Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Congresswomen Omar And Tlaib Barred From Visiting Israel After Trump Supports A Ban; House Dems Subpoena Former Trump Campaign Manager Lewandowski to Testify Publicly; President Trump Blames Media, Fed for Economic Woes. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: -- officials to either step up or step aside and let cities like Philadelphia enacts their own solutions.

I'm Brooke Baldwin, thanks for being here at this last two hours. Let's go to Washington with "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

[16:00:15] JAKE TAPPER, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" HOST: From send them back to keep them here, "The Lead" starts right now. Under pressure from President Trump, Israel has now banned Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib from entering that country as President Trump continues his smear campaign against the two minority lawmakers.

Bragging and blaming. President Trump today insisting that the economy is still going strong, as he also tries to pin the market plunge on the Fed. Does the president see his best argument for reelection possibly at risk now?

Plus -- exit strategy, another 2020 Democrat drops out of the race, but it might not be the last time President Trump hears from him.

Welcome to "The Lead," I'm Jake Tapper. In our world lead, an unprecedented decision by Israel after an unprecedented and norm- busting message from President Trump. Israel announced today it is blocking two sitting duly elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives from entering that country. The announcement came less than an hour after President Trump tweeted, "It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Representative Omar and Representative Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel and all Jewish people and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace."

The Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib have called for the economic boycott of Israel because of its treatment of the Palestinians. They of course strongly dispute the president's characterization of their views on Jews. Either way, we know of no time in this nation's history when an American president urged a foreign country to ban American lawmakers from entering.

The move by Israel has been criticized by even staunch Israel- supporting organization such as AIPAC and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Republican senator Marco Rubio who opposes Omar on Tlaib on the economic boycott of Israel, "Denying them entry into Israel is a mistake."

Congresswoman Omar issued a statement this afternoon saying, "As a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, it is my job to conduct oversight of foreign aid from the U.S. and to legislate on human rights practices around the world."

And Congresswoman Tlaib tweeted a picture of her grandmother who lives in the Palestinian territory saying, "A decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. congresswoman, is a sign of weakness, because the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening."

The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is in a tough reelection fight and hoping for help from President Trump in these closing weeks of the campaign issued a statement, noting that Israeli law currently prohibits the entry of those who support of boycott of the Jewish state. Israel of course knew Omar and Tlaib supported the boycott when they said weeks ago they could visit. But our CNN's Oren Liebermann reports from Jerusalem, today Israel's government changed its mind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an unprecedented step to punish President Trump's political enemies, Israel today barring two Democratic congresswomen, an outspoken Trump critics from visiting just minutes after the president tweeted Israel would be showing great weakness by allowing Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to enter the country, later adding, they hate Israel. After the announcement Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying, no country in the world respects America and the American Congress more than the state of Israel. Adding, Israel law prohibits the entry of people who call and operate to boycott Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The yays are 398, the nays are 17.

LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu referencing a bill Tlaib and Omar supported which overwhelmingly failed the pass the House weeks ago which supported the right to boycott, though the resolution itself didn't specifically represent Israel.

REP. RASHING TLAIB (D) MICHIGAN: I can't stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the State of Israel.

LIEBERMANN: Even so, Israel ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, one of those closest to Netanyahu said last month the two would be allowed entry because of the Israel's respect for the American Congress. Not anymore. For her part, Omar, who along with Tlaib are the first two Muslim women in Congress today responded by saying -- Trump Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing. This time against two duly elected members of Congress.

TLAIB: We're going to go in there and impeach [bleep]. LIEBERMANN: The Democratic freshmen are also two of most outspoken

critics of Trump, calling for his impeachment leading Trump repeatedly to accuse them of being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I forgot, she doesn't like Israel, I forgot.

LIEBERMANN: And launching racist attacks against the two including telling them to go back to where they came from, even though both are American citizens.

TRUMP: This Tlaib, Tlaib, she's vicious. She's like a crazed lunatic. She's screaming.

I'm looking at this Omar from Minnesota, and if one half of the things they're saying about her are true, she shouldn't even be in office.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:05:16] LIEBERMANN: In recent days there has been a bipartisan of delegation of some 70 Democrats and Republicans here visiting officials in Israel in the Palestinian territories. Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar decided not to go on that trip because it was organized by pro-Israel American lobby, AIPAC. Jake, interestingly, AIPAC has done what it rarely does in a split with Trump and Netanyahu, saying even if Tlaib and Omar are critical of Israel, support of boycott of Israel, they should have been allowed in to experience Israel firsthand.

TAPPER: All right, Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, thank you so much. Let's about in my political experts here. And let me start with you Mayor Gillum, this is unprecedented. We've never seen anything like this in American president telling a foreign country, in this case a close U.S. ally, to not admit lawmakers into their country when they were perfectly ready to admit them, the Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer had said that they would honor the fact that they were members of Congress and let them in.

ANDREW GILLUM (D) FORMER MAYOR OF TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA: Yes, I mean this is one of those rare, just sort of dumbfounding instances. You see J Street and also AIPAC are in alignment and agreement, and I believe most of the political, you know, sort of apparatus in this country with the exception of Donald Trump agree.

The two congresswomen whether you disagree with them or agree with their positions here, they are the appropriators in our system of government. The Congress are the ones who appropriate U.S. taxpayer dollars. They have every right, every responsibility certainly to travel to a country that receives over $2 billion in federal aid from the United States. They are a close ally, Israel.

We obviously value that relationship, but I'm really, really disappointed to see that Netanyahu administration side with Donald Trump, who we all know is known for telecasting to foreign governments what he wants to happen. He did it with Russia. It appears he did it in this case with Netanyahu giving his full-throated approval here, I think it's a mistake, and I think it will damage the relationship here.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Love, what do you think?

MIA LOVE (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, UTAH: Well, I think it's unfortunate also. I had the opportunity to go with the delegation to Israel. And as much as I love the Israeli people, I fell in love with them even more. You find out about the relationship. You know exactly what that foreign aid is going to, and how much the United States benefits from that partnership, from that great relationship between the Israeli government and the United States government.

And I also met with the Palestinian government, to be quite frank with you. And you get a holistic picture of what's going on. So, not to -- the fact that they actually turned it down to begin with was I think was unfortunate. And again, this is something else that, being banned from the country is unfortunate, but you have to -- there are consequences to what you say and what you do.

And one of the things that really -- what's disturbing was to watch Representative Tlaib on the floor right before the resolution opposing what BDS was doing. She was actually comparing the boycotts divestment sanctions to boycotts Nazi Germany. Those things are very hurtful and they can be very harmful to a country where you should watch your language when you're trying to make sure you have a good relationship.

TAPPER: Well, Kevin Madden, let me bring you in because the BDS movement to boycott divest sanction, it's a movement to boycott Israel, some people say it's a movement. Some of the members say to boycott Israel until Israel no longer exists. Other people say it's focused on how Israel treats the Palestinians. Some people say this is President Trump and Israel punishing people for what they believe, as opposed to specific actions. What do you think?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the critics of BDS have a very substantive argument. And I think what's happened here with this particular episode is that what the U.S. and Israel have done is sort of counter-productive to our ideas. United States and Israel have always been bastions of a liberal democracy, showcasing freedom of expression, showcasing entrepreneurial economies, engaging with opponents in a civil manner.

And so when you have the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel essentially shut down critics rather than engage them, and use a trip like this to showcase what everything that's great about America, great about Israel, I think it's a huge missed opportunity and is probably one of the better ways to actually engage critics. Instead what this does is give those critics a platform, and in many ways sometimes legitimizes the criticisms that they've made against Israel.

TAPPER: And Kirsten, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Obama, Daniel Shapiro wrote -- for The Atlantic, "Trump's racism and Netanyahu dependency have brought us to this point. What a bulldozer to drive through the bipartisan consensus on Israel. What a gift to the BDS movement, which until now most Americans had never heard of. What a self own. What do you think of this?

[16:15:22] KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, I think that they, you know, our over -- Netanyahu government is over-aligning itself with Trump, and not considering that the relationship is in fact with the United States. It's a relationship -- long-standing relationship, mutually beneficial relationship between Israel and United States that's not specific to one political party.

And so, to basically be doing the bitting of Donald Trump, who is using Israel basically, you know, as part of his desire to divide, you know, our country and to use these congresswomen as sort of his punching bag, which is something he's decided to make them sort of, you know, political enemy number one, and I think that, you know, as Kevin said, a liberal democracy should welcome dissent and they should be able to handle people who disagree with them and not, you know -- and Israel was willing to allow them into the country, but they shouldn't be kowtowing to Trump on something like this.

TAPPER: Everyone stick around. We have much more talk about. When he lands in New Hampshire, President Trump will be greeted by his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who was just subpoenaed by Democrats in Congress. How the White House is planning to address that. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:38] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with our politics lead.

President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee to testify publicly about possible obstruction of justice by President Trump as detailed in the Mueller report. This just the latest move from house Democrats in what Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has said are formal impeachment procedures.

Lewandowski is expected to attend President Trump's reelection rally tonight in New Hampshire, amidst speculation that he will launch a run for Senate there, challenging Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen. The president has voiced support for a Senator Lewandowski, though the Republicans in the Granite State is less enthusiastic, let's say.

Let's get right to CNN's Kaitlan Collins, near where the president has been vacationing in New Jersey.

Kaitlan, how is the White House reacting to the subpoena?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, they were expecting this. So, behind the scenes, they've been having, what I'm told, are these preliminary discussions about potentially trying to invoke executive privilege to limit Corey Lewandowski from complying with this congressional subpoena.

Now, we've seen the White House take this route before with former aides like Don McGahn, Hope Hicks, McGahn's deputy, Annie Donaldson. But this would be the White House trying to do this for someone who has never worked in a White House, or held any title in the administration.

Now, you might wonder what do Democrats want to hear about from Corey Lewandowski, but you'll recall he had the conversation with the president, where the president directed him to send a message to then- Attorney General Jeff Sessions about reining in the special counsel's investigation, something in the Mueller report they said that Corey Lewandowski never followed through on.

But, of course, these discussions are going on while no final decision has been made. It does show you just how the White House is trying to really test the boundaries here on whether or not they can get people who have never worked in the White House to not have to answer question about sensitive matters related to the Russia investigation.

TAPPER: Yes, executive privilege usually just for people in the executive branch.

Kaitlan, one of President Trump's key --

COLLINS: Yes.

TAPPER: -- arguments for reelection, of course, is the economy, which has been doing well, he certainly seems anxious about all the recent turbulence.

COLLINS: Yes, you might have picked up from that from all of the president's tweets. And we're told behind the scenes, there is a growing sense of anxiety and unease in the White House about how the economy is doing and whether or not it's staying stable, because, of course, aides inside the White House and in the president's reelection campaign said that they believe that is key to keeping the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump taking a break from his summer vacation for a campaign rally in New Hampshire tonight, as fears grow inside the White House that the instability of the economy could threaten his reelection.

DONALD TURMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economy is phenomenal right now. We had a couple bad days.

COLLINS: One day after the Dow Jones suffered its worst trading session of the year, Trump attempted to ease fears, tweeting that the U.S. economy is the strongest and most powerful in the world.

The Dow dropped 800 points Wednesday on new recession fears prompted in part by Trump's trade wars.

But today, Trump relied on an old tactic, blaming the media, claiming they are doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think it will be bad for me and my reelection.

Sources say the president has kept a close watch on the warning signs he's seeing in the markets, leading him to announce this week that he would delay some additional tariffs he's threatened on Chinese imports. Officials say he's frustrated by a total lack of progress on a Chinese trade deal he thought would be sealed months ago.

TRUMP: It should have been done long before I came along, but I'm the one that gets -- I'm the one that gets stuck with it.

COLLINS: And even though Trump insists farmers on his side of the trade war, some of them are telling CNN, this damage is self-inflicted by the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Words and Twitters and tweets, that doesn't pay the farmers' bills. It doesn't solve the problem we're dealing with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, the numbers show that one of the main reasons that voters approve of President Trump's job in office is because of the economy. So, he can't really afford for it to go south before his reelection, and we're being told by sources that the president is expected to defend his handling of the economy during that rally in New Hampshire tonight.

TAPPER: All right. Most voters have disproved of the president's handling of his job, but they do approve of the economy.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Let's bring our political experts back.

[16:20:01] Kevin Madden, let me start with you. Has the president made a mistake here in bragging too much about the economy if he holds himself up as completely responsible for the good news, then doesn't he also have to take responsibility for the bad news? Even if he's trying to blame it on us, in the media?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. Well, it's not a mistake. I mean, as president, that's your job, is to be the cheerleader for the economy, to express optimism in the economy. But as much as presidents get the credit, they also get the blame. And the White House has to be very cognizant of that heading into this reelection.

And I think one of the big problems they're going to continue to have is that the American public is very straightforward when they're judging the economy. They look at whether their wages are rising, how their 401(k) is doing, do they have a job? Does their neighbor have a job?

They do not look to debate the intricacies of the monetary policy and who is the chairman of the Fed, and they don't blame the media. They do blame the person who is in charge, and the buck stops with the president. And so, that is something that this White House, as they plan their reelection, they have to be very cognizant.

The last thing I'd say, too, is they have to be cognizant of the trend lines. The trend lines, it takes six months for people's opinion about the economy to change. If the trend lines continue in a current direction, where we start to see recessionary fears, we start to see inflation, it's going to hit at the just wrong time for them, given the 2020 cycle.

TAPPER: And, Congresswoman Love, let me ask you. I mean, normally, a president -- I would think, with the global recession kind of encroaching on the United States, you have -- whatever the Fed is doing, might be trying to work with Congress to get some stimulus into the American economy, whether an infrastructure bill or something, but I don't see a whole lot of evidence that there's any planning going on other than mean tweets.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Unfortunately, this is the thing that everyone who is supportive of the president has been talking about. They wish to stay away from the Twitter wars, to stay away from attacking other members of Congress, and the areas that they live in, and to talk about the economy.

And, yes, you're absolutely right. You can't blame the media. That's one of the things that the American people are very -- they're very savvy.

They don't sit there and listen to everything that the media says, they can check their pockets. They can see what prices and wages are going up. They can check the unemployment rates.

They can look at what's happening, whether their lives are better or not, and they tend to make those decisions on their own. And the president would have been just better off talking about the economy. And yes, there are times you get a bit of a dip. There's time when things will mess with your game plan a little bit, but he should just stick with what's right for the economy, how he's helping the American people.

And the worst thing that the president can do is blame somebody else or continue to stay on Twitter attacking fellow Americans and attacking members of Congress and the places that they come from.

TAPPER: Kirsten, let me bring you in. I want to take a listen -- I'll come to you on one second.

Kirsten, take a listen to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross today on CNBC explaining why the administration delayed these tariffs on China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Nobody wants to take any chance of disrupting the Christmas season.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Kirsten, we have their Ross admitting that tariffs impact the American people.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. TAPPER: And now, the Trump administration wants credit for both not imposing those tariffs, and for imposing tariffs, and saying that none of it affects the American people, except for the ones that they're not imposing on China because those would have -- I mean, none of it makes any sense.

POWERS: Yes. Well, I mean, I think even in the Republican Party, most people don't support what President Trump is doing, whether they're willing to say it publicly that they recognize that this, you know, trade war is certainly harmful to the economy and it's certainly harmful to people who have voted for him.

And I think that -- I do think and I've said this before, that the claims about how well the economy is doing, coming from Donald Trump and his supporters have been overstated, and there have been a lot of people saying, look, you know, we could have a slowdown coming. Things have definitely gotten better, you know, over the past many years. There's been a good trajectory, but it's a fundamentally not a strong economy. I wouldn't call it booming by any stretch of imagination, except for people at the very top.

TAPPER: Mayor Gillum?

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, first of all, the president has run out of the luck here. He's run around for the past two or so years claiming how great he is for the economy, never, ever recognizing and acknowledging the fact that when Barack Obama came into office, he along with Congress and the Fed, they had to go through a herculean task in order to put this economy back on track, and to arrest us from the real depths of this.

This president came in and got to benefit from frankly decisions that were made prior to him ever coming into office. And now that his public policy is to take impact -- is beginning to have a real impact on people's wallets, he now wants to blame somebody else for what he's done.

[16:25:11] He's the one that's begun to begin a trade war. He's the one who is responsible for the tax giveaway to the wealthiest 1 percent of people in this country.

And the statement was made earlier people will measure this by their own lived experiences, right? So in my state, a state like Florida, where 40 percent of the folks here are saying they can't either make ends meet at the end of the month, if that happens to get worse, this president has to be worried about what his trajectory back to the White House looks like, especially if a state like Florida falls out of his grips.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. We got more to talk about.

One resident said it was like a war zone after a standoff and shootout that left six police officers shot. Thankfully, they all survived. One presidential candidate is going to weigh in with her plan to curb gun violence like we saw in Philadelphia. That's next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:30:00:00]