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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Jon Stewart Blasts Lawmakers Over 9/11 Fund; Trump Receives Letter From Kim Jong-un; Biden and Trump Trade Jabs. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 11, 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]

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Who would want to go up against the guy that is going to beat you, according to polls, by the most points? You go up against someone who is the weakest, someone like Elizabeth Warren.

But, look...

KEITH BOYKIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Who's also beating him in the polls.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: In a head-to-head, yes.

CUPP: But just recently -- yes, just recently, that happened.

But, listen, we forget that there was a really big appetite in 2016 to hear Donald Trump, you know, rattle off these insults and sort of really take -- quote "take it to" the Republicans who he was running against and then Hillary Clinton.

The problem now is, he married that in 2016 with a lot of, I will say, aspirational for Donald Trump, language. We're going to build a wall, we're going to bring jobs back, we're going to get a new trade deal.

This time around, if it's just whining, if it's just Joe Biden's a dummy, this one's an idiot, that one's nasty, the Democrats won't do anything, I don't think there's as much of an appetite for this.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Because the insult comedy approach to the presidency makes us all dumber. And that's what we're dealing with right now.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: But he actually has things that he will run on, that he will take credit for, that any Republican candidate would be idiotic not to take credit for, a really strong economy.

CUPP: I think you just answered your own question.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: No, what I'm saying is, he has actually does have things that he will run on beyond the insult comedy that we're talking about. Right? The economy is very strong.

CUPP: Will he, though? When he has those opportunities, he always swings back.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: This is the moment where he's simply batting down the guy who's in the lead on the other side, because he can't help it.

AVLON: It's more than that.

We know that the president's entire reelection is predicated upon negative partisanship as a strategy. Right? The Democrats are radical socialist extremists who hate America and who feel contempt for middle-class America. You can't do that for Joe Biden. That's why he's scared of them. It's just more difficult to rebrand Biden in those ways, because it doesn't ring true.

HOOVER: It may not be that actually difficult to rebrand Biden. He has never had a successful presidential campaign. Not once. He was actually the least...

AVLON: Well, he won twice as vice president.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: Because he was selected by Obama, in the president's words, off the trash heap. Of course, it wasn't that. But he wasn't anywhere near the top of that pack and we all know it.

BOYKIN: That's true.

The problem is, Donald Trump has no message discipline. So even if he wanted to talk about the economy, he would start talking about something else immediately afterwards. And people would focus on that instead.

The election is going to be an issue, it's going to be a referendum on Donald Trump regardless. The American people have decided. He's been in office for more than two years. He's still at 42 percent approval rating after all this time. He's made no effort to reach out beyond his base, and you can't get elected just with 42 percent.

TAPPER: And I just want to bring up, because sources are telling Kaitlan Collins that the president lashed out at his own internal polling that shows that he's not doing well against Biden in states crucial to his reelection.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Look at some public polling. Here's a Q poll, a Quinnipiac poll, in Texas showing Biden ahead of President Trump 48 percent to 44 percent, in Texas.

Now, that's just one poll and it's a snapshot. In Pennsylvania, Biden leads President Trump by 11 points, according to a poll. Now, he's saying he doesn't trust the numbers, he doesn't trust the polls, but this is what the president is seeing.

CUPP: Which is vintage Trump, by the way, don't trust the numbers, don't trust the polls.

TAPPER: Worked for him last time.

CUPP: This isn't new. Right. Right.

And maybe he's got some -- a ground network telling him differently in some of these states. But, you know, I don't see Trump doing anything differently than he did in 2016. We shouldn't expect him to. We shouldn't, just like we shouldn't have kept waiting for him to pivot and pivot and pivot. He's going to run the same campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: But I don't know if the problems from '16 -- the problems from '16 may not have been fixed either. Remember, the polls were wrong in '16. Remember? We didn't know. Nobody knew at this table or anywhere else that Donald Trump was going to win.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: He still lost the popular vote.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: That's fine. But he won the Electoral College.

We all know what happened. And, by the way, the problem with the polling was dealt with who they were asking the questions to. And we don't know that the modeling for the polling has been fixed this time around. So you can understand why he's going back.

TAPPER: The likely voter. They haven't been able to figure out who's actually going to vote.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And, John, let me ask you a question, because Margaret sounds more skeptical of Joe Biden than you do.

Do you not have concerns about -- not concerns, that's not -- the wrong term. But do you not think that there are some weaknesses that Joe Biden has that we have seen in the last few weeks? His flip-flop on the Hyde Amendment, the parts of his climate change proposal that were lifted from liberal think tanks, plagiarism charge, which obviously haunts -- yes, from 1987.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: This gaffe that "The New York Times" found in '87, '88, we would tell people that he marched for civil rights, when he never marched for civil rights.

AVLON: At least he's not lifting from Neil Kinnock. That's an improvement. This time, it's just liberal think tanks on climate change.

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: Look, of course. When you have that long history, in politics, you're going to have a lot of ghosts that can get thrown at you.

HOOVER: You're normalizing plagiarism.

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: No, I'm not normalizing plagiarism.

I'm saying that, again, it's compared to what proposition, and Donald Trump has blown through a lot of weaknesses, like Joe Biden's capacity for committing gaffes. I think the biggest hurdles he faces is being a 77-year-old and does he have the energy and the vitality that he seems to be and has been associated with in the past?

[16:35:05]

I think it's also -- when he does talk about the Hyde Amendment, trying to shore up his left flank, it actually weakens, because it's not going to please the progressive advocates, and it makes him look inauthentic.

Authenticity is the key.

CUPP: Let's separate gaffes from really terrible strategy decisions, which was abandoning Hyde.

And can I just also offer Biden just a small criticism.

AVLON: A small bit of advice?

TAPPER: Here it is.

CUPP: Make America American again?

TAPPER: Did he say that?

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: Yes. He auditioned that.

AVLON: Make America America again.

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: Make America America again.

TAPPER: You didn't care for it?

CUPP: Uh-uh.

(CROSSTALK) CUPP: I don't like it.

TAPPER: OK.

He's a comedian used to making people laugh, but today Jon Stewart made a tearful plea to Congress. The emotional moment you will not want to miss, that's next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:13]

TAPPER: An emotional plea on Capitol Hill today.

Comedian Jon Stewart, who's long been a passionate advocate for the 9/11 first-responders, imploring members of Congress for full funding for the Victim Compensation Fund those injured during the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath and their families.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, FORMER HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity, time. It's the one thing they're running out of. They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN's Suzanne Malveaux spoke to Stewart after the hearing today.

Suzanne, what did he have to say?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there are two reasons that he was very upset today.

One of them, of course, is that he went before the House Judiciary subcommittee. This is for the Victim Compensation Fund for 9/11, those who were first-responders, volunteers who got diseases related to the 9/11 attacks.

And he saw in front of him a whole empty row. And behind, there was a row of those who were in attendance. That was the first thing that he said that they didn't even bother, that it was shameful that they didn't even bother to show up. The second thing is the funds themselves.

We are looking at a compensation fund that was reenacted in 2015, but the lead of the funders, they say that now there's going to be a reduced amount of money for these people who really risked their lives if they don't submit their paperwork by December of 2020.

I caught up to Jon Stewart this afternoon and I just asked him why this is so personally important to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEWART: I was there on 9/11. And I saw what they endured to help stabilize and bring our country back from, you know, this chaotic and reeling situation.

And I'm just -- even if I hadn't had been there, I think I would be angered by the injustice of what they have had to endure to just get through the pain and suffering that they have unfortunately gotten from their own heroism.

And so, unfortunately, in this country, as you know, you can be financially ruined by a health situation. And that's what was happening to them. And it's not just, it's not fair. And I do feel, to some extent that, you know, these are the most honored and venerated amongst us.

And if we can't take care of them, what chance do the rest of us have?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Jake, there was some pushback from some members, who said, look, those empty chairs would have been if it was a full Judiciary Committee meeting, not just the subcommittee.

But that really did not pacify Jon Stewart. He didn't blame Democrats or Republicans. He blamed Congress in general. I asked him if there was anything that somebody said to him today that might have given him a sense of hope for these first-responders and volunteers who have been impacted?

And he said, he is skeptical, that it is not going to take away or cure their diseases, but certainly maybe the fact that they -- the uncertainty of all of it, the financial uncertainty, if they do respond and they actually do provide these funds, he said that it is not going to be a situation where it's going to be a celebration, but, rather, he simply said, a sigh of relief -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Coming up: inside man. Did the CIA infiltrated Kim Jong-un's own family? President Trump just weighed in with a message for the North Korean dictator.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:45:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half-brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my -- under my auspices. That's for sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Trump with a rather unusual reaction to a bombshell report in the Wall Street Journal claiming that Kim Jong-un's half-brother, the one Kim Jong-un is believed to have had killed was a CIA informant.

Kim Jong-nam who lived in exile would, according to the Journal, meet with American agents in Singapore and Malaysia. CNN could not confirm the Journal report. Surveillance video captured Nam being smeared with poison in a Malaysian airport in 2017. South Korea's Intelligence Agency blamed Kim Jong-un for the assassination.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live for us in Seoul, South Korea. And Paula, what do we know about how the CIA is said to have cultivated Kim Jong- nam?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake what we're learning is from one of the defense lawyers of those -- one of the two women who smeared that nerve agent on Kim Jong-nam face in that international airport, what he has told CNN is that based on his knowledge, he does believe that Kim Jong-nam met with an American intelligence agent in Langkawi, the resort island of Langkawi in Malaysia.

Now we understand that he is privy to all the evidence that was given in court. and we also know that when he was questioning one of the intelligence agencies, one of the police officers within that core case that they had admitted that Kim Jong-nam had met with an American five days before he was murdered. Although the police at that point said they couldn't ascertain his identity and didn't know for sure whether or not he was a spy.

Now, this defense lawyer also telling CNN that he has police evidence of a computer that Kim Jong-nam owned and it was also used on the day that he had that Langkawi meeting and a USB Drive had been used within that time. Jake?

[16:50:11] TAPPER: Paula, has there been any reaction from North Korea to this Wall Street Journal report?

HANCOCKS: There's been no reaction, Jake. And we're not really expecting any reaction. North Korea has consistently denied that they had anything to do with Kim Jong-nam's death. Although the South Korean intelligence agency just afterwards did say they believe Kim Jong-un had ordered the attack.

TAPPER: All right, Paula Hancocks, thanks so much. Let's a chat about this for one second. Margaret, the President of the United States basically saying that he never would have okayed such a spy operation as to seek Kim Jong-un's half-brother as some sort of CIA cultivated source. What do you make of that?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he can potentially, credibly say that as an attempt as we know he has been very proud of the communications he has with Kim Jong-un right now. Maybe this is a way of strategizing, communicating as a sort of outwardly that he wants to maintain relationships that are very seen high level with his peer in North Korea, the murderous dictator of the closed state that offers no opportunity or frankly is a repressive -- the most repressive regime in the world next to China.

TAPPER: Yes. Listen, don't you think he's undermining his own intelligence agencies?

HOOVER: But the major -- but the major point here is he doesn't even read his presidential intelligence briefings and so how would he even know?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is -- this is the ventilation of the presidency. We're treating the president -- and you know, whatever soft spot he automatically has for autocrats, he is giving incredible insult to the men and women working in the CIA and absolutely dismissing the danger of Kim Jong-un and continuing to buy the absolute obvious lie contradicted by his own national security adviser that Kim is somehow complying with the agreements they allegedly verbally had. It's ridiculous.

S.E. CUPP, CNN ANCHOR: But there's another layer. John Bolton yesterday said the North Korea is one of five countries that's actively spreading misinformation about us. And then he blamed, John Bolton, blamed the media. He blamed us for being North Korea's stenographers.

TAPPER: You know what's interesting --

CUPP: Now, the President gets in front of the media and says that he will not spy on North Korea, this country that is actively spreading misinformation about us and apologizes for the CIA.

TAPPER: And Keith, remember this --

CUPP: That is remarkable.

TAPPER: Keith, remember this last week, after the allegation that Kim Jong-un had some of his own people assassinated, the South Koreans and others were interested in whether or not this happens because the people disappeared in Kim Jong-un has a track record of murdering people. This is what President Trump said.

(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: They like to blame Kim Jong-un immediately. Again, it seems as though he's defending like his crouch -- his knee-jerk responses to defend Kim Jong-un.

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He consistently defends Kim Jong-un in the same way he defends the Saudi Crown Prince after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The President has a problem with his affinity for dictators, but he has a problem with anyone who says nice things about him. Unfortunately, this man is not well. I think he's mentally unstable,

unfortunately. I don't understand how Republicans --

TAPPER: You're talking about Kim Jong-un or President Trump?

BOYKIN: I'm talking about the President of the United States.

TAPPER: OK.

BOYKIN: And I don't understand. We already know that about Kim Jong- un, but I don't understand how Republicans, a party that is for 20, 30, 40, 50 years campaigned on national security, on standing up to Russians, on standing up to dictators, and being strong in our defense, how they can now look at Donald Trump as the President of the United States and not just hang their heads in shame in every word he says in defense of these dictators.

TAPPER: Margaret?

HOOVER: Like I'm not going to sit here and -- I'm part of -- I'm part of the ten percent of Republicans who's not steadfastly in favor of the president or his tactics or strategy so I can't actually take that and hit it back to you and tell you why. But the truth is, you're right. The base has allowed a lot of leeways for the President to do his thing.

And there -- you know, there is this argument that the base will make that maybe he's crazy like a fox, right. Maybe this is President Trump trying to and believing that he can't have some kind of a one- on-one communication with the leader of another country that is a nuclear-armed country and make a breakthrough in a way that no other president or administration has yet, and this is just part of that strategy.

TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. Turning lemons into lemonade. One state now changing the law to stop putting the squeeze on kids who open up lemonade stand. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER Here's the split screen we've all been expecting. Right now, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are holding the dueling events in Iowa after the two already traded insults earlier today, just the beginning of a long 2020 election season.

Finally from us in our "NATIONAL LEAD," you'd think the old summer tradition of the neighborhood lemonade stand could remain pure and uncontroversial, but in Texas, it went all the way to the governor's desk after sisters Zoey and Andria Green, then ages seven and eight, had their lemonade stands shut down by police in 2015 for not having a permit, sparking outrage.

This week, Governor Greg Abbott formally legalized children's lemonade stands in Texas. The Green sisters say they will celebrate with, you guessed it, a lemonade stand when the law officially takes effect in September.