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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Could Trump Get A Third Supreme Court Pick?; Despite Trimp's Denials, Parts of Salacious Dossier Prove True; Ruth Bader Ginsburg Still Recovering; Democratic 2020 Contenders. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 7, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We will fight hard, and we will make real change.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: California Senator Kamala Harris is launching a book tour on Tuesday, a prelude to her own expected campaign.

And former Obama Cabinet Secretary Julian Castro is also moving forward with an announcement this weekend.

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: I believe that I have a strong vision for the country's future.

ZELENY: But it's Biden who will soon answer one of the biggest question marks in the race, a key factor, his family, as his wife, Jill, bluntly said last year.

JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I think, Joe, you would make a great president, but let's think about it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: And family is the most important concern of all. That is one hurdle. And it's a considerable one that he's not resolved, according to conversations with several allies who say they just don't know in the end if he's going to run or not.

Jake, he wants to be president. But Joe Biden has always wanted to be president. The bottom line is whether he wants to upend his life and his entire family's and potentially diminish his legacy with what could be the toughest campaign of his long career. And that is just the primary. Never mind the general -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Let's chat about this.

Karen Finney, does Biden need to get in the mix sooner rather than later, so as to chase other potential candidates out of the race?

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think he can do whatever he wants. I think if he were to signal that he's going to take his time, and then if others want to jump in, they could do so. I think there's -- out of respect for him, I think there's some people who are kind of waiting to see what he does.

But, look, I think the biggest challenge -- I love Joe Biden, I will say that. I think the biggest challenge for him will be that a campaign in 2020 is dramatically different than it was in 2012, just in terms of the mechanics of how you run, how you raise money, how you work with voters.

And so I think he's got -- in addition to all the other questions he's got to ask himself, as Zeleny just said, is do you really -- most guys want to be the president, they don't want to do the campaigning, and that's going to be pretty brutal.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I think we should ask, how come he doesn't know yet? If there's anybody who should know if he wants to run for president, it should be Joe Biden.

You had been vice president. You have run for president before. You were in the Senate forever. You know what it's like. So the fact that they're doing this whole hemming and hawing routine is silly.

And the person that I think can get voters that Joe Biden can get that has already signaled that he will make a decision independent of whether Joe Biden is running is Terry McAuliffe. And I don't know why he's being sort of underrated right now. He's been making TV appearances, musing that he's going to consider it.

And I think he's a Democrat that has a potential to get Republican voters. He's been the governor of a purple state. He seems to get the modern economy. He sort of talks about pushing back against the fringe left. I think he's very interesting, compelling, and he's on my list.

TAPPER: So let's talk about Terry McAuliffe . He shot down some what he called radical ideas coming from progressives on CNN earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I'm just concerned that a lot of ideas that I have seen so far, some have no chance. Good aspirational goals. I'm all for it. But we have got to have realism. That's what America is yearning for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That might be what America is yearning war, but the progressive left likes these aspirational ideas that he's throwing cold water on.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And I think there's going to be candidates to pick up and run with those.

Unlike what happened in 2016, what I have been hearing is that there really isn't any incentive not to run for a lot of these candidates. And while there is a lot of respect for Joe Biden, I don't know that people are going to stay out if he decides to run, because there really -- because the field is going to be so wide.

And we don't know -- we were talking during the break. We don't know what the platform is going to be. We don't know exactly what people are going to want at the end of the day. There's going to be a lot of sussing out and a lot of family infighting that we're going to see within the Democratic Party going forward.

FINNEY: Can I just say, as the Democrat at the table...

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: Let the Democrat explain.

TAPPER: Demsplain for us.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

FINNEY: I will Demsplain.

I think the more, the merrier. I actually thought that the primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was one of the best things that ever happened to the Democratic Party, because it engaged parts of the country that never get to participate in the presidential primary.

I think this primary is going to go very long and is going to be about far more than Iowa, New Hampshire and even the four early states. And I think that's actually going to be a good thing. And I think it will be a good opportunity to debate ideas. How about that, instead of tweets?

CARPENTER: It will take focus off Trump.

TAPPER: And a lot of ideas are being discussed right now. And you can credit Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for at least one of them.

She in that interview talked about a 70 percent marginal tax rate for people who earn more than $10 million a year. That's a 70 percent rate just on the 10 millionth and up.

Julian Castro told ABC News that he -- and he's thinking of running, former Obama HUD official -- he considered a higher tax rate for America's wealthiest 1 percent. Take a listen to how he approached it, because it's very different from the kind of language we have heard from Democrats in the past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: I can support folks at the top paying their fair share, that we can have a better system where people can get good health care and have peace of mind, even if that means that we rearrange where those dollars go. Yes, I support that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:35:03]

TAPPER: So, in the past, you might hear a Democrat -- and you still might -- like McAuliffe or perhaps Biden say, 70 percent rate, that's wild.

But Castro, an open mind. He didn't commit to any number. But he talked about a higher rate.

BILL KRISTOL, FORMER EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, I don't think there's necessarily a contrast can being somewhat moderate or let's say nonradical and being aspirational.

And I think actually Terry McAuliffe, whom I like well enough. He was a decent governor of Virginia where I live. I think it's a huge mistake for these candidates that we have to be realistic, we can't -- that's just aspirational.

After Trump, I should think Democrats will want -- mostly, they will want anyone but Trump. They will want someone sane and calm who could actually be president of the United States. But they wouldn't mind a little aspiration.

So Barack Obama showed in 2008, if anyone ever could show, that you could both be sort of -- appeal to everyone, blue American and red America, transcending all these ancient divisions and hatreds and so forth, but also appeal to progressives.

FINNEY: But that's a really important point.

I think there's two things, right? If I'm running for president, my advice to any Democrats would be, A, don't shut down any idea, right? Because -- and don't be -- you don't have to buy into what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says or any other Democrat or Republican, for that matter, in Congress.

You have got to run your own race, have your own ideas. And I agree. You have got to have vision. It cannot just be about, I can beat Trump or I'm the alternative to Trump. I think it'll be a huge mistake to let the race be about Trump. He's going to loom large across this contest no matter what.

And I think if the candidates are trying to fight Trump, rather than put forward their own clear vision, I think it's a huge mistake.

TAPPER: One other thing I want to bring up, just because we haven't mentioned on the show yet, which is there is this threat of outside interference not just from foreign countries, but also from bad actors.

"The New York Times" is an alarming report on last year's Senate race in Alabama, where Democrats were reportedly behind some fake ads such as one that tied Republican Roy Moore -- here it is on Facebook, I believe -- to wanting prohibition in Alabama, a dry Alabama. It wasn't true. It was Democrats committing mischief.

We have no idea the effect it had. Doug Jones, who won, has called for a federal investigation. How concerned are you about all sorts of mischief-makers entering the race, whether in primaries or the general?

CARPENTER: Yes, I mean, social media is the Wild West when it comes to campaigns.

We have all kinds of laws for what candidates can say in certain forums, who can they take money from and what amount, how it should be disclosed on television. But you can have an unaffiliated supporter go online, has fake bots, fake ads, fake campaigns, and everything with no accountability.

And then Facebook says maybe three, six months, a year later, oh, we should have done better. No, you need to do better now. And there was a long conversation about this after the 2016 election that got dropped. It is a huge problem that the laws that apply to candidates and to old media don't apply to social media.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: ... fully apply to old media.

Karen remembers this. People used to have -- Democrats, when they would try to pick the opponent they wanted to run against in Senate races, would have some fake right-wing group attack the more moderate Republican as being a squish, so the more radical Republican would win, so the Democrat would then beat that Republican.

Harry Reid, Claire McCaskill, I remember using that in 2010 and 2012. So I'm not sure it's that different from the way things were.

TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around.

It's something Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has never done in all her 25 years on the Supreme Court. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:42:50]

TAPPER: In our national lead, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg went to work after she beat two different bouts of cancer. She even showed up for work the day after her beloved husband, Marty, died, but today for the first time in her 25 years on the bench, 85- year-old RBG missed oral arguments, less than a month after she had two cancerous nodules removed from her lung.

CNN's Ariane de Vogue joins me now.

Ariane, what was being said about RBG being out today? ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, you're right.

The Supreme Court met for the first time to hear arguments in the new year and her seat was empty. The chief didn't say much at oral arguments. But a spokesperson said, look, she is still recovering from the surgery from those two nodules that were cancerous that were removed. And that's about all that was said.

But, of course, what you said about the fact that she had suffered cancer twice before is so important, because she often brought up the fact that she never missed a day of oral arguments on the bench. And the fact that she did show up and read that opinion -- I was in court that day, the day after her husband died -- is really poignant.

So this is significant, Jake. And it comes at a heady time at the court.

TAPPER: What do we know about her actual health status right now?

DE VOGUE: Well, I think the key -- experts I have talked to said the key to this is the fact that these were found so early.

Keep in mind, she fell in her office in November. She tripped and fell. She went to the hospital. And it was a part of treating fractured ribs that the doctors found these two nodules. So it comes very early.

The court released a statement at the time saying there's no evidence of any remaining disease. And one other thing is, even if she misses oral arguments, the court is meeting again tomorrow, she will still be able to vote in these cases.

And she doesn't have to participate in oral arguments to vote. And it comes at a time when a lot of President Trump's big policies are making their way to the Supreme Court, Jake.

TAPPER: Huge ones.

All right, Ariane, thank you so much.

Obviously, let me just preface this conversation by, I know everybody here hopes for the best for her, hopes she's on the court for as long as she wants to be on the court.

But this is not a good sign. And she has been sick. And she is elderly.

And let me just ask, can the country even take another Supreme Court confirmation fight right now, emotionally?

CARPENTER: Of course. Sure. Yes. There is...

TAPPER: Look at you with your faith in America.

(LAUGHTER)

CARPENTER: Yes, it might get the government reopened, actually. And I hate to even go there.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Bill is shaking his head.

KRISTOL: Amanda has more faith than I do in America.

CARPENTER: No one here must be ghoulish. We wish you the best. But there does come a question of her fitness perform the job. This is the highest court in the land. A limited number of cases go to the Supreme Court heard by a limited number of people. That seat needs to be filled and I hope this is something that does not become --

TAPPER: We all want it to be filled by RBG. Let's take a look at the current balance of the court right now. You have four justices appointed by Democratic presidents who regularly rule more liberally, five justices appointed by Republican presidents who generally rule more conservatively. President Trump had already gotten two Supreme Court picks already. He shifted the courts balance to the right. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg were to let's say retire from the court and President Trump got another pick, what would a six to three conservative court look like? You'd be happy about it I assume.

KRISTOL: Maybe. But -- yes, but first it would have of course every Democratic senator and spokesman of the country and presidential candidate quoting Mitch McConnell about how an eighth person Supreme Court's just fine, you know. They had one, we had one for a year. The country went on perfectly well right? Resolved all these issues, couple --

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Karen is already --

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The argument only worsens in 2020.

KRISTOL: No I don't -- I don't think the Democrats -- because oh, we can't make that argument because it's 2019, not 2020. I mean, it would be -- if you think all the wild cards that are out there for 2019, 2020 in terms of the Trump presidency, the two parties, the fights within each party incidentally, one or two Supreme Court vacancies, that would just be --

TAPPER: Let me just talk about this, Karen. I want you to take a look at this with the intense political divide we're seeing in Washington, some of the most important battles are headed indeed to the Supreme Court. We have some of the cases include immigration and DREAMers reversal when President Trump reversed the decision in DREAMers, the 2020 census citizenship question, there's the transgender military ban, there's gerrymandering. I'm not even including what President Trump announces tomorrow night if it's a national security -- national emergency declaration and I haven't even mentioned the word, Mueller. (INAUDIBLE) That's all headed towards the Supreme Court. FINNEY: And of course not mentioning Mueller is the whole point of

this whole drama that we're having about the border, but anyway back to the court. Now, look I think the one thing that a positive could be that finally if you are a progressive voter in this country, if you don't understand how important the court is, you finally understand how important the court is as a voting issues.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: Certainly if you like your health care and certainly if you are part of the majority of Americans who believe that Roe v Wade should remain settled law, you care what is happening to Justice Ginsburg and frankly any other justice at this point. And it's terrifying that we're in this situation where day by day there's this -- you know, she's the one everybody's sort of you know -- there's all the jokes about walking around with bubble wrap, right, to make sure that she's OK. You know, when justice hangs and our democracy, hangs in such a fragile balance, I really hope that people take that to mind and remember that when it comes to voting.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But to your point, if history is any guide, this will be just rocket fuel for -- the for the Republican base should there end up being another vacancy. It's something that really -- yes, absolutely, really it really animates and animates the base and those senators from blue states who are having really, really tough free elections, this would likely help them.

TAPPER: The Cory Gardeners of the world, the Republican from Colorado.

KUCINICH: Yes, the Susan Collins, Thom Tillis.

KRISTOL: I'm not so sure about that. It helped Republicans in red states maybe in 2018. It didn't help Republicans in purple states.

KUCINICH: Bur these are purple states and again --

KRISTOL: So why do you assume that it --

KUCINICH: Because it doesn't animate --

KRISTOL: I'm not so sure. I mean, I'm with the conservative on solutions, but I'm not so sure the conservative position is that much more popular.

TAPPER: It motivates Republicans more than Democrats.

KUCINICH: That's what I'm saying.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: -- because I'll tell you something, it's interesting, like even in a state like Georgia where I work last cycle that voters actually won and you saw Governor Andrew Cuomo doing it today. They want governors to codify in law protections for Roe vs. Wade. So I actually think when it comes to some of these constitutional issues, I'm not sure how it plays at the state level. We make different assumptions at the federal level when we're having these conversations. But you know, when you talk about at the state level when it affects your day-to-day life, it's a different conversation.

TAPPER: I would be remiss if I also didn't mention that RBG who again we are all wishing for the best for her, that she has an iconic status as a feminist and as a trailblazing woman. There's the RBG documentary, the RBG book, the movie on the basis of sex. This would be a big kick to the gut of the feminist movement if RBG were to need to retire.

KUCINICH: Absolutely. I don't -- I don't disagree with that. But again, we hope that --

TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. It's the 35-page document linked to the Mueller investigation that made headlines around the world. Up next, the details inside the dossier that we know are true. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: We're back with our "POLITICS LEAD" and a peek into just how messy the fight over the Mueller report could get. President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani told Bloomberg the White House may claim executive privilege to keep some of the final report private while Democrats are already promising to demand a public release of the Mueller report.

It was almost exactly two years ago that CNN reported that President Trump had been briefed on the intelligence community's assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election including the existence of the Steele Dossier. And despite the President's fierce denial, CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto reports that the Special Counsel's team has already proven some of the claims in that dossier are true.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: After endless debate in Washington and countless denials and dismissals by President Trump --

[16:55:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fraud of the fake dossier, the phony dossier.

SCIUTTO: Parts of the now-infamous dossier on Trump have proven to be true. The dossier began as opposition research on Trump first funded by his Republican opponents and then Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was then retired British intelligence officer Christopher Steele began to take part later compiling a series of raw intelligence leads which formed the 35-page document.

The dossier included salacious and unverified claims about Trump as well as broader allegations of a potential conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and Russian nationals tied to the Kremlin and Russian intelligence which Trump has repeatedly denied.

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia.

SCIUTTO: However, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, as well as probes by committees on Capitol Hill, have in fact corroborated some aspects of the dossier. Take the claim that Russians tried to develop a closer relationship with Trump by offering him fruitful real estate business deals.

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia folks, OK.

SCIUTTO: During the campaign, Trump repeatedly and emphatically denied that he had any deals in or involving Russia.

TRUMP: Zero. I mean, I will tell you right now, zero. I have nothing to do with Russia. Zero. Zero.

SCIUTTO: Despite denying it for months, Trump's one-time fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen testified in December that he and Trump were, in fact, negotiating a potential deal with a Russian company that would bring a Trump Tower to Moscow with efforts continuing as late as the summer of 2016 as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination for president. With his earlier denials proven false, Trump now brushes the project aside.

TRUMP: I decide ultimately not to do it. There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it.

SCIUTTO: Claiming the deal was well publicized at the time, though it was not, and suggesting that the negotiations were merely part of his obligation to run the Trump Organization.

TRUMP: This deal was a very public deal. Everybody knows about this deal. I wasn't trying to hide anything. When I run for president, that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to do business. I was doing a lot of different things when I was running.

SCIUTTO: Despite Trump's claims of little to no contact with Russia prior to his election victory and inauguration, we have learned that in fact, at least 16 Trump associates had contacts with Russians either during the election campaign or the presidential transition. One such interaction took place in June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York when Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort all met with several Russians who were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Today, President Obama sending a message to Russia essentially we're coming for you.

SCIUTTO: A further allegation in the dossier relates to U.S. sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration. The dossier includes the allegation that former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page met with the president of a Russian state-run oil company and discussed lifting the sanctions.

In 2017, Paige testified before the House Intelligence Committee that he did visit Russia in 2016 and met a different senior official of the oil company and that the campaign was fully aware of the trip. However, Page claims that he visited Russia as a private citizen and that his meeting was not specifically about sanctions, though the topic was discussed during his visit.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: A few people made -- brought it up in passing but you know again, it's a major economic issue. And so you know, there may have been a loose conversation.

SCIUTTO: A still unresolved allegation and a potentially explosive one if proven true, the dossier also claims that Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in the summer of 2016 to coordinate with Russian officials on covering up Russian's interference in the election. Cohen has consistently, publicly denied any such trip. And all the while, the President has stood firm insisting --

TRUMP: No collusion, after two years no collusion.

SCIUTTO: Some of the dossiers, other allegations remain uncorroborated including the allegations that the Russian government has damaging highly salacious material on President Trump which the Kremlin could use as compromising material, kompromat in Russian.

TRUMP: And I have to say if they had it, it would have been out long ago.

SCIUTTO: Throughout, President Trump has had one very public companion in his denials Russian President Vladimir Putin.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): I would like to add something to this. after all, I was an intelligence officer myself and I do know how dossiers are made of.

SCIUTTO: Putin did admit that another allegation in the dossier is true. That he preferred Trump to win the election over Hillary Clinton.

PUTIN (through translator): Yes I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Soon after we first reported the existence of the dossier, the briefing of the dossier to Trump and Obama, we reported that U.S. intelligence had, in fact, corroborated multiple communications and contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians during the campaign. At the time, Jake, not only did the White House denied it but it enlisted Republican lawmakers on the Hill, Senators, House members, to call around to other news organizations say that that story was wrong. Of course, that denial both from the White House and the Hill later proven false as well.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

END