Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Federal Judge Refuses to Block House Subpoena Requesting Trump's Financial Records from Banks; Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) is Interviewed About House Oversight of President Trump; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is Interviewed About Trump and About His Policy to Fund College. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 22, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's infrastructure week, and the president came in like a wrecking ball.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump storming out of a meeting with top Democrats, before he then ambushed the press and flipped out over the Mueller report. And Senator Schumer says what happened in that White House meeting will make your jaw drop.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi going with the "bless his heart" approach, saying she will pray for President Trump, after accusing him of a cover-up.

And Senator Bernie Sanders joins me after unveiling a bold new policy that could impact millions of Americans. Will it help him catch up to Joe Biden in the polls?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start with the politics lead and President Trump threatening to refuse to do his job and work with congressional Democrats in any way until Democrats stop conducting their oversight investigations into him and his presidency.

Instead of talking with top Democrats about the potential $2 trillion deal to rebuild the nation's roads, bridges, broadband, electrical grid, and on and on, the president walked into this meeting at the White House, railed against the many investigations being waged by House Democrats into his administration, and then abruptly marched into the Rose Garden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure. But you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Signs that this fit of pique was not as organic and impromptu as originally billed by the White House were evident in, well, a sign, specifically the pre-printed sign strategically placed in front of the podium containing familiar falsehoods about the Mueller investigation.

I want to bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins now at the White House.

And, Kaitlan, the White House claimed that the president's reaction was due to House Speaker Pelosi accusing him of engaging in a cover- up.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they say it was that comment that she made this morning that upended that meeting for the ages that only lasted minutes today, and they're blaming her squarely for why these talks blew up.

But Democrats say that they believe it's actually because the White House didn't have a plan for infrastructure in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): The president's anger was obvious the minute he marched into the Rose Garden.

TRUMP: I walk in to look at people that had just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don't do cover-ups.

COLLINS: He had just blown up scheduled talk on infrastructure with Democrats after hours earlier the House speaker accused him of hiding something.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.

COLLINS: Sources tell CNN Trump erupted when he heard Pelosi's claim, but told his aides not to cancel their meeting.

TRUMP: I came here to do a meeting.

COLLINS: Instead, sources said Trump entered the Cabinet meeting without shaking a single Democrat's hands, and lashed out at them declaring he won't work with them until their investigations are over.

TRUMP: I told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it, but you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.

COLLINS: Democrats said they were shocked by the president's behavior.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop.

COLLINS: But they voiced skepticism that this was all last-minute.

SCHUMER: It's clear this was not a spontaneous move on the president's part. It was planned.

COLLINS: The Senate minority leader pointing to this sign printed and posted on the presidential lectern as proof that Trump staged the whole thing.

SCHUMER: When we got in the room, the curtains were closed, and, of course, then he went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting.

COLLINS: Pelosi suggested Trump used her comments as an excuse to get out of finding a way to pay for a $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

SCHUMER: Hello? There were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met. And he still met with us.

COLLINS: Despite the showdown, Democrats say the investigations will go on.

PELOSI: This president is obstructing justice, and he's engaged in a cover-up. And that could be an impeachable offense.

COLLINS: Talks in Washington about impeachment have intensified in recent days and clearly rattled the president.

TRUMP: The I-word. Can you imagine?

PELOSI: I pray for the president of the United States, and I pray for the United States of America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, the president said he refuses to work with Democrats until they stop investigating him.

[16:05:00]

But it's unclear how sustainable that even is, because some of these investigations could take months, potentially even years. And, of course, there are a slew of budget and funding deadlines that are approaching pretty quickly.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

And let's talk about that right now with our experts.

Sara Murray, as Phil Mattingly pointed out, Capitol Hill folks are now trying to find out what this means. We still -- we have the U.S.- Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which the administration has called its legislative priority, which they need Democratic votes for budget caps, the debt ceiling, where some progress had been made yesterday.

Disaster aid, Congress wanted to finish that this week. Is he just not going to sign anything? I mean, what does this mean exactly?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The thing about being the president of the United States is that you have to keep doing your job.

So, he may be very upset that these investigations are continuing, and he's decided to sort of make this big statement. But I don't know what kind of reelection pitch it is to go into 2020 and say, like, oh, you know, we just failed to extend the debt ceiling, we just failed to pass any budget bills. I just decided that I'm not going to do anything for the rest of my term because Democrats are investigating me, which, by the way, a judge just said last week that Congress can investigate you. They're well within bounds to investigate you.

Another judge is looking at that today.

I do think that this is going to set both sides up for an awkward standoff. We saw them play a game of chicken, the president and Nancy Pelosi, a previous round. So we may be in for another one of those. But I don't know what kind of reelection pitch it is to just say, I'm not going to do my job anymore.

TAPPER: You worked in the George H.W. Bush White House. You worked for the vice president.

You worked for Bill Clinton.

As I recall, both of them were being investigated at multiple times by the opposite party controlling Congress. And you still did work, right? You still signed laws, and still, even if you didn't like the investigations?

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: That was another country, a long, long time ago, a long time ago.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That was back when America was great.

KRISTOL: I don't know.

One thing that you mentioned the previous time they didn't succeed in getting to a deal, there was the shutdown. I think Trump thinks he didn't pay much of a price of that.

And to be honest, do we think he did in terms of the long-term effects in the polls? He's not perfectly straight.

He's about where he was before the shut down, but -- and he may just think, you know what? He hasn't had much of a price for all of his irresponsibility, all the things that people like me think you cannot do, you should not do if you're president of the United States.

And he figures he will test this out, he will see if he can rally his troops. He will see if some Democrats blink. Why not? It is mind- bogglingly both irresponsible and dishonest. As Chuck Schumer was saying, he had these signs printed out already.

TAPPER: Yes.

KRISTOL: I do love infrastructure week. I want to say, every time they say it's going to be infrastructure week, we know there's going to be like something interesting happen. Right?

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: People are hurting. And a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump are hurting.

Go -- I don't know that -- I don't think we covered enough the Upper Midwest is buried in water. It's flooding, like we haven't seen since 1993. And they're hurting.

And a lot of those people voted for Donald Trump. They're terrific people. They're good Americans. They pay their taxes. They need help.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: And they need their president to work with their Congress to get them the help they need.

This is not a game or reality show, Mr. President. This is reality. And good people are suffering because of what you're threatening to do.

TAPPER: And Democrats have said, Laura, that one of the reasons they think this happened is because Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, hates the idea of any sort of $2 trillion infrastructure deal. He doesn't want to spend that money, doesn't want to give the Democrats any sort of a victory, even if President Trump gets to share in it.

So this was just a way to get out of it.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, POLITICO: And, again, that could be right. He's not the only one, right?

Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate, doesn't want that either, and I'm pretty positive McCarthy doesn't want a $1 trillion deal on infrastructure as well, because, as you mentioned, it would also be a win for Pelosi, not just the president.

That means that I did see some reports, initially after their blowup, nonexistent meeting, that some administration officials said that they still are going to try to work with Democrats on the budget caps and on the must-pass bills, not -- that's not infrastructure, and that's not, you know, other maybe deals that they want to pass, but on the budget caps and on spending deals, it looks like the president will still be talking to Democrats.

TAPPER: Was it a mistake -- just to put yourself in the president's shoes, was it a mistake for Nancy Pelosi to accuse him of a cover-up, which is ramping up the rhetoric out of her mouth, not everybody's mouth, but out of her mouth, minutes before she goes to the White House?

KRISTOL: I don't know if it was a mistake. The president could have said, it's not true, and then he could have gone ahead, but you know what, I'm going to govern anyway.

That would have, I think, been rather effective politically, but again I'm living -- maybe I'm living in the 1980s or the 1990s, I don't know.

TAPPER: An alternative universe?

MURRAY: But he -- the president does have the ability to do that when he wants to.

He's the kind of guy who could have looked at Nancy Pelosi and said, hah, you said some like very unfortunate things about me, but like let's go move this behind closed doors and hash out this infrastructure plan.

But it's pretty clear that she gets under his skin, and he reacts. And I think that's what we saw today.

TAPPER: And three weeks ago, they sat down, Pelosi, Schumer, and the president, when Mick Mulvaney was out of town, and they had a good, productive meeting about infrastructure.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right.

TAPPER: And it's not as though calls for the president's impeachment or investigations into him started today. They have been going on for months.

[16:10:03]

BARRON-LOPEZ: No, they have.

But I think the president probably noticed that there is a shift going on, on Capitol Hill right now. And there is. I have spoken to a number of members, and it's very noticeable the increase in the number of Democrats -- and I'm not just talking far-left progressives, but even some of the front-line members -- who are starting to say, oh, I think I may need to get on board with this impeachment inquiry.

Or we need to do something. We can't just be sitting here and watching as they stonewall everything. So I think that's why the president orchestrated this.

TAPPER: Interesting.

Everyone, stick around. Next, we are going to talk to one lawmaker who was inside the meeting

with Nancy Pelosi that prompted the House speaker to say that President Trump engaged in a -- quote -- "cover-up."

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Breaking news now: a ruling just moments ago in a case where a federal judge is considering whether Congress can have access to President Trump's financial records from two banks.

[16:15:03] This may be a second major loss for President Trump when it comes to the question of whether or not he has to turn over sensitive financial information to the Congress investigating him.

I want to bring in CNN's Cristina Alesci.

Cristina, what did the judge say?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNNMONEY AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the judge is still reading and going to potentially give us some more information. But it appears at this point that he is not going to stand in the way of a congressional subpoena to two of President Trump's banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, Deutsche Bank, one of his largest lenders and Capital One where the president and certain family members have accounts. This is a blow -- another blow to the president in his attempts to keep his financial information private.

The judge in this case seems to be buying the congressional argument that it has the power to investigate the president, and also that it is not bound by financial privacy laws. This was an argument that the Trump attorneys were making in court. It was the same argument they made in Washington, D.C.

As you pointed out, this is the second major loss for the Trump lawyers. That said, they could appeal this decision as they did in the Washington, D.C. court.

TAPPER: Of course, they will. I'm sure that they will appeal. Cristina Alesci, thank you so much.

Joining me right now, Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean from the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She serves on the Judiciary Committee. She's called for the impeachment of President Trump. She's also on the Financial Services Committee, which is one of the committees asking for President Trump's financial records from these banks.

Congresswoman, first, your reaction to the news that this judge is not going to stand in the way of congressional subpoenas of these records, financial records of the Trumps.

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): I'm pleased and I'm not surprised. And I'm learning the reporting through you. So thank you for that. I've been in a judiciary hearing where we're doing the markup on a very important bill, the DACA bill.

But I did talk with Chairwoman Waters this morning and have learned, you know, over the course of my relationship with her how she has been for the last two years attempting to get information from both Deutsche Bank and Capital One about what appears to be very irregular banking transactions with Trump and the Trump Organizations.

So I'm pleased and I'm not surprised. It was the right ruling and I won't be surprised that the president and his administration and his personal minions will appeal because they're doing everything in their power to stonewall.

TAPPER: And what are you looking for in these financial records? I mean, the president, I'm sure, has referred to it as a fishing expedition. Is there something that you know is there? Or are you just looking to see what is?

DEAN: Some of the indications are through the direct testimony of Michael Cohen, who indicated that the president either inflated or deflated assets or holdings or liabilities according to his wish and whim. We also know that many other banks simply wouldn't deal with the Trump Organization any longer. Apparently, Deutsche Bank was willing to take those risks.

But I wait to see. I don't prejudge it. I wait to see what is in the records.

But again, take a look at the numbers of committees of oversight who are looking for constitutional oversight of this administration and take a look at the extraordinary clash and the extraordinary stonewalling of this administration, not understanding that we are a co-equal branch of government and we have a constitutional obligation. It's our duty. This is not some fishing expedition that we think is fun. This is our congressional institution to get at the truth and say that no man, no matter how high he goes, is above the law.

TAPPER: Your reaction today from the threat from President Trump to no longer work with Democrats while these oversight investigations are going on. You're on the Judiciary Committee. What do you make of it all?

DEAN: Of course, again, I was with Speaker Pelosi before she went over to the White House with other leaders on the transportation package. I guess we all held out hope that this would be the one thing that the person who claims to be the greatest dealmaker in the world would want to be a part of for the good of the American people, for the good of our infrastructure investment that is so woefully needed, and I'm totally not surprised at the tantrum that the president pulled.

Imagine that, that this president held out and said, I will no longer talk to you, no longer negotiate for the good of the American people over the fact that we have oversight regulatory requirements. It's a tantrum. It is a cover-up sadly. This is a president trying to cover-up, because notice what he did

right afterwards. He went out to the Rose Garden in an impromptu, unplanned way, in his tantrum, apparently there was a sign there, "no collusion, no obstruction" of course, that is a false claim by this president and he knows it. It's a false claim by Attorney General Barr and he knows it. And it's a false claim by members of the other party on my committees. It's shocking.

The Mueller report says very clearly, A, we're not looking for collusion, because that's not a legally binding thing, and B, there was many pieces of evidence of obstruction of justice, directly by this president.

[16:20:01] If the Mueller report says no collusion, no obstruction, all the more reason that the president would have everybody come before us and wouldn't block Barr or Mueller or McGahn or anybody else and want us to see the full report because it's so exonerating.

The truth is, it's not exonerating. If you've read the report, it's not. The president and his minions are involved in a cover-up.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Madeleine Dean from the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I know you have to go to vote --

DEAN: We're voting.

TAPPER: -- on a few issues.

DEAN: I know that.

TAPPER: But please come back. We have lots more questions for you. Thanks so much for your time.

DEAN: Know that we're doing substantive work for the good of the American people. Thank you.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks, Congresswoman.

Coming up next, the Senate side. I'll talk with senator and presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. His take on impeaching the man he's trying to replace. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:25:26] TAPPER: We're back and we're following all the fallout of President Trump shutting down a meeting with congressional Democrats after the speaker of the House said she thinks Trump is involved in a cover-up. Now the question is, what happens next?

And joining me now is Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He just introduced a new proposal to generate up to $2.4 trillion in revenue over 10 years to pay for tuition-free public colleges and universities. It would be paid for on a new tax on the trading of stocks, bonds, and derivatives.

And, Senator, thanks so much for joining us. I want to ask your proposal at length, but I do have to ask you about

today's developments. Do you think it was a mistake at all for Speaker Pelosi to accuse President Trump of a cover-up minutes before she and the congressional Democrats headed to the House to try to discuss an infrastructure program with the president?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think it is rather outrageous for the president of the United States to go storming out of the meeting, where we're trying to deal with our crumbling infrastructure and creating millions of decent-paying jobs. And I know we have a president who is so sensitive, who attacks people, who humiliates people ever single day. And if he can't take a little bit of criticism, he should think twice about being president of the United States.

But we have some important work to do in this country. Our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our waste party are falling apart. People don't have clean drinking water and it's time we address that problem. And I'm sorry that this president is quite so sensitive, but I hope he can deal with it.

TAPPER: You have said in the past that talk of impeachment in your view works to President Trump's advantage. Do you think the president has engaged in a cover-up, as Pelosi says?

SANDERS: Well, I think is -- you know, I don't know. It's obviously very hard to get into the president's mind. I think you have somebody, what can I say, who is a pathological liar, somebody who says one thing one day and something different the next day.

But I think, you know, what -- and to be very honest with you, Jake, I am not sure that this president may not want to be impeached. He may think that it works for him politically. I don't know that, but it wouldn't shock me.

I think he is a 100 percent political animal. He doesn't spend a whole lot of time worrying about health care or education, certainly not about climate change. So I don't know what goes on in his mind.

But I think if he continues to not understand the Constitution of the United States, the separation of powers, the fact that the Congress has every right to subpoena and it is the job of the administration to attend the hearings that the Congress is calling, if he doesn't understand that, it may well be time for an impeachment inquiry to begin, where the Judiciary Committee begins to determine whether or not there are grounds for impeachment.

Now, when my concern has been, is that this country faces so many problems. You know, 43 million people without any health insurance, young people who can't afford to go to college, massive student debt. You've got the climate change crisis. We have massive levels of income and wealth inequality.

We have all of these issues out there. And the American people, frankly, want us to address the issues of half of America working paycheck to paycheck. The rich getting richer. They want taxation reform.

And, you know, the worry is if we spend all of our time worrying about Trump and we ignore the needs of the American people, what ordinary folks are going to say, what about us? You're worried about Trump, what about worrying about us?

But, you know, I do understand where House members are coming from. And you've got this guy who is refusing to respect the Constitution, equal powers, and is rejecting ifs for members of the administration to come forward. So you know, I think it may be time at least to begin the process through the Judiciary Committee to determine whether or not there are impeachment proceedings.

But at the same time, Jake, and this I feel strongly about, the House has got to continue going forward, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, making sure that all of our people have health care, dealing with climate change, dealing with voter suppression. If all we talk about is Trump, Trump, Trump, I think he benefits.

TAPPER: Let's turn to these policy issues, specifically, the new proposal you just announced, the Inclusive Prosperity Act, where you want to tax a fraction of a percent on Wall Street stocks, bonds, derivative trades, spend that on revenue for tuition-free higher public education.

How is this any different from your 2017 College For All Act?

SANDERS: Well, it is different. And, by the way, we are going to introduce a new program, which will call for making public colleges and universities tuition free, so that anybody in this country, regardless of their income who has the desire and the ability can get a higher education, college or trade schools.

[16:30:00]