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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

New CNN Presidential Poll Released; Trump Willing to Accept North Korea as Nuclear Power?; Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) is Interviewed About Report that Trump May Allow North Korea to Keep Nukes in Exchange for Freeze. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 1, 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]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It might not be so lonely at the top for Joe Biden much longer.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news, we have got a brand-new CNN poll unveiling right here on THE LEAD. Who is surging? And how much damage was done to the former vice president's lead after those crucial first debates?

President Trump taking a historic walk into North Korea, but what is the next step? A new report suggests it might mean letting Kim Jong- un keep his nuclear weapons.

Plus, we're joined by a cartoonist who says he lost his job after his depiction of President Trump playing golf over the bodies of dead migrants went viral. The latest evidence of the hazards of political cartooning in the Trump era.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news, our very first look at our brand-new CNN poll giving us insight into where the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls stand after the very first debates.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is still in first place, but he has plummeted 10 percentage points since May. The big story in this poll, Senator Kamala Harris has shot up to second place, after her widely praised debate performance. Senator Elizabeth Warren has also gone up significantly and is in third place, within the margin of error with Harris.

Senator Bernie Sanders rounding out the top four, also going down.

CNN's David Chalian is at the Magic Wall.

And, David, wow, the debates had a huge impact on this very fluid race.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No doubt about it, Jake. You just were going through this new shuffled race here.

This poll was taken entirely after both of those nights of debating took place in Miami last week. And we have got a top tier here. You see Biden's lead has significantly narrowed, 22 percent, Harris at 17 percent, Warren at 15 percent, Sanders at 14 percent. Nobody else cracks 5 percent in this poll.

I want you to take a look at the change over time. You noted Joe Biden down 10 percentage points since May, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren doubling their support since May, Harris up nine. Warren up eight. Sanders is down 4. Buttigieg about even, down one point since May.

What's behind some of Biden's support, why he still holds that narrow lead? The African-American vote is still critical to him; 36 percent among African-Americans in this poll are with Biden, 24 percent for Harris, 12 percent for Warren, 9 percent for Sanders.

You see here the battle among the white vote a lot closer. It is this advantage among African-American voters that is keeping Joe Biden at the lead in the moment.

And I want you to see this, Jake. I think this is really interesting. We see Kamala Harris shooting up to that second place spot. But look at this on the issues. Whether it's the economy, health care or climate, we asked Democrats, who do you think is best equipped to handle it?

And she is well below on those issues her top-tier competitors here, except for one issue that we tested, race relations. She is well ahead here; 29 percent say she is best equipped to deal with race relations, compared to Joe Biden at 16 percent, Sanders at 13, Booker at 9, and Warren at 6, Jake.

TAPPER: Very concerned about whether or not their eventual nominee will be able to beat President Trump in the general election. What are they saying about that in this poll?

CHALIAN: This has been the animating feature of this Democratic primary so far, and we still see it here. More than six in 10 Democrats, 61 percent, that it is more important for them to have a nominee that has a strong chance of beating Trump than the 30 percent who say, no, no, no, I want somebody who shares my positions on the issues.

And take a look. This is Joe Biden's strong suit. We asked people, who does have the best chance of beating Trump in your mind? Among these Democrats, 43 percent say Joe Biden. He is running away with it, 13, 12 and 12 for Sanders, Harris and Warren.

If a candidate is able to pierce Joe Biden's seemingly hold on seeming to be the one that can best defeat Donald Trump most easily, that could have serious implications for his candidacy -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, David Chalian, thank you so much.

Let's chat about this with our experts.

Jackie, let me just start with you.

Joe Biden's lead down to just 5 percentage points over Kamala Harris, six or seven or so over Elizabeth Warren. The race really seems to be opening up.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It does. It does.

And you could you could kind of see that happening in the aftermath, what you were hearing from people after Kamala Harris had that really strong performance. That said, one of the striking parts of this poll, given what Kamala Harris took it to Biden, the issue of busing, black voters are still overwhelmingly with Joe Biden. That hasn't changed.

So he's still -- that is still very much a stronghold for him. And she hasn't been able to shake that.

TAPPER: And we should still point out this is still early. This is a national poll. The state-by-state polls are obviously more important when it comes to those crucial deadlines in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina.

Still, the Biden campaign, they can't be happy about this.

[16:05:00]

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR: They probably are not happy about going down, certainly.

After that debate performance, you would think that this is kind of good news in the fact that it wasn't worse. Like, this is -- like, that -- Kamala Harris really showed herself in that debate as a leader. She was on that stage leading, and saying whatever -- and saying what needed to be said and showing herself in that way.

And that's what Biden did not do. But when you see that he still has the strong support with black voters, what you see is that black voters are not just voting on one issue. They're not just going after the candidate who is black. That's never been true. It's not true in this case.

But it does show that Kamala Harris -- or Kamala Harris does have some room to grow, and to see if she can make her case that she can be the one to beat Trump.

TAPPER: And she also has some room to grow if you look at the issue areas, where she needs to expand your portfolio.

And, Maya, let me ask you, I mean, one of the earliest lessons I ever got in polling was, it doesn't matter where the numbers are so much as where they're headed. And you have Joe Biden since May down 10, Bernie Sanders since May down four, and Kamala Harris up nine, Elizabeth Warren up eight. MAYA ROCKEYMOORE CUMMINGS, CHAIR, MARYLAND DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Clearly,

Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are experiencing a surge. I think people are being open to their candidacies in terms of where they are on the issues. But, certainly, the debate performance has made a difference for both women in the race.

And so Warren was clearly the standout in the first night. She was able to come across as natural while also, of course, sharing her policy positions in a very clear way, in a concise way. Kamala Harris dominated the stage in the second night, and she was able to show that she was able to go toe to toe with the front-runner in the race and actually come out ahead.

So, clearly, that actually made a difference with people. Especially people who watched the debate performance really thought that she was really strong. And so, with that, I should point out that among people who think that they want a candidate to actually beat Trump, the issue of race is not separate from that, because we have to remember number that Donald Trump's candidacy and his presidency has been all about divisive rhetoric around race, certainly class and gender.

And so to the point that you have a female candidate, potentially, who could actually bring it to Donald Trump on the very issues that are dividing the nation, I think that we have the potential for an increase among -- growing strength among the women.

TAPPER: And 43 percent say Biden has the best chance; 43 percent still say, but Biden has the best chance, even if Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren impressed them.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, that's the good news for Biden in this polling, but what makes this race exciting is that that support is really soft.

In that 43 percent number, only 23 percent of those are committed to Biden, 18 percent are to Harris, 18 percent are to Warren. So what that tells me is that people are willing to look at those two female candidates if they think they can beat Trump.

And that's why Kamala is going up, because she stood on that stage and show that she would go after a front-runner. And, more than anything, someone has to be able to perform well on TV in a way that can take it to Trump. And so Joe Biden may -- voters may believe he is most equipped to take on Trump, but that is a very soft hold he has on them.

TAPPER: Now let's look at the racial breakdown, if we can just, push a second. I think it's question number five.

Black voters, 36 percent with Joe Biden, Kamala Harris 24 percent, Liz Warren 12, Sanders 9, Buttigieg zero percent with black voters. And then you look at white voters, Biden 20, Harris 17, Warren 16, Sanders 15, Buttigieg 6. It's very clear that black voters are Joe Biden's -- the pillar of Joe Biden support right now. He does much better with them than he does with the Democratic electorate as a whole, as does Kamala Harris, I should point out, with 24 percent, higher than her normal 17 percent, regular -- overall 17 percent.

RASCOE: When you have Biden, who was the vice president of the first black president, this is where it does play to Biden's strength to kind of bear-hug Obama as tightly as he can.

TAPPER: Barack, he calls him, Barack.

(CROSSTALK)

RASCOE: His buddy, his friend Barack as tightly as possible, and to say, look, I stood with him, I stood behind him, and I helped get those goals accomplished, and I can do that again.

So that is a strength for him. But I think, as Kamala Harris gets to be no more, that's the question of whether she can win over those black voters. She's not going to have -- she's not known as well as Joe Biden, who -- near universal name recognition.

So is the question is, as people get to know her more, will they continue to flock to her?

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question, Amanda, because I heard from a lot of Republicans who are Trump critics, such as yourself, that the Democratic Party really scared them, that the party was so far to the left, everybody raising their hand in terms of free health insurance for undocumented immigrants.

Kamala Harris since the debates talked about how she supports busing now, she wants busing now, and other efforts, federal efforts, to promote integration.

[16:10:05]

CARPENTER: Oh, yes, I mean, I think the no limits on abortion, amnesty, the position where they're going with health care scares a lot of Republicans who can look at Trump and be like, we don't want that, but whoa.

Democrats should really think about where they're going on health care in particular, because there is a lot of overhang from Obamacare, where people's health care did get disrupted, and now they're saying, OK, we're just going to take away even private health care insurance.

And I think this is reflected in the polling with Kamala, because the bad news for her is that she's still shaky on policy. While people may think that she can take it to Trump, she really doesn't have the policies laid out. And if she's going to go there with busing, goodness, you better explain that.

KUCINICH: You mentioned health care. Particularly on health care, she -- during the town hall, she said initially to you that she was, you know, all in to Medicare for all.

And now it seems like it's not necessarily the case. There's a misunderstanding. She was talking about this, she was talking about that. It's not really clear where she is on Medicare for all and where she is on health care.

And you're right. Because of that, I mean, that's something that Trump will, of course, take it to and make it a lot worse. The other thing though, what I'm wondering is, does how she performed in the debate encourage other candidates to take it to Joe Biden in these next debates?

Because this clearly incentivizes a strong, not any hit, because obviously, Eric Swalwell did not go up in the polls, but a good solid hit like Kamala Harris we saw. We will see.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Go ahead.

ROCKEYMOORE CUMMINGS: Let's remember that we are in the primary. And six out of 10 Democratic primary voters actually do believe that undocumented immigrants should have access to health care.

TAPPER: Right. But four out of 10 don't.

(CROSSTALK)

ROCKEYMOORE CUMMINGS: That's right. But this is a primary. That's still a majority. This is a primary.

TAPPER: Right. Yes.

ROCKEYMOORE CUMMINGS: And people are clearly reaching out to the base and seeking to appeal.

So I think that it's important to remember that.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

Don't forget to tune into the next Democratic presidential debates. They will be hosted by CNN in Detroit, Michigan. That's July 30 and 31 right here on CNN.

Coming up, questions about how the State Department is accused of using taxpayer-funded diplomatic security to run personal errands for the secretary of state, such as picking up his dog or picking up dinner. It's an exclusive you will only see on CNN.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:13] TAPPER: In our 2020 lead today -- while Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have shot up in the CNN's brand new poll of Democratic voters taken after last week's debate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has other numbers to crow about. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor announcing he raised $24.8 million since March for his campaign, almost all of it spendable in the primaries.

And as CNN's Phil Mattingly now reports, this news comes as the Biden campaign hints at growing grassroots funding support itself even after a debate many of Biden's campaign advisers wish had gone better.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg today laid down a major marker, of the $24.8 million variety, cementing himself in the top tier of the crowded Democratic presidential primary field when it comes to campaign cash. The head-snapping second quarter haul, more than triple what he raised a quarter prior from nearly 300,000 individual donors with nearly $23 million in cash on-hand.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously, we're very pleased with how the debate went. I think it was a chance to explain what we're about and why I'm running to some people who have never tuned in before.

MATTINGLY: Buttigieg's first out of the gate number now becomes the barometer for other top tier candidates. Today, Joe Biden's campaign sent an email to supporters saying they, quote, blew our fundraising goal out of the water. But the Biden's team did not release a specific dollar amount yet.

Senator Kamala Harris spotlighting her debate performance.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.

MATTINGLY: Harris keying on this explosive moment to raise more than $2 million in just the 24 hours after the exchange, according to her campaign. Harris also adding two new endorsements to her portfolio: Representatives Bobby Rush and Frederica Wilson, two members of the crucial Congressional Black Caucus, announced their support Monday.

All as Harris received unified support from her Democratic challengers on the issue of race, specifically this tweet from Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, that seized on a lie perpetrated on social media that Harris's Jamaican and Indian descent meant she was not black. Trump Jr. deleted the tweet but not before candidates like Bernie Sanders leveled this harsh charge. Donald Trump Jr. is a racist, too. Shocker.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Jake, the Harris campaign has weighed in as well, comparing it to the birtherism attacks from president -- against President Obama from Donald Trump, saying, quote, it didn't work then, it won't work now. As for Donald Trump Jr., a spokesman said he was genuinely asking a

question. He didn't know that Kamala was of half-Indian descent, and once he realized, according to this spokesman that it was being misconstrued, he immediately deleted the tweet, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

Three face-to-face meetings with Kim Jong-un and repeated presidential promises of denuclearization, but will North Korea actually get to keep their nuclear weapons?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:23:54] TAPPER: Our world lead now, President Trump back in Washington after making history as the first sitting American president to walk into North Korea. But despite what the president hoped was a dramatic TV moment with North Korea's despotic leader, Kim Jong-un, it's unclear what, if any, progress President Trump has made towards the stated goal of denuclearization.

The photo-op came as "The New York Times" is reporting that the Trump administration is considering allowing North Korea to keep its current stockpile of nuclear weapons in exchange for a freeze on nuclear weapons production, a significant moving of the goalpost were that to happen -- as Kaitlan Collins now reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump back in Washington today after taking historic first steps into North Korea. His impromptu sit-down with Kim Jong-un has reignited talks with the hermit kingdom, but now, there are questions about what those talks will look like.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just had a very, very good meeting with Chairman Kim.

COLLINS: "The New York Times" reports the U.S. may settle for a nuclear freeze instead of denuclearization, a concept "The Times" says would mean accepting the North as a nuclear power.

[16:25:03] It's a far cry from the president's demands that Kim surrender his arsenal.

TRUMP: This is complete denuclearization of North Korea. And it will be verified.

COLLINS: Trump's national security adviser John Bolton said neither the National Security Council staff nor I have discussed or heard of any desire to settle for a nuclear freeze. This is a reprehensible attempt by someone to box in the president.

But it could be an attempt to box out Bolton who was noticeably absent from the president's trip to the DMZ because a U.S. official said he was on a flight to Mongolia. Bolton may have been missing in action but the president's daughter and senior adviser wasn't. Ivanka Trump is facing criticism over the outsize foreign policy role she played in Asia. She summarized Trump's meeting with world leaders, a job typically reserved for national security staff.

IVANKA TRUMP, ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Abe just concluded a meeting with the president.

COLLINS: She awkwardly squeezed out the secretary of state in a photo op and Ivanka Trump even crossed into North Korea from behind closed doors. While the Trump's chief of staff waited outside, an experience she called surreal.

Back in Washington, the president is facing scrutiny of his own, after warmly embracing multiple authoritarian leaders while in Asia.

TRUMP: We met and we liked each other from day one and that was very important.

COLLINS: He lavished praise on the Saudi crown prince who the CIA recently concluded authorized the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

TRUMP: They've been a terrific ally.

COLLINS: And he touted his relationship with Vladimir Putin after joking about the Russian interference in the 2016 election.

TRUMP: I get along with President Putin. I get along with Mohammed from Saudi Arabia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, if the administration does allow North Korea to remain a nuclear power, that agreement could end up resembling the Iran nuclear deal which the president withdrew from because he said it was disastrous.

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

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Max Rose of New York. He serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. He was an army platoon leader in Afghanistan.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. MAX ROSE (D-NY): Jake, thanks for having me.

TAPPER: "The New York Times" is -- "The New York Times" is reporting that the Trump administration would consider something of a nuclear freeze, allowing the North Korean regime to keep its current nuclear arsenal in exchange for no more future production.

Would you settle for that agreement? Would that be good enough?

ROSE: No, absolutely not, Jake.

Look, this is a politics of foreign policy driven by this president's deep, dark insecurities. Apparently at this point, all you have to do is Twitter flirt with this president and compliment his hair and you could get whatever you want. This is theatrics through and through. And it's very disappointing to see the president of the United States stooping down to this level.

But I also think it is important that we take a step back here and really analyze this situation as a regional problem, not just an issue with North Korea. If we want true nonproliferation, a true end to this conflict in East Asia, then we have got to involve China. It means we have got to get China to the negotiating table and we have got to step back this tariff crisis. These two issues are interlinked and this president is not acknowledging that at all.

TAPPER: Let me ask you, because President Obama former director of national intelligence, General James Clapper, he said the U.S. might ultimately have to accept North Korea as a nuclear power, that the regime is unlikely to ever give up the nuclear weapons program. So on that broad view of it, he and President Trump don't necessarily disagree all that much.

ROSE: Well, I personally think, though, that that's not the issue here. The point is, is that we have got to have a broad-based strategy with a pre-determined outcome. We have not established anything. There's no clear negotiations. There's no clear strategy. And there's no regional approach.

So I do disagree with this notion that we should just relinquish this and set it up as an ultimatum because, again, look beyond the region. This is now an invitation to nations like Iran and God knows who else that there are no consequences to continued nuclear proliferation. It is extraordinarily dangerous and could catalyze a global race for nuclear weapons, and I'm unwilling to settle for that.

TAPPER: Supporters of the president say that most of us might not like the actions of people like Putin or President Xi or Mohammed bin Salman or Kim Jong-un, but the reality is the U.S. needs to work with them and in the case of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia is a key check on Iran. What do you have to say to that?

ROSE: Yes, look, well, it's clear that we have to engage with people and we can't have a utopian forum of geopolitics. But with that being said, what we're doing right now is we are rewarding bad behavior. Khashoggi is killed and in response, we have further arm sales to Saudi Arabia and we support them even more in their efforts.

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