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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump's Lawyer Seeks Dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine; Democrats Target Trump Tax Returns; No U.S.-China Trade Deal; Rudy Giuliani Will Travel to Ukraine to Push for Investigations that May Help Trump, Hurt Biden; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) is Interviewed About Running Against 20 Other Dems for Nomination. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 10, 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: He says the Blue Moon craft will ferry Americans back and forth from space to begin colonizing the solar system.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

"THE LEAD" with Brianna Keilar today starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Two former spy chiefs facing off in a resort town. Oh, to be a fly on that wall.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Any moment, House Democrats expected to make their next move, targeting President Trump's taxes -- a look at what they're doing and whether it will work.

Then, no deal. The United States and China fail to reach a trade agreement, which could end up costing you a lot more for TVs, toys and sneakers. We have a breakdown of the real-life impact.

And Rudy Giuliani's travel plans causing a 2020 stir -- the trip President Trump's personal lawyer is taking that's raising eyebrows and might make Joe Biden nervous.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake Tapper.

And we begin this Friday with the politics lead, spy vs. spy. As President Trump continues to downplay and dismiss the threat of Russian election interference, Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo is preparing to meet with Vladimir Putin, the mastermind of Russia's 2016 disinformation campaign.

Pompeo will meet face-to-face with the Russian president in Sochi next week to discuss a range of -- quote -- "bilateral and multilateral challenges," according to the State Department. The question, will he break with President Trump and directly demand that Putin stop interfering in U.S. elections?

Heightening tensions, Democrats are vowing to hold former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt if he defies a subpoena to testify on Capitol Hill.

As CNN's Pamela Brown reports, it's just the latest salvo in the oversight battle between Democrats and the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump, dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Russia next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since the release of the Mueller report.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I haven't heard the word Russia in a long time. There's no more talk about Russia. What happened to Russia? The Russian witch-hunt.

BROWN: Pompeo and Putin's meeting comes just days after President Trump held an hour-long phone conversation with Putin, where the two leaders talked about several issues, except one, election interference.

TRUMP: We didn't discuss that. Really, we didn't discuss it.

BROWN: All of this as the battle over special counsel Robert Mueller's potential testimony before Congress heats up.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Mueller is going to testify. He's going to have to testify. It's just a question of how long they can stall.

BROWN: Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler telling CNN Mueller won't testify next week, as the committee had originally planned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Bob Mueller? Should he be allowed to testify before the Senate?

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have already said publicly I have no objection.

BROWN: As negotiations continue for Mueller to testify, President Trump once again saying it's up to Attorney General Bill Barr, after he recently tweeted Mueller shouldn't testify.

TRUMP: Well, I'm going to leave that up to our very great attorney general, and he will make a decision on that.

BROWN: CNN has also learned today House Democrats are considering voting on multiple contempt citations in a single package, which could include Attorney General Bill Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn, who was subpoenaed again by Nadler's committee.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): If we have to, we will hold him in contempt, if he doesn't obey a subpoena. I assume he will obey a subpoena.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: And Jerry Nadler also said that his committee has been talking to Robert Mueller and the Department of Justice, negotiating on a date when Robert Mueller would testify on Capitol Hill.

As we have learned today, that's not going to happen next week, as the committee had hoped for. And it's unclear, Brianna, what the sticking point is, what the roadblock is at this point in nailing down a date, because the attorney general himself said last week that he is fine with Robert Mueller testifying and the president said he's leaving it up to the attorney general -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Pamela Brown at the White House, thank you so much.

And, Ryan, you heard what President Trump said about his conversation with Vladimir Putin last week in the Oval Office, right? Here's how the secretary of state, Pompeo, responded to questions about the president's unwillingness to confront Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You're looking at the administration that has been tougher on Russia than any of its predecessors and yet you continue to be fixated on something that Robert Mueller wrote down.

I will let the White House talk to what the president actually said in the set of remarks, but no one should misunderstand from your question today. Your viewers should not be misled. This administration has taken seriously the threat of election interference and we will continue to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: All right, fact-check that for us.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there's a lot of mixed signals on Russia.

On the one hand, Trump's personal relationship with Putin is often very puzzling, with the famous press conference they had together where he was obsequious, would not talk about the election meddling in 2006 (sic), basically let Putin deny that he had anything to do with it and let that statement stand.

On the other hand, there have been people around Trump and in Congress that have pushed for a more aggressive, more confrontational approach to Russia. And some of those policies have been implemented.

[16:05:05]

That's what allows Pompeo to argue that they have been tougher on Russia that any -- than any administration. So, mixed signals. But when you have the president himself, who is at every turn trying to embrace Putin and trying to downplay Putin's aggression both with respect to Europe and his meddling in elections around the world and especially the United States, I don't think you can argue that that's the toughest policy of any previous administration, despite the fact that they have implemented some policies, when the president has been forced to do it.

KEILAR: If the captain of the ship, Mary Katharine, is steering the boat one way, that's the most important thing, compared to what the folks under him are saying.

(CROSSTALK)

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, the gap between the two matters. The policy does matter.

And there are parts of it that have been tough. And I prefer to have Pompeo in the room with Putin, who has been hawkish on Russia, is unlikely to get taken by him in the same way that Trump does.

But, look, Trump again and again shows an inability to be tough on this guy or to be -- or to have sort of a moral compass about this kind of thing...

LIZZA: Yes.

HAM: ... to the point that just recently taking Putin at his word that Russia definitely doesn't want to have any expansionist ambitions in Central America, in Venezuela, which is like -- this is just 101.

And so the two matter. The policy matters, but the fact that he undermines it matters as well.

KEILAR: Seung Min, I want to talk about something that Kamala Harris did.

She sent a letter to the attorney general yesterday. And she was demanding the direct answer to a question she'd asked before, whether President Trump ever suggested that he open an investigation, this coming after the president said that former Secretary of State John Kerry should be prosecuted.

He said that yesterday when it comes to any interactions that he's had with Iran. Let's remind our viewers of this exchange that Kamala Harris had with Barr during last week's hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no, please, sir.

BARR: The president or anybody else?

HARRIS: It seems you would remember something like that and be able to tell us.

BARR: Yes, but I'm trying to grapple with the word suggest.

I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that -- they have not asked me to open an investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: How does -- how is Barr going to handle this, do you think?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think this all shows just how Democrats on Capitol Hill have had such a mistrust of Bill Barr from around the time that he was nominated for attorney general.

You recall back to his confirmation hearing, when Democrats were going after him about some of the memos that he had written, making some suggestions or offering some input on the Mueller investigation, and really have -- taking issue with that.

And obviously Dems have -- were furious after he kind of prebutted the release of the actual unredacted -- or redacted version of the Mueller report.

Kamala Harris is doing what she does best. She has obviously made a spotlight for herself in these hearings with her tough questioning of Trump administration nominees. And, again, it's something that the attorney general probably -- may have to clarify in the future.

KEILAR: I want to know what you think, Kirsten, about President Trump, who's made his feelings clear that he doesn't want Mueller to testify. Right?

He doesn't want Mueller to testify, but then he also said it's up to his attorney general.

And this is what Comey said about Barr last night:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think he acted in a way that's less than honorable in the way that he described it in writing and described it during a press conference and continues to talk as if he's the president's lawyer. That is not the attorney general's job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: What is the attorney general's job? How does he figure out what direction he's going to go here when he's saying it's OK if Mueller testifies and the president is saying something different?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes.

Well, I mean, we're getting back to sort of this contrast between the president says one thing and the people who work for him say another thing. And, ultimately, the president has the final say.

I don't think we can ignore him, whether he's talking about Venezuela or whether he's talking about talking about Russia or whether he's talking about this, frankly. Ultimately, he is the one who steers the ship and he's the one who decides. It seems that there's some disagreement. Maybe they're doing a good

cop/bad cop kind of thing. But it's pretty clear the president wants this to go away.

KEILAR: What do you think ends up happening when it comes to Mueller testifying?

LIZZA: He's going to testify. Clearly, he's going testify. Nadler -- he and Nadler are obviously talking. It's just a matter of the date.

And, look, I think -- I think he will offer a little bit on the Republican side as well. Remember, a lot of the report about collusion did not rise to a criminal offense. And I think...

KEILAR: Cooperation, as Mueller put it.

LIZZA: And I think Republicans will draw him out on that. So if Democrats think this is going to be a full-on day of testimony, or however long it is, where he's slamming Trump, I don't think that's the case.

[16:10:04]

The report was very carefully crafted. And I think he will be very careful and judicious when he testifies.

But, on the obstruction of justice, he's -- I think that could provide some dramatic testimony for Democrats, who want the American people to understand that the report was much more complicated and much more damning for the president when it comes to obstruction of justice than both Barr argued in his initial assessment and, of course, that the Republicans in the administration have been arguing.

KEILAR: It's harder with a hearing than with just a very thick report that most people aren't going to read...

LIZZA: Exactly.

KEILAR: ... to argue that it went your way, right? So we will see that.

And any moment, we could learn what House Democrats are going to do next to get President Trump's tax returns.

And then: The president's personal lawyer is taking a trip, and some 2020 candidates are not happy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:05]

KEILAR: In our 2020 lead, Democrats unleashing on the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, today after Giuliani announced plans to travel to Ukraine and encourage its government to investigate Joe Biden and his family. Giuliani denying to CNN that he is pushing a foreign government to affect the 2020 elections.

But as M.J. Lee reports, this trip comes as President Trump suggests Biden is his main competition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): President Trump's personal lawyer trying to stir up the 2020 presidential race. Rudy Giuliani saying he plans to travel to Ukraine to meet with the country's president-elect. His goal: encourage the Ukrainian government to investigate matters, including Joe Biden's call to remove a prosecutor who was also looking at a company tied to Biden's son.

Giuliani telling CNN I don't want any favors, I just want this investigated. The former New York City mayor doubling down on Twitter, raising questions about Biden's son's connections to a Ukrainian oligarch, while the former vice president was, quote, point man for Ukraine during the Obama administration.

His comments drawing fierce rebuke from Democrats, including other 2020 candidates.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just think it is highly unethical for the president's personal lawyer to go meet with officials from a foreign government to see if they can influence somehow the upcoming presidential election. We've had enough of that. And Rudy Giuliani should just back off.

LEE: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of several Democratic candidates trying to focus on policy. Warren traveling to Kermit, West Virginia, today to promote her new plan to tackle the opioid epidemic.

WARREN: Anybody here know someone who's been caught in addiction? Oh, my gosh.

LEE: Meanwhile, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker also hitting the road, promoting his new plan to address gun violence.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you need a license to drive a car, you should have a license to buy a gun.

LEE: The 2020 campaign in full swing heading into Mother's Day weekend. Kamala Harris writing in "Elle Magazine" about the experience of being a step mom. She says her nickname embodies her modern American family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call you "Momala".

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, because they are -- we don't use the term in our family "stepmother".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

HARRIS: But they are technically my stepchildren, but they are my children. And they call me "Momala", and we have a very modern family.

LEE: M.J. Lee, CNN, Kermit, West Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: All right. Let's talk about this.

Rudy Giuliani told "The New York Times," which broke this story, quote, we're not meddling in a election, we're meddling in an investigation which we have a right to do and then went on to say there's nothing illegal about this.

Seung Min, what's your reaction to that?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I also found what else Rudy Giuliani said in that "New York Times" interview, interesting. Some could say it's improper. I think that's what most people are looking at right now, particularly with what the Trump -- what the president went through with the last two years of the Mueller investigation.

I'm also really kind of amazed at Rudy Giuliani's continued role in kind of being the president's lead attack dog, even after the conclusion of the Mueller investigation. I mean, we always knew he was technically the attorney, but he was more kind of this public relation spokesperson to kind of muddy the waters in some respects of how the public felt about the Mueller investigation. It seems like he's doing that again, perhaps going too far. We'll see.

KEILAR: Is this a smart move? I mean, the president is clearly gunning for Joe Biden, right? And Rudy Giuliani says the president supports his efforts in the Ukraine. On Twitter, it appears the president thinks Joe Biden is who he faces off again. But is this a smart move by Rudy Giuliani?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in a normal world, no. But I just feel like in the world we're living in, I don't know -- you know, will he be held accountable by any Republicans? Probably not. I mean, nothing illegal, some would say improper, is basically the Trump 2020 reelect campaign slogan, right?

So, I feel like he's doing something that is obviously a problem and yet I don't know if it will matter.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think it's a mystifying move given the messages of the last two years. And there are -- there's more than one way to skin a cat. But like if you want oppo on Joe Biden, go about getting it in America. There's plenty of ways to do that, and they may need it because they're behind the polls, but this is not the way to do it.

KEILAR: Yes.

OK. So what is this going to bring is the question, whenever he goes to Ukraine? And former homeland security official and our analyst here at CNN, Juliette Kayyem, pointed this out. This will be the real test of how to cover whatever Giuliani finds. [16:20:01] It is very likely any information will just be made up,

stolen, altered. The only story that should come out of this is that the Trump campaign is working with a foreign power again to win the election.

But to her point of how you cover whatever comes out of this, that's the point.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a good point.

KEILAR: Rudy Giuliani wants you to take the bait.

LIZZA: Right, because the back story here is that Biden, he had the Ukraine portfolio as vice president, right? Obama had him negotiating with Ukraine. It was very complicated, internal politics Biden got involved with and frankly he made some enemies in Ukraine.

There were certain groups and parties that Biden as vice president supported, others that he didn't. He pushed -- tried to push people out. It was a whole complicated set of politics he was dealing with there.

And now, Giuliani is basically going over there, finding the people who didn't like what Biden did as vice president and saying, hey, is there any connection between his son's company and his actions? And lo and behold, some of those politicians might say yes.

First of all, just in terms of American foreign policy, what a terrible thing to do, to play parties in Ukraine off of your political opponents in the United States. I mean, that's a whole new world, right, to Juliette's point?

And everyone that's looked at this, I've read a lot of pieces about this. I have not seen anyone who finds any credible allegation of a quid pro quo --

KEILAR: No --

LIZZA: -- between what Biden did as vice president and what his son was doing on this company.

KEILAR: And it looks like a conflict. It was a bad idea, but it's like stupid things your son does for 500 please, Alex, could be something that President Trump as well would have to answer for.

HAM: And if there were there, there, you don't have to ask a foreign government to investigate it. You can do the job and see what you can find and presenting it.

LIZZA: And also now is, they're going to Biden -- the people that Biden doesn't like in the Ukraine --

KEILAR: Right, foreign enemies.

LIZZA: -- with incentive to attack him, obviously, the Ukrainian government wants a good relationship with the Trump administration so they're highly incentivized to find some dirt.

POWERS: But also, the other thing is we've sat and listened to so many people say, oh, it's so crazy to think that the Trump campaign would ever go work with another country against the interest of the United States and here's Rudy Giuliani doing it out in the open.

KEILAR: Now, it's in plain sight.

POWERS: Yes.

KEILAR: And to be clear, the positions that Joe Biden had while in charge of the Ukraine portfolio were also the positions shared broadly in government, not spearheaded by him necessarily. It's not as if there is any evidence that he was doing this for some personal issue.

KIM: That's correct. But unfortunately, it's creating kind of all this smoke around him by just putting this -- you know, putting -- Giuliani putting what he's doing out there and that's the problem upon Joe Biden.

KEILAR: What's -- is there a message here to Joe Biden that President Trump is sending? He's hitting him in a -- he's hitting his children essentially.

HAM: Oh, and he will continue to do that. I mean, I think that is part of the message. He will continue to talk about his children.

POWERS: I mean, also, he's also very worried about him. That's another thing we can take away from this.

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: Yes, he's worried about -- Trump's worried about Biden. But you don't go to all this trouble if you're not concerned.

KEILAR: He's pretty clear about that.

LIZZA: Maybe this will be bad for Biden later on, but frankly, in the context of a primary, it's good for him to be attacked by the president.

KEILAR: All right. With 21 Democrats, 21, running for president, it's hard to break through this crowded field, so we'll ask one candidate what he is doing to get attention.

Also, we're still waiting for House Democrats to announce what they're going to do to get President Trump's taxes.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:28] KEILAR: The fight for attention tops our 2020 lead today, in a crowded field of Democratic candidates looking for ways to stand out on the campaign trail. The count right now is a whopping 21.

With a handful of Democrats who are still toying with a run, so how do candidates win over voters?

Joining me now is Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, and he's in a unique position as a member of both the House Judiciary and Intel Committees, both of which are investigating the president, while you, sir, are running to be the next president.

I want to talk to you about this issue of breaking through. But, first, the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has said that he's going to Ukraine to press for investigations related to Joe Biden's family. Your Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that the committee is discussing what your role should be in this matter.

Do you want to investigate Mr. Giuliani?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that we should, yes. I'm afraid they're learning the wrong lessons from the Russia investigation that we just had. I think because essentially Republicans in Congress are giving a green light for this type of behavior to continue, they believe, well, there's not going to be a penalty for it. And the attorney general, as we see demonstrated by his stonewalling, would allow it. So why not just be transparent about our efforts and willingness to work with other countries to affect our election?

It's a betrayal of democracy to work with other countries to affect our elections. It's just a flat-out betrayal.

KEILAR: Today, you introduced a bill with some of your Democratic colleagues and it essentially pauses the statute of limitations so a president can be prosecuted for any prosecutable crime once they leave office.

Do you think that President Trump needs to be charged with a crime after his term?

SWALWELL: Well, I can tell you I believe he is going to be charged with a crime just from what we have reviewed.