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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Source: North Korea Asked U.S. to Pay $2 Million for Otto Warmbier's Hospital Care; Russia Rolls Out Red Carpet for Kim Jong Un Meeting. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 25, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00] AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He has conflicts of interest over some golf fees like ten years ago.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Right.

CARPENTER: McGahn says not going to do that.

Then "The New York Times" does a story about that call and Trump calls in and says, can you put out a statement denying that story? McGahn says, not going to do that.

So, now, they're having a big debate over whether Trump ordered McGahn to fire Mueller.

TAPPER: Uh-huh.

CARPENTER: And because they didn't use the word fire, I think Trump thinks he has wiggle room, which is crazy, but here we are.

TAPPER: The point is now we're talking about it.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And Pennsylvania unemployment.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We're talking about it and I am a believer, Don McGahn wrote copious notes. His assistant wrote copious notes, while he knew there was an investigation under way.

He's a lawyer. He's a savvy political guy. He knew he was going to be speaking with Mueller. He knew he'd be asked to testify, I bet. So, he is also, what he also did here is cleared his name in a White House where there are many people leaving with terrible reputations, largely cleared his name.

So my expectation is that he's absolutely going to testify. Donald Trump knows that. He wants to treat him like he's treated past people who are --

TAPPER: Michael Cohen.

PSAKI: Exactly, like Michael Cohen.

CARPENTER: Bloody him up. KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is also part of why

Trump has, in the Clinton administration, we had a strategy where there was a war room that dealt with this -- the investigations and so that from the podium, the press secretary was talking about Pennsylvania and the news of the day, right?

Trump can't have that kind of strategy because, as we started this segment, he can't shut up about whatever it is that's on his mind, talking about screaming for vengeance over the weekend. So this is part of why Trump will have this cloud of, this ethical cloud over his presidency going into 2020. He can't control, by the way, also, the SDNY or what the New York attorney general's office is doing or what Deutsche Bank does.

Sure, he can have this fight with Congress and try to drag it out and make it look like Democrats are being petty, but there are other investigations going on that he can't control that create this ethical cloud that I think going back to Joe Biden, let's go ahead and make ethics an actual topic --

URBAN: I think the attacks on delay in the House, is something that's warranted and --

TAPPER: Warranted by the White House?

URBAN: Warranted by the White House --

TAPPER: Just to stonewall and refuse subpoenas.-

URBAN: Exercise executive privilege has been done historically through lots of presidencies. That is cast much more in a much partisan nature. You see Jerry Nadler with 81 subpoenas. I think they did a great disservice themselves by casting such a wide net. They made it look like this is purely partisan and most of America turned the channel at that point.

They lost their opportunity to drill down --

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: When you're also then tweeting about, I want vengeance on this guy and -- I bet you the next part of this is he's going to start defaming McGahn's character.

URBAN: But the fact of the matter is that, these are going to go to court. These subpoenas are going to go to court and generally from my understanding, it's not going to be heard in any short period of time.

TAPPER: If it's White House officials, they'll probably --

URBAN: They'll probably deny it. No one is going to jail because of it. No teeth.

CARPENTER: Steven Miller can't go to the Hill and talk about immigration policy. I think that bolsters the Democrats' case for a pattern of obstruction. TAPPER: Can I ask a question about Steve Miller? Because this is

important. Steve Miller is one of the most important people in the Trump administration and arguably, he's in charge of immigration policy in this country. He basically, we're told, was one of the people pushing for Kirstjen Nielsen to leave as well as the head of ICE and head of the Secret Service, et cetera.

I mean, theoretically, he should talk to Congress about what he believes, just in terms of the policy.

FINNEY: Absolutely. He also -- I read this morning as part of the reorganization of Homeland Security. So, yes, he should talk about immigration, but he should also talk about it not just from that point of the policy but also from a national security concern because we also know that we've heard that part of the reason Kirstjen Nielsen was kicked out is she wanted to talk about voting security in 2020. And nobody wanted to hear that.

So you're right. This is a high level official who has -- there's legitimate questions to ask him.

TAPPER: About the policy aspects is what I'm saying.

FINNEY: Yes.

TAPPER: The price of an American life apparently $2 million according to North Korea. The bill they had the gall to send the American people, and whether the Trump administration paid it. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:35] TAPPER: In our world lead today, North Korea slapping the United States with a $2 million hospital bill for Otto Warmbier's care, according to a source insisting the U.S. signed a contract agreeing to pay the bill before handing over the detained American who returned to the United States in a coma with severe brain damage and tragically died days later.

The U.S. government did not honor the agreement and does not plan to pay that $2 million bill.

Former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd joins me now.

And, Phil, how unusual is this deal the U.S. made with North Korea? Is it normal that, here's this guy that we detained and tortured and now we expect you to pay us $2 million?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, it's a weird one, but it's North Korea. Best defense from their perspective is a good offense. If you are the president, you want to negotiate on missiles and nukes with the North Koreans, somebody is going to come and say, you've got to raise also human rights with the North Koreans, including people like Otto Warmbier.

The North Koreans clearly are saying not only do we not take responsibility for his killing but we tried to take care of this guy and you owe us $2 million for it. By the way, I don't think we can pay anyway. I'd have a question whether under sanctions you could give them the money, although it sounds like we didn't anyway.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you about not paying it. Assuming the United States did make this agreement and said we're going to pay you $2 million, which is, obviously, just a farce. Is there a risk in not paying it going back on it?

MUDD: Oh, heck no. If I were sitting there and someone said, we won't give you somebody who is injured, maybe deadly injured unless you sign a piece of paper, I'd say I don't care what's on that piece of paper.

[16:40:05] I think there's one broader policy question about whether you pay something like this. And again, no indication we have, and that is -- this looks like a hostage negotiation. Not the return of an injured American. If you start paying, and the Americans typically haven't done this, hostage money, somebody is going to say, why don't we take hostages because they'll pay up?

This has been a debate forever. In my old world of counterterrorism, you don't pay for hostages and typically we've said we won't.

TAPPER: And President Trump said, that he suggested that he believed Kim Jong-un in that Kim Jong-un didn't know anything about the torture of Otto Warmbier. Is that credible? Would Kim Jong-un not know if an American was being tortured by his own regime?

MUDD: First of all, that's not credible. But even if you were to believe that, when that young man went on a plane back to America, it's hard to believe that Kim Jong-un didn't say, why is he on a stretcher? We hold people accountable, including Bashar al Assad, for chemical weapons in the murder of civilians in Syria. We don't hold the dictator for the murder of an American civilian, he had to have known and if he didn't, he could have asked the question, he had to have known.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mudd, thank you so much.

MUDD: Thank you.

TAPPER: The news about Warmbier comes as the North Korean dictator just wrapped up his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And despite Kim Jong-un's long history of horrific human rights violations, Russia rolled out the red carpet, giving him a saber and Russian tea set, treating him to a lavish dinner.

CNN's Matthew Chance has more now on the glitzy, secretive meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heaving himself out of his specialty imported stretch limo, North Korean dictator gets a red carpet reception to Russia's strong man president. This is the first time these two autocrats have actually met. A first

chance to discuss Kim Jong-un's nuclear weapons and how Russia might help get rid of them.

This is classic Vladimir Putin, inserting himself yet again into an international crisis.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): I'm sure your visit to Russia will also help to develop our bilateral relations and will help us to understand the ways we can settle the situation on the Korean peninsula.

CHANCE: Putin says Kim has asked him to inform the U.S. about North Korea's position. This now looks increasingly like a three-way nuclear negotiation with the Kremlin in the middle.

Details were sparse, but there was no shortage of diplomatic niceties at this summit. President Putin giving Kim a saber and a special Russian tea set. Putin was gifted an elaborate ceremonial sword.

Later, a formal reception dinner for both leaders. These optics are key. Growing allies with a close personal bond. Not the isolated figures often portrayed in the West.

(on camera): Well, these talks seem to have been short on specifics. What exactly they talked about when it comes to disarmament on the Korean peninsula is unclear. We do know, though, what they ate because we got into this room where the reception was held. There's a plate of bulgur wheat and beef. Some confectioneries and chocolate and this little cheesecake here, a chocolate cheesecake with the North Korean and Russian flag.

(voice-over): Outside the Vladivostok summit, a final farewell after what the Kremlin describes as constructive talks. Next stop for Putin is China, another key ally, leaving his new North Korean friend to explore this Russian city on his own.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: Now much of Kim Jong-un's itinerary here in Vladivostok over the course of the next day is under closely guarded secrecy. We're not being told about it publicly. We understand he's visiting a war memorial in Vladivostok here in eastern Russia late today. And will also be visiting the local aquarium on this sort of touristic sightseeing visit that he's now embarked on, Jake.

TAPPER: Matthew Chance live for us in Russia, thank you so much.

A major FBI raid in a major city. The target: the city's mayor and a scandal involving children's books.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The "NATIONAL LEAD," a corruption scandal engulfing Charm City, Baltimore, Maryland and it's Democratic mayor Catherine Pugh. Today the FBI raided her home hours later. Maryland's governor called on Pugh to resign. At the center of the investigation is a children's book that Pugh wrote and thousands of copies sold including some to a company looking to do business with the city of Baltimore.

As CNN's Jessica Schneider reports now it's a story that will almost certainly not have a happy ending.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: FBI agents raiding the home of Baltimore's embattled mayor Catherine Pugh after weeks of questions and controversy surrounding the sale of a children's book she authored to the hospital where she was previously a board member.

Agents from the FBI and IRS streamed in and out of the house for hours removing several cardboard boxes while the mayor reportedly remained inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think that it's a long time coming. This is just the beginning.

SCHNEIDER: Agents also executed search warrants at Pugh second residents, city hall, the office of her attorney, and the home of one former staff member. The raid is related to the sale of Pugh's Healthy Holly children's books with several deals under scrutiny.

The health care provider Kaiser Permanente ordered $114,000-worth of books over three years as it sought a lucrative contract with the city according to the Baltimore Sun. And the University of Maryland Medical system paid $500,000 to purchase 100,000 children's books at the same time Pugh served as a board member.

[16:50:16] MAYOR CATHERINE PUGH (D), BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: In hindsight, this arrangement with the University of Maryland Medical System was a regrettable mistake.

SCHNEIDER: After push back, the mayor stepped down from her board position in March and returned $100,000 from her most recent book order. Pugh also stepped away from the mayor's office going on indefinite leave for medical reasons.

PUGH: I sincerely want to say that I apologize that I've done something to upset the people.

SCHNEIDER: Now Maryland's governor is demanding Pugh's resignation saying in part Mayor Pugh has lost the public trust. She is clearly not fit to lead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And no comment from the mayor directly today, but her lawyers confirm that FBI agents did seize her financial records. Now, as for the University of Maryland Medical System, they're saying that despite purchasing $500,000-worth of those books, that the Medical System actually never received copies of those books. So that will likely be a big threat of this investigation.

As for Kaiser Permanente, they say it distributed the books it bought to schools and child care centers. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you. Coming up, evangelical preacher Franklin Graham defends President Trump and attacks a Democratic presidential candidate for being gay. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Today's "FAITH LEAD," one of President Trump's biggest evangelical supporters is now attacking one of the president's potential 2020 opponents. Christian Evangelist Franklin Graham is taking on South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg because Buttigieg is both a Christian and a gay married man.

Let's discuss this with W. Kamau Bell. He gets at the collision of politics and religion in this season of his show "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" which debuts this weekend here on CNN. Kamau, in a series of tweets, Graham said "Mayor Buttigieg says he's a gay Christian. As a Christian, I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality is a sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised, or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman, not two men, not two women."

Franklin Graham has been a defender of the president when it comes to the president's flouting of a particular commandment having to do with being faithful to one's wife. What did you learn about the divide within Christians and specifically LGBT Christians in your series?

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: I mean, unfortunately, preachers like Franklin Graham are the face of Christianity right now. These big mostly white men mega-church preachers are the face of Christianity. But in Dallas Texas, the home of megachurches, there's actually the Cathedral of Hope which is a megachurch that specifically caters to LGBTQ plus people.

So I think it's unfortunate that Franklin Graham gets to be the face of that but there are certainly LGBTQ plus people who are also good Christians.

TAPPER: And it's not just same-sex marriage. Of course, one pastor in your series talked about the struggle for those who are creating controversial policies in this country and including having to do with immigration. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MCBRIDE, PASTOR: Except when you start talking about who you get to marry or --

BELL: Except when you're talking about opening up the border. Except when --

MCBRIDE: I want to be like Jesus like. I can't start with Jesus who was an immigrant and then be hating on immigrants when they show up. Like -- I mean, so either you're following a Jesus of your own making --

BELL: Yes.

MCBRIDE: -- which I would argue many of us are or you're following the Jesus that forces you to have to wrestle with a real -- what would Jesus not do, what did Jesus do.

BELL: What did he do?

MCBRIDE: What did he do? We got ways to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's like people are talking about different Jesus's really.

BELL: Yes. I mean Pastor Michael McBride who's Pastor Michael McBride from the Way Christian Church in Berkeley, and he's saying Jesus of your own creation which is exactly what preachers like Franklin Graham are doing.

They've created Jesus in their head who they can then put in the circumstances they need because the Jesus as I understand was about love and accepting people even those who are defined as the lesser of us, and that not what Franklin Graham is doing.

And it's also dangerous because Franklin Graham is actually threatening the LGBTQ plus members in his church, the gay youth. And as we cover in our Salt Lake City episode, that leads to mental health problems and suicide for some of those youth.

TAPPER: And so you have this episode about LGBT individuals in the Mormon community. Tell us a little bit more about that.

BELL: Yes. I mean, you know, every major religion -- and we try to be careful for some of us on the show, has issues with the LGBTQ plus community. And in Utah specifically, the issues the Mormon, the LDS church has, Utah has a high rate of teen suicide. A lot of it is connected to how members who grow up in the LDS Church were LGBTQ plus feel they're not accepted and it leads them to depression and sometimes suicide.

So we're not really -- it's fun to talk about this in a sort of a big way or Pete Buttigieg. Pete Buttigieg is going to be fine. But the thing Franklin Graham doesn't realize is you're actually threatening the health and well-being of the members of the community who are LGBTQ plus who feel not accepted.

TAPPER: You're series "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" returns to CNN this Sunday. Here is just a taste of season four. You always tackle issues having to deal with diversity, people, places on the show. What's the overall theme or question you're trying to get at this season?

BELL: You know, as we start to head into the 2020 presidential election and we start to think about what these people at the top of the party are going to do, the theme of the season is, it's on us. It's on each of us as individual members of our community to work harder to make our community better and we highlight a lot of people who do that.

So we can't hope for a perfect presidential candidate from the sky, it's on us. It's the AOC example, do the work yourself.

TAPPER: Kamau Bell, thank you so much. You can catch the season premiere of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" this Sunday night at 10:00 here on CNN. The Emmy Award-Winning show, I should say.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.