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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

DHS Chief Orders Investigation Into Report Of Disturbing Social Media Post By Border Agents; Judge Rebuked For Saying Teen Accused Of Rape Deserves Leniency Because He Comes From A Good Family; Trump Threatens Iran; Alarm Grows Over Migrant Detention Conditions; Interview With Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 3, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Were skeptical of a presidency getting too much to look like a sort of imperial or royal office. I'm afraid that's the direction this president's taking it in.

TAPPER: What do you -- what do you say to those who say, "Hey, the president's just trying to honor current service members, what's the matter with that?"

BUTTIGIEG: I think the president's trying to honor himself, and again my worry is that it ultimately makes us look smaller. Think about this -- think about the strongest, toughest person that you know. It's probably not somebody who goes around talking about how strong and tough he or she is. And I think it's the same with countries. We've been the strongest country in the world, and we've not been the kind of country that feels the need to roll tanks down the streets of our capital. I think those things go together, and this feels like a step backward for this great country we live in.

TAPPER: I guess another question I might have is, I know that there's concern inside the Pentagon about what happens if the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and others are on stage with President Trump, and he starts speaking -- and he starts saying things that are quite partisan against Democrats, talking about the border -- what do you think they should do in such a situation? Should they quietly walk off the stage?

BUTTIGIEG: Well I wouldn't advise the general chiefs on what to do, they'll have to follow their conscious. But it's certainly putting them in an awkward situation, and I wouldn't put it past him (ph) -- remember, early in his presidency he stood in front of the wall at the CIA with stars representing people who had given their lives in the intelligence services and gave an extremely partisan, political speech.

He did it with the Boy Scouts, he is not above being partisan at moments that call for national unity. And the whole idea of civilian control of the military is that there's going to be some level of separation. And trying to enlist people in uniform to decorate his political agenda just diminishes the military that so many serve in without regard to politics or favor.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about a couple other items in the news, if that's OK? Obviously there's been a lot of attention at the conditions for migrants, specifically migrant children, but others as well at the border. President Trump just a few minutes ago tweeted, "Our border patrol people are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses -- the Democrat's bad immigration laws, which could be easily fixed, are the problem. Great job by border patrol above and beyond. Many of these illegal aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions." It goes on from there, but I was wondering about your reaction to that?

BUTTIGIEG: Again, this makes America look and act in a way that is so far beneath what you would expect from a country that ought to be the greatest in the world. We should be able to handle arrivals from people who are fleeing death and violence. There is no excuse for us to be keeping people in sub-human conditions.

And by the way, people who aren't accused of a crime -- people who in many cases have been fleeing for their lives, they have been seeking a lawful channel to apply for asylum. And this crisis is really creating the humanitarian conditions that do force (ph) men and women in our border patrol services to be dealing with medical issues and emergency issues that could be avoided if it weren't for the inhumane policies that created this crisis in the first place.

Remember, this president got elected promising that he would resolve immigration issues in the country. Instead they have exploded in to a horrific humanitarian crisis, largely as a direct consequence of the choices that he's made.

TAPPER: You said that we ought to be the greatest nation in the world; do you not think the United States is the greatest nation in the world?

BUTTIGIEG: I believe we are, but we've got to do more to live up to that because we are not acting in a way that's consistent with our leadership role. I mean people for -- around the world, and for longer than I've been alive have looked to us to truly lead the world.

But the reality is you can either resent the rest of the world, or you can lead it. You cannot do both. And when you see how isolated America was in the G20, almost like people were embarrassed to be speaking to us, when you see what's happening on our borders where we act in a way that is not consistent with a great nation, and when you see this kind of tin pot behavior in the nation's capital on our nation's birthday, the ultimate effect of all of that is an America diminished.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about your impressive second quarter fundraising haul. You raised nearly $25 million in the second quarter, surpassing Vice President Biden who has been in politics longer than you've been alive. But at the same time the latest CNN poll shows that after the first debate you're still at about 4 or 5 percent -- you were at 4 percent last time -- 5 percent last time, 4 percent now. And it's pretty much the same number.

[16:35:00]

But I guess that it does prompt a question from a smart colleague of mine which is, if you have raised so much money but your support is still relatively shallow, you're still in the top five -- but relatively shallow does that mean that you are the candidate of the elite? Are you getting a lot of money from a lot of rich people, but not broadening your appeal?

BUTTIGIEG: No (ph), one of the things we're proud of is not just the fact that we have been able to gather resources and -- at least so far leading the field in that this quarter, but that we've done it at every level. And the grassroots fundraising has been a big part of that.

Now what we know is for all of the success that we've had early on, there's still a (ph) great many Americans who haven't heard of us or don't know much about me and my campaign.

So what it tells you, we've got a lot of upside out there, but we've got to go introduce ourselves. The great news about this fundraising total is it means we're going to have the resources to do it -- to hire the organizers on the ground in the early states, and to get our message out.

There's going to be a lot of noise in the polls over the next few months, but we're primarily concerned with the things that are under our control, and the biggest of that is how we use these resources in order to fortify our base and get known better and better.

But if my experience is anything to go by then each passing day we get more chances to introduce people, spread our message, and we'll see our support build and build all the way to next year when the voting begins.

TAPPER: All right, Mayor Pete Buttigieg congratulations on the fundraising haul -- have fun out there on the campaign trail. Thanks for your time.

BUTTIGIEG: Good to be with you, thanks very much.

TAPPER: These are the images just released by the government's own watchdog to sound the alarm about overcrowding in border detention facilities. Now President Trump says the migrants should just not come to the U.S. if they don't like the conditions.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:25]

TAPPER: Breaking news in our world lead.

Just minutes ago, President Trump tweeted a new threat to Iran, saying -- quote -- "Iran has just issued a new warning. Rouhani says they will enrich uranium to any amount we want if there is no new nuclear deal. Be careful with the threats, Iran. They can come back to bite you like nobody has been bitten before" -- Unquote.

President Trump responding to Iran's President Rouhani who said in a matter of days, his country will increase its uranium enrichment if it doesn't get some relief from Europe to help mitigate the U.S. sanctions.

I want to bring in CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Barbara, give us some perspective here. By U.S. intelligence estimates, how quickly could Iran make a nuclear bomb if it follows through on this threat?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're going to have to recalculate all of this now, depending on what they believe Iran might be doing in the days and weeks ahead.

By all indications, Iran not yet talking about increasing enrichment to weapons-grade levels. But, still, whatever they do plan to do, it does add to their stockpile, adds to their capabilities. And that means the intelligence community has to figure out, are we still potentially months away or less from Iran having the potential capability to have a nuclear weapon?

Now, as for the president's tweet warning them, one of the things behind the scenes is the U.S. intelligence community, senior U.S. military commanders have warned the White House repeatedly, we are told, that a military option to stop Iran's nuclear program is very difficult, that if you want to go down that road, there could be catastrophic consequences, and that you take yourself right into the theater, if you will, of regime change, that the Iranian government would never agree to give up its nuclear weapons to the satisfaction of the U.S.

And if you're going to start a military campaign to get rid of them, it's going to lead to regime change, which the U.S. military would remind everybody has not been a successful strategy in many respects over the years.

TAPPER: And, Barbara, if Iran follows through on this threat, one assumes that would complicate any chances of a new deal.

STARR: It would, Jake, by all accounts.

Iran very much trying to play the Europeans off against the U.S. right now. They want the Europeans to stick with them, if you will. Not clear if the president plans to quickly move with his strategy right now, which is maximum pressure, putting even more sanctions on.

And behind the scenes, the U.S. getting very irritated at China, because they believe the Chinese are violating the sanctions because of their need for Iranian energy supplies. So China, the European all wild cards in any calculation by President Trump -- Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

Coming up, President Trump's new message for migrants: If you don't like the conditions in the detention centers, stop coming to America.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The "NATIONAL LEAD" now. Today, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security ordered an immediate investigation into what he called disturbing and inexcusable social media activity allegedly made by active Border Patrol agents.

The investigation comes after ProPublica report into a secret Facebook group comprised of current and former agents. Members reportedly joke about migrant deaths and made lewd and racist comments about Latino members of Congress.

CNN's Nick Valencia spoke to one Border Patrol agent who said the culture in the offensive postings is widespread among too many of his colleagues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were a lot of negative comments back and forth. Agents (INAUDIBLE) each other.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A veteran border patrol agent now speaking exclusively to CNN about the newly exposed secret Customs and Border Patrol Facebook group calling itself I'm 1015 where current and former Border Patrol agents reportedly made jokes about dead migrants, derogatory comments about Latino lawmakers including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and posted offensive memes.

ProPublica, the non-profit news organization that exposed this Facebook group says post featured shocking comments about a dead Guatemalan teenager in Weslaco, Texas like, "oh, well" and "if he dies, he dies."

In a tweet today, Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan says he's ordering an immediate investigation into the offensive post. It comes one day after a DHS inspector general report quoted DHS and border patrol officials describing an acute and worsening crisis and calling the situation at the border a ticking time bomb.

From adults who had not had a shower for as long as a month and were given wet wipes to maintain personal hygiene to kids younger than seven being held in custody for more than two weeks, much longer than the allowed 72 hours.

[16:50:15] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is basic human rights, toilet paper, water from the sink, wearing the same clothing for day? We used to have these blankets and ten different aliens would use the same blanket and we recycle them. You know, we'll put them in a bag and they won't get washed. VALENCIA: Dr. Sarah Goza, the President-Elect of the American Academy

of Pediatrics toured two of these facilities last week describing the horror she witnesses firsthand.

SARAH GOZA, PRESIDENT-ELECT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: When I opened the door, the first thing that we -- that we -- that hit us was the smell. And it was a smell of sweat, urine, and feces. And there were young children, boys, and they're unaccompanied boys in there, and they had no expressions on their faces.

There was no laughing, no joking, no talking. I describe them almost like dog cages with people in each of them and the silence were just hard to watch, hard to see.

VALENCIA: She isn't alone in her depiction of what she saw. We're now getting a look at three brand-new pictures from inside a similar facility in McAllen, Texas, but these drawn by migrant children, ten and 11 years old all held there. All three pictures drawn in marker with stark similarities, people behind bars, held in cages.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: These are very serious allegations that the veteran El Paso Border Patrol Agent made, allegations that we took to Customs and Border Protection. And while they not -- did not directly respond to these allegations, they did say that they are taking them seriously and have handed them over to the office of the inspector general. Jake?

TAPPER: And Nick, the veteran Border Patrol agent with whom you spoke, why didn't that person come forward earlier?

VALENCIA: That's a great question and one that we posed during the interview. And according to this agent, they did file formal complaints but they say misconduct investigations typically don't go anywhere especially if those that are accused of misconduct are good and in with leadership.

They have filed formal complaints over the years. They say they are coming forward now because they're also close to retirement, but really because they're tired of seeing the horrid conditions inside these facilities. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Valencia, thank you so much. Outrage today over a 16-year-old boy accused of raping a drunk girl, filming it, bragging about it, and then given some leniency by a judge because he comes from a "good family." That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Also in our "NATIONAL LEAD," growing outrage after a New Jersey judge said a teenage boy accused of rape deserved some leniency because the boy is, "from a good family." The judge is saying that if the young man is tried as an adult, it could ruin his life. The then 16-year-old allegedly recorded himself raping a drunk teenage

girl at a party. He then shared the video with his friends with the accompanying text, "when your first time having sex was rape." CNN's Athena Jones digs into the disturbing allegations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A New Jersey family court judge is under fire after ruling a 16-year-old boy accused of raping an intoxicated 16-year-old girl should not be tried as an adult, in part because he comes from a good family. The decision by Judge James Troiano was reversed last month allowing prosecutors to pursue an indictment in adult court.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The judge completely disregarded the law. Let's be clear here. What the judge was trying to determine had nothing to do with whether someone's background was privileged, whether someone's background wasn't, it was a simple legal question.

JONES: The case stems from a 2017 incident where the alleged attacker identified in court papers as GMC and the alleged victim identified as Mary, were both intoxicated. According to court documents, GMC filmed himself penetrating Mary from behind on his cell phone displaying her bare torso and her head hanging down.

He forward the video clip to several friends and later sent a text saying when your first time having sex was rape. The prosecutor argued GMC had sex with Mary while she was physically helpless and unable to provide consent, and that GMC's behavior was calculated and cruel.

In denying the prosecutor's request to move to adult court, Judge Troiano argued the incident wasn't a traditional case of rape because it did not involve two or more attackers or a weapon. He said GMC's text was just a 16-year-old kid saying stupid crap to his friends.

Troiano also dismissed Mary's level of intoxication and noted the boy was an eagle scout saying, this young man comes from a good family that put him into an excellent school where he is doing extremely well. He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Now, Judge Troiano would not comment on this case and CNN was not able to reach the attorney for the alleged victim. Meanwhile, the Monmouth County Prosecutor said in a statement, "While we have the utmost respect for the Family Court and the judge, in this case, we are grateful that the Appellate Division agreed with our assessment that this case met the legal standard for waiver to superior court. As with all cases, we are assessing our next steps which will include discussions with the victim and her family." Jake?

TAPPER: He comes from a good family. What about her? What about her family? Athena Jones, thanks so much. I appreciate it. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Have a wonderful Fourth of July. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

END