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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Will Mueller Testify?; Interview With Rep. Jackie Speier (D- CA); Alabama Passes Country's Most Restrictive Anti-Abortion Law. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 15, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They plan to challenge this in court, which supporters of the bill admit is kind of the point.

TERRI COLLINS (R), ALABAMA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We will never get a heartbeat bill to be constitutional until Roe vs. Wade is decided and reversed. And so I think everybody understood that.

GALLAGHER: Alabama is one of 16 states to introduce or pass restrictive abortion legislation, sometimes called heartbeat bills, this year.

According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. For Republicans, those numbers are flipped, with 59 percent saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a plan by the Republican Party, make no mistake, to overturn Roe v. Wade.

GALLAGHER: 2020 Democratic candidates quick to condemn the Alabama bill on Twitter and the campaign trail, calling it dangerous and unconstitutional.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GALLAGHER: Now, if Governor Kay Ivey does sign this into law, it won't actually go into effect for another six months, so is she going to sign it?

Well, her office has said she still needs to take a look at it. And, look, lawmakers here in Montgomery are pretty confident. But I want to take a look at history here. Just last year, after a different Alabama abortion bill was struck down by courts, Ivey released a statement that said, in part, "We should not let this discourage our steadfast commitment to protect the lives of the unborn, even if that means taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Jake, she has six days after that bill arrives on her desk to sign it.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Dianne Gallagher in Montgomery, Alabama, thanks so much.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.

What's your reaction to the Alabama legislation?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): It is a stunning example of 25 white men who have never and will never be pregnant trying to tell women how they are going to live their lives.

And it is a right to privacy that a woman has in conjunction with her physician as to whether or not she is going to continue with the pregnancy or not.

Seven out of 10 American women believe, regardless of their party affiliation, that abortion should be legal, safe, and subject to a determination made by a woman and her physician.

TAPPER: Do you think that this Supreme Court, with Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, is likely going to strike down Roe v. Wade?

SPEIER: Well, I would think that we would have to wait to see.

I do believe that what you will find is that if you thought the pink hats that women were wearing after the 2016 election and the three million women who marched around this country was a significant move, you just wait until this issue is put in front of the justices and if they were, in fact, to overturn Roe v. Wade.

That is a picture in which you will see women with pitchforks.

TAPPER: So, obviously, you oppose these heartbeat bills, so-called heartbeat bills, in states such as Georgia, Alabama, Ohio. What do you make of the more liberal legislation on abortion that has been passed in New York and Virginia that's been more controversial on the other side of the issue?

SPEIER: Well, I would first want to say that this heartbeat legislation is talking about a group of cells, four to five millimeters, with some electrical activity. This is not a human being at that point, but that is what they are now defining as a human being.

And for those on the other side of the legislative arena, I would just say, again, this is about the right to privacy. It is inherent in our Constitution. What if we decided that we were going to take male reproductive parts and start legislating whether or not you can have sperm come out of them?

I mean, that is the detail to which these legislatures are taking action. And, again, these were all white males in the Alabama state Senate.

TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it. Is it the title that President Trump has always wanted? Democrat

Jerry Nadler comes up with a nickname for the president who is full of nicknames himself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:41]

TAPPER: Welcome back.

Our politics lead now, House Democrats today suggesting that the Justice Department is standing in the way of special counsel Robert Mueller testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler telling CNN that Attorney General Barr is -- quote -- "reluctant" to let this happen and that he is prepared to slap Mueller with a subpoena if necessary.

CNN's Manu Raju joins me now live from Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, how is the Justice Department responding to Chairman Nadler's claim?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Justice Department says it has no problem having Mueller testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

Attorney General Bill Barr has said that in sworn testimony. But there's a high degree of skepticism and distrust on both sides, as tension builds from here in the House, the Democrats saying today that it appears that the Justice Department is standing in the way, resisting this.

Jerry Nadler told me that he may very issue a subpoena for Bob Mueller's testimony. At the same time, Jake, the White House came back to affirm a request that Jerry Nadler had to turn over a wide range of documents pertaining to the Judiciary Committee's probe into potential obstruction of justice.

The White House said, no, it would not turn over those records, because it said those records lacked a legitimate legislative purpose. It called on Jerry Nadler to drop that investigation.

And Jake, just earlier this afternoon, Jerry Nadler said he would not drop the investigation and he accused the White House as treating the president like a king -- Jake.

[16:40:05]

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Let's bring the experts back.

Jen Psaki, here's how Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler responded to the White House -- quote -- "This is the White House claiming that the president is a king." Is this fight over documents worth it for Democrats, given it could take months or even years to resolve itself through the courts?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the fight over documents isn't happening in a silo.

It's part of an effort for -- by Nadler and Democrats in Congress to portray the White House as obstructionist and refusing to partake in what is Congress' role, their obligation, and their responsibility.

I also think him going out there and claim -- and saying the Department of Justice is holding back on Mueller is important, because something doesn't add up here. Mueller wrote two letters, which he knew would be public. It seems likely he knew he would be asked to testify.

Barr said he would be open to it, but something isn't adding up and isn't going on. So, I think what Nadler is trying to do is to build this case that they're being obstructionist, so when he issues this subpoenas and has to take harder action, there's an understanding of why.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Go ahead.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

I was going to say, on that note, I don't think the Democrats are going to win a process documents fight. They need to explain to the public, what is the information that you are seeking from Don McGahn, Robert Mueller, and even Don Jr.?

If you read the testimony that, say, Don Jr. gave to the Hill vs. what's in the Mueller report, there is fuzziness. There's fuzziness on the scope and the length of the Moscow Trump Tower talks. There's discrepancies between what Don Jr. said he told the Russians about meeting later.

He went to Congress and said, essentially, once the Russians brought up sanctions, he said, oh, my dad's a private citizen, we can't do anything, meeting has ended, whereas other people in that meeting have told Robert Mueller that he indicated that they could revisit it if he wins the election.

And then the third thing that -- where I think there's a lot of fuzziness that can be explored are all the attempts that they tried to cover up to connect Trump and Putin during the campaign.

And so if the Democrats can make it about the points of information they're seeking, they will be much stronger. But if this is just paper pushing, you're going to lose.

PSAKI: It's not paper pushing, though.

It's Burr who's asking for Don Jr., right? I think part of the effort is to get clarity on why they didn't make a conclusion on obstruction. And they need more information from the people who were there who talked to Mueller, including Mueller himself, to draw some conclusions and make their own decision about how they're going to move forward, if they're going to move forward with impeachment or not. I think that's pretty clear.

TAPPER: And, Jeremy, the House Judiciary Committee has also subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn. What's the latest on that? This is supposed to take place, I think, next week. Is McGahn going to show up?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, that's the big question.

And if you look, last week, the White House, through the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, actually instructed Don McGahn not to comply with that subpoena for documents. And so I think that going forward in this next week, we can probably expect to see something similar from the White House in terms of Don McGahn's testimony before the committee.

It wouldn't be a surprise if the White House instructed McGahn not to testify in this.

I think what's so interesting in all of this is, you're seeing -- a lot of times, you see the president say something and it's not quite backed up by White House action, but we're seeing exactly the opposite here, where the president says, I'm going to fight all the subpoenas, we're going to fight every inch of Democratic oversight, and you're now seeing in this letter from the White House counsel exactly that rationale laid out for obstructing, essentially, or not obstructing, but, rather, not complying with these House Oversight Committee requests.

TAPPER: And, Jackie, Donald Trump Jr. has reached a deal to testify again before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The testimony is going to be limited in scope and length. The now- infamous Trump Tower meeting and Don Jr.'s knowledge of the possible real estate project in Moscow, they're on the table, but he can refer them to prior testimony.

The testimony will be in private. It won't be public. It will be limited to two to four hours, I think. Does this put an end to the issue, you think?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so, because, especially if we don't know the details of that meeting, those questions are still going to be out there for the public.

But this is a win for Richard Burr, who received a lot of criticism for his decision to try to bring in Don Jr. again.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around.

New details coming up on what it would take for the U.S. to go to war with Iran, as a top general from America's most critical ally raises questions about the alleged threat from Iran.

That's next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. Turning to our "WORLD LEAD" now. The U.S. is at odds with a key ally. A top British general disputing the Trump administration's characterization of the danger posed by Iran to American interests in the Middle East saying there has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq or Syria.

The comments from the British general prompted a stern rebuke from the Pentagon. And as CNN's Barbara Starr now reports, this comes as the White House is facing accusations from Democrats and world leaders that President Trump is trying to provoke Iran into war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Updated military options for possible war against Iran include detailed destruction of the regime's massive missile inventory and air defenses before moving to attack nuclear sites. It would take months of buildup and more than 100,000 U.S. troops fighting from the air, land, and sea according to U.S. officials.

That option has been briefed to senior officials including John Bolton, the National Security Adviser, a longtime Iran hawk. But would President Trump who wants to reduce overseas troop levels take the U.S. to war against Iran?

[16:50:12] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have not planned for that. Hopefully, we're not going to have to plan for that.

STARR: The immediate focus gets Iran to back off from what the Pentagon believes is a plan to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region. But so far, the U.S. offering little to no public evidence.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What makes me skeptical is the fact that a lot of the intelligence that has been revealed so far seems to be very normal. The red line would have to be either an actual attack or no kidding, actual information that they are about to commit an attack.

STARR: Congressional members now having to wait until next week for a briefing from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the alleged threat.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): The Trump administration has not provided any information to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions or what they plan to do in Iraq or Iran. And I have repeatedly reminded the administration of its responsibilities to this committee.

STARR: All this as a top British General, the Deputy Commander in Iraq publicly expressed his skepticism. MAJ. GEN. CHRISTOPHER GHIKA, BRITISH ARMY: Am I concerned about the

danger, no not really.

STARR: In an extraordinary statement the U.S. pushed back saying the general's views run counter to the identified credible threats. Iran supreme leader insists his country does not want war.

AL KHAMENEI, SUPREME LEADER, IRAN: There won't be any war with the help of God. We don't seek war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, the Pentagon is adamant that the threat is very real. But Senate Democrats, in fact, the Senate Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer a short time ago called on Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford to come to Capitol Hill and brief them on exactly what is going on. What is the intelligence that is leading to all of this?

And the State Department has now ordered a number of U.S. diplomats out of Iraq. The tensions do continue to rise. Congress wants to know what is really going on. Jake?

TAPPER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, thank you so much. The recording of the moment a pilot confronted Boeing about the 737 max.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We flat out deserve to know what is on our airplanes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't disagree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, months later, some are blaming those who cannot defend themselves. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "MONEY LEAD" today, top transportation officials from the Trump administration were on the hot seat on Capitol Hill today forced to defend their safety procedures after two deadly crashes and a worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 Max. As CNN's Tom Foreman now reports, the hearing happens as new audio first obtained by CBS News shows pilots confronted Boeing about their concerns months before the second deadly crash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The pilots should have reacted, should have recovered, should have saved their doomed jets. In response to two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max airplanes, that was the message from some during this tense hearing on Capitol Hill.

REP. SAM GRAVES (R-MO): Pilots trained in the United States would have successfully been able to handle this situation.

FOREMAN: But others pushed back.

REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D-OR): The pilots were the redundancy. How the hell are you the redundancy if you don't know something?

FOREMAN: At issue, an automated stabilization system called MCAS, implicated first in a crash near Indonesia last fall. Investigators believe it erroneously pushed that plane into an unrecoverable dive. What's more, at the time, pilots did not know the system existed.

Now, audio recordings released by the Allied Pilots Association show American Airline pilots speaking angrily with a Boeing official just weeks later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We flat out deserve to know what is on our airplanes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys didn't even know the damn system was on the airplane, nor did anybody else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know that understanding system would have changed the outcome on this.

FOREMAN: That pilots union says of the meeting, "Boeing did not treat the situation like the emergency it was. Boeing did issue updated instructions after that crash, but then another plane went down in Ethiopia in March and once again, investigators are pointing to MCAS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This cannot happen again.

FOREMAN: The FAA is clearly unhappy with Boeing's slow response to the initial problem and slow communication about a software glitch which prevented an alert system from functioning.

DANIEL ELWELL, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, FAA: It took too long.

FOREMAN: But those same FAA officials under fire themselves for regulation of the 737 Max are also pushing some blame toward the pilots even as they cautiously move forward.

ELWELL: The 737 Max will return to service only when the FAA's analysis of the facts and technical data indicate that it's safe to do so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: And these facts weigh over it all. 346 people lost their lives in these twin crashes involving American-made jets and more hearings are expected. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much. 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.