election meddling by the United States, accusing the accuser has become a favorite tactic of the Russian state.

U.S. born businessman Bill Browder has himself been victim of that repeatedly targeted by Interpol red notices. His lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in Russian custody in 2009 and the financier turned Kremlin critics has campaigned hard to punish those responsible. If Russia now becomes the head of Interpol he says, new rules to prevent Russian abuses must be enhanced.

BILL BROWDER, AMERICAN-BRITISH FINANCIER: -- or if that's not possible then as Ben Emmerson was saying and I've seen a lot of noises over the last few days from politicians that it may be time to create a law enforcement -- international law enforcement body that just consists of countries that abide by the rule of law.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: Well, last time the Interpol elected a president, they chose a former Chinese secret policeman. They could easily choose a Kremlin man this time. Jim, back to you.

SCIUTTO: Matthew Chance following that story for us in Moscow which we will be following closely tomorrow. To our "POLITICS LEAD" now, and President Trump going even further to bolster his unfounded claims of a dangerous invasion headed for the U.S. The President sent to grant U.S. troops the authority to use force if they need to, to protect agents on the southern border and claiming without proof that hundreds of members of the migrant caravan are dangerous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now I understand they have 500 people that have been designated as -- let's put it in a nice word, criminals. And these are the people that are coming in. No, you don't have people coming in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. President -- Barbara, we heard the president make the same claims about criminals in the Caravan, the Department of Homeland Security couldn't back up those claims including talk of unknown Middle Easterners, the whiff of terrorists, etcetera, are they offering any new proof now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They are not, Jim. What they are saying is they can't offer proof, they have to protect their sources.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: CNN has learned the 5,800 troops assigned to the southwest border are expected to get new rules allowing them to protect civilian border authorities with force if necessary. So what changed since Secretary of Defense James Mattis' visit last week?

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: I do not anticipate military personnel coming into direct contact with migrants. The Trump administration is still worried, migrants will rush the U.S. border especially here in California where hundreds have already shown up. Some suspected caravan members have been detained on the U.S. side of the border. Additional troops may now move to California from Texas and Arizona where so far no large numbers of migrants have arrived according to defense officials.

Meanwhile, a federal judge's unit defeat to the Trump Administration temporarily blocking it from denying asylum to those crossing over the border between ports of entry saying that barring asylum for immigrants who enter outside a legal checkpoint irreconcilably conflicts with immigration law. That means more troops could be assigned to ferry border agents to any area where reinforcements are needed.

JONATHAN RYAN, REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT CENTER FOR EDUCATION AND LEGAL SERVICES: This characterization of this asylum seekers as a national security threat, it's just the wrong -- it's the wrong line of thinking to even begin with. This is a humanitarian crisis. These are people that our law has recognized for more than 70 years as deserving of a fair shake at asylum.

STARR: Many troops are finishing their work on building temporary basis. Some are expected to begin returning home if no new orders come fueling the charge the whole effort was politically motivated. The incoming Democrat Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee firing back at the President saying, "The reports that President Trump is planning to withdraw some of the troops he sent to the border two weeks ago indicate just how empty, demagogic, and racially motivated this politics stunt was.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And we are now waiting for the Pentagon for the first time to publicly acknowledge how much is cost in the military to keep 5,800 troops devoted to that border mission. Jim?