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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Couple Says They Were Poisoned at Same Resort Where 3 Americans Died; Biden Defends 1994 Crime Bill as Trump, 2020 Dems Pounce; Voicemail from Trump's Attorney to Flynn's Lawyer Released. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 6, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The couple says they still have occasional symptoms, and they are most concerned about their future health.

[16:30:05] Even after filing a lawsuit, they still do not know what exactly poisoned them.

KAYLYNN KNULL, SAYS SHE WAS POISONED AT BAHIA PRINCIPE RESORT: Honestly, all I wanted was the chemical name. That is all I ever wanted. I could care less about the money, if I can save my own life later.

And him, too. It's what happened to him, what happened to me. What is it that we can do at this point?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Jake, the Bahia resort company failed to answer almost all of our questions and told us specifically they wouldn't comment on this case involving this couple because of the legal matter that's pursued. And then told us not to even speculate about the recent deaths at their resort while those deaths continue to be investigated -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Drew Griffin, thank you so much.

We have some breaking news. For the first time, we're hearing the voice mail that President Trump's lawyer left for Michael Flynn's lawyer.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:24] TAPPER: In our 2020 lead today, former Vice President Joe Biden facing lingering questions about his authorship of the 1994 crime bill.

And as Jeff Zeleny now reports, it's an issue Biden will not be able to avoid, certainly not when he shares the stage with his opponents at debates in just a few weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Biden is defending what many Democrats now see as all but indefensible -- the 1994 crime bill.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I wrote the crime bill, which you have been conditioned to say is a bad bill --

ZELENY: That bill is now one of the heaviest potential weights around his 2020 candidacy. One of the biggest points of contention is this long-held believed Biden is still holding on to.

BIDEN: This idea that the crime bill generated mass incarceration, it did not generate mass incarceration.

ZELENY: His rivals have rushed to disagree, teeing up a likely conflict at their first debate only three weeks away.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That 1994 crime bill, it did contribute to mass incarceration in our country.

ZELENY: But 25 years ago this summer --

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Let us roll up our sleeves to roll back this awful tide of violence.

ZELENY: The bill was a compromise between Democrats and Republicans, supported by many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, big city black mayors and clergy leaders alarmed at soaring crime rates.

So what did the crime bill do?

Formerly known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the bill was a sweeping $30 billion package, which put 100,000 new police officers on the streets, created the Violence Against Women Act and an assault weapons ban.

The bill also expanded the federal death penalty and created dramatically harsher sentencing laws, including three strikes -- mandatory life terms for people with at least three federal violent crimes or drug convictions.

One of the most controversial aspects, granting states billions to build prisons if they pass their own tough sentencing laws with mandatory minimums. But those state laws incentivized by the federal government are what critics say helped contribute to an era of mass incarceration.

Four years ago as Hillary Clinton faced blistering criticism for the bill, President Clinton apologized.

CLINTON: Because I signed a bill that made the problem worse. And I want to admit it.

ZELENY: That is far more than Biden has said. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he proudly took ownership of it. BIDEN: A guy name Biden wrote that bill and wrote that bill by going

down and sitting down with the president of the United States of America.

ZELENY: This year, Biden has tried reconciling some of his tough on crime views.

BIDEN: I haven't always been right. I know we haven't always gotten things right. But I've always tried.

ZELENY: President Trump is now inserting himself into the debate saying on Twitter: African-Americans will not be able to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for criminal justice reform.

What Trump doesn't say is decades ago, he promoted similar policies on crime.

TRUMP: The problem with our society is that the victim has absolutely no rights and the criminal has unbelievable rights.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, Joe Biden is not the only Democratic presidential candidate who voted for the crime bill. Bernie Sanders, then in the House, voted for it, but he said he did so because it had the Violence Against Women Act in it.

Governor Jay Inslee of Washington also voted for it. He was serving in the House as well. He's since expressed regret for it.

But, Jake, inside the Biden organization, there is a discussion going on if he needs to have more of a frank conversation here about the consequences of the crime bill. He's been defending it. One thing is clear: 25 years after it was signed, it's now a part of this debate as well.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: We have breaking news in our politics lead. For the first time, we are hearing the audio of a voicemail from President Trump's former lawyer John Dowd to his fired national security adviser Michael Flynn's lawyer. A key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, Flynn was.

CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz joins me now.

And, Shimon, we're now hearing this voice mail for the first time?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, for the first time, we're hearing the president's former personal attorney John Dowd in a phone call to Michael Flynn's attorney that was part of the obstruction investigation where he was asking about Flynn's potential cooperation with the special counsel. And here's that voice mail, Jake. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN DOWD, FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: Hey, Rob, this is John again. Maybe I'm sympathetic and I understand your situation, but let me see if I can't state it in starker terms. If you have -- it wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a deal and work with the government.

[16:40:07] I understand that you can't (INAUDIBLE) -- if on the other hand, there's information that implicates the president, then we've got a national security issue or maybe a national security issue. I don't know. Some issue we've got to deal with not only for the president but for the country.

So, you know, then we need some kind of heads-up just for the sake of protecting all interests, if we can, without you having to give up any confidential information. So -- and if it's the former, then, you know, remember what we've always said about the president and his feelings toward Flynn. (INAUDIBLE)

In any event, let me know, and I appreciate your listening and taking the time. Thanks, Paul.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

PROKUPECZ: So, Jake, obviously this coming after the transcript, which was released last week by the government. Of course, John Dowd not pleased with the release of all this information saying the Mueller team and the Department of Justice are doing this in an attempt to somehow smear him. He says he's been questioned about this call. So the idea this was part of any kind of investigation, he certainly has found it to be a little ridiculous and he's kind of been saying, you know, they're doing this because they're trying to smear me.

TAPPER: You can hear the president's lawyer telling Flynn's lawyer, give us a heads-up if you're handing over information on the president, damaging information on the president.

PROKUPECZ: Right. And that part was the key thing in all of this for the Mueller team. It's why Flynn's lawyers, when they heard this voice mail, when they got it, they certainly recorded it, copied it and gave it and turned it over to the Mueller team, to the special counsel. And it came up in the report where this was potentially one of the things that they looked at as a possible obstruction.

The other thing in this voice mail as you recall was the president's feeling. John Dowd telling Flynn's lawyer, remember how the president feels about Michael Flynn. Why all of that is important is something that the Mueller team looked at because they were wondering if they were trying to somehow sway Michael Flynn's cooperation.

TAPPER: Right. The suggestion being, of course, that maybe he would pardon Michael Flynn.

Everyone, let's weigh in on this. There's a lot of Flynn news today, surprisingly. First of all, what do you make of this as somebody who covers the White House day in, day out? I'm kind of surprised that the president's attorney would say something like this on a voice mail message. It doesn't seem the wisest lawyering.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, floating the possibility of a pardon, I mean, he --

TAPPER: He denies that.

DIAMOND: Yes, exactly, he denies it. But that's effectively what the effect is there. To do that on a voice mail is stunning. Beyond the notion of floating a pardon, also you're hearing the president's attorney here saying if you're going to implicate the president in a crime, which why is a lawyer for the president, would you be worried about --

TAPPER: Implicates the president, yes.

DIAMOND: -- implicating the president of a crime if you don't think the president committed a crime?

And this takes me back to those days we're talking about the perjury trap the president could face that somehow if you sat down with Mueller, the president was going to implicate himself in a crime or lie to investigators about matters they were looking into and, therefore, you know, face criminal charges or be violating the law at least.

TAPPER: And, Amanda, the president -- I'm sorry, Michael Flynn still awaiting to be sentenced. And we just learned today that whether he was fired or he quit or whatever, he and his lawyer are not working together anymore, which is certainly unusual at this stage of prosecution.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's amazing that his case still remains in limbo. I think we have to be reminded of the fact that he pled guilty to lying to investigators about sanctions talk with Russia. He chose to cooperate with Mueller even after being dangled a plea as we heard in the voice mail, being threatened with national security implications.

And the judge, he was going to be sentenced earlier this year. The judge essentially said, do you want to do this, let the treason word slip? It was really confrontational open court hearing. Now, he's trying to judge -- it makes me wonder, is he trying to retract that plea? Is the pardon offer still operable? This case is not closed.

TAPPER: So, speaking of pleas and pardon, let's turn to another Trump associate.

He's known as the big man on campus. Why sources say that President Trump's ex-lawyer and former fixer Michael Cohen is Mr. Popular in prison. That's next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] TAPPER: Our "NATIONAL LEAD" now, a prison celebrity from the Park Avenue penthouse to the slammer. New details now on Michael Cohen's social status in prison. The President's former fixer and personal attorney began his three-year term just last month. His admitted crimes including lying to Congress about planning Trump Tower Moscow and engaging in campaign finance crimes via hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.

CNN's Kara Scannell joins me now. And Kara, your reporting is that Cohen is something of a big fish in a small caged pond.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Jake. He's become the celebrity in this cell block. Michael Cohen has been sought out by some inmates seeking some legal advice from him, others have invited him to lunch. The thing that they all seem to want to know more about is what it was like to work for Donald Trump and of course those hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.

Now otherwise, Cohen's life behind bars is somewhat normal. He's been given a job. The former fixer is now Mr. Fix-It working on the prison's heating and cooling systems. He's also volunteered for construction work in hopes that that would shave some time off of his prison sentence.

Now, Cohen is otherwise trying to keep his spirits high. He is both thinking about working out, he's working out a lot, he's writing, he's reading. And the hardest part for him sources tell us is that he has not been able to see his family enough. It's that separation from his family that's really getting to him.

They are visiting him frequently but that thing is really just kneading at him. That's the toughest thing for Cohn behind bars. That of course in the food. The food there is a far cry from the restaurants that Michael Cohen is use of dining at in New York, Jake.

[16:50:46] TAPPER: Does he pay any attention to the President while he's in prison?

SCANNELL: Sources tell us that Michael Cohen is very much paying attention to the news. He's both watching television and following the newspapers. You know, one thing that sources tell us that Cohen is still pretty hung up about, he can't believe that he is the only person behind bars for those hush money payments, Jake.

TAPPER: Well, he's not wrong to be surprised about that. Kara Scannell, thank you so much. Coming up, he's 97 years old and he spent the last few months rowing, lifting, and training to jump out of a plane into France just like he did 75 years ago during D-Day. CNN went along for a very special ride. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "WORLD LEAD," D-Day. The marching orders were save the world. On June 6, 1944, U.S. paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines from high over Normandy with no idea if they were going to make it out alive or if Operation Overlord would be successful.

On D-Day, Staff Sergeant Tom Rice jumps with 101st airborne. He was just 22 years old. He said it was the worst jump of his life. And now at age 97, he invited CNN along as he prepared for a second jump.

Rice trained at the gym for months and this week he made his way to France to climb aboard a C-47 once again. Here's our exclusive inside look at how Staff Sergeant Rice honor the thousands of Allied Forces who gave their lives on D-Day and the ensuing operations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THOMAS RICE, D-DAY VETERAN: My name is Thomas M. Rice. I was a member of the 101st Airborne Division. We jumped into Normandy on June 6th. For the 75th anniversary, were jumping in Normandy and hopefully go back and do it over again. For the most part, I've been strengthening up all the muscles on my body wherever I possibly can going twice a week to a gymnasium.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is the city changed over the years.

RICE: We left it in shambles. Amazingly we're back here. Things are pretty much the same right in here. I was stationed right in that corner and if anything comes up at night and we're going to start shooting.

DENNIS VAN DEN BRINK, ORGANIZER, D-DAY ANNIVERSARY: He's -- to have a guy like Tom Rice who's 97. I can tell you it's a big hero here in Normandy not only because of what he did 75 years ago, but because it's still very much the same person you know. He still looks young, he's still full of energy and he's like a hero reborn here.

RICE: They're not shooting at us this time. That makes it much safer.

Beautiful jump, beautiful flight, everything was perfect.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Man, thank you to Staff Sergeant Tom Rice and to all those who served and sacrificed on D-Day. If you want to learn more about Staff Sergeant Rice's amazing story and his return to Normandy, you can visit cnn.com.

You can follow me on Facebook or on Instagram or on Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. We actually read them. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thank you so much for watching.

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