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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Pompeo Meets With Putin; Judge to Rule on Battle Over Trump Financial Records; Interview With Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR); New Book Explores How The Old Guard Honors Fallen Heroes; CNN Finds Accused War Criminal Driving For Uber; Migrant Children Seen Sleeping On Ground Outside Crowded Border Facility In Photos Obtained By CNN. Aired 4:30- 5p ET

Aired May 14, 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]

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Downplayed the effort to try to get that Trump Tower Moscow project back in 2017, when he testified. He downplayed the role of the Trump Organization's pursuit, suggested that it ended in January of 2016, when it went on much longer.

He later acknowledged lying, and that's one of the things that he pleaded guilty to. Now, after the Democrats took control in this Congress, they brought Michael Cohen back to this committee. He provided the committee with edited statements that showed that he had some -- there was some involvement by Trump attorneys before he testified before the House committee back in 2017.

Now, what Adam Schiff is asking for is more information about their effort to help Michael Cohen before that testimony. Adam Schiff alleging here, Jake, that these attorneys coordinated, reviewed, shaped and edited that false testimony. He wants this information.

Now, the Trump attorneys are pushing back. An individual who represents them says this is an effort to essentially breach attorney- client privilege. They are saying that this is a fishing expedition of sorts.

And also, Jake, Adam Schiff could issue a subpoena. A committee official tells us that's some -- an area that they could pursue, a new line of inquiry going forward and a new fight between the Trump Organization and the president's team and House Democrats -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

And as that potential subpoena fight looms, there is a major test in federal court today for the Trump administration's stonewalling strategy of House Democrats, a judge deciding whether President Trump can sue to block a subpoena issued by the House Oversight Committee demanding eight years of the president's financial records.

CNN's Sara Murray joins me now live from the courthouse here in Washington, D.C. And, Sara, what did the judge say to the president's lawyers today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, the judge essentially made it known that it's very rare for a judge to intervene like this and to essentially narrow the scope of a congressional investigation.

The president's lawyers are making the argument that there's no real legislative purpose for this, that, you know, the House is just essentially looking to do this as some kind of politically motivated dive into President Trump's personal finances and his business.

But the judge pointed out that there's been in Supreme Court case, no appellate ruling since 1880 that found out that Congress overstepped its subpoena. So that sort of gives you an inkling of where the judge's head is.

That said, this judge realized he's weighing in on a very substantial legal issue today. He did not making a ruling from the bench today. He's going to give both sides the rest of the week to weigh in. We could hear more next week -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray outside the courthouse here in D.C., thank you so much.

In the world lead today, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised special counsel Robert Mueller today during a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and said that Mueller proved there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and his Russian government, this as Putin's top diplomat took it a step further, saying there was no cold hard evidence that Russia interfered in the election.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports now from Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): America's top diplomat arrived in Russia. The strongman in the Kremlin made a dramatic entrance of his own.

Vladimir Putin's presidential plane escorted by six stealth fighters, as he swooped into a military testing site to inspect Russia's latest high-tech weapons weapon, sends a powerful message about Putin's priorities.

Shortly thereafter, meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about a range of issues, but it was Putin who brought up the report by special counsel Robert Mueller.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): However exotic the work of the special counsel, Mueller, was, I have to say that, on the whole, he had a very objective investigation, and he confirmed that there are no traces whatsoever of collusion between Russia and the incumbent administration, which we said was absolutely fake. CHANCE: Not far, in the southern city of Sochi, the issue of election

interference also came up, when Pompeo met his Russian counterpart for what were described as frank discussions on a range of issues.

PUTIN (through translator): There was a wave of baseless allegations about our attempts to influence the result and to collude with officials in the current U.S. administration. It is obvious that such insinuations are absolutely fake.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You can see we have some disagreements on this issue.

CHANCE: Pompeo even issuing a warning to his counterpart.

POMPEO: If the Russians were to engage in that in 2020, it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been, and encourage them not to do that, that we would -- we would not tolerate that.

CHANCE: But on virtually every other issue of international diplomacy, the two sides seem fundamentally opposed, whether on the conflict in Syria, how best to deal with North Korea and its nuclear threat, or escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, a key Russian ally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I hope very much that common sense will triumph.

CHANCE: Adding insult to injury, the planned meeting with the Russian president was badly delayed. Vladimir Putin is notorious for keeping his guests waiting. Washington may have to wait much longer for Russia to change its ways.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:35:12]

CHANCE: Well, President Putin said he'd recently spoken with U.S. President Trump, saying that he got the impression that the U.S. leader wanted to restore relations with Russia. He said he wanted the same, but, clearly, after all of these denials about election interference that we have been hearing this evening in Sochi, not at the cost of admitting any wrongdoing in those 2016 presidential polls -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Matthew Chance, thank you so much for that report.

President Trump, who has pushed to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, just made a stunning statement about sending U.S. forces to possibly face off with Iran. And that story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:12]

TAPPER: In our world lead today, President Trump saying today there is no plan to send up to 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East, despite administration officials telling "The New York Times" that the president's top national security officials reviewed such a plan in the event that Iran attacks U.S. troops or speeds up its nuclear weapons program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we're not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I want to bring in Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's also an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The senator is also out with a brand-new book out today, "Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery."

Senator, I will get to the book in a second, and it's really a great read. Congratulations on the book.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: But I do want to ask you, because you're something of a hawk on the Iran issue, do you think the American people would support American troops getting involved in another war in the Middle East?

COTTON: Well, we don't seek conflict with Iran. We want Iran to change its behavior and rejoin the civilized world and stop supporting terrorism and supporting armed insurgencies across the Middle East that undermine our allies.

We will always defend ourselves so and defend our allies in the Middle East or anywhere else across the world. And that includes, in addition, not just Iran, but its proxy forces throughout the region.

TAPPER: But do you think that the American people are up to speed and prepared for more troops to be sent?

COTTON: I think, for 40 years, the American people have known that Iran chants death to America. We have had military conflict with Iran before, when they tried to shut down tankers coming out of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf in the late 1980s.

I hope it doesn't come to that. It would only be in response to Iranian provocations. That's why those provocations would be a grave miscalculation by the ayatollahs.

TAPPER: You're a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which just issued a subpoena a few weeks ago to Donald Trump Jr. Do you support the subpoena?

COTTON: We've got to remember that what we're doing is a counterintelligence inquiry, not a criminal investigation.

Senator Burr has already said, there's no collusion found by our committee. That's because there was no collusion. What we're trying to do is get to the bottom of exactly what Russia was up to, so we know what techniques Russia uses, so we can make sure that they don't do it again in the future.

I know that Senator Burr and Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyers are trying to work out some kind of compromise where we can get that information necessary, while also respecting his position.

TAPPER: Your colleague Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, again today reiterated that Donald Trump Jr. should ignore the subpoena. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If I were his lawyer, I wouldn't put him back into this circus. He's been to the committee, two, three different committees. He's testified under oath.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Would you agree that Donald Trump Jr. should ignore a subpoena from your committee?

COTTON: Well, I hope that the committee can get the information that the committee needs to figure out exactly what Russia was up, to clear up any discrepancies created by other testimony or other evidence that has come forward, so we can make sure that Russia doesn't interfere in our elections again.

TAPPER: OK.

It sounds like you're saying, no, you wouldn't support it, dodging a subpoena. But I want to move on to your book.

So you served in Iraq, and you served in Afghanistan. But this book is about the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, the people who make sure that the funerals go as planned, whether they're at Arlington or elsewhere.

Why? Why not write about your war experiences? Why was this important to you?

COTTON: Well, Jake, the Old Guard of Arlington holds a special place in the hearts of Americans.

I see that all the time. Arkansans come to visit me, they tell me almost always that the highlight of their trip was Arlington National Cemetery. More than four million people a year go through the gates of the cemetery.

And they come away with a sense of awe and inspiration and reverence for that place and for our American -- our fellow Americans who lay down the ultimate sacrifice. But no one's ever told the Old Guard story before. There's never

really been a book-length treatment about what these young men and women whose job it is to perform military honor funerals and guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier do exactly In Arlington, how every painstaking detail is all designed to achieve perfection for that fallen hero and their family members, to show them the honor and the love that all Americans hold for them.

TAPPER: And you write in your book -- quote -- "We live in politically divided times, to be sure, yet the military remains our nation's most respected institution. And the fields of Arlington are one place where we can set aside our differences."

And I have to say, I'm a little -- you are a partisan Republican, proudly so. You're a sharp Washington player. I -- and the book is not that at all. The book is entirely for anybody.

COTTON: Yes. Well...

TAPPER: Not for Republicans, not for conservatives, for anyone.

COTTON: I hope so.

And I have plenty of time to share my ideas for our country. But Arlington is a special place. It has been from the very beginning. It's ironic that Arlington is a place of unity and reconciliation, because, as I write in "Sacred Duty," it was born in the ashes of the Civil War.

Arlington used to be the plantation of Robert E. Lee and his wife, Mary Custis Lee. The Union army occupied it and turned it into a graveyard. And, ultimately, it became our national cemetery.

[16:45:00]

And it has been that -- that place of unity and reconciliation ever since. So it's somewhat ironic that it's such a special place for all Americans of all races, and religions, and regions, and political viewpoints, but it really is a place as Abraham Lincoln said in the first inaugural, the mystic chords of memory stretch from every patriot grave to every heart and hearthstone across our nation.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And it's a lovely tribute to them. Good luck with the book Sacred Duty. Senator Tom Cotton, thanks for being here. I really appreciate it.

COTTON: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: He has almost a five-star rating as an Uber driver, but this man is also an alleged war criminal. A CNN exclusive anyone who takes an Uber or Lyft needs to see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: In our "BURIED LEAD" now. Could your next five- star Uber driver be a war criminal? Well, for riders in Virginia, that was a real possibility until today a CNN investigation found this man Yusuf Abdi Ali who was accused of horrific crimes committed in Somalia, information easily found through a simple online search. CNN Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin looks at how Ali got the OK to drive.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yusuf Abdi Ali is an accused war criminal facing a civil trial in Virginia alleging he's responsible for atrocities including torture and attempted murder in Somalia in the 1980s. While awaiting trial, he has been driving for Uber.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes sir, he's just coming now.

GRIFFIN: Undercover CNN producers last week ordered an Uber in Northern Virginia. Yusuf listed on the app as an Uber pro Diamond driver with a 4.89 rating pick them up. Yusuf Ali also told us he drives for Lyft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you from?

YUSUF ABDI ALI, WAR CRIMINAL: Originally from Somalia.

GRIFFIN: Sir, I was surprised to see that you drive for Uber and Lyft. Did the background checks of those companies not reveal the fact that you are accused of torture and murder and about to face a trial here for basically terrorizing communities?

Just how Uber and Lyft missed the accusations exposes a potential hole in their screening processes. A simple Google search of Ali's name brings up article after article about his alleged brutality as a commander in the Somalian security force. A major expose by CNN in 2016 found the alleged war criminal working as a security guard at Dulles International Airport, a job he was fired from shortly after the report aired.

And a search would have also revealed this, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary with villagers telling terrifying stories of Yusuf Ali's actions, the man they knew as Colonel Tukeh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Two men were caught tied to a tree, oil was poured on them, and they were burned. I saw it with my own eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He caught my brother. He tied him to a military vehicle and dragged him behind. He said to us, if you've got enough power, get him back. He shredded him into pieces. That's how he died.

GRIFFIN: Farhan Warfaa is a Somalian who claims in 1988 Ali tortured him for months, then shot him twice and ordered guards to bury him alive. He survived. And since no international court has jurisdiction, Warfaa has turned to civil court in the U.S. to seek damages.

In court filings, Ali acknowledges he was a colonel in the Somali National Army but denies having attempted extrajudicial killing and torture and denies directing any such actions by his subordinates. Ali told us he's been an Uber driver for a year and a half and that background check he said was easy.

ALI: If you apply tonight, maybe after two days it will come up.

GRIFFIN: Last year, Uber tightened its background checks after CNN found convicted felons were able to become rideshare drivers. Both Uber and Lyft say their background checks include criminal offenses and driving incidents.

And the company that does the screening check tell CNN in a statement that they rely on public criminal records that have been adjudicated in a court of law rather than unverified sources like Google search results. Ali has never been convicted of a crime only accused.

Mr. Ali, I have to give you an opportunity to respond to all the allegations. You may not wish to respond to all the allegations, but the allegations are that basically, you tortured people, murdered people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Jake, both Uber and Lyft say they don't review social media or conduct online searches as part of those background checks on drivers. But when we pointed out Ali's history through a simple Google search, both companies took immediate action to remove him. Lyft banned him altogether for life, Uber has suspended him today pending a review. That trial is expected to wrap up this week in Virginia. Jake?

TAPPER: Unbelievable. Drew Griffin, thank you so much for that story. The exclusive look at migrant children in heartbreaking conditions sleeping outside in the dirt at one of the busiest border patrol station. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: An exclusive story in our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. Photos obtained by CNN show the appalling overcrowded conditions at the McAllen, Texas, Border Patrol station this weekend. Migrants, many of them children, are seen sleeping on the ground. You can even see a baby bottle lying there at the very bottom of your screen.

And in this photo, one woman is sitting on rocks, leaning up against a wall clutching her child, we presume. The photos come from a source who has access to the facility and was disturbed by the conditions, which has four temporary tents to try to accommodate the swell of migrants.

An official from the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement, "as multiple DHS officials have been warning for months, the border security and humanitarian crisis continues to worsen. Current facilities and funding are inadequate for migrant flows."

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Putin praises Mueller. Russia's leader --

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