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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump Furious Over Democrats' Probe of Finances; Chaos in Virginia Politics; Will President Trump Shut Down Government Again?. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired February 6, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are there any other politicians in Virginia have -- who have something they want to get off their chest?
THE LEAD starts right now.
Shutdown standoff. No, you're not watching a rerun. The vice president declared today that there could be another shutdown next week. And he said he doesn't regret the first one.
Is the last vice president, Joe Biden, in a league of his own? A new CNN poll that may worry President Trump, not to mention the Democrats already in the 2020 race, including one contender who had to apologize again today.
Plus, it's not just Governor Northam in Virginia. Now the attorney general of Virginia is admitting he once appeared in blackface too. That is the same attorney general who called for Northam to step down. So will he be taking his own advice?
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we begin with the politics lead.
Today, President Trump, despite some rhetorical attempts to embrace unity and compromise in parts of his State of the Union address, clearly focus today instead on exciting his base and digging in on the proposed border wall, as we face yet another potential government shutdown next week.
Today, the Trump campaign announced the president will hold his first campaign rally of the year in El Paso, Texas, on Monday, El Paso, the border city that President Trump has been heralding as a border wall success story, though the actual facts behind that claim are quite unlike how President Trump depicts them.
This all, of course, seems focused not on dealing with the reality of the Democratic majority in the House, but on his own reelection effort in 2020.
And, today, it's clear President Trump is back in attack mode, going after the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee this afternoon when asked about Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman's plan to investigate the president's finance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did you say Adam Schiff?
QUESTION: Adam Schiff.
TRUMP: Oh, never heard of him. That wouldn't be partisan, would it?
He's just a political hack who's trying to build a name for himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Of course, that's an improvement from what the president called the chairman before with a pointed Twitter misspelling of the word Schiff.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins starts off our coverage today with more from the White House.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the State of the Union in the rear-view mirror...
TRUMP: I just want to say that I was very honored by the statements made about the speech.
COLLINS: ... President Trump is now facing another possible government shutdown and laying the groundwork for his reelection campaign.
The clock is ticking for congressional negotiators to hash out a deal, and the president isn't wavering on his demand for a border wall.
TRUMP: Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland, and secure are very dangerous southern border.
COLLINS: Trump didn't threaten another shutdown during his State of the Union address, but the vice president left the door open today.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think our hope is that there's not, but I can't make that guarantee, Jeff.
COLLINS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounding confident the bipartisan committee can find common ground.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Left to their own devices, I think they can have an agreement by -- on time by Friday. COLLINS: As Democrats warn the White House to keep its distance.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: If the president stays out of it, we will get a deal. It's when the president weighs in with his heavy hand, his unrealistic heavy hand, he doesn't know how to negotiate, that things get messed up.
COLLINS: But Trump's signature will be critical to any agreement. And if money for a border wall isn't included, Republicans believe he will bypass Congress.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: It's not my preferred choice. But unlike some of my Senate colleagues, the sun will come up the next day, and it'll probably be tied up in litigation.
COLLINS: In the State of the Union, Trump laying out what he believes will be the fight of the 2020 race.
TRUMP: Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.
COLLINS: As his campaign announces where he will hold his first rally of the year.
TRUMP: The border city of El Paso, Texas.
COLLINS: A city the president has cited multiple times as justification for building his wall.
TRUMP: Used to have extremely high rates of violent crime -- one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities.
Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities.
COLLINS: So, Jake, the president there saying that El Paso was one of the nation's most dangerous cities until that fence barrier was built.
He's saying that, before, they had a substantial crime rate, and after that fence was built, the crime rate dropped. Jake, we looked at the numbers. And actually the violent crime rate in El Paso peaked in 1993.
And after that, it started to decline over the next decade and some change. President Bush didn't authorize building that fence until 2006. And the construction didn't start until 2008, so long before that drop in the violent crime rate had started.
However, Jake, you can expect the president to make the same claims he made at the State of the Union when he's in El Paso on Monday night.
TAPPER: Even though they're not true.
Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.
Let's talk about this. We have with us two reporters and two opinion folk.
Let me start with you, Karen.
The president slammed what he called partisan investigations last night, ridiculous partisan investigations. And here's what he said just this afternoon when asked about the new chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the House, Adam Schiff, his plan to investigate him. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's called presidential harassment. And it's unfortunate and it really does hurt our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, to be fair, that could have been said by Bill Clinton.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it could have. And I was there when it happened.
So, look, the problem with this -- with his complaints about this investigation is, and you have heard me say this before, is that at each turn, we learn something new. We learned about Paul Manafort. Then we went, oh, he might have given polling data that ultimately ended up in the hand of Russians, right?
And then we find out -- so the problem for him is at each turn there are more questions, there are more indictments. So he can complain and whine all he wants, although, the more he does, the more it definitely seems like it's getting to him. I mean, if he were to sort of ignore it and stay focused and talk about his agenda, I actually think there would not be as much to talk about.
But every time he says something, we're going to talk about it.
TAPPER: Scott would probably agree with that.
Scott, I want you to react to what Congressman Schiff just responded on Twitter. He said -- quote -- "I can understand why the idea of meaningful oversight terrifies the president. Several of his close associates are going to jail. Others await trial. And criminal investigations continue" -- unquote.
Would you tell the president, just stop talking about this? What do you think?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's part of his strategy, I think.
As he heads into his own reelection campaign, if he doesn't get much done over the next two years, you have to have a way to explain it. And the way to explain it is, these Democrats don't want to work with me on any issues or any policy. They just want to end my presidency as early as possible and they want to make me as irrelevant as possible, which stopped the progress on all the things that I have told you is in my agenda.
That's clearly I think how he positioned his State of the Union last night, was to say, I'm here to compromise and offer out my hand, and I'm dealing with a bunch of people who are intransigent. That's how he's going to set this debate up.
Now, he has to stick with that message and be disciplined about it, but that's where I see him going.
TAPPER: And there was action in the House Intelligence Committee today. They voted to send more than 50 transcripts from their Russia investigation to the Mueller team.
Schiff has said he wanted to send the transcripts to see whether any other witnesses committed perjury. That could be trouble for some other people who testified.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's a new day in Washington.
The House Intelligence Committee is now being run by Democrats. And so President Trump no longer has a sort of firewall against some of these investigations. So there is potential here that some of these things that have been said behind closed doors in committee can go to Mueller, leading to more charges of lying to Congress or perjury or other things which have already caught up several people in the Mueller probe already, and has proven to be in some ways a gateway for Mueller to gain leverage over people who are part of the probe in other ways.
You hear from Trump allies that they believe that all of these charges really have nothing to do with the president because they involve misdeeds or about business dealings or lying to Congress in other ways. But these are just incremental steps in an ongoing investigation that hasn't come to its completion.
I think the president understands that. That's why he mentioned it yesterday. And it was a choice that he made. And he's been making this choice repeatedly throughout his presidency. He's not putting the investigations to the side. He's making it a central part of his presidency, because he believes he can use it as a tool in 2020 to rally people around him.
And it does bother him. He's not trying to hide that. And I think his aides at this point that, I think they tried to convince him to maybe put it to the side. They realize he's not going to do it. So now he's just owning it. And he's hoping to use it as a tool for politics in the next election.
TAPPER: And it could be trouble for close associates of his, who -- some have already been charged with lying to Congress, including Roger Stone.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It could be, no question at all.
I mean, we have seen that has irritated him. But I think the thing that he didn't talk about last night, and at least not directly, it's the investigation by the SDNY, the Southern District of New York, that could involve his family members and people who are really close to him.
That's what gets to him, I think. But I agree with you, Scott. That's exactly what I hear from the White House talking to people. He wants to -- last night, his State of the Union was his launch of 2020. He's seen all these Democrats running.
That was his message, trying to paint Democrats as obstructionists, socialists, out of the mainstream. And the Russia investigation is going to be a central part of that.
But he didn't sort of allow for the fact of his own anger here about if his family and other associates at his business get drawn in, then what happens?
And, in fact, let's play that clip, the president trying to kind of contrast the way he wants America to be with the way in his view the socialists in front of him want the country to be like. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: There are Democratic socialists and people associated with the Democratic socialists of America in Congress. That's true.
FINNEY: I didn't realize it was going to be another crisis, like the crisis at the border that we didn't know about.
TAPPER: I didn't say it was a crisis. FINNEY: No, he certainly made it seem as though this scourge of socialism was coming. I mean, the way he sort of ties -- it's very dramatic.
But the thing that I found -- find funny, I agree with you, this is red meat for the base. This is setting up 2020. What I sort of love, though, was that moment last night with the women who were dressed in white, and sort of like, hey, you know what, actually, you did help them all get elected. So keep on doing what you're doing. It's working for us, my friend.
TAPPER: He did provide jobs for them.
Scott, I want to ask you, because we're almost running out of time. And I know that you have some information about where negotiations are going. I mean, my impression was the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who you're close with, doesn't want there to be another shutdown.
I don't know what the White House thinks. So where's this all headed?
JENNINGS: Yes, what I hear from Capitol Hill and on the Senate side today is that they really, really, really want the president to sign the seven appropriations bills, avoid another shutdown.
They are strongly united behind the president on building the wall and they don't really have a problem if he goes on and does the emergency declaration. Now, that will open up a whole can of other issues that will play out over the next several months. But, in their eyes, these appropriations bills were crafted by a Republican Congress.
This is the last leftover issue. So the advice I think going from the Senate up to the White House is, sign these bills. If the Democrats won't give you barriers, we will stand solidly behind you on the emergency declaration. And if you're going to do that, there's no reason to veto these appropriations.
TAPPER: So don't shut down the government. Very interesting.
Everyone, stick around.
What's going on in Virginia? First the governor's racist controversy. Now, in just a matter of hours, the attorney general admits to a similar racist act, and a lieutenant governor's accuser comes out with a jaw-dropping statement. We're going to sort it all out for you next, or attempt to anyway.
Then, just days from officially announcing her presidential run, Senator Elizabeth Warren already off-message a bit. She tried to explain yourself just moments ago.
Stay with us.
[16:16:52] TAPPER: The national lead now. The Commonwealth of Virginia melting into a state of chaos with scandals growing against all three top elected officials, all of them Democrats. Today, the woman accusing Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault came forward and under her own name provided very specific details of her claim against him.
Also, today, a stunning admission from Virginia's attorney general, Mark Herring, who revealed he once wore blackface in college. He said he was dressed as a rapper in the style of the legendary Kurtis Blow. This comes after Herring had joined the chorus of Democrats who called on Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam to resign after Northam too confess to having put on blackface, Herring called that photograph on Northam's medical school yearbook page indefensible, profoundly offensive, shocking and deeply disappointing.
Let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles. He's in Richmond, the capital of the commonwealth.
Ryan, how could herring have said all that about Northam and that horrific blackface image if he had his own scandal?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is a great question, Jake, and it certainly appears to be a level of hypocrisy from the attorney general, and we simply are not getting the answer to that question because he's not answering questions on this topic. He has been holed up in his office all day. His staff not responding to our repeated inquiries.
All we have to work off of is this lengthy statement which appeared to come ahead of the effort by many reporters including us here at CNN to find this photograph of the attorney general dressed in blackface. And this is what he said in the statement. He said, quote: I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others. It was really a minimization of both people of color and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.
And to put this into context, Herring said this happened when he was in college at the University of Virginia when he was 19 years old. This happened in 1980. He said it was part of a costume party that he was taking part in.
And he goes to great pains in the statement, Jake, to make it seem as though this would not be what people would traditionally described as blackface. He talks about putting on brown makeup.
But I think most objective observers would recognize that this is also a problem for the attorney general and it just adds to the list of scandals gripping capitol square here.
TAPPER: Yes. Let's turn to another one, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax put out a statement today saying that no one should denigrate his accuser, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, but he -- again, he called her allegations of sexual assault not true.
NOBLES: Yes, that's right, Jake. And what's interesting about this was that the lieutenant governor got out ahead of Vanessa Tyson telling her story, and he went to great pains to say things like this was a consensual relationship, that he didn't view this as a problem, that he'd never heard anything from her for many years after it took place.
And basically, everything that he has said over the past couple of days has been refuted by Ms. Tyson in a very lengthy statement that goes into great detail of her view as to what happened on that night back in 2004. She writes, quote: What began as a consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault.
[16:20:02] Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head toward his crotch.
And the lieutenant governor taking an opposite approach to Governor Ralph Northam and the controversy that he's embroiled and he tried to get out ahead of it, and he's also gone on a blistering attack of his accuser. We're told in private meetings, he's gone into expletive late in rants attacking her and those supporting her. He firmly believes that he is not wrong in this case and he has vowed to fight these accusations to the bitter end -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles in Richmond, Virginia, thank you so much.
Let's talk about this with our reporters. Ryan, stick around.
Abby, let me start with you -- the obvious here -- this is a horrible, horrible week for Democrats in Virginia.
PHILLIP: It's almost unimaginable that it could have snowballs in this way. You now have three top officials in that state embroiled in really serious controversies.
So, the problem politically for Democrats is that the two issues at hand here racism and the #MeToo movement are two issues that the Democratic Party has helped to elevate to the national stage. They are central to what they've been doing over the last several years, both in response to Donald Trump and all of the controversies around him, but also just trying to make this a part of how they respond to their own base. And so for them to have a governor and an attorney general who have admitted to basically using blackface in the 1980s, which was not a time when blackface was acceptable, that time has long been passed.
And also their lieutenant governor who is also embroiled in a controversy that is really kind of at the crux of the #MeToo movement, it's a real problem for them. And it's not clear to me how they resolve this in a satisfactory way.
TAPPER: I wonder if in some weird and bizarre way the fact that all three of them are involved in scandals almost helps them keep office because, why would this guy resign and not that guy? Why would that guy resign and not that guy? And the one who ultimately would take their job if all three had to resign is the Republican speaker of the state legislature. ZELENY: And I think that may inoculate Democrats from cooling their jets a little bit here in calling for more resignations. The reality here is we've not seen anything like this at all. I cannot think of any historical comparison, at least in modern times to there being, you know, this trifecta of issues here that are such part of our current moment and conversation.
That's what makes this so extraordinary. There is a racial discussion happening in America. Virginia has been front and center of so much of this, with Charlottesville, now the #MeToo movement.
But Democrats, you know, they've been a little bit hypocritical along the way here as well and now we will see how forthcoming they are calling for all of them to be out because they don't want a Republican to be leading what is a swing state here. So, it's very odd, but since the Virginia governor trip is a one-term position, that is also changing the sort of discussion here. He may just hold on. But, boy, that grinds everything to a halt and has national implications as well.
TAPPER: And, Ryan, Herring was quick a few days ago to call on Virginia Governor Northam to resign because of his blackface incident. What's the response in Virginia now to Herring admitting that he put on blackface to dress up in college?
NOBLES: Well, it's pretty remarkable, Jake, because as you mentioned, it wasn't just Herring, but almost all corners of Virginia government were quick to call on the governor to resign. Today, we got a very muted response from lawmakers, and no one even wanted to talk about it, much less call on either of these two other lawmakers to step down.
And it seems to be a level of hypocrisy at that point if -- particularly, one of the groups that were very keyed in on is the Legislative Black Caucus, which is a very influential group of Virginia legislators. They were the first to call on the governor to resign. That started the snowball effect.
At this point, they've only said that they're looking into Lieutenant Governor Fairfax's accusations. They've said nothing about the attorney general, even though they held an emergency meeting with him earlier today to discuss these issues.
I think you're right about your assessment here -- the fact that we had three scandals by three prominent leaders in such a short window of time increases the likelihood that all three of these men may just stay in power and play out the string until their terms are over.
TAPPER: All right. Ryan Owens, thank you so much.
Jeff and Abby, stick around.
Another day, another possible 2020 candidate, as a new sign points to a likely run for former Vice President Joe Biden.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:29:09] TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead.
And a very clear message from Democratic voters in a brand-new CNN poll: bring on Biden. The poll shows 62 percent of Democratic voters want the former vice president to enter the 2020 race, compared to the 28 percent who say he should not run.
Biden, we're told, will announce his decision any day now.
Let's just dive right in now. We should point, that 62 percent want him to run, it's not 62 percent saying they'll vote for him.
TAPPER: But still, that's an impressive number, and yet, you know, we're still a long way away.
FINNEY: We are such a long way away and that is again what the campaign is all about is to see how people do with voters, how they handle the issues. I mean, look, there are a couple of things that, you know, anybody who runs has got to have more than just they can beat Donald Trump because there is a possibility that Donald Trump -- I know we think it's not likely -- but there's a possibility what if he's impeached, what if he steps down, what if he's not the person that you're running against?
You've got to have more than just "I can beat Donald Trump" as your answer.