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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

New Iran Sanctions; Leaked Documents Reveal White House Vetting Process. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 24, 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: But, after the women won in the 2015 World Cup, they earned essentially a third of what the men made. And that is after losing, the men losing, in the 16th round in 2014.

Perspective.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being here.

"THE LEAD" starts now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Leaked White House vetting documents that raise more red flags than the club promoter dating your daughter.

"THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump returns to Washington, as the crisis with Iran takes another dangerous turn. And it is not nearly the only crisis at home or abroad commanding the president's attention right now.

New sanctions coming down on Iran, as another acting secretary of defense takes charge at the Pentagon. Will maximum pressure on the regime lead to the negotiating table or to Tomahawk missiles?

Plus, it all begins again this week, 2020 Democrats in training for the first debates of the presidential election season, as one candidate's day job threatens to derail his upstart campaign.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the politics lead, President Trump careening from crisis to crisis, as he escalates tensions, threatens harsh action, and then suddenly pulls the U.S. back from the brink.

Today, President Trump announced new -- quote -- "hard-hitting sanctions" again Iran, the move coming after the U.S. apparently came within 10 minutes of a retaliatory strike against Iran last week, according to President Trump, before calling it off.

The president is also now putting off large-scale deportations of undocumented migrants, for now, he says. He's giving Congress just two weeks to change asylum laws so as to alleviate the number of undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. "The New York Times"' Peter Baker refers to this trend as a variation

on Teddy Roosevelt. In Trump's case, it is speak loudly and carry a small stick, or carry a big stick, but wave it around without actually using it much.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports on the president's sudden policy swings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will be signing an executive order imposing hard-hitting sanctions on the supreme leader of Iran.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, President Trump announcing new sanctions on Iran.

TRUMP: We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran.

COLLINS: After pulling back on a planned military strike in retaliation for shooting down a U.S. drone. He's now upping the pressure on a crippled Iranian economy.

TRUMP: I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us, a lot of restraint, and that doesn't mean we are going to show it in the future.

COLLINS: It is the response Trump preferred over the one his military advisers pushed.

TRUMP: John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him, he would take on the whole world at one time. OK?

COLLINS: Sources tell CNN the president took a last-minute trip to Camp David after bucking the advice of his national security team, and no Cabinet members or senior policy staffers joined him initially, with Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney going later.

TRUMP: We're going to Camp David. We're going to have meetings and a lot of work.

COLLINS: The getaway coming as he changed his mind on Iran and postponed plans for nationwide raids for families with deportation orders.

TRUMP: The people that came into the country illegally are going to be removed from the country. Everybody knows that.

COLLINS: Sources say it was a call from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that got him to delay for at least two weeks, all this as the president is facing another sexual assault allegation.

E. JEAN CARROLL, TRUMP ACCUSER: He pulled down my tights.

COLLINS: Author E. Jean Carroll claims Trump assaulted her over two decades ago in a New York department store dressing room. CARROLL: It was over very quickly. It was against my will, 100

percent.

COLLINS: Carroll said she's coming forward now because she wants the president to face consequences.

CARROLL: He denies it. He turns it around. He attacks and he threatens.

COLLINS: Trump is denying the claims.

TRUMP: It is a totally false accusation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, one other notable thing that the treasury secretary said today is that the president had instructed him to also add Iran's top diplomat to the sanctions list.

It seemed to be a last-minute decision because he was not included on the list that the Treasury Department sent out shortly after Mnuchin briefed reporters. And he said it would be happening later this week, which breaks with the longstanding policy of not announcing sanctions, for fear that individual can then try to evade them before they go into effect -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thanks so much.

Let's chew over all this.

Jen Psaki, President Trump tweeted about the Strait of Hormuz and China's and Japan' activity there.

He said -- quote -- "Why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries, many years, for zero compensation? All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey. We don't even need to be there" -- unquote.

Now, you used to be the spokesperson for the Obama State Department. Why are we protecting the shipping lanes?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, his facts were a little loose on that one. No surprise in terms of the percentages.

TAPPER: OK.

PSAKI: But, look, the fact is that oil prices will be impacted regardless of whose ships they are on going through the strait -- the strait, as he called it.

[16:05:05]

But what is interesting about too, about this, is that, minutes after this, after he tweeted, Secretary Pompeo went out and made a statement about how important it was to protect the Strait of Hormuz. And I think Lindsey Graham also tweeted that it was incredibly

important. So President Trump, obviously, I don't know if he learned a fact or thought he learned a fact and he wanted to sound smart. It is a little bit unclear. But most of his supporters are not even with him on this. So I don't know if we will hear more this from him about this at this point.

TAPPER: In fact, we have Pompeo last week saying something similar. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are going to guarantee freedom of navigation throughout the straits. This is an international challenge. This is important to the entire globe. The United States is going to make sure that we take all the actions necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's the same administration. And one is the president. One is the secretary of state, and they have the complete opposite position on the importance of the U.S. preserving the right of passage in the Strait of Hormuz.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, the president's impulses here are very much in conflict with longstanding U.S. traditions.

The president doesn't seem to understand a lot of these traditions. Why are we paying for NATO? Why are we paying to protect all of these other countries? Why aren't they paying us to protect them?

It's sort of the business man's approach to foreign policy, where the president believes that because the U.S. has all of these assets and has -- and spends all this money on foreign policy, that other countries should be stepping up to the plate as well, and spending money to protect themselves and not having the U.S. protect them.

So it's interesting to see the contrast between the president's advisers, who subscribe to this longstanding U.S. policy of, we need to make sure we have freedom of navigation, we need to make sure that there are international rules and norms that are followed, and the president, who believes that the U.S. has been taken advantage of, we need to have an America first policy, where we only looked after our own interests in a very narrow way.

So it's really interesting to see those two approaches play out within the same administration.

TAPPER: One wonders if it's brinkmanship, the trend that we're seeing where President Trump sees an issue, he makes it even more tense by threatening a very harsh action, and then backs away and expects accolades for his restraint.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure, I mean, tariffs in Mexico, the ICE raids that have now been postponed.

I think this is what Donald Trump calls negotiating. And a lot of people voted for him because they thought that he would be good at this kind of thing today, that they're fine with this style of negotiating and just kind of throwing something out there, even if it runs counter to what everything else in his own administration is saying, and even if it's something that he ultimately doesn't follow through on.

And I think that Trump himself would point to moments like this where he felt like he was successful. And I think the tariffs in Mexico would be like a good example of that. He would point to that and say, look, we got Mexico to come to the table, and to give us some things that we wanted. And we didn't have to go through with these tariffs anyways.

TAPPER: And it is true that Mexico stepped up quicker. And they actually are sending these National Guardsmen to the southern border of Mexico in a way with the speed and the determination that they hadn't seen before.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I would say, on the trade stuff, I don't know, with his underlying philosophy, but that's -- there's a little bit more to work with there, because I feel like there is an underlying philosophy.

When it comes to foreign policy, I do think he's truly torn between noninterventionism and the idea of being a tough guy. And so going to the brink and pulling back sort of serves that need in some way. But it's not like this is a traditional team of rivals, where he's got some people doing input.

They are just on different sides of the issue. I will say it is important to remember that Iran brought us to the brink, and their actions are important in that way. And they have been cleverly sort of avoiding what I think we all recognize will be a red line, which is actually hurting Americans.

And I think that the Trump tough guy would win out in that situation.

BALDWIN: I do want to mention E. Jean Carroll. She's the writer who has the cover story in "New York Magazine" saying that President Trump, alleging the President Trump sexually assaulted her in the mid- '90s.

That story came out on Friday. On Saturday, you talked to both of her friends, who contemporary -- she told the account to come to contemporaneously. And you have interviewed her, you have talked to her, and what do you make of her credibility?

MURRAY: It was interesting talking to her, because I think she's sort of grappling with this in the same way that everyone is grappling with it. She does not have a book about Donald Trump.

She has a book that mentions this really crazy, horrifying interaction that Donald Trump -- never happens. And it's kind of buried hundreds of pages into this book. But she didn't want to shy away from that.

This is a book where she recounts all of these horrific interactions she's had with men throughout the course of her life and they're the kinds of interactions that are more horrible than maybe some women have ever had to deal with. But I think a lot of women who exist in this world have had things sort of approaching these uncomfortable interactions with men, and this is really a book about that.

So I do think that lends her credibility. The other thing is, when you talk to people who have been through traumatic instances like this, there's usually something that sticks out to them that's not necessarily sort of the most horrific thing.

So she writes in the book that Donald Trump penetrated her, which he denies, but what was -- she really focuses on is how he grabbed her tights and ripped her tights down.

[16:10:02]

And I was talking to one of her friends who said, it was like she was in shock when she's retelling me this. This is right after it happened.

Because the friend is thinking, oh, my God, you were just raped. And she's like, can you believe that he ripped my tights like -- can you believe how aggressive he was, that he grabbed my tights?

And so that, to me, all just felt like a kind of very sincere in her retelling in the book, and in a way she shared this account with her friends at the time. Again, Donald Trump has denied that this ever happened. He's denied all of the allegations of assault, harassment, lewd behavior that came before her.

TAPPER: Yes.

MURRAY: It happened 20 years ago. So it's up to people who are watching this to decide what they believe.

TAPPER: Right, although, of course, it is in keeping with the allegations made by at least 16 other women and what President Trump said on that "Access Hollywood" tape.

Stick around.

Nothing like the president of the United States questioning years of military strategy the same day a new acting defense secretary starts on the job.

Plus, the Department of Defense far from the only revolving door in the Trump Cabinet -- a look at how red flags have been raised and then ignored or dismissed when it came to staffing the Trump administration.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:15:10] TAPPER: Our world lead now, President Trump slapping new, quote, hard-hitting sanctions on Iranian leadership, including the supreme leader, some of them partly in response to the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone last week. Mr. Trump reiterating he does not want to go to war with Tehran and hopes the pressure campaign will drive the regime to the negotiating table.

But as CNN Barbara Starr reports, Iran dismissed the sanctions as, quote, propaganda and is threatening to take out even more U.S. aircraft.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The supreme leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump today imposed new sanctions on the office of Iran supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, aimed at denying access to financial markets.

TRUMP: These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran's increasingly provocative actions.

STARR: Actions like last week's downing of a U.S. drone by an Iranian missile.

TRUMP: They've done many other things aside from the individual drone you saw, the tankers and we know of other things done also which were not good. And not appropriate.

STARR: The president insisting Iran must give up his nuclear weapons program and saying he is still willing to talk to Iran's leader.

TRUMP: My only message is he has the potential to have a great country and quickly, very quickly.

STARR: The administration strategy -- lock up Iran's economy in hopes of forcing it to start negotiations.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is next.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The president has also designate -- instructed me that we will be designating Zarif later this week.

STARR: New sanctions are also targeting senior commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps that the U.S. said had been involved in recent attacks. Keeping shipping secure is now a top Pentagon priority where it was Mark Esper's first day as the new acting secretary of defense. President Trump questioning decades of U.S. naval security operations to keep the Strait of Hormuz open, tweeting, he wants the U.S. to be paid for providing security.

All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And the Iranian foreign minister in his tweet back agreed with the president saying that the U.S. should not be in the Persian Gulf -- Jake.

TAPPER: Joining me now, Ambassador Richard Haass. He's president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former official in the George W. Bush State Department.

Ambassador Haass, thanks for joining us.

This president seems to think the sanctions are punishing the Iranian economy and it is only a matter of time before Iran is forced to negotiate. Do you agree? Do you think the strategy is the right one and that Iran will come to the table?

AMBASSADOR RICHARD HAASS, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR OF POLICY PLANNING UNDER BUSH 43: It is half right in the sense it is punishing the Iranian economy. The numbers I've seen, Jake, is between last year and this year, the economy could shrink by as much as 10 percent. But it will not force the Iranians to come to the table. What it will do is lead the Iranians to do more things like shoot down drones or attack tankers.

And what I think is going to happen is we're going to have -- we'll ratchet up sanctions like we did again today and they'll respond and one of the days one of us, more likely Iran, will go too far and the United States will feel compelled to respond militarily. So if we just turn up the pressure and don't associate it with a serious diplomatic process, then I think rather than lead to successful diplomacy, it will lead to conflict.

TAPPER: What do you think President Trump should do? What should be the next step?

HAASS: What I think he should do is say what our goals are. It's not regime change, but policy change. We want to have an extended nuclear deal, one that the United States negotiated in 2015 that this administration got out of.

It was flawed in certain ways. We ought to cover missiles and the constraints on the Iranian nuclear program need to go far longer into the future, and what we ought to announce is that if Iran signed up to that, then we would be prepared to ease some of the sanctions.

But if we -- you need to have some incentive for Iran to come to the table. They're not going to come to the table if we just pressure them.

TAPPER: The president tweeted about the U.S. patrolling the Strait of Hormuz and the gulf, he wrote, why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries, many years, for zero compensation. All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey. We don't need to be there. Obviously, he's referring to U.S. energy independence from Iran. Is

he right? Does he have a point?

HAASS: Not really. The United States has been doing this for decades. Not simply out of a narrow self interest but because the world economy depends upon, among other things, Middle Eastern oil and we are very much linked, our economic fate is linked to that of the global economy.

[16:20:03] Our presence in the region also has other features, it's reassuring to Israel and it does potentially push back against Iran. It supports some of the countries that have been friendly to us, particularly the Saudis and others, and if the United States continues to pull back from this part of the world, we shouldn't be surprised when, one, there is more conflict, even more conflict, and two, more countries start thinking about nuclear weapons because they won't have us to rely on any more.

TAPPER: Iran today denied that they were hit by a U.S. cyber attack which sources tell CNN had targeted an Iranian spying group with ties to the country's Revolutionary Guard.

This is obviously a major tool in America's ability to retaliate against Iran. Does it go far enough in crippling Iranian capability? Does it go too far? What do you think?

HAASS: It doesn't cripple and it shows you have all sorts of tools to bring to bear. Iran, by the way, has cyber tools they could bring to bear. They've done it in the past against the Saudi oil company. They could do it elsewhere.

And I think it is just a reminder, Jake, if there is a conflict, it is not going to be fought by airplanes and tanks on an Iranian battlefield. It will be fought throughout the region, using all sorts of militia, cyber tools, terrorism and it will spread to Saudi Arabia, to Israel. Hezbollah will attack Israel with thousands of rockets.

This will not be a classic war. To use an old phrase, it will not be a cake walk.

TAPPER: All right. Richard Haass, thank you so much. Always good to have you on. Appreciate it.

HAASS: Thank you.

TAPPER: As 20 Democrats prepare for the biggest test of their presidential campaign so far, only one of them is already being tested with a hometown problem that could have national implications.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:23] TAPPER: We're back with our 2020 lead.

With just two days before the crucial first debate, 2020 Democratic candidates are looking to put their best face and foot forward. But Pete Buttigieg is facing a crisis in South Bend that's revealing some problem areas during his eight-year tenure as mayor there -- tense relationships between the city and its black residents.

And as CNN's Jason Carroll reports from South Bend, Indiana, this comes precisely as Buttigieg is trying to win over African-American voters across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's time for you to do something and if you can't do it, steps your ass down.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg facing a growing challenge at home as he prepares for the first major test of his presidential run -- this week's national Democratic debate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is disrespectful that I have three boys that I have to teach today what to do.

CARROLL: Both town halls and community events in Indiana this weekend erupted in anger over alleged racism in the South Bend police department.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been fighting all of our life --

(CROSSTALK)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What are you going to do about it?

(CROSSTALK)

CARROLL: The recent death of a black resident Eric Logan at the hands of a white police officer highlights a long-standing problem Mayor Buttigieg admits he has not been able to solve.

BUTTIGIEG: We've done so many things over the years. Obviously, it hasn't gotten us to the point where there is full trust. Where even the level of trust that we need.

CARROLL: During the eight years he's been mayor, the South Bend Police Department has slowly grown less diverse. Twenty-six percent of South Bend's population is African-American, but just over 5 percent of the South Bend police force is black. Nearly half of what it was in 2014.

And in 2012, just weeks after taking office, Buttigieg fired the city's first black police chief following allegations that the chief improperly taped officers' phone calls.

BUTTIGIEG: I'm sick of these things being talked about in political terms and in theoretical terms like it's a show sometimes. It's people's lives.

CARROLL: Still, the issue highlights a political vulnerability for Buttigieg -- a lack of support from African-American voters.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not going to happen.

CARROLL: According to 2016 exit polls, African-Americans make up about 20 percent of the all Democratic Party voters, a crucial voting bloc.

(on camera): How do you think this is going to impact your stand with African-Americans not just here in South Bend but nationally as well?

BUTTIGIEG: Right now, I'm not thinking of the politics of it. It's not any lack of trying. It is a lack of getting where we need to be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And the mayor also wanted -- the mayor wanted to say he's not trying to run away from the problem, that he wants to be on the front lines in terms of trying to find a solution.

But, Jake, the reality is there is still a number of people here in this African-American community who feels as though very little, if any, progress has been made during his time here as mayor -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jason Carroll in South Bend, Indiana.

Let's talk about this. Jen Psaki, how do you think Mayor Buttigieg is handling this awful issue politically? He doesn't want to handle it. He doesn't want to talk about the politics of it.

It's inescapable. The politics are right there.

PSAKI: Well, no doubt it's a really obviously difficult situation. I think he's doing the right things, which is showing up and being there and exhibiting a quality that frankly is lacking in our current president which is empathy. He's not obviously solving the situation for them.

[16:30:00]