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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Announces Farmer Bailout to Offset China Trade War; Pelosi vs. Trump; New Monmouth Poll: 33 Percent of Dem Voters Support Biden; 2020 Candidates Grapple with Whether to Talk Impeachment. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 23, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. And you're watching CNN.

"THE LEAD" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump just said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a legislator for decades, does not understand a bill.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Point of no return? The vicious feud between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hitting another low, as Pelosi says President Trump is practically begging to be impeached, as are many in her party, one might note.

She's not old enough to be president, but she could be the most important endorsement in the Democratic race. How 2020 Democrats are now fighting to get the AOC seal of approval.

Plus, the president's trade war with China now sticking Americans with another multibillion-dollar bill to pay. One of the president's top advisers is here to try to sell you on that.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

We start with some breaking news in a controversial announcement by President Trump, who just minutes ago detailed a $16 billion bailout for farmers who have been significantly hurt by his trade war with China, a bailout that you, the taxpayer, of course, are funding, despite President Trump's claims that China is paying for all of this.

Also today, that ugly showdown between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi getting even uglier.

Just moments ago, President Trump responding after Speaker Pelosi claimed that the White House is crying out for Democrats to impeach the president, but insisting Democrats will not take the bait, despite the calls from 35 of her members to do just that. The House speaker then suggested President Trump's pledge that he will

not work with Democrats until they end their investigations into him was a temper tantrum and urged the president's staff and family to stage a -- quote -- "intervention" for the good of the country.

As CNN's Abby Phillip reports, members of the Trump team, including the president, are responding with some harsh words of their own.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Oh, yes. Oh, there is no question. The White House is just crying out for impeachment.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi locked in a war of words with President Trump for a second day in a row. Trump tweeting that: "Democrats are getting nothing done in Congress. All of their effort is about a re-do of the Mueller report, which didn't turn out the way they wanted."

This coming one day after the president abruptly called off talks with Democrats over infrastructure after Pelosi accused him of being engaged in a cover-up.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I just saw that Nancy Pelosi just before our meeting made a statement that we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up. I don't do cover-ups.

PHILLIP: But Pelosi isn't backing down. Privately, the House speaker telling her fellow Democrats that Trump wants to be impeached and "his actions are villainous to the Constitution of the United States" and publicly ratcheting up the rhetoric.

PELOSI: And now this time another temper tantrum. Again, I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.

PHILLIP: White House aides now claiming Democrats are too focused on impeachment to legislate.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Nancy Pelosi's problem is that she's totally lost control of her party. She's got the far left wing telling her who to do, maybe some of the moderates that actually want to get something done.

PHILLIP: After the Rose Garden theatrics at the White House on Wednesday, Trump now denying he was raging about Pelosi's comments, tweeting: "I was extremely calm yesterday with my meeting with Pelosi and Schumer."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: And, Jake, as we speak, President Trump is speaking to reporters and making it clear that Nancy Pelosi seems to have successfully pushed quite a few of his buttons. He, unprompted, brought her up as he was talking about the USMCA trade

deal, saying that it was too complicated for her to understand. He later went on to respond to her -- her belief that the White House staff ought to intervene with President Trump, and saying that she's a mess.

He says, "She's disintegrating before our eyes."

So things are getting pretty messy and pretty personal here at the White House between President Trump and Nancy Pelosi, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks so much.

Let's chat about this with the experts.

So, President Trump just minutes ago saying -- suggesting that Nancy Pelosi isn't smart enough to understand legislation, saying that she doesn't get it, she doesn't understand this bill that is supposed to replace NAFTA.

I mean, she did say something personal about him earlier in the day, accusing him of a temper tantrum, saying his family and staff need to stage an intervention. It is just getting really personal.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, this isn't about trade. This isn't about the USMCA.

She really offended him this time. And she has a way, more so than any other politician I can think of at the moment, of really getting under his skin. And he can't -- for some reason, he can't move it. Maybe it's because she's calm. Maybe it's because of how she does it. But...

[16:05:12]

TAPPER: Maybe it's because she's a woman.

KUCINICH: Maybe because she's a woman.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And speaker.

KUCINICH: But here's the thing. Unlike other politicians that have come up against him, she doesn't have the nickname.

He hasn't yet. Maybe we will see. This could be the tipping point, right? But he does seem to respect her in a way. And perhaps that's why he's so mad.

CARPENTER: I mean, but this isn't about name-calling and trade, as you pointed out.

It is about impeachment. And what's interesting to me is, why does Trump want to have this fight now? He is trying to goad them there. Please is trying to ramp it back. And I think that makes sense for Pelosi, because there are still outstanding referrals going through the courts. Just today, the Southern District unveiled an indictment against somebody that tried to bribe their way into a Trump administration job. And there's more than a dozen of those still hanging out. So why wouldn't they wait to let this work through the courts and say, OK, at that point, we're going to review all that material, and then have a big heaping impeachment pile that has already been proven in court?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I think part of this issue to me is, everyone around that table yesterday before he stormed out calmly, as he put it, they all have taken an oath of office.

And so even if you're under investigation for wrongdoing, which is clear, even if there are things that you don't like about what's happening in Congress, you have an obligation as a grownup to cooperate, to move things down the field.

You have an election that you're going to have to run in short order. You have hired campaign staff. Get some more marks on the board. You have infrastructure. It is an obviously super-bipartisan opportunity, because people want to stay safe on the highways and byways.

CARPENTER: This is the only time Republicans and Democrats can't come together to spend $2 trillion. It's really incredible.

RYE: It is.

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: But we also have to acknowledge that Nancy Pelosi has her own sort of political issue, this sort of rising noise among her caucus to pursue impeachment.

TAPPER: About three dozen of our members. Yes.

WARREN: That's right.

And even some rumblings among the more moderate members that maybe this is something they're hearing about from their constituents more. And I think she's trying to sort of slow that down by goading the president into something.

And really it is a political statement and a bit of a political stunt on her part to sort of do that, because it's something that isn't actually that substantive to get into a tiff with the president. But it does show her caucus she doesn't want to pursue impeachment at this exact moment, but she is fighting him.

KUCINICH: She just needs to get everyone out of town.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Right.

So, we have the sound.

This is President Trump attacking Nancy Pelosi just a few minutes ago, and when he refers to the USMCA. Is that what it's called? The -- that's basically the new trade deal to replace NAFTA.

It's a big part of President Trump's agenda. He really wants it to pass. And he really needs Speaker Pelosi to shepherd it through the House. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're nice to her because they really -- she's a mess.

Look, let's face it, she doesn't understand it. And they sort of feel she's disintegrating before their eyes. She does not understand it. They want to have her understand it before it's finished, it's signed. As you know, Mexico's approved the deal. Canada has approved the deal.

And they're waiting to get a signal for her. Now, I would say this. The farmers should start talking to the Democrats in the House. The Senate is ready to approve it, the Republican Senate. But the Democrat House is not.

Pelosi does not understand the bill. She doesn't understand it, even...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, just to put -- not to put too fine a point on it, but just to underline, President Trump needs Nancy Pelosi here.

I mean, he -- this is an important part of the agenda. I think she asked for two weeks to review the bill, which is not that unusual in Washington, D.C.

KUCINICH: No, major trade bill.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But it needs to go through the House. And they need Democrats to pass it.

This doesn't seem, strategically, all that wise.

KUCINICH: He doesn't really play the long game very well. And insulting Nancy Pelosi's intelligence, maybe it makes him feel better in the short-term, but, in the long term, yes, he still has to deal with these people.

And there's not consensus with Republicans on this bill yet. So you can't blame Nancy Pelosi for everything. He's -- this is about politics with him. It's not about actually how functionally this is going to or will not -- could or could not happen.

He's just trying to make himself look like the victim.

TAPPER: And he already yesterday basically took ownership, in the same way he did for the government shutdown, took ownership for the gridlock. "I am not going to do anything with them until they stop their investigations."

Most adults realize that the House does investigations of the president, especially if they are of different parties, and that's just how it's been forever, for better or for worse.

Again, that doesn't seem strategically all that wise. And I'm not saying Nancy Pelosi is blameless in this at all.

CARPENTER: Yes, I mean, but this is how Trump negotiates. He raises the stakes. He goes by bullying and brinksmanship. If he has a problem, he says, OK, I'm going to make your life worse.

[16:10:00]

But I do think that particular threat was very strategically ill- advised. He's essentially saying, drop your investigation, or I won't give you the money.

What? That, to me, just reads like another charge for obstruction of justice. Put that on the pile, because he's saying, drop this or I won't work you.

I mean, that is a straight-up threat. And I'm surprised the Democrats haven't made more of it.

TAPPER: Angela, I really want to know what you think about this.

So a source tells CNN that after President Trump walked out of that meeting with Democrats, Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president, asked Speaker Pelosi if she had a response to the president.

Pelosi told her that, as speaker of the House, she responds to the president. She doesn't respond to staff.

Kellyanne Conway accused Speaker Pelosi of thus not being pro-woman. And this is what she said, Kellyanne Conway, earlier today:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: She treats me as she might treat her maid or her pilots or her makeup artists or her wardrobe consultants on -- and all -- I told her, gee, it's so pro-woman of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: "She treats me as she might treat her maid or her pilots or her makeup artists or her wardrobe consultants. That's so pro-woman of you."

I don't -- what do you think? I mean, it sounds to me like I understand why a speaker would want to respond to the president, but not -- of any party, but not an adviser to the president. RYE: Yes.

So it's -- we have come a long way since Kellyanne used to be right here on set. And I don't know what's happened, but she has somehow forgotten the way politics works. As a former Hill staffer, I'm very clear there are members of Congress that want to speak member to member, and they certainly want to speak directly to the president.

There are some instances where they have to speak to the chief of staff. That's understandable. There are certain instances where they have to speak to a senior adviser designated over some policy issue.

But on something this major, it is reasonable to understand, after he stormed out, calmly, why she would want to make sure that we are at least good to move forward in any type of strategic negotiation.

For Kellyanne Conway to do this on air, I understand what exactly what she's doing. She's going right to Trump's base, showing that she's a limousine, elitist liberal with pilots and wardrobe consultants. She's playing right into that.

TAPPER: Right.

RYE: Mind you, she could have used one on that necklace, but I'm sorry, since we're being personal.

TAPPER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Cheap shot.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: Cheap shot, but it -- the necklace looked cute too.

But I'm just saying that, to the point, you have to understand your role. You're not advancing the president's agenda in any way by also taking shots at the speaker of the House.

That's not pro-woman either.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

President Trump says China will pay the bill for a bailout for farmers. But it turns out American taxpayers are going to pay this one, and they're going to pay the other one too.

And then she's not even old enough to run for president, but several 2020 candidates are embracing her. Is AOC the ticket to success for the Democratic nomination?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:46] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our 2020 lead now. A new poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden pulling away from the Democratic pack. A Monmouth University poll has 33 percent of Democratic voters nationally saying they back Biden. Bernie Sanders is the closest behind him with 15 percent support.

This is as some 2020ers are grappling with how to handle the growing fight over whether to impeach President Trump, given the majority of the American people as of now do not support impeachment, though, Democrats overwhelmingly do.

CNN's Arlette Saenz has more on what's at risk for candidates as impeachment talk hits the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): They're not at that place.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): While House Democrats continue to debate impeachment proceedings, the topic is something several Democrats running for president actually agree on.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's very clear that the president deserves impeachment, and the case for impeachment is being built each passing day by the White House.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that the process should begin to do an investigation, to determine ultimately whether impeachment should happen.

SAENZ: Senator Bernie Sanders was among those warning impeachment talk could work to President Trump's advantage. But he told Jake Wednesday on THE LEAD, he's now inching closer to supporting that path.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You got this guy who is refusing to respect the Constitution, equal powers and is rejecting requests for members of the administration to come forward. So, you know, I think it may be time, at least to begin the process.

SAENZ: While some candidates recommend bracing moving forward with impeachment, a few are also embracing New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, did you see "Game of Thrones" last night?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I did. I'm sad.

SAENZ: Senator Elizabeth Warren posting two videos this week with the progressive lawmaker. The latest, just this morning.

WARREN: We're teaming up today because we have some questions for Steve Mnuchin.

SAENZ: She's not the only 2020 hopeful teaming up with the first-term congresswoman. Sanders last week had his own show of force with Ocasio-Cortez.

SANDERS: Climate change is not a hoax, but is an existential threat to our country and the entire planet.

SAENZ: A new Monmouth University poll released today shows support for Sanders slipping since April, while Warren saw a slight uptick.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: Another poll released this week focused on that issue of impeachment. The poll found the majority of all voters oppose impeachment, while 74 percent of Democrats want President Trump to be impeached. Those figures showed just how tricky the issue is for these Democratic candidates as they balance the desires of their base with that of general electorate -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.

I want to get to the impeachment fight and fight for the Ocasio-Cortez endorsement. But there are three of the 23 Democrats running -- three of them are veterans. Seth Moulton is a combat veteran, and then there's Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard.

Take a listen to Pete Buttigieg talking about how -- attacking Trump basically for not serving the Vietnam War because Trump claimed at the time he had bone spurs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MODERATOR: Do you think he should have served in Vietnam?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I have a pretty dim view of his privilege status to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam.

[16:20:05] MODERATOR: You believe he faked a disability?

BUTTIGIEG: Do you believe he has a disability?

Yes. At least not that one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I mean, Trump is not the most athletic person in the world. But he does golf a lot. I'm not an expert on bone spurs.

Regardless of all that, wise decision for Buttigieg to do this? Not wise? I mean, at the end of the day, John Kerry was a war hero and, you know, you saw what the Republicans did to him.

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Right. I think he's on shaky ground there, sort of insinuating that president had a mental problem.

TAPPER: So that last bit there?

WARREN: That last --

TAPPER: Not that disability.

WARREN: That's right. I don't know. I think Buttigieg might be getting out over his skis a little bit there. But I think it is certainly a legitimate line of argument, especially from a veteran.

I think though your point about it is the Democratic primary, is it going go far? It is going to be an issue? I think this is something that a lot of Democrats are very frustrated with which is the sense that in the Republican Party, the party that has sort of aligned themselves with military and that sort of cause, that they have as their leader somebody who found these deferments.

You hear a lot of the stuff about bone spurs among Democratic primary voters. I think it's a big problem. It's one way to sort of show as a Democratic candidate that you'll take the fight.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One thing that is interesting about Pete Buttigieg in this club is that he's very reasonable sounding, cool, even handed. But he is really at his most vicious when he finds a way to contrast his personal experience against Republican. I think of the way he's gone after Mike Pence and gay rights. And here, he went after Trump based on his own military service. I think that's an interesting edge that he has that we'll see if he cultivates or not.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think with the personal attacks aside, he began that conversation talking about saying that Trump was hosting "The Apprentice" when I was packing my bags to go Afghanistan which is a fair point of contrast between someone who signed up for the military and someone who did not and got out of it.

WARREN: It's a generational contrast as well, right? All those Democrats who served in the military, they're all on the younger side. They're certainly not in the Joe Biden generation.

TAPPER: No, it's true.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think one of the other things that is significant about this primary and trying to find a silver lining with 9,000 people running on the Democratic side is you're getting to see what a serious, credible candidate looks like across the board. I think overall most of the candidates are even measured and have policy experience and are brilliant.

I think that is the most important thing in this point. Just look at that contrast. Forget the bone spurs. Look at the fact that he can put a sentence together that makes sense. His tweets don't have typos in them, like he's not regularly insulting people at least somebody has kind of taking aim at him. I think that's also significant contrast.

TAPPER: I will just say that if you look at the record of presidential candidates, the candidate with the better, more heroic war record usually has lost in the last 15 years. Not every time, but almost every time.

CARPENTER: Right, I do think we need more people in government, the highest levels of government because we've been wrapped in these wars for so long.

TAPPER: Sure.

CARPENTER: I think people, you know, our age, Pete Buttigieg's age, maybe that will matter more this time. I'm not saying Pete Buttigieg is going to make it over the edge. But my goodness, can we get someone with experience getting our country out of these messes? I'd like that.

TAPPER: And let me ask you about Ocasio-Cortez, because, you see, Bernie Sanders wants to do a video. Elizabeth Warren wants to do a video. They're going about "Game of Thrones".

What is going on here? I find it kind of amusing actually. I mean, is there any Democrat that doesn't want to do a video of Ocasio- Cortez?

RYE: Yes, I think there are. I think maybe Joe Biden would want her later.

TAPPER: Right.

RYE: But she's not going to do a Joe Biden --

CARPENTER: That could be the cringiest video ever, just for the record.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Do you think it will actually have effects?

RYE: Well, here's what I'm going to tell you. I think as much as people make light of who she is, how she represents herself, how she comes across, she is --

TAPPER: None of which I'm doing.

RYE: I'm not saying you, Jake.

TAPPER: OK, for the record.

RYE: This is not your Angela necklace moment. But I'm saying that this is exactly the type of elitist discussion that led Trump right through this passage way. So, I think it would be wise for us to determine what is it about AOC that resonates with folks? Why do people like her so much?

She makes politics more approachable to folks. So, even if they're not going to get her backing, they certainly have a lot to --

CARPENTER: I think that's why she would be crazy to endorse because she has so much power. If I were her, I'd be thinking about getting a big speech at the Democratic convention rather than making an endorsement.

RYE: I promise you she'll have a big speech.

TAPPER: Or at least holding off endorsement until it's really, really needed towards the end.

KUCINICH: But it's also who watches her, right? It's young people --

TAPPER: Yes.

[16:25:01] RYE: And older folks too. I know my dad loves AOC. There just something about her being unbought and unboxed, like -- Similar to Maxine Waters, similar to Shirley Chisholm. There are so many other folks.

CARPENTER: She is very watchable.

RYE: Yes.

TAPPER: Thanks, everyone.

Breaking news, the founder of WikiLeaks facing a barrage of new charges in the United States. Why this move could be controversial. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Breaking news in our world view, the Justice Department announcing more charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Let's get right to CNN's Laura Jarrett at the Justice Department.

Laura, what are the details of this indictment?