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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

At Least Six 2020 Dems Accuse Trump of Being a White Supremacist; Trump: ICE Raids Act As "Very Good Deterrent"; Wash Post: Trump Organization Uses Construction Company That Employs Undocumented Workers. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 9, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: -- I'm going to stick around for a few months and help the transition, make sure the trains run on time.

[16:30:05] For a professional with 30-plus years to say I'm not even going to do the transition, that's a message, Jake. That means she was nudged out and was unhappy.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Phil Mudd, thanks so much. Appreciate it, sir.

Democratic presidential candidates using two words to describe President Trump. But could those two words help re-elect him? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our 2020 lead, at least a quarter of the Democratic field is now leveling a very serious charge against President Trump, accusing him of being a white supremacist. Julian Castro became the sixth, at least, to offer that description today.

[16:35:01] As nearly the entire Democratic field is in Iowa for one of the state's marquee political events, the wing ding dinner, so named if you're wondering because the menu includes chicken wings.

CNN's Arlette Saenz now reports from Clear Lake, Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): The Iowa state fair, a proving ground for presidential hopefuls, shaking hands with fair-goers, flipping pork chops and making their case to Iowans.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On January 20th, 2021, we will say adios to Donald Trump.

SAENZ: As the 2020 field swarms the Hawkeye State, the candidates are taking aim at President Trump, with several now calling him a white supremacist.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Based on his words and actions, yes, he is a white supremacist. SAENZ: But others are not going as far.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is important to call it what it is, which is that we have a president of the United States who does not reflect the values of who we are as a people.

SAENZ: Meanwhile Joe Biden dealing with a verbal misstep after speaking to a group of mostly Hispanic and Asian voters Thursday night.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have this notion that somehow if you're poor, you cannot do it. Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids -- wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids. No, I really mean it. But think how we think about it. We think now we're going to dumb it down. They can do anything anybody else can do given a shot.

SAENZ: His campaign issued a statement saying the former V.P. misspoke and immediately corrected himself.

But that didn't stop Trump from seizing on the remarks.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Joe is not playing with a full deck. He made that comment, I said, whoa.

SAENZ: But Biden pushing back during a campaign stop in Boone, Iowa.

BIDEN: Tell him it is the second anniversary of Charlottesville and they need to divert something.

REPORTER: Are you able to, you think, go through a whole campaign with this kind of scrutiny?

BIDEN: Yes. I have to. It is legitimate scrutiny.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: And now, Jake, we are in Clear Lake, Iowa. We're just a few hours away from the Wing Ding Dinner. As you can see behind me, it's a lively scene. Campaign supporters have been lining up for hours cheering on their candidates.

And this is really become a must-stop for Democrat presidential candidates. In 2007, you had Barack Obama come do the keynote speech here. In 2016, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made appearances. But there is something different about tonight's Wing Ding -- 21 of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates will be here, the most to ever attend a Wing Ding Dinner -- Jake.

TAPPER: Arlette Saenz in Clear Lake, Iowa, thanks so much.

So let's chat about this. There are now at least six 2020 Democratic candidates who have said that President Trump is a white supremacist -- Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Beto O'Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang. And then you have Joe Biden, Kamala Harris refusing to go that far. We should also note that I asked Bernie Sanders if he thought President Trump was a white nationalist or a white supremacist and he said yes, so we're not sure which one he thinks, maybe it's both.

Does it matter? Does it matter whether a Democratic candidate says, yes, President Trump is a white supremacist or if he says as Vice President Biden has said, he gives aid and comfort to white supremacists?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), FORMER BALTIMORE MAYOR: I certainly hope it doesn't matter, because what matters is things that matter in your household, everybody could see what the president is, what he's done. To focus on naming, and I think it's a distraction. I don't think it's going to bring anybody to the polls.

We need to focus on health care. We need to figure out how we're going to continue to reduce the unemployment rate, education, building up our communities, those are the things that matter to people, whether or not the president is or isn't a white supremacist. I don't -- I don't think it is going to make a difference to Democratic turnout and that's what we need to focus on.

TAPPER: Do you think it could help him in a way? Somebody told "Axios" -- Trump campaign officials told "Axios", they think Democrats calling the president a white supremacist might help him win, Trump win by emboldening his base and turning off moderates. President Trump today disagreed with that.

What do you think?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is sort of creating a more extreme bar. Where for voters who may be dismayed by the president's rhetoric, they may think that white supremacists are on the rise in America and be concerned about that, by setting the bar at you either think President Trump is a white supremacist or not, Democratic candidates are putting themselves not where majority of Americans are by sort of going that far.

And I think your swing voter who is obviously not who I think these candidates are talking to in the Democratic primary, but in a general, those swing voters are saying, quit playing games. It seems like you are playing games right now by doing the name-calling instead of talking about, as the mayor mentioned, the pocket book issues that really matter to people.

TAPPER: I want to change the subject to Joe Biden, because if we're starting to see more Democratic officials, we saw Harry Reid's former aide and others coming out and saying that they don't want to play into what President Trump is saying about them but it is possible that Joe Biden doesn't have the wherewithal, shall we say, to run this campaign, to beat President Trump and then even to be president.

[16:40:04] Are you hearing whispers along those lines as well?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, Joe Biden has -- his whole character has been gaffe prone, his entire political career. And we've seen Joe Biden make verbal slipups before. The problem is this time he is the front-runner for president, he's going to have Trump leaping on absolutely every misspeak that he says.

And also, in this particular environment, running in this primary and that slipup that he made this week about the poor children and white children, there are other Democrats in the primary that are questioning his background, questioning his background when it comes to criminal justice, questioning whether the busing moment between him and Kamala Harris. He really has to be able to make sure he shores up his bona fides and can appeal to a diverse Democratic Party right now.

And when he makes those types of slip-ups, you know, people are going to, one, ask, you know, is he completely there in the moment of what he's saying? And also, you know, there's the question of where he slips and things that come out too.

So there is multiple potential critics now for everything Biden is saying and so these gaffes matter that much more.

TAPPER: Last December, when he's promoting his book, he said, quote, I'm a gaffe machine, but my God, what a wonderful thing compared to the guy who can't tell the truth -- comparing himself to President Trump and there is this overlay of Joe Biden said this but you know what he meant. Look at what President Trump says which is horrific and in some cases racist or at least racially tinge.

What do you make of it all?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there is a case that one of Joe Biden's appeals has been this tell you how it is approach to politics. He speaks very candidly. He does speak off the cuff. But it has also been a liability when he has these moments that -- of the slip-ups where he said something that at a minimum comes off as racially insensitive.

I don't think anyone is going to look at the statement and accuse the former vice president of being racist. I think his record obviously speaks for itself in terms of the work he's done around racial equality but at the same time, the big conversation before the Democratic Party right now is whether or not Joe Biden, who is still leading the polls, is best positioned to represent this Democratic Party which is increasingly young, it is increasingly diverse and there are many voters who see him as a relic of the past and these are the kind of moments that only reinforce that argument against him.

ANDERSON: It is also about, is he up to the task of the moment from that general election perspective? I mean, the number one thing that you see in polls that Democratic voters want out of their nominee is someone who can beat Donald Trump and while Joe Biden for a long time has been someone who is committed gaffes on the campaign trail, at this kind of moment under the scrutiny on this sort of difficult campaign schedule, can he stand up to the task of running for president in 2019 and 2020? I think Democratic voters may begin asking that question more seriously.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: The polls suggest they believe he can be the one to beat him. I don't think -- I mean, if we're going to look for a Biden without gaffes, I think we're all going to be disappointed. I think voters are smart enough to tell the difference between the candidates without Democrats beating each other up.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and wall. Stick around. We have more to talk about.

A little girl sobbing and begging for her father to be released after he was detained as part of an immigration raid. Now, her future and her father's future are uncertain.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" today, the President defended the sweeping ICE raids in Mississippi in which nearly 700 individuals were detained in an effort to target undocumented immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This serves as a very good deterrent. If people come into our country illegally, they're going out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Those raids led to images such as this one, children many of them U.S. citizens, heartbroken, terrified, having no idea where their parents were, no idea if they'll ever see their parents again, nowhere to go.

Now, while some children have been reunited with their parents, not all of them have. And the government will only say the kids are with family. CNN's Nick Valencia joins me now from Jackson, Mississippi. And Nick, adding to all the tensions here, schools got some troubling calls today. Tell us about it.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Those Latinos that weren't rounded up in the raids, Jake, are afraid to come outside. School children in the districts that surrounded the raids the day afterwards, they -- a quarter of them didn't go to the schools.

And earlier we got information from a school district in one of the raid sites, they were on a soft lockdown because of a suspicious call that they received. That lockdown was lifted at the end of the school day at 3:00 p.m. But it speaks to that pervasive anxiety here.

We did reach out to the administration to see how many children had been reunited with their parents. And according to the administration, all children had been reunited. They say in the case that there was a single parent guardian, they were reunited with their children. If two parents were detained, one parent was released while the other was detained. But it was earlier that I spoke to a family here that said they know

of a three-year-old who hasn't been able to get in touch with her mother. They believe the mother is currently being held in Jena, Louisiana and an ICE detention facility there, but really they don't have any other information, Jake.

TAPPER: And Nick, you just got the federal filing. What are you learning from it?

VALENCIA: So we did ask an ICE spokesman earlier just to clarify these raids. They say they were part of a broader federal criminal investigation. And as you mentioned, we got her hands on a stack of probable cause affidavit switch show that the Department of Justice was looking for a visa fraud, things like if whether or not these employers were following protocol when they were hiring undocumented immigrants to make sure that they were documented.

It is really disingenuous though in some cases according to locals here what the government is saying because it has been the worst kept secret in this community, in the surrounding communities that these facilities employ undocumented labor.

People here questioned the timing of those raids coming just days after the racist attack that we saw in El Paso targeting the Latino community. Individuals here scared, just very, very scared. Communities throughout the country really had their worst fears realized.

Undocumented immigrants had feared for a long time something like this would happen and it did happen on the outskirts of Jackson on Wednesday. Jake?

[16:50:11] TAPPER: A conservative friend of mine from Mississippi said those migrants helped rebuild the state after Hurricane Katrina. Nick Valencia, thank you so much. I appreciate it. So according to President Trump, it is not okay for undocumented immigrants to work at American companies unless of course, they're working at one particular company. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:02] TAPPER: We're back with our "POLITICS LEAD." Today President Trump said the massive ICE raids arresting undocumented workers sends a message, do not come here illegally. But you don't really hear the president talk about sending a similar message of deterrence to the companies that employ, even exploit these workers which is interesting especially considering that the Trump Organization has and continues to employ people without legal status.

Earlier today, the Washington Post detailed how President Trump's construction company has not only hired but really depended upon the work of undocumented immigrants. Let's chat about all this. So Karoun, Eric Trump told The Washington Post back in January that the Trump Organization was "making a broad effort to identify any employee who has given false and fraudulent documents to unlawfully gain employment. But this keeps happening. KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, as Josh and Eric's

report -- Josh and Davis reporting shows that it's a practice that's ongoing and that it's been -- a practice that has been going on for years and years and decades in the -- in the Trump properties and that there is this band of workers that basically it gets moved from property to property to property to do various different projects, various different work.

There's a scene in that story where as they are hiding behind trees in the forest off of the golf courses when Labor inspectors come by and then go back on the job. And so it seems like it's just par for the course of how business was run at the Trump properties.

And yet when you have the president then as president making statements that he is about you know, and implementing the policies that he is about undocumented immigrants, there's this mismatch, right, because he seems to be both profiting off of the practice that he is condemning and chasing down as president.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: When you look at the president's record of employing undocumented immigrants, it really just reinforces that a lot of his anti-immigrant platform is not actually about the legality of this country's immigration laws. These are the people who built Trump Tower. They're the people who built the Trump Hotel here in Washington. They're the people who cook and clean at Mar-a-Lago.

And you know, when it comes to the president, he really just wants to take advantage of this cheap labor, of potentially working conditions where he doesn't have to meet certain requirements. And when he's talking about and reeling against illegal immigration on the campaign trail, it's not because he actually has any intention of changing the laws and trying to create a legal path for these undocumented immigrants already in the country like those who are working as properties. It's because he really just wants to stoke fear around illegal immigration.

TAPPER: So CNN sat down with 19 undocumented immigrants who had worked at the President's golf courses, directly served the President himself. Take a listen to what one former employee who directly interacted with Mr. Trump told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSE JUAREZ, FORMER WAITER, TRUMP GOLF CLUB: I served him a diet coke out of the glass bottle into a plastic cup with ice, covered the lien. He doesn't like to see -- nobody touched the straw.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think the president knew that you were undocumented?

JUAREZ: I think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's the question I have is there have been so many reports about this. Does his base really not care?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This came up during the presidential run, bear in mind, and he -- that was when he would talk about the season, how he had hired folks at his resort who were undocumented, at his clubs, and it was during the season so he had to.

So this was something that was brought up even before he was president. So it may be one of those things that sort of priced into how his base views him. But the other thing is that there is a bipartisan consensus that when it comes to immigration, everything is going wrong. That it both feels like the laws that are on the books need to be rethought and that the laws are on the books are also not being enforced properly.

And so this is certainly a story that puts Trump's practices at odds with what you would think his base would expect to be done which is the laws being followed.

TAPPER: Do you think that you could actually stop or all but stop undocumented immigrants, if the companies that hire these people who come here for work and for a better way of life were severely punished?

I mean, it seems to me if you're talking about deterrence as the president was earlier today, the real solution isn't images of crying kids being -- you know, because their parents are gone, its companies with owner is being hauled off to jail and/or being fined millions and millions of dollars. They'll say, I don't want to hire people like this anymore.

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), FORMER MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: I think it would be helpful to cut down on illegal immigration if that were to happen. I don't think would be helpful for our country. We say I believe in secure borders to start off. It is very important to protect our country.

But I think if you want to pretend that our country is not dependent on this illegal immigration, this illegal labor, I think we're all lying to ourselves. We need to fix the problem. What's happening now is our immigration system is broken. It is neither effective or efficient and we are wasting taxpayers dollars and stoking fear and creating an unlivable environment while we're all benefiting from illegal immigration.

TAPPER: Especially through the hospitality and agriculture industries --

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Absolutely.

TAPPER: -- that are severely -- or severely is a strong word -- substantially helped by undocumented immigrants. Thanks one and all. Tune in Sunday morning to CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." My guest includes Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke. It's at 9:00 a.m. and noon --

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