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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Senator Cory Booker Announces Presidential Bid; Trump Calls Wall Negotiations Waste of Time. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 1, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for being with me the last two hours.

Let's go to Washington now. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump just laid the first plank in declaring a national emergency to fund his border wall.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump today suggesting he's going to basically build the wall himself, calling talks to avoid another shutdown a waste of time, lining up the next battle over the limits of his power.

Hmm, is that a Cold War chill in the air? The Trump administration suspending a key nuclear arms treaty with the Russians, raising fears of a new arms race. Is this a smart strategy?

Plus, one of the most popular governors in the country possibly, possibly getting ready to challenge Trump, but he's not a Democrat. Could Maryland's Larry Hogan be the GOP's wild card? CNN talked to him.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin this Friday with the politics lead.

President Trump setting the stage to begin construction of a border wall without congressional approval, using emergency powers that will assuredly be challenged in court. Part of the president's pitch is casting doubt on the work being done right now by a bipartisan group of senators and members of the House working to come up with a compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're getting nowhere with the Democrats. We're not going to get anywhere with them. It's going to be a part of their campaign. But I don't think it's good politically.

And I think Nancy Pelosi should be ashamed of herself. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said there will not be any money for a wall, a concrete wall, in the legislation, though she has not expressed opposition to barriers or fencing.

And the president had until recently said he too could get behind barriers or fencing. But this week, for some reason, he reverted back to demanding a wall.

Recall, of course, a week ago the president said he wanted a compromise after he needlessly shut down the government for 35 days, harming the livelihoods of 800,000 federal employees and depriving the economy of billions of dollars, according to economists.

This all comes as Mr. Trump claimed to "The New York Times" that he's been assured by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that he's not a target of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The president also praising his longtime political adviser Roger Stone, who just one week ago was arrested by the FBI and indicted by the Justice Department.

Late today, the man that the president called a character appeared in federal court on charges he obstructed the Russia investigation and tampered with witnesses. In court, he was issued a warning by the judge. We will have more on that in a few minutes.

Any moment, President Trump's going to depart Washington for his Mar- a-Lago club, where he will spend the weekend.

CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez kicks us off today from West Palm Beach, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before taking off for a weekend in Florida, President Trump bragging about strong jobs numbers, despite the 35-day government shutdown.

TRUMP: We added 304,000 jobs, which was a shocker to a lot of people. It wasn't a shocker to me.

SANCHEZ: Trump also bashing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying that negotiating with Democrats on a border wall agreement is a waste of time and teasing that he may declare a national emergency to pay for the wall without congressional approval during next week's State of the Union address.

TRUMP: Having a national emergency does help the process. It would certainly help the process. What would help a lot would be if the Democrats could actually be honest. I think Nancy Pelosi should be ashamed of herself, because she's hurting a lot of people. I think the Democrats should be ashamed of themselves. SANCHEZ: The president also remains focused on the Russia investigation, dismissing the probe on Twitter and during an interview with "The New York Times," telling the paper that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein assured him he is not under scrutiny.

TRUMP: He told the attorneys that I'm not a subject, I'm not a target of -- yes. Oh, yes.

QUESTION: Did he say that about the SDNY investigation? Because there's two. There's Mueller and there's Cohen.

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know about that. That, I don't know about.

SANCHEZ: The president also said that he never discussed WikiLeaks with Roger Stone during the 2016 campaign, and never directed anyone else to either. Trump defended his former associate.

TRUMP: I like Roger. He's a character. But I like Roger.

SANCHEZ: The president also contradicted his own attorney, saying that Rudy Giuliani was wrong a little bit when he said Trump may have discussed building a tower in Moscow as late as November 2016.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It would have covered all the way up to November of -- covered all the way up to November 2016.

SANCHEZ: Trump argued he was too busy, saying -- quote -- "I was running for president. I was doing really well. The last thing I cared about was building a building."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: And, Jake, CNN got a preview of what the president is expected to say during his State of the Union next week, nothing really groundbreaking there.

Expect the president to offer the country a path forward after that record-breaking government shutdown -- Jake.

[16:05:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Boris Sanchez with the president -- or where the president will soon be in Florida.

Our experts are here.

Bill, the president is really trash-talking this conference committee, House and Senate Democrats and Republicans trying to come up with some sort of compromise.

Does this mean you think that like he's made up his mind, it doesn't matter what they come up with, like he's declaring a national emergency? BILL KRISTOL, FORMER EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I think he understands that they are going to come up with a bill out of conference that will pass both houses. The other appropriations bills are already done.

And, basically, I think they're going to fund the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, and say to the president, we have got plenty of votes to pass this, override your veto if you want to veto it, so he won't veto it.

So there he is, with the government open, and no success. So then he does the emergency declaration, presumably. I think that what he's laying the groundwork for. Now, no one seems to have noticed that Congress gets a chance then to overturn that.

And I think Speaker Pelosi would probably have the votes to do that in the House. And I think that's a tough vote for Republicans in the Senate. It's a mandatory vote. It's a privileged resolution. It only takes 51 votes.

And is every Republican senator going to say, absolutely right? The president lost this legislative fight just for the last few months. He never brought it up really as a serious fight for two years when they controlled both bodies. There's no evidence of any particular -- anything happening on the border that wasn't happening six months or 12 months ago.

But absolutely within his power to have an emergency declaration, to move funds, other things for which Congress has appropriated funds, and just take them and put them somewhere else?

TAPPER: Right.

KRISTOL: I think that could be a very interesting fight on the emergency declaration.

TAPPER: Symone, I want you to take a listen to something that White House counsel Kellyanne Conway said about Speaker Pelosi today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: I know she's a very wealthy woman and not very representative of the rest of the country. But she should think about her words also, get a little bit better control of her temper and her chamber.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Kellyanne Conway apparently has an issue with somebody who has a great deal of wealth, isn't necessarily representative of the country, and has an issue with temper.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And I thought that was...

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Does she still work for Donald Trump?

TAPPER: I thought that was interesting.

SANDERS: I wonder if she's still a counselor to the current president of the United States of America?

Look, I'm sure Speaker Pelosi is not too worried about what Kellyanne Conway has to say about her and her temperament. I think what Speaker Pelosi has demonstrated is that she has a very good handle on her caucus.

She knows where her members are. She knows where they are not. And she knows how to come in and strike a deal. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has yet to strike a successful deal with Congress and be the dealmaker he told us all he was going to be.

I don't know if the White House thinks this strategy of attempting to belittle or try to intimidate Speaker Pelosi is going to work out well for them in the long run when it comes to this conference committee. But I think it's a failed strategy. And where they're coming after Nancy Pelosi, if that's the last card that they have to play, I think it's a bad day at the White House.

And every -- most days are bad.

(LAUGHTER)

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But it's a fairly obvious strategy, right?

A woman has stood up to the president and won, right? And so he has been belittling rhetoric -- we have heard this for several days, weeks now, I guess, this sort of doing damage to the country.

And so, to your point, I don't think that's going to play well. I certainly don't think that's going to play well with the people who now think she's doing a great job.

And to Bill's point, I think this fight, I mean, who doesn't think that the president isn't going to try to set up his argument on Tuesday night for the emergency? At the same time in this conference committee -- and I think Pelosi has worked very hard with her caucus to make sure people can vote for border security, which obviously we have been playing this semantical game of, is it a wall? Is it concrete? Is it steel?

But talking about the things that experts have said are actually effective, in terms of drones, in terms of more staffing, in terms of ports, because we know that's actually -- if you care really about sex trafficking, that's actually where the problem is.

They don't, as the president said from the Oval, sit there on the border and just say, hey, what's in the back of the car? That's not really how that works.

So, I mean, I think she not only knows her caucus, but her strategy not just on the message, but also on the policy is effective because people will vote for security. So then why are you then going to approve the president calling an emergency for something that's going to cost billions of dollars, for a wall that's ineffective?

TAPPER: Right.

So, Kristen, let me ask you. You and I have been talking about this for weeks. There is a compromise there. The president was in the position if he would accept fencing, steel slats, barriers, and Speaker Pelosi has not said anything against that. In fact, she said something about Normandy crosses, which is a kind of fencing that would block vehicles from crossing, just yesterday.

But now the president has gone back. He's back with the concrete wall, even though -- there were weeks where he's talking about steel slats.

Is there a polling reason why he would have done that? Would the base have opposed him if he had done -- if he had agreed to steel slats? I don't understand, because it's right there. There's the compromise right there.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, what his base wants is border security.

And they believe that in order to have a secure border, you need additional physical barriers. But, as we have discussed, physical barriers can mean a lot of different things.

And the fact that the president keeps moving the goalposts, even as congressional Republicans or his advisers may be clearer about, look, border security can be achieved by let's do 300 miles of fencing in the most critical parts where Border Patrol says we need it -- that is not the Great Wall of China style, sea to shining sea, concrete walls.

[16:10:10]

I just cannot fathom why he keeps back in himself into the least politically effective position, when the idea that we should listen to what Border Patrol wants and help them shore up with some physical barriers at certain parts of the border, that tests very well.

He could get that win. He just seems to not want that win.

KRISTOL: He doesn't want the win. He wants the issue, not the solution.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Right. That's right.

KRISTOL: What if they agree? What is the president signed off, there was a happy little press conference where they had slightly different interpretations of what they had agreed to, and it was done, February 15, 2019?

That's not what Trump wants. Trump wants to have this fight until November 2020. And that's why he didn't agree to the previous deal, which was a perfectly good deal. And it's why he's not -- why, even though they're going to -- the conference committee will, in a bipartisan way, I think agree to a Homeland Security appropriations, he's not going to accept it.

And he's perfectly happy to have Congress fight with him over the emergency declaration, and the courts then tie up the emergency declaration, because he wants to be the guy who's fighting for the border and fighting against these invaders and caravans on November 5 or 6 or whenever Election Day is 2020.

I think it's extremely -- he wants the issue, not the...

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: This is an important point.

I think Donald Trump needs controversy in order for himself to thrive. And I put thrive in quotes, because I think we could all agree that I don't think he's thriving at this point in time.

But he has never -- he's always been befallen with controversy. From the moment he came down that escalator with what I would describe as very demeaning and racist language, he has been befallen with controversy. His entire presidency has been befallen and beset with controversy.

And so perhaps Donald Trump can't strike a deal because he doesn't know how, because he feels like he needs the controversy to survive.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We're going to keep talking.

Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone just left a D.C. courtroom, and the judge already had a stern warning for him.

Then, it's just day one of his presidential campaign, but did Cory Booker already take a shot at his fellow Democrats? We will discuss.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: And we're back with a politics lead. A judge cautioning Roger Stone late this afternoon that she may impose a gag order on his public discussions of the case since the notorious prevaricator's numerous media appearances have contained inconsistencies which she said could be used against him at trial. Now I know many of you have grown numb to the notion that the President of the United States would publically express affection and support for someone charged with obstructing a federal government investigation as President Trump just did in an interview with "The New York Times."

It is worth pointing out that not implicitly condoning such behavior once was considered a standard for American leaders to say nothing of Stone's long history of racist and misogynist statements. But let's dive into the case once again. So Stone faces several federal charges from Special Counsel Mueller including allegations that obstructed the Russia investigation and tampering the witness. Do you think he realizes what's going on here? He seems to be relishing this and loving this.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: I wonder if in his mind this is -- it's against the divide between the political fight and the legal fight and such a desire to kind of mix it up and win a political fight without realizing there are serious consequences on the legal side. While something like the impeachment of a president is a political decision there's a lot of stuff that's happening that is not a political decision that's going to be decided by a judge or a jury and the number of tweets you send can only in a way hurt you.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR OF DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: Except to pardon.

TAPPER: Except if they pardon.

KRISTOL: If you stretch it out, and Stone is already stretching it out; it's a huge discovery and so forth. Stone may just think I can cavort around and show the president that I'm extremely loyal to him, put off getting to go to jail by November 2020 and get pardoned.

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESPERSON WITH THE HILLARY CLINTON 2016 CAMPAIGN: The trend we see now, that is the case until the person, if they flip or they start to flip. Right, publically, we have seen this a few times. Where the person ...

TAPPER: Oh right, Michael Cohen.

FINNEY: The person says, "I'll never flip. I'll never say anything." And the president says, "What a great guy. He's a great guy." And then when you hear that the person may be starting to give information, all the sudden, "I didn't know him. I've hardly ever met him." I feel like we're starting to see the beginnings of that too. But I think Kristen's point is so well taken that R Roger Stone just seems to just love this fight...

TAPPER: Yes.

FINNEY: ...and somehow think it's good for him and just the hubris and the arrogance of that, I do think that is part of what is going to not wear well on the legal system. I think you saw it with the judge today.

KRISTOL: But if you're guilty - (inaudible) - if you're guilty and you know basically you're guilty. You can be nice and be found guilty or you can be extremely combative and quote, "loyal" to the president and be found guilty and have some chance that the president will pardon you. So I don't think it's irrational of Stone in a way, right?

TAPPER: So Symone, the president told "The New York Times" that he has been or his lawyers have been assured by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that he is not a target in the Mueller probe. Take a listen. (BEGIN AUDIO)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has Rod Rosenstein given you any sense over the course of last year about whether you have had any exposure either in - were there any concerns or whether you were a target?

TRUMP: He told the attorneys that I'm not a subject - I'm not a target. Yes. Oh yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he say that about the SDNY investigation too?

TRUMP: About which?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: SDNY investigation because there's two; there's Mueller and there's Cohen's.

TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know about that.

(END AUDIO)

TAPPER: For the record Rosenstein and Mueller have not said publicly anything like that. That doesn't mean it's not true. We simply don't know. What do you make of all that?

SYMONE SANDERS, FORMER NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE 2016: You know I am hard pressed to take Donald Trump at his word because I think he is a liar. So I am inclined to think he's lying here and I would like to hear some other qualifiers. The fact of the matter is this. The Mueller investigation is going to play itself out. So is the SDNY -- the Southern District of New York. That investigation into Michael Cohen - an investigation, mind you, that Michael Cohen said in court, I know it seemed so long ago, that he was directed by individual one, Donald Trump.

We all believed to be individual one to commit these crimes. In my view, and a lot of folks on the progressive side, Donald Trump is an unindicted coconspirator. The only reason he too has not been charged with a crime at this point and is possibly on his way to jail is because he is the President of the United States.

That is -- those are things that are out there. I just will say Donald Trump pontificating on the record about what he says his attorney told him, I just - he's a liar.

FINNEY: But again, that's the game that they continue to play, sort of the verbal game that while there is so much that we don't know, it's really going to be an intel report, they throw these things out there with the hope that people who are only marginally paying attention because they're actually working and taking care of their families. Here, "Oh, didn't the president say that's not true," with the hope that then they don't actually then hear the factual part about actually the president was lying. And so we don't really know until we know but they're playing a nice game with the language.

TAPPER: And of course this all, in terms of the Mueller investigation circles back to the president as well as the SDNY one - what did he know, when did he know it? Take a listen to his response when asked by "The New York Times" about Roger Stone's involvement with WikiLeaks.

(BEGIN AUDIO)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever talk to him about WikiLeaks...

TRUMP: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... because that seemed to be that seemed to be what Mueller -- you never had a conversation with him?

TRUMP: No. I didn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, and did you ever tell him - did you ever tell him or other people to get in touch with him?

TRUMP: I never did.

(END AUDIO)

TAPPER: What do you think?

KRISTOL: I don't know. The evidence that Stone took credit or was given credit on whatever day that is "Access Hollywood" tape came out in October for having generated the WikiLeaks dump of emails a half an hour later.

TRAPPER: WikiLeaks denies that we should note but Jerome Corsi said that he took credit for it.

KRISTOL: Right, I think there's some other evidence in some of the material that we've seen in other indictments that there's at least reason to believe that Stone was in touch with WikiLeaks and people in the campaign thought he should be in touch with WikiLeaks and through someone. So I - I think Stone remains a very interesting player in the Russian collusion side of this. And look, would it be - I mean if it turns out that the Trump campaign had some role, let's say encouraging, maybe not causing WikiLeaks to dump the stuff at a good time for the Trump campaign. Does that count as serious collusion? I'd say that is pretty important and did the president then not know about that? It was just done by some rogue operators on the fringes of the campaign? Maybe. But that's where the collusion stuff gets serious.

TAPPER: And we'll see. Everyone stick around. A democratic presidential hopeful is already apologizing; coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:25:00]

TAPPER: Now we're back with our politics lead and Senator Cory Booker is in. The New Jersey Senator announcing today he is running for president in 2020 and joining an already crowded and increasingly diverse democratic field. As CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, Booker is hoping his career as something of a reformer will help him stand out.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

CORY BOOKER, SENATOR FROM NEW JERSEY AND 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Together, America, we will (inaudible). I'm Cory Booker and I'm running for President of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With those words, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker making his presidential ambitions official. As the field of democratic contenders just keeps growing.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST OF "THE VIEW": It is raining candidates here on "The View."

(END VIDEO)

ZELENY: On the first day of Black History Month, Booker joining an already crowded primary making clear his biography will be at the forefront of his campaign.

BOOKER: It's really what my mom challenged me to do as a kid. She said, "Look, you have a debt to pay back. You can't really pay it back, you've got to pay it forward."

ZELENY: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who's also running welcomed Booker to the race saying, "I'll be cheering you on, just, you know, not too hard."

It is shaping up to be the most diverse and among the largest slate of candidates in Democratic Party history. Booker becomes the fourth senator in the race and the second black candidate. Five women could also be on the ticket and at least a dozen more are eyeing a run. The president also making clear he is carefully following the opposition. Telling "The New York Times" he believes Senator Kamala Harris has had the best start with a better crowd and better enthusiasm. The democratic field also has ideological diversities with candidates already taking sides on defining issues like Medicare for all, immigration and trade.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, on a three day visit to Iowa, also exploring a presidential bid. He's urging democrats to consider geographical diversity.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think your party needs a candidate from the middle of the country to defeat Donald Trump?

SHERROD BROWN, DEMOCRATIC SENATOR FROM OHIO AND PROSPECTIVE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that our party needs to nominate somebody that can win the industrial Midwest, the Heartland, the Great Lakes states, Plain states from Pennsylvania to Iowa. (END VIDEO)

ZELENY: So Senator Brown is still exploring Iran. He told me earlier today, he will decide by March if he is going to get in or not. As for Senator Booker, he is actually heading here to Iowa next week for his first visit here. For all of this talk today about Newark that clearly is part of his biography, Jake, he has a piece of Iowa biography as well. His grandmother actually moved here to an integrated coal mining town in Southern Iowa, the town of Buxton, Iowa. Plan on the Senator talking a lot about that here. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Buxton, Iowa. Jeff Zeleny in DeMoine. Thanks so much.

So Senator Booker was today asked what made him different from the democratic competitors in the field. Take a listen to his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

BOOKER: Where I live, you know, I live in the Central Ward of Newark, New Jersey, the only Senator that goes home to a community that's still a low-income community - intercity community.

(END VIDEO)

TAPPER: What do you make of that answer? I mean it is true. He is the only one that lives in the inner city in a low-income community. That's not necessarily - well...

FINNEY: It sounds a bit like Ayanna Pressley and her campaign, you know ran for Congress and won about people being close to power also being close to the pain. I think this is something we've heard from Cory Booker throughout his career that he still maintains he lives in the middle of where people are, closest to the pain and where people are really suffering which keeps him connected to what people are really struggling with.

[16:30:00]