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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Beto O'Rourke Running for President; Senate Votes to Block Trump's Emergency Declaration. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 14, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN.

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

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's Pi Day. And it looks as though the president just took one in the face from some members of his own party.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Rejected. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate vote down President Trump's national emergency declaration for his border wall. And the president just reacted, one word in all caps.

Breaking today in the Mueller probe, a trial date set for Trump ally and self-proclaimed dirty trickster Roger Stone. And it could be one of the final pieces for the special counsel.

Plus, stepping up. Beto O'Rourke jumping onto a coffee shop counter as he officially launches his bid to take the White House from Donald Trump and as Mr. Trump begins to make fun of him.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news today in our politics lead, a major defeat for President Trump on Capitol Hill. And, no, it did not come just from Democrats. This was a bipartisan rebuke of President Trump.

Any moment, the president could issue the first veto of his presidency. In fact, just minutes ago, he tweeted that word, "Veto," after 12 Republican senators joined all 47 Democrats to slap down the president's declaration of a national emergency to get the border wall funding he's been unable to get from Congress, despite two previous years of Republican rule.

Senators Collins, Murkowski, Lee, Paul, Portman, Romney, Alexander, Toomey, Moran, Blunt, Rubio, and Wicker all breaking with President Trump today, despite White House threats that their votes would have repercussions.

President Trump did make a last-ditch effort on Twitter today to try to convince Republicans to stick with him, tweeting -- quote -- "A vote for today's resolution by Republican senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, crime and the open border Democrats."

But one wonders, after almost four years of candidate, then President Trump's hyperbole on Twitter, whether such tweets have any real effect anymore.

CNN's Abby Phillip starts off our coverage today from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): A stinging defeat for President Trump today on his signature issue, building the wall, as 12 Republican senators joined Democrats in repudiating his national emergency declaration to build the border wall without going through Congress for the funding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 59. The nays are 41. The joint resolution is passed.

PHILLIP: Despite last-ditch drama and attempts to twist arms on Capitol Hill, Trump will now be forced to use the first veto of his presidency to defend his border wall.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will probably have to veto. And it's not going to be overturned and we're going to have our whole thing. It's been -- the legal scholars all say it's totally constitutional. It's very important. It's really a border security vote. It's pure and simple. It's a vote for border security.

PHILLIP: But Republicans on Capitol Hill didn't see it that way. Several senators saying their vote is about the Constitution and separation of powers, not the president.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH: Well, he'd rather have me vote in a different direction. But I let him know that this for me is a matter of defending the Constitution and the balance of powers that is core to our Constitution.

PHILLIP: And hours before the vote, Trump and his allies scrambling to minimize Republican defections. The president sending a barrage of tweets urging his party to stick with him, tying the vote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and crime and even reversing himself by saying that he will support a bill to curtail future national emergencies in an effort to sway lawmakers on the fence.

At the fence is exactly where Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Ben Sasse found themselves last night, after rushing over to meet with the president, waiting at the White House gate and refusing to leave until they were let in, hoping to strike a last-minute deal.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Kind of barged in on his supper. Only in the Trump presidency could you do that. If it had been me, I would have told us all to go to hell and get out of here. I'm having dinner with my wife.

But the point is that we had a very good discussion. Whether or not we can bridge the differences, I don't know. PHILLIP: But, according to sources, the president was irritated the

senators had interrupted his family meal to present different proposals for resolving the impasse, Graham pushing Trump to support a bill that would diminish future emergency declarations and Cruz pushing a new proposal that would not use military construction money to build the wall.

A White House lawyer present for the meeting rejected that on the spot. The last-minute lobbying didn't work, but Trump is already passing the blame.

TRUMP: The Republicans didn't fight hard enough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: And just now on Capitol Hill, the Senate -- Senator Chuck Schumer telling reporters that he believes that there will be more of these fights in the future.

[16:05:00]

The National Emergencies Act allows them to bring resolution disapproval every six months, meaning that President Trump could be in this position numerous times until this fight is really over.

Asked why Democrats would want to do that, he says that even if they have to fight it 10 times, they're hoping to win on the 11th time, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Abby Phillip at the White House for us, thanks so much.

Let's chat about this with the experts.

Mike, 12 Republicans rebuking the president on how he's trying to build his border wall, it's a pretty big defeat?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Is it?

I mean, these are constitutionalists. This isn't fighting him on the wall. This happens, the separation of powers fights happens under every single president. Right? The executive branch goes further and further. The legislative branch has some people to stand up for it.

The vast majority of Republicans in the Senate and in the House and across the country, his grassroots, want him to do this, and so he's going to veto it. They don't have enough votes, there aren't enough for Republicans to rebuke him on a veto.

And so he's going to get the wall funding.

TAPPER: What do you think?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this is classically Trump, in that Lee handed him a way out of this that would have been sort of a bit graceful. And he was like, nah, pass. Look, I like that 12 Republicans are with it on this, because Congress should guard its powers jealously and they should like make laws and stuff. And I know it's very old-school, but I appreciate that. He will veto it.

And I don't think they have what it takes to overcome that. But I like to -- I like seeing a little gumption here, although Thom Tillis, by the way, ripping that Band-Aid off and then trying to put it back on.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let's talk about that, because Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina who's up for reelection, two weeks ago wrote -- didn't just say he was going to vote against the president, wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post," writing about conservatives who cried foul about President Obama using emergency powers.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Saying -- quote -- "There's no intellectual honesty. And now turning around and argument that there's an imaginary asterisk attached to executive overreach, that it's acceptable for my party, but not thy party, as a U.S. senator, I cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress. As a conservative, I cannot endorse the precedent that I know future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies."

And then today, right before the vote, never mind.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Never mind. Somebody may have gotten a little talking to, right, a little horse-trading behind the scenes.

Look, I think before -- you have heard me say this before -- previously -- but before we give these Republicans any -- too much credit, it was kind of an easy setup for them, I think, because, on the one hand, politically, you get to have it both ways, right?

You get to say you're constitutionalists, and you voted against the president, knowing he's going to veto it, ultimately, there's not the votes to override the veto, so there's not really a consequence to having voted against the president, other than being able to do your own home politics.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Symone, take a listen to Senator Mitt Romney from Utah. He's -- both senators from Utah voted against the president on this. He voted against it as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: For me, this is a constitutional question. It's a question about the balance of power that is core to our Constitution. This is not about the president or about border security. In fact, I support border security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And he is a hard-liner on border security.

Sources telling CNN that, in internal conversations, Trump actually characterize the votes as a loyalty pledge, in a way.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I'm not surprised to hear that.

Look, I think there were a lot of senators today, some vulnerable Republican senators, actually, that might have put themselves in a pickle when it comes to their 2020 reelection prospects.

Look, a number of folks -- Martha -- I mean, "The Arizona Republic" was out with the headline right after the vote that said Martha McSally sided with Trump and against Arizonans.

These things are coming home to roost. And so I think senators have to be careful in pledging their loyalty to the president, when they're supposed to be representing the interests of their constituents.

And I would like to remind people Donald Trump told us Mexico was going to pay for the wall.

TAPPER: That is true. He did say Mexico would pay for the wall.

Mike, let me ask you about something that M.K. brought up a second ago, which is Mike Lee, the senator from Utah, the other senator from Utah, he had a compromise that he offered, which is basically, we will go along with you this time, but you have to bring in these emergency powers for the -- for the future.

And Trump said, no, I'm not doing that. And then today he seemed to signal that he actually would be on board with that. He tweeted: "If at a later date Congress wants to update the law, I will support those efforts."

Do you think he missed an opportunity here to get all the Republicans on board?

SHIELDS: No.

Look, I think that the president and the legislative branch fight all the time over a separation of powers. That is something that predates Trump. I know everything seems Trump, it's new, it's all him.

TAPPER: Well, this is the first time in such a big way that Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Well, who is -- we're making it a big way.

I mean, this is -- there's been a fight between the legislative branch and the executive over and over on separation of powers. I think what he's looking at is, I didn't come here to live by the rules of the Senate. I didn't come here to live by the rules of Washington. I'm trying to build a border wall.

And the more that it looks like a fight with Congress, which people don't like, great.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: I'm trying to keep a political promise that actually is not true, because Mexico is not going to pay for it.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Imagine someone getting elected and keeping their promises. That's actually going to be his campaign slogan. It's amazing, isn't it?

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: That only the core -- only a small -- you said that across America, people support it.

And, as Symone pointed out, that's actually not true. It is a very small portion of the base that Trump continues to cater to heading into 2020.

[16:10:01]

TAPPER: Well, his voters.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: There's a book that's called "When Democracies Die."

And democracies die when norms are eroded. And while, yes, Congress is always fighting with the president over separation of powers, but I think this is the first time, at least since I have been alive -- and I turn 30 this year, Jake.

TAPPER: Happy birthday.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: This is the first time since I have been alive that a sitting president has said, you're not going to fund this, I'm going to declare an emergency declaration, and take money away from other places where the money has been appropriated by Congress, because that's how it goes, and fund other things.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: Except that President Obama was just like, I can't do DACA, I can't do DACA, I can't do DACA.

(CROSSTALK) HAM: I'm going to do DACA. I'm not going to actually declare a

national energy, but I'm going to do DACA.

And I dare you to tell me that 12 Democratic senators would have stood up and been like, no, you actually said you don't have the power to do that.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Did he take money away?

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Again, for the people at home, in my R. Kelly moment, where's the camera?

For the people at home, Congress has the power to appropriate funds, OK? Congress has the power to appropriate funds. What Donald Trump is doing is overreaching, overstepping

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: They're both overreaches.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to show you guys one thing before we go to break.

A Republican senator told CNN's Phil Mattingly -- quote -- "It's not like this signal some big break from the president going forward, but it is an example, one maybe we have avoided the last few years, that we can push back and send a message when we need to."

I would like to point out, that Republican senator was anonymous.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: So, that's how much that Republican senator is interested in pushing back.

Coming up, he's leaping onto counters to talk to supporters at campaign rallies. Beto O'Rourke's presidential run is in full swing. Just hours after he made it official, he already has some doubters in his own party.

Then, what would Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin do to keep President Trump's taxes from Congress? The answer ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:03] TAPPER: We are back with our 2020 lead.

And former Congressman Beto O'Rourke is in. And he was so excited that he's running for president that he jumped on top of a coffee shop counter this afternoon to take questions from voters in the key early state of Iowa. O'Rourke has been an official Democratic candidate for less than 12 hours, but as Jeff Zeleny reports, he's already gotten President Trump's attention.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, everybody, what's up?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beto O'Rourke making it official, turning a long flirtation with a presidential bid into a formal campaign, visiting Iowa for the first time ever today. The crowd so big inside this coffee shop, he took his message to the countertop.

O'ROURKE: I don't think there's ever been a greater moment in our lifetimes and for this country.

ZELENY: In a morning video to supporters, he outlined the high stakes of the 2020 campaign.

O'ROURKE: This moment of peril produces, perhaps, the greatest moment of promise for this country and for everyone inside of it.

ZELENY: At the White House, the president said he was watching and took immediate aim at those pronounced hand gestures.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he has a lot of hand movement. I've never seen so much hand movement. I said is he crazy or is that just the way he acts?

ZELENY: O'Rourke barely mentioned the president at all.

(on camera): So, President Trump made fun of your hands today.

O'ROURKE: Did he? I have nothing to say about that. I think people want us to rise above the pettiness, the smallness.

ZELENY (voice-over): Yet Trump was in his mind and part of his strategy.

O'Rourke kicked off his campaign in Trump country, visiting three counties the president won in 2016, that President Obama had previously carried but saw double-digit fall-off for Hillary Clinton. O'Rourke said again and again that he came to listen.

O'ROURKE: There's no sense in campaigning, if you already know every single answer, if you're not willing to listen to those whom you wish to serve.

ZELENY: Even though it was clear Iowa voters were looking for specific answers on which he offered few.

On health care.

O'ROURKE: What is it we're hoping to achieve? In my opinion, high quality health care.

ZELENY: And the Green New Deal.

O'ROURKE: If you don't mind, I'll take the spirit of the question.

ZELENY: It worked on day one, but several Iowa voters told us they expect more specific soon so they can compare him to other Democrats in the field.

While O'Rourke vowed to run a positive campaign.

O'ROURKE: Critically important we not denigrate or demean any other candidate.

ZELENY: That's not entirely within his control. His rivals are watching his candidacy closely, from his glossy "Vanity Fair" cover, to his adoring crowds.

Kamala Harris sending an urgent fundraising appeal with Beto O'Rourke in the subject line. And Julian Castro pointing his support from fellow Texans.

Showing few signs of humility, O'Rourke said he would welcome all supporters even though he's already considering one of his fellow Democrats.

O'ROURKE: It doesn't matter whose team you are on today. It doesn't matter which perspective nominee you back right now. Ultimately, we all have to get on board the same person because it is fundamental to our chances of success that we defeat Donald Trump in 2020.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: And Beto O'Rourke is meeting inside this Union Hall here in Burlington, Jake, with Iowa voters, taking questions from them. So far, they've largely been about health care. And voters, I can tell you, are looking for specifics. They're looking for specific answers to the questions.

So far, he is giving them generalities. So, that is something, of course, he will work on. Voters I talked to said they will allow that for a while, but it's unclear sort of how much he will grow as a candidate.

But, Jake, I can tell you, after being in Iowa for a lot of candidates, there is an excitement here that he's finally in the race. Now we'll see if he can live up to it -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Former "Des Moines Register" ace reporter Jeff Zeleny now with CNN -- thanks for being with us.

I want to play you another piece of what Beto O'Rourke said today as he met with voters at an Iowa coffee shop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'ROURKE: When we listen to and respect one another, there's nothing that we can't do. There's so much for us to learn and I see the future of America right here, right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:20:04] TAPPER: And that seems to be, Karen, his kind of message, which is very optimistic, very uplifting and, as Jeff pointed out, not a lot of specifics.

FINNEY: Sounds a bit like stronger together, doesn't it? And -- which we know that -- look, the problem that I think he has, I would not have done it this way, right? The glossy "Vanity Fair" cover, going to Iowa. His message made it sound more about him instead of the people. So I have a real problem with that, frankly.

And there's been so much hype around him, I think sort of a situational awareness of that going into an announcement and really making it more about the people instead of I was born to do this. That's just going to hit people's ears the wrong way, because you can get through the first couple of weeks with the enthusiasm and excitement. But as you know so well, Jake, particularly in the early four states, people want specifics.

TAPPER: Yes.

FINNEY: They want answers pretty quickly. And these are very sophisticated voters, particularly Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, where they're going to ask you the tough policy questions and you're going to need to have answers.

TAPPER: So, speaking of policies, guys, take a look. I went to Beto O'Rourke's Website today, BetoOrourke.com, to see some of his policy positions. You see that picture, O'Rourke with a young boy. And then you get these pictures where he's a little sweaty speaking before a group.

And if you look on the site, you see there's a place to donate, there's a place to buy merchandise, and a section for Spanish speakers. It's also a place where people can apply to work on his campaign.

I couldn't find any policies. I couldn't find anything about health care, anything about jobs, anything about energy policy.

And, in fact, MK, he was asked about the New Green Deal. I want you to take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your thoughts on the New Green Deal?

O'ROURKE: Question is on the Green New Deal and by extension, if you don't mind, I'll take the spirit of the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The Green New Deal, of course, is a very specific piece of legislation. Instead, he went on to talk about climate change in general. But I don't know how much longer he can get away with that.

HAM: As a person who enjoys taking the spirit of the question, I would not be too hard. But --

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: That's fair. You do that, you can do that.

HAM: But, look, I think some of this is he's getting to the big leagues here and, yes, obviously, Texas Senate campaign is a big deal and I don't want to discount that he ran a close race in a very red state but he also lost to Ted Cruz.

So -- I do kind of resent the celebrity roll-out -- not resent but I don't love the celebrity roll out. Like he's supposed to be this moody, brooding Jordan Catalano candidate to the suburban mom Angela Chase and this is not my so-called campaign.

Like you have to actually flush it out in Iowa. You have to do the stuff. And it does feel like he has been largely created and put here. Born to do this perhaps.

TAPPER: That's how he described it.

HAM: More recently.

SANDERS: Do you know what I was born to do? The 46,000 women that have reached out to Emily's List in 2016, who have said they want to run for office in some capacity. So, I do take a little offense to Beto O'Rourke popping up and saying he was going to do this. Me too, I just wasn't old enough.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Look, I want him to have his ways (ph). I think we need a robust Democratic field, we need to have a robust conversation but Beto O'Rourke is someone who has pontificated about when he's going to do for some months now and I think folks are definitely looking for more specifics from him. And I for one was disappointed that he didn't have more. But hopefully, we'll get to see some in the coming months.

TAPPER: Democrats are doing your job for you.

SHIELDS: That loud squeal everyone heard today were all the reporters that have been fawning over Beto to write think pieces about how dreamy and amazing he is. And now he gets to run and we get to trail him around Iowa, and it's going to be so cool, I mean, the coolest coffee houses in Iowa for the entire campaign.

TAPPER: To be fair, our own reporter, Jeff Zeleny, was not squealing. He was pretty -- he was pretty skeptical and (INAUDIBLE)

SHIELDS: He worked in Iowa. He knows not to squeal.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I mean -- but the point is, this is -- there's no substance there. Nancy Pelosi was asked today what he had ever done in Congress. She couldn't answer the question. He has name a courthouse. That's all he's ever done.

And so, he doesn't fit in a Democratic, from what I can tell, the Democratic primary electorate of this moment, which is being a white man who says, I'm -- you know, I was born to do this is not going to go over well with the current Democratic Party electorate.

FINNEY: I mean, in fairness, I do think it is important -- although he lost in Texas, he did energize people in Texas. He brought more donors and volunteers and people into the process in Texas, which whether or not he is able to go all the way is a good thing for the Democratic Party. And so that certainly is something of note.

But I -- and I think that he, like I said, needs to figure out what is your message beyond you? What is your message for -- about what you're going to do for people? And maybe take a step back, maybe go do some things without the cameras, right? So -- and let people hear about some of the things that you're doing instead of making it all about --

HAM: Get more medium posts.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Well, if you haven't done anything, you can't suddenly go have an experience and learn something, right? You can ride a skateboard around even more, like he's not going to learn how to be a leader suddenly.

SANDERS: All the smoke for Beto O'Rourke.

I think it's not just Beto, though. Because this is such a crowded Democratic presidential nominee field, voters are going to be there looking for very specifics.

[16:25:01] People are going to have to be able to distinguish themselves in this race irrespective of anyone else, and that does mean policy, that does mean the type of president you will be.

And so, people are under a tighter microscope than if there were only three people in this race. So, it's not just Beto. I think a lot of folks need to get some specifics. The only policy rollouts, large policy rollouts I've seen in this way had been from Senator Elizabeth Warren. So, she has largely been driving the conversation in a lot of this.

And so, I think lots of folks have time to pontificate. Beto, though, he was hyped a lot, so the bar was a little higher, Jake, and I feel like he fell right up under it. But we'll see.

TAPPER: This is a tough -- this is a tough table. I do want to bring up Howard Schultz is now apologizing, because earlier today he said he has spent more time with the military than anyone running for president.

SANDERS: Oh, right, Donald Trump.

TAPPER: It was, of course, pointed out two of the people he's running against actually were in the military, and presumably spent some time with the military when they were serving, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Mayor Pete Buttigieg who tweeted: I remember a Green Beans Coffee at the exchange in Bagram, and a decent espresso machine run by the Italian NATO element at ISAF HQ. But I don't recall seeing any Starbucks over there.

Howard Schultz is, of course, apologized since he made that comment.

HAM: Dark roast over there. Burn!

TAPPER: Why would people say anything? Why would he say he's spent more military -- more time with the military?

HAM: Also, I never -- I'm -- I like his story, some of the things he has to say, like talking about the debt, for instance, because nobody does anymore. This is a Trumpian move to take it to this level, right? To be like, oh, I'm the most, the most, the most. Never go there.

TAPPER: Exactly. Why not just say I've spent a lot of time with the military? Why the most when -- I mean, Tulsi Gabbard and Pete Buttigieg I think are still actually in the guard.

SHIELDS: Well, he's obviously learning how to be a candidate and learning to try and gather attention, which is very, very different than running Starbucks, apparently.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around.

One of the most flashy Trump associates tied to the Russia investigation back in court and before a judge. So, what happened to Roger Stone today? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)