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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi Abortion Law; Dem Candidates Up Appearances Over Long Weekend; Race for New U.K. Prime Minister Is On After May Resigns; WAPO: Trump Pushes For GOP Donor's Firm To Get Wall Contract; Hundreds Celebrate Special Bond With Mailman On His Retirement. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 24, 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] ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. This federal judge, he has blocked for now Mississippi's law that bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. That's as early as six weeks, as times. This is Judge Carlton Reeves.

He wrote in his opinion that this law threatens immediate harm to women's rights, especially considering most women do not seek abortion services until after six weeks.

Jake, this law is a part of this new wave of laws that are being introduced by Republican-led states across the country. They feel emboldened by President Trump, who just last weekend, tweeted that he was strongly pro-life. This judge ruled very quickly, you only heard arguments in this earlier in the week.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And the same judge, I believe, called an earlier version of Mississippi's abortion ban, which would block abortion at 15 weeks, unconstitutional.

So, why would lawmakers then gook and pass an even stricter law?

DE VOGUE: Right, Jake. In court, this judge was pretty incredulous about this, but it was only a few months ago that he did strike down that 15-week ban. And the state came back and responded with this more strict regulation.

I think in court, he said something like, that smacks here of thumbing their noses at these lower courts who are looking at this. But the judge said the legislature's passage during the pendency of the legislation compels the court to make the following observation. If there's no medical evidence to prove that fetus is viable at 15 weeks, there isn't at six weeks. That's how he ended it. So, that's the opinion today.

TAPPER: All right. Ariane de Vogue, thanks so much.

Abortion rights have been a much discussed topic on the 2020 campaign trail. And this weekend, Democratic candidates may be asked about it again as they blitz the United States. Take a look: 13 campaign events on just Saturday. On Sunday, many candidates are going to flood the early states of Iowa. New Hampshire will be the focus for other candidates on Monday. CNN's Leyla Santiago reports on what issues will come up in the three-

day campaign push.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, Bedford!

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heading into the holiday weekend, you'll see a little of this, and a little of that on the campaign trail as candidates target voters through policy.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to ease the financial burden on families who have children.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No voter ought to be able to vote for people who won't stand up to defeat climate change.

SANTIAGO: And geography.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My family comes from Iowa. My grandmother is from Des Moines.

SANTIAGO: Some are getting an early start in early voting states. But over the long weekend, this is what you'll see: 2020 Democratic candidates spread out throughout the country. As President Trump travels to Japan, the crowded field of Democrats will make the case for who should go up against him next year.

BOOKER: If I'm president of the United States, the last thing you'll say for the first part of your question is, I will make sure we will judiciously use American might and we don't do foreign policy by tweet for crying out loud.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we need less chaos and more reasoned leadership, which is why I'm running for president.

SANTIAGO: Vermont senator Bernie Sanders video today highlighting his record as Burlington mayor ahead of his home state kickoff rally tomorrow.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think this revolution is going to happen overnight.

SANTIAGO: As his support has slipped in some recent polls, Sanders is also calling out the front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, in an email, saying Biden's fund-raising efforts are not grassroots events, adding, he needs more donations if, quote, we have any chance of catching up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO: And that email not really changing the vice president's ways. He has another big fund-raiser, much like the ones he's already held. This one coming up June 5th in Massachusetts.

TAPPER: All right. Leyla Santiago, covering the candidates for us.

Everyone, take a look at this fund-raising email from Senator Bernie Sanders' team, taking something of a swipe at Joe Biden, saying: It's going to be hard to catch up with Joe Biden's fund-raising, he's raising huge sums of money at large fund-raising events all across the country. And these are not grassroots fund-raising efforts.

Interesting.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So interesting, on the heels of reports that apparently Senator Sanders is now going to allow larger donors to come to what they're calling grassroots events, but they're going to be live streamed and if those people want to give big dollars, that's OK and they'll get face time. It's kind of an interesting way to split hairs around fund-raising dollars and it shows how hard it's going to be, particularly in this second round of fund-raising, where most people, they tapped their list at least one, trying to raise from the same donors and convince people that they're the ones who cannot only beat Trump, but can beat Biden.

TAPPER: And the obvious argument from the very beginning is that Bernie Sanders and his supporters are saying Joe Biden is a tool of corporate interests.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's what they're saying and hitting him on all sorts of different things -- his support of NAFTA, the Iraq war, a lot of things from the 1990s, given the age of both men.

[16:35:04] But I think focusing --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Things from the 1970s -- 1970s, his opposition to busing.

LERER: Right, his opposition to busing. But I think by focusing on Biden, Senator Sanders may be missing a little bit of the real target, which is that you see in all of these polls, Elizabeth Warren really creeping up on him, particularly when they poll voters who identify as extremely liberal. You see her numbers ticking up, his numbers ticking down.

TAPPER: And in fact, take a look at this, Mary Katharine. Sanders' support polling at 15 percent among Democratic voters. Last month, he was at 20 percent. March, 25 percent. Like Beto O'Rourke, his numbers are trending in the wrong direction.

Should he be paying more attention to Liz Warren?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, well, because Biden has his own lane, essentially. And Bernie is going to end up sharing his with someone. So he has to fight this two-front war.

But I am enjoying this, because you have to go after the front-runner. Republicans learned that last time the hard way. They all left Donald Trump alone and he kept rising. But this is like an old-timey boxing match now. Twirling their mustaches and circle each other, it's great.

TAPPER: Wearing those full Speedos.

All right. Everyone, stick around. Ryan, we'll get to you first next time.

She's bowing out. Theresa May announcing her exit over Brexit and a very Trumpian candidate might be taking her place.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:43] TAPPER: Our world lead now. Theresa May is heading out and now the race to replace the British prime minister is on, with many eyes turning to perhaps the most Trumpian candidate, former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Johnson largely seen as one of the biggest backers of Brexit in the U.K. He's a man Trump has praised repeatedly in the past.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo now has more on the question of whether Johnson's grassroots fight will be enough to push him to be the U.K.'s next leader.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It has been the honor of my life to serve the country I love.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An emotional retreat, as Theresa May finally bows to intense political pressure from within her own party and announces she'll shortly step down.

Her tenure may be characterized by a single issue and a single word, Brexit.

MAY: They decided that we should leave the European Union.

NOBILO: May put her proposed Brexit deal to a vote on three occasions. It was rejected by the House every time, by devastating margins, reflecting a political system in stalemate and a nation divided.

MAY: I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.

NOBILO: Britain's leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, tweeted his approval, saying she was right to resign.

JEREMY CORBYN, U.K. LABOUR LEADER: She was offering what had already been put on the table. Yes, we want to prevent a no-deal Brexit. And we will do everything in parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit. But the reality is, a new conservative leader isn't going to solve the problem. NOBILO: May's announcement ignites a frantic race to secede her.

Boris Johnson, the former secretary whose personality politics have been compared to Donald Trump command significant support among grassroots members of the party to replace May.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Boris Johnson I think would be a great prime minister.

NOBILO: Johnson bitterly opposed a withdrawal deal that May negotiated with the E.U. and resigned from her cabinet over it. On Friday, he described May's statement as dignified and said, it is now time for her to follow her urgings, to come together and deliver Brexit.

BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Brexit is unstoppable --

NOBILO: May's failure to unite her party or garner enough cross-party support behind her deal proved her undoing. Her successor will seek to find consensus where she could not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBILO: All the focus has shifted, now, Jake, to who is going to be living in the building behind me in a month or so time. And it's a fitting sign of the political times and the instability here in the U.K. that the man to beat, Boris Johnson, is a political maverick, a so-called friend of Trump's, and a man who once said there was a greater chance of finding Elvis on Mars than him becoming prime minister.

Back to you.

TAPPER: All right. Bianca Nobilo in London, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

President Trump is pushing for a major deal for a Republican donor, according to a new report. So whatever happened to draining the swamp?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to drain the swamp. Drain the swamp. We're going to drain the swamp of Washington.

When it comes to Washington D.C., it is time to drain the damn swamp.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It has been empirically evident for years now that President Trump has not drained the swamp. He has merely welcomed a number of Trump friendly critters to it. Sources telling The Washington Post today that President Trump continues to push for the company of a Republican donor to get a contract to build the border wall.

And as CNN's Alex Marquardt now reports, the donors making his case directly to President Trump via his favorite T.V. network.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was inside the Oval Office and a meeting on Thursday that the president stated his demands. He didn't like the design of the walls gates, the Washington Post reported. They should be manually operated French doors instead.

And the president repeatedly urged according to The Post that a specific company be given contracts by the Pentagon and Army Corps of Engineers that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

TOMMY FISHER, PRESIDENT, FISHER INDUSTRIES: I don't think anyone can build the quality that we can build in the time that we can build it in.

MARQUARDT: That company Fisher Industries is run by Tommy Fisher, a Republican donor who has appeared on Fox News.

FISHER: We're here to do exactly what we came to is deliver border security for every single American a week and prove it works.

MARQUARDT: The President may have noticed talking about Fisher on his favorite network seemingly attracted to the company by their assurances of being cheaper and faster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if you heard about this contractor that said he can build the whole wall for a lot cheaper than anybody else and get it done by 2020. Are you aware of that?

TRUMP: Yes, I am dealing with him actually. It's Fisher, comes from North Dakota, recommended strongly by a great new senator as you know Kevin Cramer.

MARQUARDT: North Dakota senator Kevin Cramer took Fisher to this year's State of the Union. Fisher and his wife had donated more than $10,000 to Cramer Senate campaign. In an interview with The Post, Cramer says that Trump always brings them up, noting that he's talked to the president twice about Fisher including yesterday.

The Army Corps of Engineers has passed over Fisher's bid for one part of the wall because it didn't meet the operational requirements, an Army official told the post, but they are still in the mix for other parts of the $5 billion in contracts for the wall.

To make their case, this week, Fisher said he's using private donations to build a small section of the wall in New Mexico to show off supposedly superior construction techniques.

FISHER: We'll prove it and a half mile stretch where they said it couldn't be built.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [16:50:48] MARQUARDT: Jake, the White House says this is all about speed and cost telling the Post that the president is one of the country's most successful builders. He wants to make sure we get the job done under budget and ahead of schedule. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks so much. Ryan, the White House is not denying the story. They just say the President is pushing this company because he thinks he thinks it would be a good company to do it. They'll get it done under budget and ahead of schedule. But still, he's pushing this company.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's pushing this company. And look the Army Corps of Engineers has rules and regulations and to ensure fair bidding process. So these guys have learned how you sort of -- how to become a sort of grifter and scam artist in the age of Trump.

You go on Fox News so you get the President's attention because everyone knows the President watches Fox News all -- a good part of the day.

TAPPER: All day.

LIZZA: And you reach out to -- you don't even have to hire lobbyists, like the traditional corporate lobbyists, aren't even you know, it isn't even what you need to do. You just need to know Fox bookers.

And then you reach out to some of the people in the -- in the periphery of the -- of the president's circle, maybe you put them on a board or you get -- you have a connection to the president, and suddenly you have a hearing and you have the president whose attention strays from issue to issue suddenly telling you know, this obscure department in the government give this guy a chance.

TAPPER: Well, you're not being very charitable to Mr. Fisher. Let me just say, he's trying to get business and he wants this done.

LIZZA: I'm not saying he did anything illegal. I'm just saying these are the -- this is the new swamp --

TAPPER: Yes, I get it. I get it.

LIZZA: This is the new swamp.

TAPPER: But my only point is like he's not a grifter necessarily, he's just trying to get business but boy, I mean he's a big Republican donor. I can't imagine the scandal of President Obama was pushing for some big Chicago contractor to get some job like --

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, big donor, well- connected, that doesn't sound like cleaning the swamp. That sounds like playing by you know, your own set of rules, all the things that Trump said he wasn't going to do, the same week by the way, that Democrats are saying he's covering things up and we're talking about obstruction of justice and we're talking about -- I mean this actually feeds into that narrative. And to your point, they're not even denying it. I'm sure there are plenty --

TAPPER: Well, they're not covering it up.

FINNEY: They're not covering it up.

TAPPER: But this is -- this isn't draining the swamp.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I say, go on and just make it shark tank the wall. Everybody pitches, we all see it on T.V.

LIZZA: Don't say that.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: I don't think he's watching.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Also beyond the obvious swampiness of the thing and the sort of potential what feels like corruption really, there's also this question that is this constant source of sort of wonderment in Washington which is how the President spends his time.

We know he spends it watching Fox News, but apparently he also spends it micromanaging contracting processes that yes are cumbersome and yes perhaps don't encourage innovation. Those critiques may have some validity but they're there for a reason which is exactly to stop this kind of thing. But doesn't the president have other bigger things to deal with than suggesting contractors?

HAM: But this is what he likes and this is what he feels he know.

TAPPER: Construction.

HAM: Like this is his ground and he wants to fight on the ground.

LERER: I mean, there's lots of things -- it's infrastructure week.

HAM: I like -- I like the gumption of like just going to build it privately and I like doing all things privately without government money so I like that. And it may end up that they're the right company, just go through the right process.

TAPPER: All right, everyone thanks so much. I hope you all have meaningful weekends this Memorial Day weekend. A special delivery for a mail carrier who changed an entire community. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Finally from us this week in our "NATIONAL LEAD," Floyd Martin has been delivering mail in Marietta, Georgia, for nearly 35 years. When Mr. Martin retired this week, the community came together to celebrate, a sendoff that went viral thanks to the tweets and coverage of Jennifer Bret of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

May Bollington looks up to Floyd, at age three even dressed up as Floyd for career day. 87-year-old Dorene Hemp has been on Floyd's route since day one. Dementia has set in and her vision has weakened but she always remembers Floyd. As he drove along his mail route one last time, Floyd was greeted by signs, some familiar faces, he even picked up some packages of his own, some presents.

And when his shift came to a final end, more than 300 people sent him into retirement with a block party where Floyd Martin shared some parting words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLOYD MARTIN, RETIRING MAIL CARRIER: What the world needs more of now is love and caring and compassion and taking care of one another. You know, I don't know where we'd all sleep, but you guys have shown it, and I thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Love and compassion, something Floyd and those on his route have plenty of, something that the world could use more of. Tune in this Sunday morning to "STATE OF THE UNION." We're going to talk to Republican Senator Joni Ernst and democratic 2020 candidate New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. It's at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern this Sunday. Have a meaningful Memorial Day and Memorial Day weekend. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

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