Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Defends North Korea Dictator Again; Will Republicans Push Back on Trump Tariffs?; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is Interviewed About Trump Tariff Threat to Mexico. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 5, 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: He says there is an affordability crisis in America and has introduced a plan modeled after a bill he previously introduced in the Senate that would give a credit to renters. He says it could lift almost 10 million people out of poverty.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I would rather hear from him about those who stormed the beaches, not the star of the movie "Beaches."

THE LEAD starts right now.

Republican revolt. GOP senators meeting after threatening to block the president's plan to punish Mexico with a trade war, but will Republicans actually cross Trump on his key issue?

Personal attacks and bald-faced lies. The president goes on an overnight Twitter tear, starring Bette Midler. Today, he said the U.S. has the cleanest, most crystal-clear water. The people of Flint would like a word about that.

Plus, 40 years in politics and the most to lose, 2020 Democratic candidates attacking the front-runner in the race. The new backlash for Biden's support of a measure to block federal funding of abortion.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the world lead and President Trump marking history and stirring controversy as he moves on to the second leg of his European tour. He's currently in Ireland. And in between meetings with Queen Elizabeth II and chatting with prime ministers, even amongst the serious tone of the commemorations of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, President Trump still taking time to personally insult his critics.

And whether you think it's unbecoming of the office, it's certainly discordant with the gravity of this week's Normandy remembrance, calling the top Democrat in the Senate a -- quote -- "creep" because Senator Schumer had suggested that the president was bluffing on his Mexican tariffs, tweeting that actress and singer and Trump critic Bette Midler is a -- quote -- "washed-up psycho."

Midler's offense was, she had shared a fake Trump quote on Twitter, even though she had already apologized for doing so before the president attacked her.

And while attacking them, the president also signaling that he's in the corner of -- wait for it -- the North Korean dictator, seeming to suggest that the reason that Kim Jong-un was inaccurately blamed for reported executions in his country is because Kim Jong-un is -- quote -- "strong," not because Kim Jong-un is a murderous thug.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a strong man. He's a strong person. And they like to blame Kim Jong-un immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: "They like to blame Kim Jong-un immediately."

CNN's Pamela Brown is traveling with the provocateur in chief across the pond.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wrapping his second official visit to the United Kingdom as president...

QUEEN ELIZABETH II, UNITED KINGDOM: It was great that you were able to come to this country again.

TRUMP: It was a great honor to be with you.

BROWN: President Trump and the first lady taking in one last event with the queen as she bid farewell.

TRUMP: Great woman. Great, great woman.

BROWN: While the president seemingly said the right things during formal events, he made waves in an interview with Piers Morgan.

PIERS MORGAN, TALK SHOW HOST: Do you personally believe in climate change?

TRUMP: I believe that there is a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways.

BROWN: Trump falsely equated climate with weather and said he believes the term climate change is basically just a marketing strategy.

TRUMP: So don't forget, it used to be called global warming. That wasn't working. Then it was called climate change. Now it's actually called extreme weather, because, with extreme weather, you can't miss. BROWN: Trump also setting the record straight regarding comments he

made about American actress Meghan Markle, now Britain's duchess of Sussex, insisting he never called her nasty, just her statements about him in 2016.

TRUMP: I wasn't referring to her she is nasty. I said she's nasty about me. And that's OK for her to be nasty. It's not good for me to be nasty to her, and I wasn't.

BROWN: And on gun control, after the recent mass shooting in Virginia, where the killer used a silencer to quiet his shots, the president said he would consider legislation banning the sale and use of silencers.

MORGAN: What is your view of silencers? Would you like to see those banned?

TRUMP: Well, I would like to think about it. Nobody has talked about silencers very much. I don't love the idea of it. I don't like the idea -- what's happening is crazy, OK? It's crazy.

BROWN: Trump now overnighting at his golf resort in Ireland, his first trip to the country as president, and squeezing in a brief meeting with the Irish prime minister.

QUESTION: Is this trip for you just about promoting your golf club?

TRUMP: No, this trip is really about great relationships that we have with the U.K. And I really wanted to do this stop in Ireland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: But Jake, here in Ireland, I was speaking to one official who said the perception is that the president's trip here really is more about pleasure than work.

The only working item on his agenda was that short meeting the president had with the prime minister at the airport, where they talked about Brexit and trade. And the official also said that this low-key visit could also serve as a way to avoid the kind of protests that we saw in the U.K.

[16:05:10]

Now, I should note, a U.S. official pushed back, saying that the president and the prime minister did have important issues to discuss. You just heard the president there saying, this isn't just about golf.

But he is spending two nights at his golf resort in Doonbeg, not far from where I am here in Ireland, and he is expected to play golf on Friday. -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown in Ireland, thanks so much.

Let's chew over all of this with our experts. Let's go back to the remarks that the president made during his

meeting with the Irish prime minister, when he seemed to side with the North Korean dictator when asked about the reports of executions of officials who were involved in that failed Hanoi summit. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's a strong man. He's a strong person. And they like to blame Kim Jong-un immediately. But they said he was killed. And he wasn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Apparently, the reports from South Korea were incorrect, but, you know, the State Department and Pompeo were looking into it because this is exactly the kind of thing Kim Jong-un does. He murders his own people all the time.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's totally believable.

And they still haven't ruled it out either. They haven't confirmed it, but those things are hard to confirm. And, of course, one of them reappeared, but the president said he didn't know about the others that had been reported by the South Korean media.

And, of course, officials have not been surprised about this inside the White House. They said they heard tips about this back in March and now they're essentially saying, this is what North Korea does. And that's why people question when the president says things like that, "They immediately blame Kim Jong-un."

Well, of course they do, because he's the dictator of the regime and he's the one responsible if someone does get executed, and it's not that farfetched that he would do that after those failed talks in Hanoi.

TAPPER: Now, Ayesha, I know the president wants to have a good relationship with Kim Jong-un, but preceding this, he often uses the word strong when talking about brutal dictators. And in that clip, he almost seemed to be sympathetic towards the fact that Kim Jong-un had been unfairly accused.

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR: And particularly with Kim, he's talked about Kim and how kind of strong he is.

There was that time when he said, when he comes into -- when Kim comes into a room, all his people sit at attention. And he wished people did that with him.

Now, I'm sure the White House might say that was a joke. But he's kind of had these ideas of the strongman and the authoritarian, just like with Xi Jinping of China, saying that he's king, really. He's president for life. And he doesn't seem to have a problem with that or to even bring up

kind of the American values of democracy and all of those things. That's not the type of thing that you hear from President Trump, but he's often kind of focused on these kind of personal relationships with people.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, so he that's always his excuse, right, or the people who are excusing him, is that -- he's this wheeler and dealer and this is how he does deals, whatever.

TAPPER: He's trying to get a deal, sure.

POWERS: But I think it was last night that Don Lemon had pulled up some remarks that he had made about Tiananmen Square before he was president. And he was talking about basically applauding them, you know...

TAPPER: For their strong -- for what they did.

POWERS: For their strong reaction.

Well, saying, initially, they didn't react strongly enough, but then they really cracked down and started killing people, basically, and that was great.

So this is something that predates his being president and trying to make deals. It's very clear that he identifies with these people and that he respects them and that he likes them. And I think that that's highly problematic.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And you might say the love affair continues. He said famously, I fell in love, we fell in love, and he's clearly trying to butter him up.

But here's my question. Donald Trump has been president for a while now. He's spent a lot of taxpayer money going on these very lavish trips. Where are the results? Is this just an opportunity to take nice photos and act, pretend like you're a statesman? Because he's done this several times.

And we would all breathe a sigh of relief and say, OK, he got through it. It's a good trip. He got good headlines.

Where are the results? There aren't any.

TAPPER: Yes.

The president also told Piers Morgan that the United States has the cleanest air in the world and that it's gotten cleaner since he has been president. FactCheck.org looked into this claim, which he's made before, and found -- quote -- "Out of 180 countries studied, the U.S. comes in at number 27 on the 2018 Environmental Performance Index. On air quality, the U.S. ranked 10th. And on water and sanitation, it placed 29th." Where does this come from? He just makes it up, or did someone tell him that it was true?

COLLINS: Well, it's a claim the president makes often at his rallies and certain speeches.

TAPPER: A lie.

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: Right, and a baseless claim.

And the president also asserts this. He also said he talked about climate change with the royal family and talked about how important it was to them. And, of course, this is a president who himself has denied that climate change exist, questioned the science behind it.

And so it's just a remark that the president is making when he's put on the spot, and he's asked about that. He often answers in these vague terms.

TAPPER: And he said today, when asked if he believes in climate change, he says there's a change in the weather, but sometimes it changes one way. It changes...

(CROSSTALK)

RASCOE: It goes both ways.

TAPPER: Yes, this is completely contrary to what all leading climate scientists say.

RASCOE: It goes completely against science. And so that should be clear. This is not -- what he's saying is not based in science or even the government scientists do not...

(CROSSTALK)

[16:10:03]

TAPPER: Right, his own government.

RASCOE: His own government scientists do not say that.

TAPPER: Right.

RASCOE: But what President Trump seems to try to do is make the argument to people that he's not totally against the environment. Smog is not that bad. Look, you can go outside. It's not as bad as the air in China, for instance.

But as you pointed out, like when there are areas in this country where the water is not drinkable -- there are areas in this country where people are dealing with pollution. And this administration doesn't really have an answer for that.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

In that interview, President Trump defended a controversial ban by dropping another series of lies involving our service members and pills.

Plus, will Republicans stonewall President Trump on his trade war with Mexico? We could find out in moments.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're back with the politics lead.

And President Trump offering a completely false defense on why he banned transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:15:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They take massive amounts of drugs, they have to, and also -- and you're not allowed to take drugs. You know, in the military, you're not allowed to take any drugs. You take an aspirin.

And they have to after the operation. They have to. They have no choice. They have to. And you would actually have to break rules and regulations in order to have that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: This argument is just false. U.S. servicemen and women can and do take prescription drugs, including, experts say, hormones such as the hormones that transgender individuals take.

I want to bring in Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono. She's on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

Now, we've heard arguments against transgender service members having to do with unit cohesion, we've heard the president even talking about the cost of surgery when discussing the ban.

Have you ever heard this argument before about prescription medications?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): No. So it's an example of how Trump just makes up things to bolster whatever it is that he's doing. And really, this is part of an all-out attack on LBGTQ people, who are, by the way, serving in the military, in our intelligence services, and all walks of life.

And, by the way, when General Mattis was before our armed service committee, I asked him very specifically, is there something innate in LBGTQ persons that would make them unfit to serve in the military and he said "no". TAPPER: I want to ask you also, president Trump repeated his threat

today to impose tariffs on Mexico until they stop letting these caravans of migrants cross into the United States. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think Mexico has to step up, and they don't, tariffs will go on. And if they go high, the companies are going to move back into the United States. That's all. It's very simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, the president believes this will force Mexico to crack down on these migrants coming through their countries. I know you disagree with the president's policies.

HIRONO: Yes.

TAPPER: But do you agree that the Mexican government should be doing more to stop allowing thousands of migrants, Central Americans, mainly, to caravan through, to cross illegally into the United States?

HIRONO: I think our government should be doing more to help the Central American countries with the problems that they have in economic and other issues, because that is really one of the reasons that so many families now with children are coming across the border.

And as for the president unilaterally trying to slap on a tariff to Mexico, we do have a trade agreement with Mexico. I would say that this kind of an act on the part of the president would violate that trade agreement and will be subject to lawsuits.

But that's par for the course. Every time the president or the administration makes various kinds of decisions, then lawsuits ensue. There are dozens of examples of this. So, it would be good if we had a president who actually comported with the law, and you know, the rue of law is applying to him and his administration.

TAPPER: OK, so I understand that you think that the U.S. should be sending more aid to the Central American countries to make them safer to the migrants don't flee.

HIRONO: Yes.

TAPPER: But don't you see the point with those who say, look, Mexico is just basically allowing thousands -- it could be up to a million undocumented immigrants coming into this country illegally. Mexico should do something more. They're an ally of the United States.

HIRONO: Well, if we expect Mexico to do something more, we should actually talk with them and engage with them as to how Mexico could do more. But what the president does is unilaterally make a decision that is basically threatening Mexico. That is not the way to get another country to be cooperative and supportive of our perspectives.

TAPPER: Well, I think there's a meeting going on right now between the United States and the Mexican government, trying to resolve this issue.

Let me ask you, Customs and Border Protection released statistics today showing that apprehensions at the border are down 32 percent -- or up 32 percent since April. Homeland Security says they need $4.5 billion, $4.5 billion, most of which will go to help build facilities for these migrants, as to avoid all the overcrowding issues that we've seen in recent days.

Why not give the Department of Homeland Security the money, the billions they need to provide more suitable shelters for these migrants?

HIRONO: Well, of course the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Department of Human Services know full well that there are alternatives to placing everybody, particularly families in these shelters, that there alternatives to making sure that they show up for their court appearances, et cetera.

But they keep saying that those alternatives are not going to work. They just want to come and ask for more and more money, to basically incarcerate these people. They do not pose a danger to our communities, but there are other ways that we can humanely address the issues that they have.

But it's a multi-faceted problem, so there are a lot of us who focus on the reasons that so many people come to our country and there has been a real change in the makeup of the people who are coming here.

[16:20:12] It used to be single males, but now it's families. Why? They're fleeing horrible conditions and murder and mayhem in their own countries. So there's a lot more we can do across the board, I'd say.

TAPPER: All right. Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it, as always.

HIRONO: You're welcome.

TAPPER: The vice president and secretary of state, as I mentioned, are in a key meeting right now with Mexican officials, hoping to stop a revolt within their own party. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:25:18] TAPPER: In our politics lead today, President Trump trying to fend off a major Republican revolt over his tariff threats against Mexico. Senate Republicans now warning Mr. Trump: do not proceed, because you will lose.

Right now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence are meeting with their Mexican counterparts to try and stave off the pending tariffs set to take effect on Monday.

As CNN's Manu Raju now reports, President Trump is showing no signs of backing down, but his aides might be wavering.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid tensions with Mexico and a rebellion brewing on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration meeting with top Mexican officials, seeking to head off a major showdown.

Behind closed doors, Vice President Mike Pence and other top U.S. officials negotiated with Mexico's foreign secretary. The topic: President Trump's threat to levy tariffs that could go as high as 45 percent on Mexican goods if the country does not stop illegal immigration.

Trump's threat prompting a major backlash on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers warning about the impact his trade war is having on their constituents and on farmers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are frustrated, they are -- they're pissed.

RAJU: Also angry, Senate Republicans warning the president to back off his threat.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I think that would have a very harmful impact. Millions of jobs in Texas depend on international trade and in particular, trade with Mexico. This is the wrong solution to the crisis.

RAJU: Other Republicans saying the tariffs would undermine their promise not to raise taxes.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): Tariffs on the other hand, would be a massive tax.

RAJU: Despite their anger, it's still unclear if Republicans will vote in large numbers to block tariffs from taking effect.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Again, I don't think we favor the tariffs. I'm afraid it will endanger some American jobs, but obviously it's been effective.

RAJU (on camera): Would you support them if it comes to a vote on the Senate floor?

CASSIDY: I'm hoping it doesn't come to a vote.

RAJU: Would you vote to stop it?

CRUZ: I doubt it's going to come to this.

RAJU (voice-over): In the House, most Republicans are likely to side with Trump, making it an uphill climb to put together a veto-proof majority.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): It's hopefully going to be an effective tool. One more tool to be able to control the flow of illegal immigrants coming across our southern border.

RAJU: Still, lawmakers holding out hope for a deal, something the president's top trade adviser signaled could happen.

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: We believe that these tariffs may not have to go into effect, precisely because we have the Mexicans' attention.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Now, some Republican senators want to make their case directly to President Trump before he were to move forward by that Monday deadline to move forward on these tariffs saying he should come to Capitol Hill, or at least meet with them in the White House, make the case to them directly about why he's moving forward after this week. Top officials from the White House as well as the Justice Department came, met with Senate Republicans who pushed back, they're saying they want to hear directly from the president.

Mitch McConnell and the Senate majority leader broached that as a possibility at a closed-door meeting, I'm told, said he may encourage the White House to delay these hearings before talking directly with senators. And Senator Susan Collins of Maine said roughly 10 or 12 senators from states that are going to be most affected should meet directly with the president before he moves forward.

So, a lot of pressure, Jake, growing with the president to at least delay before making the case to senators. We'll see what he ultimately does.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Kaitlan Collins, how worried is the White House that Republicans will actually do something to block these tariffs. They do legitimate seem unsupportive in a way that I don't think we've seen on very many issues.

COLLINS: Yes, it's a pretty high level of rebuke. But also, White House officials have privately said with they don't think these tariffs will actually go on.

TAPPER: It's just a threat? Just a bluff?

COLLINS: They thought it was more of an empty threat. And Navarro seemed to say as much as when he said, we did get Mexico's attention with this be, but, of course, that is not what they said originally, that they wanted Mexico to actually produce concrete results before they would be able to avoid the tariffs.

They didn't specify what those would be, so they're leaving space for them to be able to not impose these tariffs. But now, the president, with Chuck Schumer saying essentially that the president is bluffing here, has become increasingly defiant. And some people like Mick Mulvaney are saying, he is very serious about that. And that's what they say the message they're conveying to the Mexican officials right now during that meeting with Pence is.

But there's still a lot of doubt that this will even happen.

TAPPER: And you used to work for Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas. These tariffs would really, really hurt Texans.

CARPENTER: Yes. His office is claiming $30 billion --

TAPPER: But he wouldn't say, if it comes to the floor of the Senate, I will vote against these tariffs. He wouldn't say that.

CARPENTER: Yes, I don't think Mitch McConnell would bring it to a vote. I think maybe, perhaps, they would do a resolution of disapproval to say.

[16:30:00]