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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Rips Sweden, France, Fox News and More in Twitter Tear; Trump Lobbied To Review $10B Contract Bid Involving Amazon; 2020 Dems Aim To Show Policy Is Opposite Of Trump's. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Take a listen to President Trump when he was asked about the possible use of military force against Iran on Fox News last night.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

[16:30:06] SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I do believe that if pushed, the military might you would unleash will be mighty and it won't require boots on the ground. Am I right?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think that in the case of Iran, and I know that better than even you do and probably even stronger than you said it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: As a former CIA analyst who knows the mentality of the Iranian regime, do you think that we are, in fact, closer to war?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't. But I cannot believe that anybody in this administration believes another war in the Middle East is a good idea. Even if you thought it were a good idea, you're dealing with one of the most powerful militaries in the Middle East, as soon as you touch ground there, you give authorization to the Iranians to say, hey, we have to defend ourselves and let's get our ballistic missile program going again and let's wrack up nuclear- tipped missiles over the course of years.

I don't understand why you would have this conversation because the end game will never be, I don't think within years, that Americans are going to show up in Iran. I don't know why you threaten it if it's an empty threat.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mudd, thank you so much. Congrats on the book.

MUDD: Thanks.

TAPPER: President Trump called out for going to bat for an American hip-hop artist locked up in a Swedish jail while not saying anything about the detention of an American at his own U.S. border.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:43] TAPPER: In our politics lead, if you look at his Twitter feed, it's pretty clear that President Trump has some bones to pick today, with Sweden for charging American rap star A$AP Rocky with assault, with the Federal Reserve for the economic numbers, and with France for taxing American technology companies, tweeting, quote: We will announce a substantial reciprocal action on Macron's foolishness shortly. I've always said American wine is better than French wine.

CNN's Abby Phillip has more on the summer of President Trump's discontent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: After another mixed economic report today, President Trump is spinning the numbers and blaming the Federal Reserve. Tweeting the second quarter GDP numbers were not bad considering we have the very heavy weight of the Federal Reserve anchor wrapped around our neck.

With his re-election prospects hinging on a booming economy, Trump showing his frustration the Federal Reserve has not cut interest rates more aggressively. Although other economists say some of the slowing growth is due to his trade wars.

And Trump even lashing out at Fox News for a new poll showing him trailing his Democratic rivals. The president complaining that the network is behaving so differently from what they used to be during the 2016 primaries and before when they were proud warriors. Trump adding: There can be no way with the greatest economy in U.S. history that I can be losing to Joe Biden. Who Trump labels the sleepy one.

None of that stopped the president from calling into his favorite TV show on that same network Thursday night.

HANNITY: Mr. President, just -- I'm just going to open it up to you, to go wherever you want with this.

PHILLIP: The president admitted he did watch this week's congressional testimony by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

TRUMP: I couldn't believe what I was seeing -- so I ended up watching more than I wanted to. And then I watched the afternoon because you know it was such a big crater at the beginning and I said, now I have to watch --

PHILLIP: This coming hours after Trump received a 75-minute briefing on his 2020 campaign from his top political advisers.

The message: Joe Biden remains a major threat to the re-election prospects but Kamala Harris might also put up a fight in Michigan.

Meantime, Trump continuing to weigh in on the fate of rapper A$AP Rocky, who has been held in a Swedish jail since July 5th. After Sweden prime minister told Trump he can't intervene in the case, Trump firing back tweeting: Sweden has let our African-American community down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: And just a few minutes ago, President Trump unexpectedly called reporters into the Oval Office to announce what he said was a new safe third agreement with Guatemala. Now, this is a change to how the U.S. would be dealing with asylum from migrants coming up from Central America. It would force them to first claim asylum in one of the countries that they pass through, like Guatemala, before getting to the United States.

Earlier such a plan had been basically rejected or postponed by the Guatemalans because of a court decision, saying they couldn't do it. We're still awaiting some more details about how they got around that. But it sounds like from what President Trump told reporters a few minutes ago in the Oval Office, they have come to a new agreement that would allow a safe third country agreement with the United States to go forward, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Abby, I understand as the president does, he took this opportunity to air other grievances. Anything pop out at you about his new gripes?

PHILLIP: Yes. Well, he took a lot of different questions but one thing really that caught my ear, something I don't think I have ever heard from President Trump before, in addition to all of the things that he says he wants investigated about how the Russia probe got its start and all of the people that he said were behind it, he now told reporters that he wants someone to look into how President Obama, how former President Obama got his book deal.

I am not sure, Jake, what that has to do with anything but President Trump said it in the Oval Office a few minutes ago. He wants an investigation into that. We'll see what comes of it -- Jake.

TAPPER: OK, Abby Phillip. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

I mean, whatever. Let's talk about Rocky -- A$AP Rocky for one second. Do you have any concerns? This is brought to his attention by Kanye West. Do you have any concerns about the president kind of popping off on Twitter? I'm sure if A$AP Rocky is innocent, he should be freed and we all agree and I don't have the details of the case.

[16:40:04] But do you have any concerns about the way he does this? A friend of his or somebody is friendly with him and says, hey, can you do this and he sends a tweet to Sweden.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I do think there is a concern over the fact that powerful friends of his call him up and that is when he's able to take these cases more seriously. As well as the fact that the president has not shown a meaningful investigate in the African-American community. He did sign a bipartisan criminal justice bill that was worked on by his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, but most of the time, you know, we look at the case with Kim Kardashian West and his attention to the case of Alice Marie Johnson, who's sentencing commuted. She was serving a life sentence for nonviolent offenses and now this with Kanye West.

He really hasn't made a meaningful investment beyond that in the African-American community. And that's why I don't think he has a lot of ground to gain when he makes decisions like this.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and it is also clear that he just thinks he can call Sweden and Sweden can just intervene in the judicial process just because he's phoning a friend and that seems to be the way he thinks the judicial process should work here. I do think it is very strange.

He obviously is drawn to the people because famous people pass the names on to him. Obviously, A$AP Rocky is famous as well. Other people have called for him to be freed too. But he's going through the judicial system there and it might not work the way it works here. They apparently don't have bail there which the ambassador is trying to explain and this is how the president operates.

TAPPER: And George Conway's response after President Trump tweeted that he was concerned about A$AP Rocky was, now do Khashoggi, the Saudi columnist killed by the Saudi regime.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And as you noted at the start, this young American citizen born in Dallas -- locked up in a cage. I saw something like he lost 25 pounds because he was treated so poorly and fed so poorly. How about all of the children locked up in cages, by the way, not accused of beating up anybody, some of them are babies, so this really rings hollow for the president. It is clearly opportunistic.

TAPPER: All presidents are in bubbles in some sort, but this is an interesting one.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, this favor for Rocky ASAP is random, is preferential --

TAPPER: A$AP Rocky.

CARPENTER: A$AP Rocky.

(LAUGHTER)

CARPENTER: And I didn't say ASAP Rocky, but this isn't how the system is supposed to work.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. Thanks so much.

The Hail Mary attempt to derail Jeff Bezos and Amazon, frequent targets of President Trump, now in line to get a $10 billion contract from the Trump administration.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The "WORLD LEAD" now. May now know why President Trump seems willing to weigh in on Amazon's chances at winning a $10 billion contract from the government. Last week the president said he's at least looking to get involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it having to do with Amazon and the Department of Defense. And I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what's going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN has learned that a competitor of Amazon has been lobbying like mad to get President Trump involved. I want to bring in CNN's Kylie Atwood and Michael Warren breaking the story for us.

Michael, let's start with you. What are you learning about its to influence the president and is it working?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Right. So, Jake, CNN can report that President Trump has seen a document that was prepared by one of Amazon's competitors for this big contract Oracle, the big tech giant. The document suggests some kind of conspiracy at the Pentagon, talking about conflicts of interest to award this massive cloud computing contract to Amazon.

The document itself is a flow chart. It's got pictures of Amazon employees, former Pentagon officials, and including a picture former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. So we should emphasize here that an internal DOD investigation and a lawsuit brought by Oracle.

They've both found no substance to the claims that there's been any sort of untoward action at the Pentagon toward this contract. But to your point, that -- it doesn't mean that Donald Trump's not paying attention to this.

TAPPER: Right.

WARREN: You talked about his words last week, he's also tweeted out a video from Fox News calling this the Bezos bailout.

TAPPER: Interesting. And Kylie, the problem here is politics theoretically it's not supposed to interfere with government contracting decisions. Is it improper for President Trump to be weighing in like this?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, it sure creates the perception of improper political influence here, right? Because we don't know that President Trump has had a conversation with the Secretary of Defense Marquez for about this. He has made public pronouncements that he's going to be looking into it.

A source close to the White House although also told me that this is Esper's first test as Secretary of Defense. He's up against an ethical test here. Does he make a decision that is along the guidelines of what the Pentagon would do in this case because he's a Secretary of Defense makes the decisions on these things?

But he's also under some pressure because we know the President Trump has some animosity with Amazon and doesn't want them to get this contract.

TAPPER: And as you -- as you noted, Michael, Oracle sued trying to stop this process. They lost. So is this kind of just a Hail Mary by Oracle?

WARREN: It is but that doesn't mean it can't work. Again, the pressure that President Trump brings on to Mark Esper, the new Defense Secretary and to the Pentagon by speaking out about this publicly, that's a lot of pressure.

And it's not as if the president can wave his hand and make this contract go away but he can't put a lot of pressure on to the secretary. It could delay this. Of course, that brings all sorts of other problems to the Pentagon if Esper does decide to delay this contract.

There's going to be a lot of lawsuits after that as well. But we can't say that Amazon is watching this and is concerned about the future of this contract. We should point out as well, Amazon is considered to be the leading bidder for this contract.

[16:50:03] TAPPER: And speaking of Amazon, I mean Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon who also owns the Washington Post, President Trump has been attacking him for years now going after his marriage, acting as though the Washington Post is a lobbying arm.

How is Oracle using it -- you mentioned a little bit about this and in that document, but how is Oracle using the President's hate for Jeff Bezos to its advantage to squash the Amazon deal?

ATWOOD: Of course they're using. I mean, as Mike said, we have Amazon employees on this chart that Trump has seen alongside former Pentagon officials. They are painting this picture of a conspiracy that we cannot say is for sure something that's legitimate or not, but that's what President Trump is seeing.

They're also appealing to Trump in the way that he likes to take in information. It's a visual presentation, it's not a thick binder of information.

TAPPER: All right, fascinating stuff. Michael, Kylie, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Coming up, all sides agree. The U.S. immigration system is messy but can Democrats fix it? The debatable ideas emerging in the 2020 race on that subject coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD," the issue of immigration has been a keystone of controversy for the Trump administration from the Muslim ban to the border wall, from family separation to deplorable conditions in migrant shelters. It's an issue 2020 Democratic candidates quickly jumped on as they

entered the race. As part of CNN's coverage of policy issues leading up to next week's debate, our Ed Lavandera now takes a look at how Democratic hopefuls are trying to distinguish their immigration approach.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What happens here along the U.S. southern border casts a long shadow over the 2020 presidential election and Democrats are pushing their own immigration vision in the age of Trump.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president thinks that he can turn people against immigrants in order to distract them from the things that are making it so hard to get ahead in this country right now.

LAVANDERA: The constant theme for most Democrats is they are the opposite of President Trump vowing to end what they see as Trump using immigrants to stoke the fears of Americans.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can enforce our immigration laws and still uphold our humanitarian obligations in the vastness nation.

LAVANDERA: The two Texans in the Democratic field cast themselves as some of the strongest voices on this issue. In April, Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who served as Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Obama was the first to unveil a detailed immigration plan while immigration is also a constant theme of former Congressman Beto O'Rourke's campaign stops,

Both as well as many others in the Democratic field call for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country, citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children known as DREAMers and funding for more border wall construction. They want to close private for-profit immigration detention centers and reform the immigration court system.

Castro and O'Rourke have clashed over a section of the law that makes it a crime to enter the U.S. illegally. Castro wants to repeal the law making illegal entry a simple civil violation.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're using Section 1325 of that act which criminalizes coming across the border to incarcerate the parents and then separate them. Some of us on this stage have called to end that section, to terminate it, some like Congressman O'Rourke have not.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I helped to introduce legislation that would ensure that we don't criminalize those who are seeking asylum and refugees in this country.

CASTRO: I'm not talking -- I'm not talking about the ones that --

O'ROURKE: If you're fleeing -- if you're fleeing --

LAVANDERA: The detention of families over the last year has shaped the rhetoric of most Democrats. Elizabeth Warren is like most of the candidates calling for families not to be detained while immigration cases are being processed.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No great nation tears families apart. No great nation locks up children. We need -- we must at the border respect the dignity of every human being who comes here.

LAVANDERA: The Trump administration's hard-line approach on the reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in the country have inspired some candidates to call for the end of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't need this ICE thought. That's the other thing I should say. This ICE as its form now should be abolished.

LAVANDERA: Most candidates aren't going that far. Instead calling for ICE to be reformed and some of its immigration enforcement duties to be passed off to other agencies.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is not just ICE. It is very clear that the immigration system itself, you've heard some of it and there is more we haven't discussed today, is completely broken. It is absolutely broken.

LAVANDERA: Democrats are facing accusations from President Trump of pushing for open borders and being weak on security, it's a question that will follow the candidates.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is part of what this president is trying to do to really misinform the American people to say that Democrats don't care about border security. We have to enforce our laws and keep our borders safe.

LAVANDERA: A shadow of the border is casting a deep divide on the presidential campaign trail. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And our thanks to Ed Lavandera. You can join me for a big weekend on "STATE OF THE UNION live from Detroit, Michigan. My guest will be Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler and Freshman Democratic Congressman Rashida Tlaib. That's 9:00 a.m. at noon Eastern on Sunday.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on --

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