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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Ahead: Trump To Speak At Controversial July 4th Event; Largest Earthquake In 20 Years Hits Southern California, Felt In L.A. And Las Vegas. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 4, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last- minute scramble to put on a military show for Independence Day coming after Trump witnessed this Bastille Day event in France in 2017.

[16:30:02] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a tremendous thing, and to a large extent you because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington, down Pennsylvania Avenue.

PHILLIP: As Trump tries to replicate the show of military might, the White House has greatly expanded their request from the Pentagon in the last few weeks, "The New York Times" reports. All this coming at an unknown price tag. Trump officials refusing to disclose the taxpayer funded bill.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I don't know. You would have to ask the DOD, I would assume.

PHILLIP: Tonight, the president will deliver a 20-minute speech to the nation, punctuated by fly over presentations by each branch of the military, including an unprecedented by Air Force One, and for the finale, the Navy's elite Blue Angels will close out the show.

In all, nearly 800 military personnel are expected to participate, but not everyone is thrilled with the military fly-over. Sharing the mall today, a baby Trump balloon, and protesters who politicize the president for politicizing the traditionally nonpartisan holiday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: So already, Dana, as you can see, it is raining here, but the crowds are lining up and they are gathering with their ponchos, preparing to witness the rest of the program here that's already begun behind me, as members of the military are participating in a parade and demonstration. But we will wait to see whether they crowds that President Trump has been urging and expecting will actually show up in this kind of weather, Dana.

BASH: Thank you, Abby.

We're going to get some of the answers to those questions from Tom Foreman who's on the National Mall.

Tom, what are the crowds like so far. TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, there's been a steady trickle through the security entrance in this area. The line has never been very long, though, as people make their way through and start heading in toward the events past the Washington Monument. Now, whether or not this will all come together in a human across the board is something, but the heat very much kept people down to begin with, now the rain and we have persistent thunder coming in and out of the this area as we prepare for this. I don't know what impact that will have on everyone.

Plus, I must say there has been a strong showing of Donald Trump supporters, but a reasonable showing of protesters as well, and there has been some talk among some people, the idea of not wanting to be around if there's a potential clash.

So, Abby has pointed, we're going to have to see in the next couple of hours whether or not Donald Trump finally gets the crowd here that he thinks he wants or deserves, but right now, it seemed very much up in the air.

BASH: All fight. Well, let's hope that the, maybe for your sake, not everybody else is out there, that the rain at least stops until the fireworks. Thank you so much, Tom Foreman. Appreciate that.

Straight to the Pentagon, CNN's Barbara Starr is there.

Barbara, service members appearing at this event have reportedly been given guidance about their conduct today. What can you tell us about that?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi there.

You know, this is something that's really actually very typical that the military does when members, who were not used to dealing with the public or dealing with the news media, are out there at these very large-scale public events like today. We're already seeing the first of those ceremonial units appear in front of the public, and people are always happy to see the military. But they don't always know what to say to the public. And so, there are some suggestions for them.

And we can tell you that, yes, a memo was issued by the local military authorities here in Washington, D.C. with suggestions, with some talking points about what troops might want to say when the public approaches them. One of those, and let me quote from it, they suggest that a troop says, quote, I am proud of my job and my vehicle/tank. I'm glad to share my experience with the American people.

The Pentagon when this whole came to light issuing a statement emphasizing again it's a pretty practice, saying it's common practice for the military to issue media cards to personnel with messages and talking points.

But let's just for one second step back, we see the armored vehicles there. We see the troops. For the military, this is not a reality TV show. In the real world, when there are armored vehicles, tanks, armored

personnel carriers out in the field, out in combat. It is the most serious things. It means diplomacy has failed. It means American troops are fighting for their lives.

That is a message they very much want the American public to always know -- Dana.

BASH: Very important message and very well said. Barbara Starr, thank you so much for that.

And a programming note. CNN will be airing President Trump's speech live at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

We're going to bring it back around the panel.

Look, we're going to do that, and we're going to let people see and hear whether or not the president is going to stick, as he calls it, the patriotism and the importance of the day, of American might, or if he's going to turn political.

Alice, what do you think?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm going to be cautiously optimistic the president will stick to the script, be patriotic, and will certainly pay tribute to our military, but also our country in celebration of our independence.

[16:35:11] I don't expect him to be political at this. He understands that there's a lot riding on this. This is something that he has really wanted to do.

As long as he sticks to the script, this would be a huge success. And whether or not there's a large crowd out there, we can all guarantee he will say there's a large crowd out there tomorrow, and this would be a success for him.

BASH: That's a very important point. He has scripts, and he's had scripts before. It doesn't necessarily always mean that he sticks to them.

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: No, we have a red example of the D-Day memorial celebration in Normandy.

BASH: That's a great point.

WARREN: He did stick to the script, and a lot of people thought it was one of the best speeches he's made. This president appreciates the show up this, even though there's not large crowds at this event tonight in Washington, there's going to be a lot of people watching it on television.

BASH: And, Anne Gearan, you cover the White House. What are you hearing from your sources?

ANNE GEARAN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: A couple things. He does intend to give a patriotic speech that's narrow in scope, that celebrates the country, and celebrates the military. He wants to focus on the role of American fighting men and women, and to say that our country exists in the form that it does because of their sacrifice.

I was at that speech, and he had something there that I think translate to tonight's experience, which is that he had behind him 75 World War II/D-Day veterans. He knew -- he's a television man -- he knew that they were the story, he spend a good deal of that speech with his back to the crowd, talking to the veterans and then going and talking, you know, kind of crowd-diving and doing lots of things we're not very accustomed to seeing the president do.

He'll have a similar tableau, less evocative than 90-year-old at their last of these events, as he had in Normandy, but he will still have the American military arrayed before him, that his critics is a problem. But it will change the way he deals with that speech as a result.

BASH: Ms. Fuentes, you've been sitting there patiently, uncharacteristically quietly. I'm sure you have a lot to say about this.

JENNICE FUENTES, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D-IL): Taking it all in.

BASH: I know.

FUENTES: You know, Dana, I come from a family of veterans. July the 4th is an important celebration. From my perspective to see my uncles and father go and fight and come back, and deal with the consequences.

If the president of the United States knew what July 4th means to our servicemen, he would not be doing this show. You know, our tanks and military are not political props. I think the best gift you could give our servicemen and women is to let them spend the day the way we normally do, barbecues.

This is a birthday of our country -- with family, not having to worry about moving tanks from Georgia, not having to worry about making the president happy, whether or not we're going to have the big crowd that he's expecting because now the weather is bad, now we have competing interest with the earthquake in Los Angeles.

So, I think we have most demagogic, yet less articulate president in what is supposed to be a temple to our fights, to our civil war, which was still has repercussions to our history, to civil rights, and yet have a president that is unneeded. We don't need the president to give a speech, and we don't need this military fanfare, this military parade. We really don't.

I think it's offensive to our service, and totally unnecessary, and let's talk about a --

STEWART: I respectfully disagree. All the criticism we're hearing from those on the left, this is not about the military, this is not about the money, this is about President Trump living rent-free in his haters' heads who don't want him to celebrate this holiday the way he wants to do.

FUENTES: Do we need the parade?

STEWART: He can do exactly what he wants to do. We've always had the parade. That's not anything --

FUENTES: Not a military one.

STEWART: We will have the fireworks like we've always had. But here's the thing --

FUENTES: He moved them.

STEWART: -- I was down there, people were excited to go down there and participate in the July 4th festivities. They will be excited to see the fireworks. They don't have to listen to Donald Trump if they don't want to.

But this something he's always wanted to do. I think this is great to show the patriotism --

FUENTES: There's a reason a president stays away because this is not political.

And I hope you're right and this speech is not a political speech, because this is a speech for all Americans. This should not be -- why are they giving out VIP tickets to the biggest donors to stand in the bleachers? Why is this not open to the general public the way it should be?

GEARAN: How quickly will images be used as part of the 2020 reelection? It's inevitable, right?

BASH: In what way? For or against?

[16:40:01] GEARAN: Well, that's a good question. I assume that the Trump campaign will use it, even if it's raining, it's going to be an extraordinary scene, an extraordinary tableau designed by him.

FUENTES: To show how voting and reelecting him makes us feel safer, how he's a strong man and our dear leader.

WARREN: But it's also just a small part of what's been happening today in the nation's capital along the mall, to celebrate the Fourth of July. There's the Capitol Fourth celebration later. So, you know, this is sort of a small part.

And I think the problem the president finds himself in, wherever he is involved, the sort of partisan reactions become inflamed I think that's a problem maybe he did or did not anticipate, I don't know, about sort of injecting himself into what has been in years past sort of devoid of politics. That's just a nature of things as they are right now.

FUENTES: Since he got elected, he's been dividing us since he got elected.

STEWART: I think we'll be pleasantly surprised. This will be, to my Mike's point, this will be a Normandy-esque type speech. He understands the significance of this. And if he makes very patriotic, about patriotism to our country and the pomp and circumstance of this holiday, it's a win-win for the president.

BASH: What about the crowd side? It almost feels silly -- it does feel silly to ask the question, but you know why I'm asking the question and you alluded to it when we started the segment, which is for the first, I don't know, ten days of his presidency, that's all we heard about we talked about him standing in front of men and women in the military, when he first went to the CIA, in front of the most sacred place in the CIA, he talked about the crowd size.

So, if he doesn't get the right crowd size, whether it's because of the rain, whatever the reason, are then we're going to hear about this for the next umpteen months?

GEARAN: Yes, I mean, I'm fully confident that no matter what actually happens in terms of the number of people who turn out for the speech tonight, he will claim it is a larger crowd than it really is, purely because that's what he did before. I mean, who knows? I could be wrong.

The day after his inauguration last year, he demanded to have the acting head of the Park Service get on the phone, a bureaucrat from, you know, the trenches, from eight building over, who all of a sudden is being summoned to the telephone to talk to the president who demanded to see different photographs than the ones that had already been provided.

BASH: And because it is a celebration of America's freedom, and the freedoms that come along with it, it is their freedom of speech, and that means protesters. We have already seen the baby Trump blimp on the National Mall. Apparently there's a giant Trump robot if you put on a parade in American, whether you're the president or anybody else, you have to expect you're going to get opposition out there, which is not something that he loves.

FUENTES: Dana, there's a reason why the president doesn't take part in anything like that. You know, there's normally a concert that happens on the Capitol, and then you get invited or not, you can be on the law, you could be outside, there's fireworks, and basically that's pretty much it, and then that gets replicated in every small town in America.

What's happening today, I think we should not lose sight that is pretty unprecedented to have the president in the steps of the Lincoln Memorial surrounded by tanks talking about hopefully something patriotic, but a message we do not need from the one president who seems to be the most removed from understanding the sacrifice and what it means to serve your country.

BASH: We're just a couple away, an hour away rather from the president's speech. We're going to all hear for ourselves what exactly he says.

Before we go to break, a programming note. You don't want to miss CNN's exclusive interview with presidential candidate Joe Biden. The former vice president sits down with Chris Cuomo. It airs at 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Eastern, tomorrow morning, only on CNN.

And up next, breaking news, the largest earthquake to strike southern California in two decades. I'm actually going to go right now to a press conference in Kern County, the fire department right there.

DAVID WITT, FIRE CHIEF, KERN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: I'm not going to be able to address road closures. We've heard there's a couple of big cracks, if you will, in the roads in different places, but wee actively working on that. Do you have a question, sir?

REPORTER: I apologize, but if I can get -- I know everyone here is really busy, but a one-minute elevator pitch on how the situation going on right now to my station, that would be great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I'll get to that. What else? Yes?

REPORTER: So, obviously, we're going -- how will you relay this to the public and make sure everyone knows what to do, especially if you are tweeting something like this may --

[16:45:00] WITT: Well, oftentimes after earthquakes, we're concerned about the after-effects, the aftershocks. And so we were told that there's going to be a couple of aftershocks and I believe there were a couple of aftershocks afterwards. And so we'll get to that. Any other questions in regards to the incident that's taking place in Ridgecrest? Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Regarding dams. I think you guys do water flooding, especially in the winter months. Are you concern about Lake Isabella --

WITT: Yes. So we've been concerned about that. We're always concerned and thoughts are elevated whenever we have an earthquake and it's in the vicinity of the Lake Isabella dam. And we've reached out to the Army Corps and they're assessing the dam now. But we feel like they're actively reconnaissance has taken place on that situation right now and we'll have more later. But as of now, we don't know of any issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to mention anything about the phone lines. We also have some information about that --

WITT: The phones and radios are being told OK out in Ridgecrest. They are shutting off gas and power in certain areas for the protection of everybody out in the Ridgecrest area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My kind of question for you is you know, a little trivial but it is 4th of July. Any event cancellations that you know of (INAUDIBLE) distracting your normal 4th of July flow?

WITT: You know, I'm not aware of the events out in Ridgecrest that were taking place today. However, I would imagine that anything out in Ridgecrest would not take place today. Everything in the city of Bakersfield I believe is continuing on. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: OK. So that was just the Fire Chief in Kern County David Witt. Kern County is where the epicenter of the earthquake took place. We're going to have a lot more on the aftermath of this the biggest earthquake as you see there in 20 years in Southern California right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] BASH: And we're back with the breaking news. More than 70 aftershocks since today's 6.4 quake in southern California, the largest earthquake to strike southern California in 20 years. The initial moment captured on camera at our affiliate at KCBS as anchors were in the middle of recording. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you serious?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's an earthquake?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the worst it's going to get right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh shoot, it's shaking. Look!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God. Oh my God. Let's go on the hallway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shoot, you guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: I want to get straight to CNN Sara Sidner who was also in L.A. and is still is as this earthquake hit. Sarah, you're getting more information about this app that alerts residents about earthquakes which didn't go off where you are in L.A.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I have the app, the Shake Alert L.A. App. It was put out by the city many months ago and it was -- it was lauded as look, this can give you a heads up that an earthquake is happening. In other words, you get a few seconds which can save lives so that you can get underneath, for example, a table and get yourself in a safe area.

It did not go off. And a lot of people in Los Angeles reacted because you can certainly feel this as you saw the anchors there reacting. We could certainly feel it where we were in a 15 story building. The whole building moving back and forth. The light fixtures here, you could see those swaying just a bit.

No, it was not extremely strong here. It's far stronger at the epicenter, a 6.4 there. It was about somewhere around a 4.5 here in Los Angeles. Now the City of L.A. has heard the folks here saying we want an alert even if -- as we can feel it, we want to know it's coming so they have decided revised the app so that you will get an alert if there is an earthquake with a magnitude of five or less.

And that seems to have made people a lot happier. Basically, if folks can feel it, they want some kind of idea that this is coming and now there is technology that let's you know that there is an earthquake that is going to happen. And sometimes it's 10 seconds, sometimes as much as 45 seconds before. And that can as rescue workers will tell you save lives.

I do want to mention this. As well as far as Ridgeview goes, we have just been listening to the fire chief there -- sorry, in Ridgecrest, California, not Ridgeview, Ridgecrest. Ridgecrest is about 156 miles or so from Los Angeles. That is where the epicenter was and where the damage is.

There's no damage here in this large city but there is damage there. Those folks dealing with that right now. We have now learned that there are two house fires likely due to this earthquake there. Dana?

BASH: Sara, thank you so much. It's pretty fast action to make that change so quickly to that app. I appreciate that. And I want to go straight to the Mayor of Ridgecrest. She's on the phone, Peggy Breeden. And Ridgecrest, as Sara mentioned, was the epicenter of today's earthquake.

Let's start with what we just heard from Sara. House fire is going on in your city. What can you tell us about that?

MAYOR PEGGY BREEDEN, RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA: There were five. I understand there was another one. I cannot confirm that. And we are -- I am back at the police department. We are just -- we were at the hospital because they were evacuating the hospital as a matter of precaution.

We have declared a state of emergency thus enabling us to get significant help from other governmental entities around us. I have talked to Congressman Kevin McCarthy and our Assemblyman Vince Fong, as well as Senator Kamala Harris. And we are -- all have pledged whatever we need and we're very grateful for that.

What I'm asking is if you would please present this to our people. If you are OK and you are near a neighbor and do not know what they are and what condition their home is or them, please knock on their door and find out because we are a city of 28,000 very close-knit people.

[16:55:43] BASH: That is that is very important advice and frankly maybe should be a directive from the mayor there and not just neighborly but in critically important.

BREEDEN: We have an emergency center set up here at the city. Kern, County has also set up one. We are getting as many ambulances from around the area to evacuate the people at the hospital, but that's where we are right now.

BASH: OK. So let's talk about that. How are the patients there? Because evacuating a hospital especially when it's north of a 100 degrees in temperature is a huge, huge undertaking.

BREEDEN: Well, I appreciate you all checking with us. It is a huge undertaking. Jim Suver, our CEO at the hospital and all his staff are doing an excellent job making sure we're taking care of all the patients there as best as possible and doing what has to be done.

BASH: How about power? Is there any concern about lack of power?

BREEDEN: There's power in some areas of the city, some there isn't. PG&E, because we had ruptured gas lines has turned off the gas to the city. I don't know if it is in the entire area but I understand it is.

BASH: Now you were on the air earlier with my colleague Brooke Baldwin during and aftershock. And I'm not sure if you heard or you probably have this information from our Severe Weather Center. We are told that there could be one coming as big as over five.

So how are you telling your constituents and how are you preparing for an aftershock which is as big as many you know, regular earthquakes?

BREEDEN: We have an emergency plan and that's what we're working as instructed with that, but also we are just going around and talking to people and making sure they're aware. Facebook has gone crazy as you can possibly imagine, as well as -- but that's where we are and that's the most we can do is just tell people to be careful and watch out for each other.

BASH: And I just want to let you know that the USGS just reported that the aftershocks are now 85. So 85 aftershocks since this morning's 6.4.

BREEDEN: Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. OK.

BASH: Are you still -- are you still feeling them where you are?

BREEDEN: Not right this moment, but I felt -- I don't think I felt 85 over them but --

BASH: Well, that's good. Well, that's good because the other thing I wanted to ask is just about you know, the human part of this. You know, luckily thank God we don't have any reports of fatalities of our major injuries, but the people --

BREEDEN: We don't yet. That's why we're asking people to go check. I was just headed up to the hospital to go see how they were doing on the holiday because they were going to have a small event for people as well as one of our churches was having a major patriotic event.

And I heard that at the Senior Center there was panic and as I ran over there as quickly as I could and we got the people out of there, made sure there was no damage. Other than things falling and breaking, people were not hurt and that's the most important thing.

BASH: I would imagine nerves are pretty frayed.

BREEDEN: Yes.

BASH: What are --what are you -- what is your message in addition to the very practical message to go knock on your neighbor's door?

BREEDEN: Just be careful, be safe, and do everything that's been humanly possible to do to make sure your neighbors are OK because that's what we are.

BASH: And your family, is your family OK?

BREEDEN: I haven't even had a chance to talk to them.

BASH: Oh my goodness. Well, hopefully, you will be able to maybe get off the phone with us which we will do in 20 seconds and you'll be able to talk to them. But before we let you go, just real quick. My last question for you is, are you getting the resources that you need?

BREEDEN: Right now virtually everything we can think of is being promised are on the way and I've even heard from the White House, so I'm thinking that we've talked -- as I say, we've talked to Kevin McCarthy, Vince Fong, and Kamala Harris and the White House so we're doing OK. We just need everybody to remember us and take care.

BASH: Mayor Peggy Breeden, thank you so much for your time. Our coverage continues right now.