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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sarah Sanders Leaving White House By End Of The Month; Dems Slam Trump As Un-American, Disgraceful, Lawless; Trump Calls Out FBI Director: He is "Wrong" to Say Candidates Should Report Foreign Government Offers of Dirt on Opponent; Sarah Sanders Leaving White House By End of the Month. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 13, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


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[16:33:26] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don't call the FBI. Give me a break. Life doesn't work that way.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: The FBI director says that's what should happen.

TRUMP: The FBI director is wrong.

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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That was the president of the United States calling out his own FBI director whom he appointed, of course, for saying the candidates should tell the FBI if a foreign adversary offers them dirt on their opponent.

Joining me now is former FBI agent and former House Intelligence Committee chairman, former Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan.

Thanks so much for being here.

I guess the first question is just, what's your take on this as a former intelligence operative? Does this not concern you that this could be seen as an invitation to foreign intelligence leaders like, give me dirt on the president, I want to hear it?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Not only that. It sends a bad message across the political spectrum that this is an opportunity for you to hear things you probably shouldn't hear. Or in the new age of social media, with deep fakes and other things, they can make up stories and put it into your campaign.

So, here's a problem with what the president did, a couple of things. Yes, there's something called opposition research. That exists. Even campaigns do it on themselves before they hit the campaign trail just to see what their opponents are going to throw at them. It happens in every campaign.

TAPPER: Sure. ROGERS: That part, he's right.

What is not right is that you don't take information from foreign adversaries that would be of value. Where the crime comes in on this is that if they offer you something of value and you accept it and participate in that in your campaign, you've committed a campaign finance act violation. You haven't done any collusion, you haven't done any of that, but you've certainly stepped across that line.

[16:35:01] At the worst part of the day is these folks don't have good intentions ever for providing information to any candidate about any candidate. And that's what -- this is the category of you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

The last 2 1/2 years, I'm not sure if he was paying attention or not, but America was pretty disturbed about the notion that the Russians have, did and will continue to try to interfere with U.S. elections. It just seemed completely out of tune with where the reality of the -- what a criminal act could be and where we are just on the decency of not accepting this data.

TAPPER: Right. And I mean, even -- Marco Rubio in 2016, to his credit, whatever people think of him, would say, I'm not going to talk about the WikiLeaks. That's from the Russians. We don't want to set this precedent.

But President Trump was out there, candidate Trump was out there talking about the WikiLeaks, talking to the Russians. And now, he's basically inviting them.

I guess my question to you is, why have we -- you are a former Republican congressman. Why are so few Republicans willing to say anything about this? This is not a liberal or conservative issue. This is just, A, rule of law and, B, as you point out, basic decency.

And as Mitt Romney said, this is about the founding principles of democracy in this country. You don't accept foreign influence.

ROGERS: Right. I think hopefully you'll hear more Republicans come out. They don't have to attack the president in this, but they have to attack what his message was sitting in the Oval Office.

I give the president a bit of a pass. New guy came in campaigning. Somebody said they had a meeting.

Even Don Jr., I said really bad idea. I never would have done it. I would have advised against it.

I would have also said, let's pick up the phone and get the FBI over here. None of that happened. That was a campaign a bit naive.

This is a president who has been through this, who's been through an investigation for 2-1/2 years who sat in the Oval Office, who gets intelligence reports in that room --

TAPPER: Yes. ROGERS: -- every single day about what Russian activities are around

the world and by the way, it's not just the Russians. It's the Chinese. There are other adversaries.

TAPPER: Sure, the Iranians, the North Koreans.

ROGERS: And they understood that they can have some impact on the U.S. election, but maybe (ph) they're going to try to do it.

We know it happened in 2018. I think the intelligence services did a better job than they did in '16. We know they're coming back at us in 2020. That's what's so frustrating about this.

So I would argue, if I were the FBI director today, I wouldn't -- he shouldn't get in a mix-up with the president of the United States. But what they should do is put out what is legal and what is not legal so that every elected official understands you can't take something of value from a foreign government.

I think that would be a very important statement.

TAPPER: While you're putting yourself in the shoes of Christopher Wray, the FBI director, how demoralizing must it be for him and for FBI agents to hear the president of the United States say that the FBI director is wrong when the FBI director is saying you should call the FBI if foreign individuals, foreign governments are trying to interfere in an election which is just basic law.

I mean, how does this kind of thing, how is it received in the FBI, in the J. Edgar Hoover Building?

ROGERS: I mean, obviously, it's uncomfortable. I think the agents on the street, we call them brick agents out doing the work, it rolls off their back.

But, you know, again, the message here is, if you are getting a brush pass of information from the Russian government, likely pick up the phone and call the FBI. It's not going to be good.

So, most of those agents get that. They understand that, listen, we have a job to do and we're going to do it. You know, I wish the president would not pick on individuals from the Oval Office. I think it's distracting to their real mission.

And, by the way, and again, we have to understand, and I thought maybe the president may have figured that out in the last 2 1/2 years. The Russians did try to influence the election. And they do it by trying to pit Americans against Americans.

They pick Christian groups against Muslim groups in social media, and they try to do that. This was done by the Russians.

TAPPER: Yes.

ROGERS: They tried to get white supremacist groups after black activist groups, and they did this through social media. We should be absolutely inflamed about this and worry about it rolling into 2020.

TAPPER: Well, the president's passion and anger was at the FBI, not at the Russians.

Former Congressman Mike Rogers, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, what really happens with opposition research? David Axelrod is very familiar with presidential campaigns and the White House. He'll break it down for us, next. Stay with us.

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[16:43:43] TRUMP: Of the country, and she's going to be going, I guess you could say private sector, but I hope she's going to -- she comes from a great state, Arkansas. That was a state I won by a lot, so I like it, right?

(LAUGHTER)

But we love Arkansas. And she's going to be going back to Arkansas with her great family, her husband who is a fantastic guy, and her family. And I don't know, Phil and folks, if we can get her to run for the governor of Arkansas, I think she'll be --

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TAPPER: That's President Trump just moments ago. President Trump speaking about his Press Secretary Sarah Sanders after announcing that she is going to leave the White House at the end of the month. She's not held a White House press briefing in more than three months.

Earlier today, the president was trying to explain how it's OK to take dirt on your opponent from a foreign adversary because everyone is doing it. Take a listen.

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TRUMP: You're a congressman. Somebody comes up and says, hey, I have information on your opponent. Do you call the FBI?

I don't think -- do you go and talk honestly to congressmen? They all do it. They always have. And that's the way it is. It's called oppo research.

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TAPPER: Yes, it's not oppo research if it comes from another country's government or another country's intelligence agency.

Joining me to talk about all of this is CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod.

David, just first, your thoughts on Sarah Sanders leaving? Your thoughts on her legacy as a spokesperson. [16:45:00]

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I thought in the campaign she was probably the most effective spokesperson as a surrogate that Donald Trump had. But you know, here's the deal. If you make yourself -- if you accept a position as a spokesperson for someone who habitually doesn't tell the truth, you sacrifice your own credibility, and that's what happened to her in this job and that that will be her legacy as the White House Press Secretary.

She has been loyal to the President, she has not been faithful to the truth. I do think that doesn't mean she can't go back to Arkansas and run for public office and do very well. As you remember, her father was governor of that state and my guess is that her fidelity to Donald Trump, if not the truth, would be a political asset back in Arkansas.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the bigger story what President Trump said about taking information dirt on opponents from foreign governments. You've worked on presidential campaigns for a long time. Were you or any of the campaigns you ever worked for ever offered dirt on an opponent from a foreign government or a foreign individual or anything like that?

AXELROD: No, Jake. And look I'm not an ingenue. We've fought very hard in these presidential races. We did have opposition research. It was not furnished by foreign governments. It was done by researchers studying records and so on. And if he whiffed we had been approached by an agent of the Russian government or an agent of the Chinese government or any other government for that matter but particularly these governments should be a red flashing light.

We -- I would have gone to the campaign council and the campaign council would have gone to the FBI. There's just no question about it. To hear the president say everybody does it is just nonsense. That is not -- that is not the case.

And you know, one of the things that worries me. Everything that's been said on this show is true. I think we ought to take a step back and look at the larger point which is this isn't just a one-off. This is a president who simply does not believe that rules, norms, laws, institutions are to be respected.

He thinks you're a sucker if you don't do everything you can do to advance your particular interest. That's how he ran his business, that's how he's run his politics, and frankly, he's made that the policy in many cases of the United States embracing Kim Jong-un, excusing Vladimir Putin. And that to me -- you know, so this is a larger issue than just this latest outrage. This is his philosophy.

TAPPER: The President said there'd be nothing wrong with listening to information from foreign government. Explain why you think it's a problem to take information from a foreign government about your opponent. Like what's the principal or obviously we talked about the law with Mike Rogers a few minutes ago. But what's the principle that would bother you about it? AXELROD: Well, let's go back to the beginning of the Republic. I mean this was a concern that the Founding Fathers had, a foreign interest tampering in our elections, trying to tilt it in their -- to their advantage. I mean why are people offering Donald Trump? Why did the Russians offer Donald Trump or why would they offer him this information?

That's a question that he ought to ask himself. They're not doing it because you know they have some altruistic goal. There very flinty- eyed about their own self-interest. So you have foreign governments who want to tilt elections in their favor and not in ours and that that's a really serious problem.

TAPPER: David Axelrod, thank you so much. Always good to see you.

AXELROD: Good to see you.

TAPPER: Breaking news, Sarah Sanders reacting just moments ago after the President announces she's leaving the White House and may be running for Governor of Arkansas. Stay with us.

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[16:50:00] TAPPER: Breaking news in our "2020 LEAD." Just moments ago, Washington state governor Jay Inslee became the 15th Democratic candidate to call for impeachment proceedings to begin against President Trump. CNN's Jessica Dean filed this report.

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JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump's claim that he would accept political dirt on his opponents from foreign entities --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it.

DEAN: Bringing a wave of backlash from 2020 Democrats.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have a president who neither understands the Constitution of the United States or respects the Constitution.

JOHN DELANEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's un-American, it's unpatriotic. I think it's against the law.

DEAN: Today Congressman Eric Swalwell going the farthest he has to date announcing he now supports an impeachment inquiry into the president saying in a statement, "His relentless attacks on our rule of law and numerous efforts to obstruct justice and Congress have reached such a point to require extraordinary action."

And he wasn't the only Democratic presidential candidate talking impeachment. In a tweet, Senator Elizabeth Warren once again called for Trump's impeachment saying it's time. Senator Kamala Harris calling the president a national security threat. SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's outrageous.

And it tells me the guy just doesn't understand the job and can't do it very well.

DEAN: Vice President Joe Biden saying Trump's willingness to accept damaging information from foreign entities poses "a threat to our national security." While Senator Cory Booker tweeted, "it's not oppo research, it's foreign interference in U.S. elections." Others express concern about the security of the 2020 elections. Senator Amy Klobuchar wrote in a tweet. "The 2020 elections are not secure. Disgraceful."

All of this as the lineup for the first Democratic primary debate is about to take shape following today's deadline to qualify for the event later this month. It appears the three candidates who will likely not make the cut are Montana governor Steve Bullock, Congressman Seth Moulton, and Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam.

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[16:55:13] DEAN: The DNC will announce tomorrow how those candidates will be grouped for those first debates, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Dean, thanks so much. Then danger in one of the tensest regions of the world. Now the United States is blaming one country for an attack on two oil tankers. Stay with us.

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TAPPER: You can follow me on Facebook, and Twitter, or Instagram @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

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