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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

New Iowa Poll: Biden Keeps Lead At 28%, Warren Surges to 19%, Sanders Falls to 9%; Harris Rolls Out First TV Ad Of Campaign In Iowa; Report: Climate Crisis Threatens Worldwide Food Supply; Sources: Acting DHS Secretary Was Prepared to Resign; New Iowa Poll: Biden Keeping Lead, Warren Surging, Sanders Falling. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 8, 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: But the truth of the matter is, and I think we all know, these companies generally speaking do not suffer much from this, even if they have been, let's face it, exploiting these workers, who are terrified, who live in the shadows, they can't organize, they can't collective bargain.

[16:30:06] You heard the report from Dianne that some of these kids working, they were 14 years old. I mean, the owners get off scot-free quite often, it seems.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. And so, that's the question is whether or not this case that the administration seems to be hinting at that it's bringing is actually takes any action against these companies or not, and whether or not the ultimately impact is on these children and on these families.

TAPPER: And they --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Go ahead.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, they shouldn't get off scot-free. The problem is many of these companies and the exploitation that exists is a magnet for the illegal immigration in the first place. But I think also that people are not crazy to think that the outrage is selective here, despite Kirsten's legit consistency on this issue.

Many people -- it's not like there weren't sad children who were suffering in the wake of Obama's deportation, we just didn't see that, and there was a reason for that because it wasn't as useful to put on TV I think.

TAPPER: That's fair, but also, I would point out that this is the biggest single state raid of all time and the U.S. attorney there --

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: At least a decade.

TAPPER: Yes, at least in a decade, bragging about that. Everyone, stick around. We have some breaking news about the man in

charge of carrying out President Trump's immigration policies. What sources saying the White House did that almost drove him to resign.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:49] TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you in our politics lead.

CNN is learning that Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan was ready to resign. Sources tell CNN that McAleenan felt undermined by subordinates who would go over his head to President Trump. But in the end, he did not resign.

CNN's Pamela Brown and Jeremy Diamond have this breaking news.

Jeremy, let me start with you.

So, McAleenan was prepared to resign. What happened?

DIAMOND: That's right. Well, Jake, you may recall that the president was tweeting this vague threat to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. And at the same time, DHS was preparing to conduct an operation that would essential round up and focus on deporting migrant families in particular. And that is when DHS Secretary McAleenan went to the White House to try to make his case, because he was concerned that the operation was half-baked, was too broad in scope, and he also -- it was the latest incident in which he felt undermined by some of his subordinates at DHS.

Mark Morgan, the head of ICE at the time, was speaking directly with the president about this, but when McAleenan went to the White House to make his case, he was speaking with the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and his deputy, Emma Doyle. And so, this was just kind of one of the latest instances in which you saw McAleenan at odds with the White House not only on policy, but also feeling like his leadership at the Department of Homeland Security was being undermined.

Nonetheless, the fact that the president the next day decided to postpone that raid, he cited Democrats. We don't necessarily know that that's the reason why. But did allay some of McAleenan's concerns, but nonetheless, just one of these touch points in the fairly tumultuous tenure of Kevin McAleenan in which he has felt undermined by officials at DHS.

TAPPER: And, Pamela, your reporting really highlights the power struggle that McAleenan is in the middle of here.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. I mean, the episode Jeremy outlined there really puts into view this tension within DHS and the hot and cold relationship that McAleenan has with the president, who sees immigration as his top priority. He's been increasingly surrounded by Trump loyalists and immigration hardliners and has at times been frustrated that some officials go around him and directly to the president as he grapples for control of the department he leads, that's according to multiple administration officials.

I'm told the dynamic is often the president will get upset with him when he sees a headline he doesn't like, and then, McAleenan would have to smooth things over once again. And that President Trump continues to see him as having an allegiance to President Obama and Democrats. But McAleenan began his career as a career official in government under President Bush.

Now, given how tenuous the DHS secretary tenure under the Trump administration, we shall see how long McAleenan will survive in his acting role as secretary. As one source put it, it's one of the most politically charged jobs in government right now, but I can tell you even though his relationship with the president has been tumultuous at times, Jake, he has gained favor among top officials here at the White House, including Jared Kushner, the president's son in law, who he's worked closely with on immigration issues -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown and Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Politicians, butter sculptures, deep-fried Oreos, the Democratic presidential candidates descending on the Iowa state fair now as a brand-new poll from that state shows one candidate surging, who is he or she?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:43:23] TAPPER: In our 2020 lead, brand-new polling numbers out of Iowa today showing Vice President Biden maintaining his lead. Senator Elizabeth Warren surging and Senator Bernie Sanders falling among likely Democratic Iowa caucusgoers, according to one poll.

This at a time when nearly all candidates are descending on the state of Iowa for one of the most honored presidential race traditions, the Iowa state fair, where between the fried butter and meat on a stick -- you should avoid that, candidates -- candidates will be using the soapbox as an opportunity to win voters in one of the most crucial states where caucuses will be held on February 3rd, less than six months away. Yikes!

CNN's Arlette Saenz reports now from Des Moines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi there.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How are you?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): On the opening day of the Iowa state fair, Joe Biden laying out the stakes to voters. BIDEN: We really are in a fight to restore the soul of this country.

We've led the world in the past, because not just that we're the most powerful nation in the world.

SAENZ: The former vice president at a must-stop for the 2020 candidates, making his pitch to Iowans at the so-called soapbox.

BIDEN: I want to restore the backbone of this country. The backbone of this country is the middle class.

SAENZ: Steve Bullock, the Montana governor, also taking a turn on the stage this afternoon.

GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You make me the nominee, I will win California, Massachusetts, Vermont. I don't know if those senators can make the same guarantee that they can win Montana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.

SAENZ: From the funnel cakes to the pork chops, the Iowa state fair is a rite of passage for presidential hopefuls. Nearly every Democratic contender making the stop here over the next 10 days, to press the flesh with fair-goers and check out the famous butter cow.

Iowans are also getting a dose of the candidates on the airwaves.

[16:45:00]

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Health care for all.

SAENZ: Kamala Harris rolling out the first T.V. ad of her campaign.

HARRIS: That's what I'm fighting for, real relief for families like yours.

SAENZ: Two days before her visit to the fair, Elizabeth Warren in western Iowa explaining why she's labeled the president as a white supremacist.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just one piece of evidence after another.

SAENZ: BIDEN not going so far when asked.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe everything the president says is done encourages white supremacists and I'm not sure there's much of a distinction.

SAENZ: As the 2020 field descends on the Hawkeye State, a new poll of likely Democratic Iowa caucus-goers shows Biden holding onto his lead at 28 percent. He's trailed by a rising Warren at 19 percent, Harris at 11 percent, and Bernie Sanders who has dropped to nine percent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: While he's still at the top of the polls here, Joe Biden acknowledges it's still early on with the Iowa caucuses, six months away. And while Biden had the spotlight here at the state fair today, his competition is close behind, Jake, between now and Sunday. 18 other Democratic contenders will hit the fairgrounds to talk to Iowans and probably sample some of that fried food.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, hopefully not the meat on a stick. Arlette Saenz, thanks so much. I appreciate it. So let's go over that latest Iowa poll that shows Biden keeping his lead at 28 percent, Warren surging to 19 percent, Sanders taking a hit dropping seven points down to nine percent. You see a Harris in there as well. What's going on? Warren is really resonating and Bernie Sanders seems to be really dropping.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. Those -- that poll shows that he seems to be faltering a bit either because Warren is pulling support from him because he hasn't been able to stand out as much in the recent debates. But Warren is showing that her method of slow and steady seems to be paying off.

She has a really big ground game not just in Iowa but also in Nevada, and that's something that Biden is trying to catch up to right now. Even though he's ahead in the polls, but on the ground in Iowa, he's been trying to spend more time there and build up his healed operation.

TAPPER: Are you surprised that Biden has been such a strong frontrunner? I mean, he's still -- it's -- we're less than six months away until Iowa and he's still with a commanding lead.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I'm not that surprised by it. Because they when you look at just pull after a poll, people are saying their number one thing is they want somebody who can beat Trump. And I think for some reason they look at Joe Biden and they think he's the one because he says he can win over the people in Pennsylvania and in these swing states.

I don't think this is sustainable though. He hasn't performed that well in the debates and I think that you know, Elizabeth Warren has really distinguished herself. And you know I think what she has going for her over Bernie even though he has really you know, his supporters really do love him, is that she's not a socialist.

And when people are looking at somebody who can beat Trump, that is a concern for them is that they feel like to have the socialism name associated with the Democratic candidate would be something that would sink them.

TAPPER: What do you make of this all?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think people are making that calculation that they think he's essentially a crossover artist, that he can go to Pennsylvania and Michigan and make these arguments.

TAPPER: Do you buy it? HAM: I think that in the pool they have thus far, as far as sort of like couching his message, that's a great example of how he answered the white supremacist question. It doesn't go quite as far as the other ones on purpose because he knows he's going to have to talk to people who voted for Donald Trump, and he doesn't want to be calling them all of the names in the book before he does that.

I think that -- I think he still probably goes a little too far to make that appeal later, but look, he hasn't been strong on the debate stage, but on the other hand, nobody's really taken him out. And so you might end up with this situation where that lane, that other lane keeps getting filled by another person every now and then. Maybe Harris moves up next.

I prefer the rando-land with the aliens and the Yangs of the world, but that one is not getting primetime right now.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: But that -- but that is also the question is like what are -- what our Democratic primary voters going to learn about Joe Biden that they didn't know before that's going to make those voters who already do support him actually change their minds, or is it perhaps something that they see in these new candidates that they didn't know before.

But so far it seems like despite the hits that he took at the last debate and how much you know, he was pummeled from all sides, his numbers haven't really dropped. So it doesn't seem like any of those attacks hit their mark at least in terms of those voters who are already saying that they want to vote for Joe Biden.

TAPPER: Kamala Harris surged a little bit after the first set of debates when she had that moment but since then she's kind of plateaued going down in a couple polls. She had just released a T.V. ad in Iowa, six figured by. Take a look at this little snippet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: After we were fed and in bed, our mother would sit up trying to figure out how to make it all work. That's what I'm fighting for, real relief for families like yours. Not in 20 years, not in 30, starting my first day as president because you've waited long enough to get a good night's sleep.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:50:03] TAPPER: Still introducing yourself to voters really.

POWERS: Yes, I mean, it's -- I think it's an effective ad. It's great for Iowa. She's focusing on a story that a lot of Americans can relate to, giving a little biography, and so I think that that's good. I had said before, I think whenever you have one of those rocket ship kind of things where you go up, it's often not sustainable.

The slow and steady is much more like what Elizabeth Warren has been doing I think is probably something that's more for the long haul. But I also think you know, for Biden he has he's really occupying that lane. You know the --

TAPPER: Electability, moderate --

POWERS: Electability, moderate, white guy lane. I mean -- and when you look at the other people, they're divided up among a lot of different people. And so even if you were to take Sanders and added into Warren, I mean, she's doing -- you know, once you start -- once people start dropping out of the race, I think you're going to start to see it shift a bit when you think you're being divided.

HAM: Six months is a long time.

TAPPER: Yes, it's a long time but it's also going to be like here that. Thanks so much. Do you like cheeseburgers? There's a new report with a dire warning and it's pointing right at cheeseburgers eaters. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "WORLD LEAD" now. The Americans hit hardest by the climate crisis right now might be the ones who feed all of us, farmers. A report out today from the United Nations warns that climate change is having a devastating impact on agriculture. CNN's Bill Weir talked to American farmers about this new reality. It's simply harder to grow crops. It's part of our "EARTH MATTER" series.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUSTIN JORDAN, FARMER, IOWA: We had a very, very wet spring and --

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Too much rain to plant.

JORDAN: Too much rain to plant.

WEIR: Justin Jordan is among the millions of American farmers living on an emotional roller coaster that only seems to go down.

JORDAN: So this corn is almost two feet shorter than it normally is.

WEIR: thanks to a bizarre-o spring. He's looking at a 30 percent drop in yield.

JORDAN: It's a kind of feeling of helplessness and stress is what it kind of feels like. So -- but you just do what you can with what you had to work with.

WEIR: At least he has a crop. Too many farmers lost everything to epic floods, and even the lucky ones are losing sleep over fear of an early frost, and trade wars, and the highest farm debt in a generation. And on top of it all comes the latest alarming report from the IPCC which finds the growing food from India to Iowa will only get harder as the climate gets harsher.

EUGENE TAKLE, IOWA STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRONOMY: We're going to see by current -- mid-century by current projections that our number of days above 90 degrees is going to rise from about 17 days per year above 90 degrees in Des Moines. That'll be up more like 50 to 70.

WEIR: The report finds that about three-quarters of the Earth's ice- free surface has been paved, plowed, or deforested. Great for economies, horrible for nature's cycles. With all the diesel and fertilizer used to grow the modern meal, they say agriculture is to blame for nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.

But here's the good news. Right now, every corn plant in this field is pulling carbon out of the sky and putting it in the ground. And with the right amount of innovation and financial motivation, a smart farmer can leave it there and still feed the world.

Iowa could be one giant carbon sink. And unlike miners, and drillers, and frackers, they don't have to change careers in order to help save life as we know it.

JORDAN: Just listen all the birds too. It's something you don't hear when you walk out in a cornfield. I mean there's just so much more like I said, not only the plant biodiversity but the wildlife.

WEIR: Its life. It's life.

JORDAN: Exactly, exactly.

WEIR: Justin takes advantage of a federal program that pays him to let part of his fields go wild which brings higher yields in the long term. Over in Nebraska, Brandon Honeycutt is trying out cutting-edge science funded by Bill Gates that uses bacteria instead of synthetic fertilizer, the stuff that creates ocean dead zones and red tides.

ERNIE SANDERS, VICE PRESIDENT, PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, PIVOT BIO: That's all petroleum-based kind of products, industry that we live in. And the more we can move to more natural bacterial based, I think that's better for all of us.

WEIR: And even some conservatives like Ray Gasser are joining this green revolution even though the Republican refuses to blame a warming planet entirely on human habits.

So how do you feel about big members of your party, even the president casting doubt and skepticism into whether or not humans can even help stop this?

RAY GASSER, FARMER, IOWA: Well, I think it's more about not having severe regulations, you know. I think a one-size-fits-all regulations really does not fit agriculture anywhere.

WEIR: Well, like many Republican neighbors, he still embraces wind energy, cover crops, and soil conservation.

GASSER: As we farm a little bit differently, as we sequester nutrients and carbon, you know, we're all -- you know, we're doing the right thing, you know. And that's what it's about, it's trying to do the right thing. We all want to do that.

WEIR: Absolutely. GASSER: And it shouldn't be political.

WEIR: Amen, brother.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: It is a great sentiment but of course everything in America is political these days especially Iowa. On State Fair weekend, Elizabeth Warren put out her big farm plan yesterday. It'll be interesting to see how many other candidates, Jake, have farmers at the table as they propose new ways to think about a green revolution 2.0.

TAPPER: All right, Bill Weir, thank you so much. I appreciate it. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues --

END