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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez And Sen. Ted Cruz Team Up To Stop Lawmakers From Becoming Lobbyists; DOJ To Plaintiffs: 2020 Census Won't Include Citizenship Question; Trump Approval Rating at 43 Percent; Biden Dropping, Harris Surging. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 2, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:30]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we're back with breaking news, specifically our brand-new CNN poll on the Trump presidency.

President Trump's approval rating seems to be holding steady; 43 percent of the public says they approve how President Trump is handling his job; 52 percent disapprove. His approval rating in January was lower than that, 37 percent. It has since inched up. It is now holding steady at 43 for the last three months.

When you compare President Trump to past presidents at this point in their presidencies, June in their third year in office, Trump is still near the bottom when it comes to approval ratings, topping only Jimmy Carter in 1979.

And with President Trump making moves on North Korea and Iran, CNN's Pamela Brown now reports from the White House on what voters think of the president's foreign policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump laying low today on the heels of his monumental surprise visit with Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was a very legendary, very historic day.

BROWN: As the president boasts about the surprise meeting, it has also been met with heavy criticism from the left. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer slamming the trip as a propaganda win for North Korea with nothing to show for it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: This was one of the worst few days in American foreign policy, in American diplomatic history.

BROWN: White House adviser Kellyanne Conway today defended the administration's position.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: President Obama was handed the Nobel Peace Prize, but President Trump's on his way to actually earning one. And that's because he has an obligation to at least meet with leaders.

BROWN: The president taking the Twitter to call out how good the North Korean leader looked, saying: "He looked really well and very healthy. I look forward to seeing him again soon."

A new CNN poll out this hour showing only 40 percent of Americans approve of how Trump is handling North Korea, and 37 percent approve of his handling of Iran, which has now exceeded its uranium stockpile limit set in the 2015 Obama administration nuclear deal.

The president had a direct warning for the regime.

TRUMP: They know what they're doing. They know what they're playing with, and I think they're playing with fire.

BROWN: The move is Tehran's first major breach of the accord since Trump withdrew from the agreement last year. And as tensions mount with Iran, the president took aim at another military hot spot, Afghanistan, comparing that country to an Ivy League school, as he defended keeping 14,000 troops there.

TRUMP: I would like to just get out. The problem is, it just seems to be a lab for terrorists. It seems -- I call it the Harvard of terrorists.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And, meantime, the battle over President Trump's tax returns escalated today with the House Ways and Means Committee suing the IRS and Treasury for those tax returns.

Now, one of the president's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, released a statement, saying: "We will respond to this latest effort at presidential harassment in court" -- Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown at the White House for us, thanks so much.

The 2020 races heating up in the Hawkeye State, as a new Iowa poll has been released. And one of the Democratic candidates is already being urged by his own advisers to drop out. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:03]

TAPPER: We're back with our 2020 lead and a brand-new look at the 2020 raise post-debates from the key state of Iowa.

Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the pack. He's at 24 percent, but Senator Kamala Harris has soared into second at 16 percent. Senator Elizabeth Warren is in third with 13 percent, followed by Senator Bernie Sanders at 9 percent. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 6 percent in the Iowa poll.

That new Iowa poll mirrors basically what Democrats across the country are telling CNN in our latest nationwide poll of the Democratic field. As CNN's Jeff Zeleny now reports, the presidential hopefuls are all

taking notice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A reset of the 2020 race and a reshuffling in the top tier of the crowded Democratic field.

A new Quinnipiac national poll released today showing Joe Biden at 22 percent and Kamala Harris at 20, with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders not far behind. Those results similar to the findings in CNN's national poll out Monday, both showing Biden's lead diminishing.

Aides to Biden say the former vice president always knew he would have a contest, not a coronation. But they did not expect it would happen so quickly, after a shaky first debate last week in Miami. Biden foreshadowed this himself not long ago on the campaign trail.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I see all these polls. They give them to me. They don't mean a thing right now. This is a marathon. And the marathon is just beginning.

ZELENY: The increasingly competitive primary fight coming as candidates are preparing to blanket the campaign trail in Iowa for the Fourth of July, where a Suffolk University and "USA Today" poll shows Biden in the lead, with Harris on the rise in the state that kicks off the voting in just seven months.

Elizabeth Warren also climbing in that poll, as Bernie Sanders falls behind the top three contenders, the spotlight shining on Sanders, but not with the kind of attention he's accustomed to, with Iowa and national polls show him losing ground.

[16:40:02]

The Sanders campaign announcing today it raised $18 million over the last three months. He's been surpassed by Pete Buttigieg, who revealed Monday he's raised more than $24 million.

Appearing with Jesse Jackson in Chicago today, Buttigieg acknowledging challenges of his own, particularly introducing himself to African- American voters, who are a critical slice of the primary electorate.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, when you're new on the scene, and you're not from a community of color, you got to work much harder in order to earn that trust, because trust is largely a function of quantity time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, as for Biden, he's entering what his aides see as a critical month of July, with only four weeks before the next Democratic debate, where he hopes to get a second chance to present his argument that he's the strongest Democrat to take on President Trump -- Jake. TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Everybody, take a look at how the polls in Iowa have changed in just the last month. In June, Biden led, then Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris. And now Biden is basically neutral, while Sanders and Buttigieg have lost ground. Warren and Kamala Harris have gained ground.

What does that tell you about the state of the race right now?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, POLITICO: Well, it tells me that Harris clearly has capitalized on that moment from the debates, that she -- not only were they able to also turn that into multiple days of news coverage, which then also probably helped her.

So that shows that if you can take a risk during the debates, then maybe these candidates want to, because that's what she did. She created that moment for herself. It wasn't a specific question asked to her.

Also, Warren has been pretty much running this very steady race of consistently reaching out to communities of color, consistently releasing policy proposals that are very detailed, and that's her bet, and it seems to be paying off so far.

TAPPER: Do you think what Joe Biden has been doing, basically running this front-runner's campaign, where he doesn't do any interviews, he talks here and there, but doesn't really present any major policy addresses or anything like that, basically just raising a lot of money -- it doesn't seem to be working.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, not so far.

I mean, they might argue he's still leading in the polls, but he's certainly bleeding support.

TAPPER: Sure.

PSAKI: I don't think they're surprised that the -- that polls are tightening.

He was he was so far ahead in the beginning, unnaturally so. But what we saw at the debate, it wasn't just that he had a bad debate. I don't think anyone could watch that and think he did well. It was that he seemed disconnected from the electorate and the issues that were being discussed.

And he's somebody who is quite natural with people. He's very good one-on-one. He's very good in groups. He needs to be out there more and be kind of shaking off the cobwebs. I think that alone would help improve his debate performance.

But he also needs to have some forward-looking policy proposals to be able to talk about, because he didn't have a lot in the caddy to go to that debate with. And I think if he does with the CNN debate coming up in a couple of weeks, that would help him tremendously. TAPPER: The Sanders campaign announced today, Doug, that they raised

$18 million in the second quarter. That's $7 million less than South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised.

Sanders' campaign manager took a jab at Biden's fund-raisers and at Buttigieg's, saying -- quote -- "This money wasn't raised at a closed- door fund-raiser, where people are eating parmesan-encrusted salmon on toothpicks," because he's talking about how he doesn't take money from certain kinds of donors.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, it's hard to actually eat parmesan-encrusted salmon toothpicks. I have tried that. It doesn't work well at fund-raisers.

(LAUGHTER)

PSAKI: Messy.

HEYE: Look, this is the struggle I think that Bernie Sanders is having in this race as he's falling in the polls. He's still raising a lot of money. But other candidates are doing better.

Pete Buttigieg has really shown that he can do well. He's harnessing love from donors. He's not doing so well with voters yet. That's going to be his challenge. But for Bernie, you look at the poll numbers, it's emphasizing, he's old, he's white, and also that his ideas are kind of old, when Elizabeth Warren is putting out plan after plan after plan, as Laura highlighted.

TAPPER: And, Sara, President Trump raised $105 million in the second quarter. Obama was pretty unprecedented in his time. He raised $85 million during this time of his presidency -- $105 million.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, I mean, this is American campaigns now. Every year, it will be even more money than the last year.

And so in some ways that eye-popping number shouldn't be surprising, but it should be a big wakeup call to Democrats, if they look back to what Trump was able to do in 2016 on essentially a shoestring budget with a bunch of people who had no idea what they were doing, who had never run a campaign before, and who were throwing this operation together at the last minute.

That's not what they're going to be dealing with. They're still going to be dealing with Donald Trump, the phenomenon, but he's going to have money, he's going to have an operation, the party's going to line up behind him. This is not the same sort of discombobulation we saw last time, and they need to be prepared for that.

And I think that what we saw in the debates is that a lot of people, and especially Joe Biden, who looks like they may be the front- runners, were not prepared for it. People who got a lot of media attention, Beto, Mayor Pete, they were not prepared for going on that debate stage and having these big moments. I think people looked at Mayor Pete, talking about him dealing with

the police force in his hometown, and how he wasn't able to do it as, you know, a moment of courage and honesty.

I saw it the other way. I mean, if you can't fix this issue in your own hometown, how are you going to do it in the United States?

[16:45:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Interesting. And don't forget that you can see the next Democratic primary debates right here on CNN. That will be July 30th and July 31st. We'll be live in Detroit, Michigan. Coming up, from Congress to K-street, the new push to stop former members of Congress from cashing in on their old jobs as lobbyist. That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our "BURIED LEAD" now, those are stories not getting enough attention. When lawmakers leave their post on Capitol Hill, you might think they'd be done with the swamp for good. They'd head for the hills, but in fact, many of them move just down the street to work as lobbyists and use their help connections to rake in the big bucks working for big-name corporations.

Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is trying to put an end to the age-old career transition. And as CNN's Manu Raju now reports, she's found an unlikely ally.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:50:18] MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As a senator, David Vitter railed against the swamp.

DAVID VITTER (R), FORMER SENATOR: It's all about lobbying. It's all about ethics.

RAJU: But now that the Louisiana Republican has been out of office for more than two years, he's part of the Washington lobbying culture he once railed against, lobbying for chemical, energy, and pharmaceutical firms, while even registering as a foreign agent to lobby on behalf of companies tied to a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin.

As he rubbed elbows near the Senate floor recently with Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, Vitter then returned to Cassidy's office where he had stored his luggage, a perk many lobbyists do not enjoy. He didn't want to talk about it with CNN.

VITTER: I'm in the middle of a meeting right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it appropriate to be caching in on your position, sir?

VITTER: Thank you. Bye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it appropriate to lobby for Russian oligarchs? Can you talk about why you think it's appropriate to be lobbying, sir?

RAJU: There are 323 former lawmakers from both parties now who are registered lobbyists. A 2016 study shows the last three decades have seen more than a third of departing House members and more than 40 percent of former senators register into lobbying.

In between meetings, in the Senate Dirksen building, CNN caught up with Republican Senator turned lobbyist Norm Coleman who defended his work.

NORM COLEMAN, LOBBYIST: I think the First Amendment's a wonderful thing. I hope we're doing a service and I enjoy doing it.

RAJU: But there's a vocal contingent in Congress that disagrees.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): I think banning members of Congress from becoming a lobbyist is one way to help restore the public's confidence that this place is working for them.

RAJU: Liberal firebrand Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Texas Conservative Senator Ted Cruz are working together to root out the practice.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): That would be much harder for corporations and special interests to do on their own.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Washington for a long time as at a culture of corruption and I think the American people are fed up with it.

RAJU: Former members turned lobbyists have access that regular lobbyists don't, like attending this prayer breakfast in the first floor of the Capitol with top senators. Former Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, a partner at a Washington law and lobbying firm and one- time Republican senator now lobbyists Tim Hutchinson both were there.

They say like you're cashing in on your influence from what you gain as a public servant.

TIM HUTCHINSON, LOBBYIST: I'm fine with whatever rules they want to pass. I think America is a free country and people are always going to be trying to talk to advocate, lobby their elected officials.

RUJU: Feet from the Senate floor last week, former senator turned lobbyist Trent Lott greeted senators in an area off-limits to the public. Lott called efforts to ban members from becoming lobbyist ridiculous telling CNN, "after you leave the Senate, what are you going to be, a brain surgeon? Not everyone on Capitol Hill is ready to crackdown.

Good lobbyist brings you information.

It would be hard to dictate to people what their chosen carrier field should be.

RAJU: And at the moment, it's not even an issue top leaders are concerned about. Would you support legislation to prevent lawmakers who are eventually

becoming lobbyist.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No, I don't even know what you're talking about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: And Jake, one reason why we're seeing David Vitter on Capitol Hill is that he is through that two-year cooling-off period that was mandated preventing former senators from lobbying their colleagues, and that was mandated by the 2007 Ethics Law. And Jake, David Vitter was one of 83 senators to vote for that law. Jake?

TAPPER: Of course he was. Manu Raju, thanks so much. On July 4th week, a battle over these Nike sneakers with the Betsy Ross American flag. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: And breaking news. We've just learned that the Justice Department has informed plaintiffs in the census case that the Trump administration plans to print the 2020 census without that controversial citizenship question. The Supreme Court last week rejected the Trump administration reasoning for including the question.

President Trump had previously suggested the administration might delay the census altogether. A quick reaction if we can. Sara, are you surprised?

MURRAY: No, not entirely. I mean, this is a blow to the Trump administration but I think they were running up against their own deadline and obviously run up against a number of judges, not just the Supreme Court who said they won't going to greenlight this move essentially because all the document trail showed it was a political power grab and Wilbur Ross and the government were trying to cast it as something else. And I think that's why the government got themselves in trouble in terms of the litigation surrounding this.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: And had this actually gone through, it was estimated that some eight million people would have gone unreported had this question been included on the census, specifically in populations where -- or state where's there is heavy Latino populations.

DOUG HEYE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: No surprise. There's one deadline when it comes to census. And this is congressional redistricting when you could do it well, two years later, or two years later, or two years later.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, it has a huge impact. It's obviously bad for President Trump and Wilbur Ross, certainly, but it's done every ten years and it determines things like aid and assistance to communities. So if eight million people were not participating, that would have a huge impact. This is a positive step.

MURRAY: And also determines Congressional seats.

TAPPER: And also determines Congressional seats which is why people thought it was a power grab. Thanks, everybody. I appreciate it. We're going to take a quick break. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, salute to himself. President Trump steals the spotlight for the nation's Fourth of July celebration, deploying military tanks --

END