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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Mexico Tariff Deadline; Trump Attacks Mueller, Pelosi While in France; Trump Dismisses Calls to Rethink Tariffs on Mexico, Says Senators "Have No Idea What They're Talking About"; Couple Says They Were Poisoned at Same Resort Where 3 Americans Died. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 6, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Um, sir, it's D-day, not me day.
THE LEAD starts right now.
On solemn ground. On the 75th anniversary of the day of days, D-Day, President Trump continues his personal war and petty attacks on Robert Mueller and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after Pelosi, back in the U.S. a few days before, reportedly told her party, the president should be in prison.
Piling on Joe Biden, 2020 candidates now feuding with the Democratic front-runner over abortion rights and his key role in a Clinton era crime bill. Will the left leave him in a lurch?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's too coincidental with the symptoms that we had for me to even begin to stay quiet about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Horror in paradise. An American couple now telling CNN they were poisoned on vacation, coming forward after learning three Americans died at that very same resort. What's going on?
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Seventy-five years ago today, more than 160,000 troops from the United States, the U.K., Canada, Australia and other Allied nations, riding in on more than 13,000 aircraft and 5,000 ships, stormed the beaches and parachuted into Normandy, France, in an effort to help liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny.
Today is an international day of remembrance for that deadly and vital mission, for the brave men who fought and died on those beaches and in those hamlets. More than 9,380 men are buried at Normandy, which today was the site of the ceremony honoring those lost in the fight for freedom.
Now, you might think that such a day and such a setting would compel an American president, a president who himself gave a strong address to mark the occasion of the memorial, to resist from engaging in petty politics on this day and on those grounds.
But you would be wrong.
Here's President Trump just yards away from the graves of American heroes asked by his favorite channel about special counsel Robert Mueller, who is, not incidentally, a veteran of the Vietnam War, awarded a Bronze Star for Valor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Do you mind if he testifies still? Before, you said you didn't care if Mueller testified.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me tell you, he made such a fool out of himself the last time he -- because what people don't report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It's not exactly clear what Trump was talking about, even, since Mueller didn't testify.
But, either way, the president also had some choice words in the same setting, just yards from the graves of heroes, for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But Nancy Pelosi -- I call her nervous Nancy -- Nancy Pelosi doesn't talk about it. Nancy Pelosi is a disaster, OK? She's a disaster. And let her do what she wants. You know what? I think they're in big trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, incidentally, when CNN caught up with Speaker Pelosi as she walked into Normandy and asked her about President Trump's threat to impose tariffs on Mexico, this was Pelosi's response:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't talk about the president when we're out of the country. That's my principle. So I won't go there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: "I don't talk about the president when we're out of the country. It's my principle, so I won't go there," Pelosi said.
Now, it's really not that difficult to imagine what the response might be by both the president's party and his protectors on the Hill and in the media if a Democrat, a Democratic president had engaged in political attacks like that one on the D-Day anniversary, on the grounds of the cemetery and memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
But beyond that is the reverence that needs to be shown to the men in that dirt and to their families and to all those who see meaning in their sacrifice, a sacrifice of their lives for a cause greater than themselves.
Now, to be fair to President Trump, he did deliver at Normandy, as I mentioned, remarks that some observers have said were among the best of his presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live. You are the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our republic, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The question, of course, is whether the president undermined any of those sentiments by minutes later seeming to not fully comprehend the sacred ground on which he stood.
Let's talk about this with our experts here.
Amanda Carpenter, I want to start with you.
What did you make of that?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You look at the shot, and what I see, just as an American, is a draft-dodging president who is sitting down with a woman who regularly defends anti-Semites, like Paul Nehlen, espouses white supremacist talking points, while using the graves of World War soldiers who saved the world from Nazis as a prop.
That's what it is. And who made this call? Donald Trump didn't set up that shot. Laura Ingraham did it. There's a whole network behind it. There's lots of people who said, yes, that looks good. This isn't just one person's bad judgment. It's a lot of people's bad judgment.
And you don't have to put up with this. People need to say, this is not a good look. And so, you know, FOX News continues to lose advertisers and has liberals mount campaigns to have advertisers dropped from them. This makes it pretty darn easy. TAPPER: Jen Psaki, were you at the White House for the last big
anniversary when Obama went over there? I'm not sure if it was the 70th or the 65th. I'm just wondering what you make of it all, as somebody who used to work in communications for a president who did a similar event.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was. I was actually at the State Department I think the last time that President Obama went over there.
But, you know, to build on what Amanda said, which I don't think I could state any more eloquently, this is a moment where you really put politics aside. Obviously, when you go overseas, yes, there's a tradition of that. But when you're preparing to honor the men and women who have served for decades, World War II veterans, some of whom are still living, some of whom were there, this is a moment where you're not only not talking about partisan politics.
You're trying to give a speech that is bringing the country and the world together. And when you're preparing for a speech like that, that's really the focus. You're not talking about the political campaign. You're not talking about your opponents and what they're up to. And that's the kind of speech President Obama would have given.
I like to think that's the kind of speech President Bush and President Clinton and other presidents would have given. So, to Amanda's point, this is really out of the norm, and it's beyond out of the norm. And we should really take a moment to remember that because sometimes we get a little numb to the oddities and absurdities of the Trump presidency.
TAPPER: As I mentioned, the president gave a speech that moved a lot of people. Even his critics have said it was a very powerful speech.
But what is it about him, as two people who cover him? What is it about him that he can't seem to understand that when you're sitting in a cemetery, with literally the bodies of the men from the 101st Airborne right behind you, that's not a good time to even talk about politics, much less engage in these personal politics.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: But the president knows he can get away with this, and he has time and time again, not only because the Republican Party is behind him and has essentially approved and codified all the norm-breaking things that he's done.
But this is a president who, as a candidate, right, went after John McCain and his service, a man who was tortured in Vietnam for years as a prisoner of war. And, of course, that was a moment where the political establishment said, that's it. The president -- Donald Trump is finished as a candidate.
And it was very much not the case at all. In fact, his poll numbers continued to rise from there. So this is someone who has seen that kind of -- quote, unquote -- "bad behavior" rewarded, rather than punished or rebuked, time and time again. TAPPER: And, Laura, I want to ask you because you work for Politico -- and Politico has a big scoop. Before Pelosi left the United States to go to Normandy, you saw she wouldn't even talk about President Trump in Normandy.
Before she went, according to Politico, in a private closed-door meeting with members of the Democratic Caucus, she said something along the lines of, instead of seeing the president impeached, I would like to see him in prison.
That's a pretty stunning statement.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, POLITICO: It is. And this is very strategic by Pelosi.
I really don't think that her underlying calculus has changed that much. She doesn't really want to pursue impeachment. She wants to guard the majority that they won in 2018, but she also knows that she has a lot of Democrats now, I think about 60, and that's not counting others who just haven't said it publicly, that are itching to go down that route.
And Democrats, the base wants the party to go down that route. So she has to have a bit of a release valve. This is her saying, look, I hear you. I also really don't like this president. I want to see him held responsible, but you have to give us some time.
CARPENTER: But on that note, I think this is really reckless of her to do. I think she's a bad messenger. They need to get someone else to message this, because she's essentially saying there's a cover-up.
OK, explain the cover-up. I can make the case. I have read the Mueller report. But now she's saying she wants to see him in prison. Well, for what crimes? If you believe crimes occurred, you have an obligation to go through impeachment, regardless of the politics of the Senate.
Make your case. Don't just throw this out there, because that's just the same as going on the campaign trail and saying lock her up.
PSAKI: But she wasn't throwing it out there. I agree this was a strategic thing she was doing in this meeting, of which, in the story by Politico, there was a mix of views from the chairs of the committees who were in this meeting.
Some have been pushing her to move forward with impeachment. Some have not been. She's saying to them, essentially, essentially, I'm with you. I hate this guy. I want him out of office. But I know a lot about politics, and I know how this should go. And I still don't think we should move forward with impeachment.
That's what she was saying. And that's why she used that language.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. The House speaker and Robert Mueller not the only targets of President Trump while he's overseas. He's sticking to a fight that could cost American business owners millions of dollars.
And then, from the president's former fixer to Mr. Fix-It in prison. Sources say Michael Cohen is something of a celebrity and has a new job behind bars. Stay with us.
TAPPER: The politics lead now.
Just days away from the deadline, President Trump is not apparently letting up on his threat to impose tariffs on goods from Mexico as a way to force that country's government to do more to stem the tide of illegal immigration into the United States, despite growing resistance from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
[16:15:14] Today, the president insisted that he knows best, certainly more than senators from his own party.
As CNN's Abby Phillip now reports for us, Mexico is at the negotiating table where the question is, can the president get a deal or might he be forced to follow through on his threat?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we remember those who fell, and we honor all who fought right here in Normandy.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump today capping the official portion of his trip to Europe with a poignant tribute to the valor of the greatest generation. But as he returned to his golf resort in Ireland, his aides in Washington were scrambling to strike a deal with Mexico over tariffs.
So far, the negotiations have failed to produce a breakthrough, and the president is ratcheting up the rhetoric.
TRUMP: Mexico has been making for many, many years, hundreds of billions of dollars. They've been making an absolute fortune on the United States. They have to step up and they have to step up to the plate.
PHILLIP: Dismissing the concerns of some Republican senators who worry that he is too trigger happy to use tariffs as a tool to gain leverage over Mexico in an unrelated dispute over immigration.
TRUMP: I'm very happy with it. And a lot of people, senators included, they have no idea what they're talking about when it comes to tariffs.
PHILLIP: Trump even threatening again that more tariffs against China could be coming.
TRUMP: Our talks with China, a lot of interesting things are happening. In the meantime, we're getting 25 percent on $250 billion, and I can go up another at least $300 billion. And I'll do that at the right time.
PHILLIP: And as talks with Mexican officials and Trump aides continued today at the State Department, the administration has still not said exactly what Mexico can do to stop the 5 percent tariffs on all goods from going into effect on Monday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What Mexico is offering is not enough. We need to see more coming from Mexico.
PHILLIP: All this coming as border crossings continue to surge despite the Trump administration's efforts to stop it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That flow has got to stop.
PHILLIP: Data from the administration show 144,000 migrants were arrested or encountered at the border in May, a 32 percent increase from April, making it the highest monthly total for crossings since 2006.
PHILLIP: So, President Trump's deadline is Monday for those tariffs to go into place, but it really might be tomorrow when the president needs to make a final decision. That means the window for a breakthrough is closing, and closing very quickly -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Abby Phillip in France, travelling with the president, thank you so much.
Before Larry Kudlow became the president's top economic adviser, he was something of a pundit. And he issued a warning about the trade policies proposed by then-candidate Trump. CNN's KFILE found this from Kudlow's radio show in 2015. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LARRY KUDLOW, THEN-HOST, LARRY KUDLOW SHOW: You slap a 25 percent, 35 percent tariff on our leading trading partners like Mexico and China, we may not like them, sir, but tariffs and protectionism is not the answer. It will do incalculable damage to the American economy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: Incalculable damage to the American economy. The president is actually proposing a 25 percent tariff against Mexico.
Laura, let me start with you. This, I think, whatever Larry Kudlow says today, reveals why so many Republicans on Capitol Hill are really, really worried about this threat of a tariff. They agree with what Larry Kudlow 1.0 that it will do damage to the American economy.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. And Republicans know that this is also not a political winner for them. Studies have known, even CNN polling recently showed that in Republican-leaning counties, tariffs hurt people there the most. In those states that are going to be key to Trump winning re-election.
So, that's why I legitimately think their threat of, we're going to reject these tariffs if you go through on this could be real. They could even have the numbers for a veto to overwrite his veto.
TAPPER: Take a listen to the former commerce secretary who served under George W. Bush who says he doesn't understand the logic of the president's threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLOS GUTIERREZ, FORMER COMMERCE SECRETARY: It was such an abrupt decision that you wonder if, you know, if there's another objective behind it. I can't imagine how you can negotiate a comprehensive immigration agreement or agreement for asylum seekers over the weekend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there is another objective behind it, and it is President Trump's calculus that for political reasons, being strong on immigration and tough on immigration is far more important for his prospects than being sane on economic issues.
[16:20:02] I think Larry Kudlow's comments are probably reflective of the advice that he's getting today from people on his economic team. It doesn't matter to him because he cares about winning the election. And he thinks the path to that is on the immigration argument, and on the immigration fronts.
Now, I would say on the polling front, it is interesting. There hasn't been consequences for him for tariffs because while the states that would be impacted, including with the new ones, places like Michigan because of autos and car parts, he hasn't seen the political impact of that. Even though people are being hurt economically, they're not changing their view of him or changing their support of him politically.
So, there haven't been consequences for tariffs. And he's looking at this and thinking this is something he can throw out there and show he's still tough to the base who really cares about keeping immigrants out -- from going across the border.
TAPPER: So, it's not shooting people on Fifth Avenue that -- and the base will stay with him. It's imposing tariffs that hurt them economically, but they'll stay with him.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have no doubt Larry Kudlow and every Republican on the Hill is telling Trump don't do this. What they're not saying is, here's how we're going to stop 100,000 people a month from coming over the border. And so, Trump is saying, I'm going to bring the pain.
I mean, I sort of -- I don't agree with tariff threats. I don't agree with much of what he does. But I do sympathize with the fact that no one is giving him options.
I do see a glimmer of progress, though. "Reuters" reported I think late last night or early this morning that Mexico was sending police to the southern border, Mexico's southern border, shutting it down to block people from coming up. Maybe that's something that Mexico can offer. I see that as some kind of progress. Certainly, Mexico can do more.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: And this is negotiation by threat which we've seen from the president repeatedly. And one of the things the president's advisers have been saying today is, look, Mexican officials are in Washington. The Mexican foreign minister is here in Washington meeting with top administration officials, offering to do more on the immigration issue. And their argument is, look, this tactic is working.
But the question is, what does this mean for U.S. leadership in the world in the way the U.S. conducts business? Is this how American presidents are going to govern now by threat, by issuing these tariff threats? Can any U.S. ally expect this? I think that's the big question.
Three Americans die while all staying at the same resort in the Dominican Republic. Now, another couple is coming forward and telling CNN they were poisoned at the exact same resort a year ago.
Stay with us.
[16:26:57] TAPPER: In our world lead, it's been a horrifying mystery these past few days. Three Americans dying at the same resort in the Dominican Republic within a five-day period. Preliminary autopsy results today reveal Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day had interior bleeding and fluid in their lungs. And Miranda Schaup-Werner had a heart attack. These are not yet official causes of death because officials are still awaiting toxicology results.
And now, a Colorado couple says they were poisoned at that resort and they're telling their story to CNN.
As CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin reports, they believe their poisoning and the recent deaths are not a coincidence.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kaylynn Knull reached out to CNN almost immediately after learning three Americans just died at the same resort in the Dominican Republic where she believes she was poisoned along with her boyfriend.
(on camera): What is your reaction?
KAYLYNN KNULL, SAYS SHE WAS POISONED AT BAHIA PRINCIPE RESORT: Blood boiling. It's too coincidental with the symptoms that we had for me to even begin to stay quiet about it.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): One year ago this month, the Colorado couple travelled to the all-inclusive Grand Bahia Principe Resort La Romana, and for the first few days, it seemed a vacation of a lifetime. But on the sixth day, Knull became ill.
KNULL: I woke up with a headache one morn. We had gone to breakfast to see if I could get some water, get some juice, try some food, feel better. And when we came back to the room, it actually hit us a lot stronger, and we smelled the smell of chemicals.
GRIFFIN: She got progressively worse. Then her boyfriend, Tom Schwander, started feeling it, too. They say they were sweating, drooling, dizzy, nauseous. It wouldn't go away. Neither would the smell in their hotel room.
KNULL: We saw a housekeeper outside and like called her in to see if she could come in. She walked maybe five, six feet into the room and turned around and said, I'm not doing that. And then got on her walkie-talkie to the front desk and said something is going on with this room. She refused to come in and clean it.
GRIFFIN: Kaylynn and Tom had seen someone spraying plants near the air conditioner outside their room. They assumed it was pesticide but the hotel wouldn't say what it was. They switched rooms twice. It didn't help.
TOM SCHWANDER, SAYS HE WAS POISONED AT BAHIA PRINCIPE RESORT: It progressed over the rest of our trip and over the course of a couple weeks after.
GRIFFIN (on camera): A couple of weeks?
SCHWANDER: Yes. The abdominal, the abdominal cramping and the G.I. upset lasted for a few weeks.
GRIFFIN: And you said drooling?
SCHWANDER: Yes, drooling.
SCHWANDER: Bad sweat, tearing.
SCHWANDER: Dizzy, nauseous. Abdominal cramping was the worst. That was the hardest to deal with. There's so much pain.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Back in Colorado, Knull's physician diagnosed her with Organophosphate poisoning. Schwander's doctors suspect the same thing. Heavily regulated and in some cases banned in the U.S., organophosphates are manmade chemicals found in insecticides. Exposure can cause increased saliva, tear production, diarrhea, sweating, confusion and death. The couple says they still have occasional symptoms, and they are most concerned about their future health. Even after filing a lawsuit, they still do not know what exactly poisoned them.