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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sniper on the Loose?; State of the Trump Economy?; Sanders Criticized After Changing "Medicare For All" Proposal; Police Searching for Sniper Who Shot Deputy in California. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:02]

JAMES WHITE, RESCUED FROM SHARK BY HIS DOG: Oh, yes, definitely.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Nice, big, juicy steak for Darby.

WHITE: Barbecue, yes.

BALDWIN: James White, thank you very much.

That's it for us today. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: From "I alone to fix it," to, hey, don't look at me.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump saying, ignore the alarm bells on the economy, as he tries to distract you with new division and insults -- today, why even the best part of the Trump economy may be taking a turn.

Fear in America, a possible sniper on the loose today in one of the country's biggest cities -- how close this gunman came to murdering a sheriff's deputy.

Plus, from Russia with love. An American CEO steps down after admitting his relationship with an infamous accused Russian agent.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Erica Hill, in for Jake Tapper.

And we start with the money lead, new warnings of a recession and a clear message from the president: Nothing to see here.

In fact, he tweeted today -- quote -- "The economy is doing really well."

Meantime, a major predictor of recessions in the past dipped again. Plus, the Labor Department says the job market isn't as strong as first thought. And for the first time in nearly a decade, we learned manufacturing is cranking out less.

While, overall, the economy may be doing well, the question is, can President Trump help keep it that way?

As CNN's Boris Sanchez reports, even the president doesn't seem to know.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Donald Trump trying to ease concerns about mounting red flags in the American economy by once again taking aim at the Federal Reserve, tweeting today -- quote -- "The economy is doing really well. The Federal Reserve can easily make it a record-setting," later adding: "Our Federal Reserve does not allow us to do what we must do. They put us at a disadvantage against our competition. Fight or go home."

In recent days, Trump and allies have insisted the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: First of all, I don't see recession at all.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American economy is strong.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: We see a very robust economy.

SANCHEZ: But a major indicator of an oncoming recession, the yield curve, inverted again for the third time since last Wednesday, and new numbers indicate the Bureau of Labor Statistics overestimated the number of jobs created by more than half-a-million.

New data also reveals the manufacturing sector, an area of emphasis for Trump, has shrunk for the first time since 2009. And a report from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office shows the federal deficit will come close to $1 trillion in 2019, ballooning in large part because of Trump's 2017 tax cut.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the chosen one.

SANCHEZ: Economists also blaming the current trade war with China, which Trump yesterday denied was his fault.

TRUMP: Somebody said it's Trump's trade war. This isn't my trade war.

SANCHEZ: But Trump did start the trade war last year when he began leveling tariffs on China. That statement by the president, according to CNN fact-checkers, one of 11 false claims Trump made during his more than 30 minute Q&A with reporters on Wednesday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: One more thing for the president to think about, Erica, the growing number of House Democrats calling for a formal impeachment inquiry.

Today, two more Democrats lent their name to that cause, bringing the total to 129, more than half of the caucus -- Erica.

HILL: Boris Sanchez, live from the White House for us, Boris, thank you.

So, the president, as we showed you, tweeted earlier today the economy is doing really well and then followed up by saying: "The Federal Reserve can easily make it record-setting. The question is being asked, why are we paying much more in interest in Germany and certain other countries?"

Sabrina, it would seem that, once again, the president is trying to have it both ways. It's this consistent inconsistency, I suppose, that we can now count on.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

At the same time that the president is saying the economy's fine, there's nothing to see here, he's mulling additional tax cuts, maybe a payroll tax cut to try and boost the economy. He delayed the implementation of some of those tariffs on Chinese goods to try and protect U.S. consumers around the holiday season, when he had said all along that the tariffs weren't actually going to hurt American consumers or American workers.

He's also passed or approved billions of dollars in emergency funding for farmers because the agricultural industry has been bearing the brunt of these escalating trade wars.

So he is trying to have it both ways. And it's very clear from his appearance before reporters yesterday that he's under by -- for the prospect of an economic downturn, because the one issue that he has had fairly better approval ratings as president is the economy.

And so it's very critical to his reelection. I think that's why you really saw him lash out the way he did yesterday.

HILL: It's interesting too. We saw this reporting from Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman this morning in "The Times," noting: "Some former Trump administration officials in recent days said they were increasingly worried about the president's behavior, suggesting it stems from rising pressure on him, as the economy seems more worrisome and, of course, as you point out, as next year's election approaches

[16:05:13]

It's not just the flip-flops in the concern over the economy, though, Joshua, that we have seen this week. We have seen him thank and, in fact, praise a right-wing conspiracy theorist. He's lashing out at Denmark and canceling a visit because he can't buy Greenland.

I mean, the list goes on and on, which there's the unnerving aspect to it. But there's also a real question of whether this is the president coming off as worried or the president coming off as agitated and unable to control things.

JOSHUA JOHNSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think the larger question -- yes, but I also think the larger question is really whether it'll matter, because remember what happened in 2016.

I mean, from the beginning of his campaign from when he descending that golden escalator at Trump Tower and blamed Mexico for sending crime, drugs, rapists, and some, I assume, are good people, to all of the rhetoric that came through the 2016 campaign, to the "Access Hollywood" video, he yet won the presidency.

And since that time, some of the voters that we have heard from, some that I have spoken to still feel confident about their support of President Trump because they see that their personal fortunes, their personal lot in life is doing well.

That doesn't mean they approve of his behavior necessarily. I remember I interviewed a guy in Michigan who owns a roofing business that's doing extremely well. And he said he's -- would you support President Trump again? He's like, my lot in life is good. My business is doing great. I asked him, would you do business with President Trump?

And he said, I would get half the money up front first.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: So I think the voters...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: But, then again, think about it. As long as the voters who support the president see that their personal prosperity is yet strong, they might be able to hold their noses again in 2020 and vote for him regardless of what he does now.

I think he knows that and that might be why he doesn't care.

ALICE STEWART, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: I think taking half the money up front is pretty sound advice, no matter who you're dealing with.

JOHNSON: I hear that, yes.

STEWART: Certainly, in that case, without a doubt.

I think some of this also is coming off the fact, Erica, you talked about the president coming off of one thing or another. I think a lot of this comes off the fact that he's coming off vacation. He had a lot of free time to look at a lot of different issues and...

(CROSSTALK)

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: ... a lot of free time.

STEWART: Exactly.

But with regards to economy, I'm not sure who a lot of these reporters are talking with. The folks I talked to dealing with the economy, they look at from the broad spectrum. Yes, the bond yield version was troublesome. That is generally sign

of potentially far down the road recession. But if you look at the economy, the full dashboard of the economy, there's many potential aspects of that, talking about the credit, housing market jobs, and all of those numbers with regards to jobs in the economy are strong, 3.7 percent unemployment, the labor participation rate.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: The wage growth is at a good steady point.

So across the board, the numbers are good. If they remain steady, President Trump...

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: But here's the problem. And this goes to something I think Josh was saying.

The difference between now and 2016 is you know what three years of Trump is like. It's exhausting, right? If just the average American watching your local news this week, one day, he says payroll taxes, then, no, we're not talking that. I'm out of Denmark. I'm going. I'm not going. We're buying Greenland.

And for the average American, it's complicated. What's happening? Why is my president seeming so erratic? And we know that that erratic behavior is having an impact on world markets.

It's ironic that he would cite the rates in Germany, given that Germany he also just last week mentioned was an economic trouble. So why are we comparing ourselves to them this week?

And I think so the problem is, and we see this in poll after poll after poll, people want a sense of calm. They're tired of getting up every day and not knowing are we going to war because somebody offended the president?

And the truth is, just last thing, the economy's not doing very well for a lot of people. Part of the -- if you look under the hood of some of those numbers, it's because people have more than one job, and their costs are still high, their benefits are not keeping up.

And so I think there's an anxiety that people have, and people are still anxious, frankly, from 2008. We saw this in Obama's -- during Obama's tenure. So all of this volatility, I don't think it's going to help.

HILL: One thing that I found fasting is that the Trump 2020 campaign actually dismissed these contradictions that we have heard as a debate happening within the administration. It's just the President Trump is voicing it in public.

I mean, Alice, come on, when you look at that, especially based on your experience, that can't really be the message.

STEWART: That is how he has always operated.

Look, many people in...

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: We know that is how he operates, but for that as a message? It's one thing to say we know this is how it operates. But this is the message that we're putting out here. Well, we're just having contradictions in the campaign, and so he's just talking about it publicly.

I know you can't control him as a candidate. We know that. The president does what he wants to do. But that still seems like a lot to put out there.

STEWART: Right.

But still -- and if we turn things back to the actual numbers with regard to many people look at the unemployment rate and the wage growth, which is at a good point. If you look at the numbers, they are certainly strong.

The president, it's a daily situation to where a spokesperson comes out and says something and he comes out and tweets something different. That is not -- not unusual.

[16:10:00]

But for him to have a dialogue that is open and public, as he is doing now, that's not unusual. He's done it before, and he will continue to do so.

FINNEY: But the problem also is, I think part of what we're seeing, is this is how he ran his many, many, many failed businesses, right?

Like, Mr. King of Debt, right? And the difference is, when you're president, there are actual laws you have to follow. You can't just declare bankruptcy and underpay certain people.

HILL: Stay with us.

We also want to tackle the Democrats on the debate stage, Bernie Sanders bragging, of course, that he wrote the damn bill. Well, now he's making a key change to his signature health care plan.

Plus, the stockpile of guns, ammo and tactical gear assembled for a plot to commit a massacre at a Marriott -- how authorities were tipped off.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:04] ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: In our 2020 lead, it is one of the main pillars of Bernie Sanders ease White House run, but today, the Vermont senator seeming to admit he needs to change if he's going to win over a crucial bloc of Democratic voters. CNN's Ryan Nobles takes a closer look at Sanders' new Medicare for All

proposal, which is already drawing backlash from his rivals.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Paradise, California, a city destroyed by the worst wildfire in state history, Senator Bernie Sanders warned that without dramatic action, the scenario will continue to play out all around the world.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need bold and aggressive action to combat climate change, which is the common enemy, not for just the United States, but for countries all over the world. This is a crisis, by the way, that the United States alone cannot solve.

NOBLES: Sanders, an early supporter of the Green New Deal, unveiling a comprehensive plan to combat the climate crisis, calling for 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030, eliminating fossil fuel use by 2050, all with the goal of creating 20 million new jobs. But it won't be cheap, a price tag of more than $16 trillion, a cost Sanders vowed would pay for itself over time.

He is also tweaking his signature health care proposal, Medicare for All, changing it to protect labor unions concerned that the proposal will prevent them from negotiating their insurance benefits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn't that take away our right to bargain for our medical benefits that we get from the employer?

SANDERS: Yes, absolutely, you would. Is that a bad thing? How about bargaining for decent wages? Good.

NOBLES: Sanders' new provision would force companies with union negotiated health plans to go back to the bargaining table, with a goal of reaping better benefits and bigger wages.

And as Sanders talked climate change today --

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: Good morning.

NOBLES: -- the one candidate who made the issue his central focus announced he was leaving the race.

INSLEE: It's become clear that I'm not going to be carrying the ball. I'm not going to be the president.

NOBLES: Washington Governor Jay Inslee will now instead seek a third term after struggling to gain traction in the massive field.

He isn't the only one turning his attention home.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), FORMER COLORADO GOVERNOR: I know changing Washington is hard, but I want to give it a shot.

NOBLES: Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper who dropped out last week announced plans today to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Cory Gardner, who Democrats see as vulnerable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: And there were other candidates who may feel the pull to abandon their White House runs to focus on their home states. Among them, Beto O'Rourke of Texas and Steve Bullock in Montana, both are in states where Senate seats are up for grabs in 2020 but both have emphatically said that despite their struggles in the polls, they have no interest in running for anything other than the presidency -- Erica.

HILL: We will see what happens. Ryan, thank you.

As we look at this with Governor Jay Inslee dropping out, we're down to 22 Democrats who are running at this point. Just ten of those candidates have qualified for the next debate.

So, Karen, if you're advising any of these other 12 candidates, if they don't make the cutoff next week, is it time for them to drop out? What would you advise them to do?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's time to have a very serious look at your fund-raising numbers, at your -- what your numbers look like, and certainly the four early states in terms of, in Iowa, your commitment to caucus cards, your -- how your list building is going in South Carolina, and New Hampshire, to see is there a way to get there for the October debate? Is there really a pathway to get yourself in front of the voters that you need to get the votes?

Probably the answer quite frankly is going to be no, but I suspect that there are going to be, of that 12, a number of them that that's going to be a harder thing to accept. You know, acceptance takes some times.

HILL: Those two letters are sometimes very difficult to get out. The word "no" is not easy on a number of levels.

FINNEY: Exactly, so --

HILL: You know, what's interesting, we look, Tom Steyer, of course, needs one more qualifying poll to make the September debates. One of his rivals, though, so we're hearing from Bullock, who said basically, listen, you're the billionaire who's just trying to buy your way into this. He responded to do that this morning on CNN. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For ten years, I've been taking on corporations at the ballot box and winning. And that's exactly what we need now, a message to Americans that we can actually accomplish what we need to accomplish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Joshua, how do you think voters see this? JOSHUA JOHNSON, HOST, NPR'S 1A: I don't know. I mean, I've

interviewed Tom Steyer on 1A. And I'm not still clear on exactly what his policy plans are. I mean, he's very clear that he believes that, you know, President Trump is a con man and a liar and a bigot and someone who needs to be thrown out of the White House. He says he's been taking on corporations for a long time. Clearly, that's made him quite wealthy.

But in terms of the nuts and bolts and the nitty-gritty of his policy plans, I'm not -- he didn't really sharply articulate them to me. I also am not sure in terms of who should be in and who should be out, whether or not anyone -- whether or not Tom Steyer is among those who made a real impression.

I mean, let's be clear, there's a certain kind of chorus line feel to a lot of these debates.

[16:20:04] You're kind of looking for somebody who stands out. And Tom Steyer is a kind of dance 10, looks 3 at this point, like I don't know what he's done --

HILL: I'm loving all of these references.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. You are welcome. But you know what I'm saying.

HILL: I do.

JOHNSON: I feel like in the mass of all these debates we're kind of looking for a moment or for a candidate to be able to advance a dialogue. Like Jay Inslee dropping out, he said his top thing was climate change. That's great for him running for a third term.

HILL: Sure.

JOHNSON: Because a governor on the West Coast can do tremendous things in terms of climate change policy. Look at California with Assembly Bill 32. That has climate change target for next year, and a stronger one for 2030.

But with Tom Steyer, I'm not sure when his breakout moment is going to be, or what his backup plan is going to be, so that if he doesn't get the nomination, he can say, at least I walked away with X. I'm still trying to solve for X.

FINNEY: Money.

(CROSSTALK)

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The key is you cannot buy your way into the White House, you have to work really hard at it, and slow and steady wins the race.

I don't see Tom Steyer as much of a tortoise. He is one that wants to get out there and make a lot of hay, and make a lot of headlines. He can buy a lot of airtime, but cannot buy his ways to the White House. I worked with the last three winners of Iowa caucus. And they got out

there and they won by working the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, shaking hands, retail politics, staying under the radar until the Iowa caucus came around and making a splash. But these debates are an interesting dynamic. If you don't have the opportunity to be on that debate stage and make your case to the nation like that, it makes it very difficult.

But I would never encourage someone to get out if you have the money and you have the momentum on the ground to keep going, I think you should. A good healthy debate is for the process.

HILL: The momentum part is key. What's fascinating too is we're looking at what we're hearing from Bernie Sanders today, saying, oh, we're not really changing much, we're just making an addition. There was a fascinating response from the communication director for Senator Kamala Harris, who tweeted, quote: oh, how interesting, I thought no one was allowed to make any changes to Medicare for All plans at all ever.

I think there was a snap missing at the end of that tweet maybe? Obviously, trying to deflect a bit from legitimate questions that have lingered about Senator Harris and her plan, but I do find it interesting that, you know, the communications director chose to go after Bernie Sanders today.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's been a fair amount of back and forth between the Sanders campaign and the Harris campaign in particular over the issue of health care. Sometimes Joe Biden's campaign has also been part of this conversation.

What this debate is really about is the role of private insurance. Senator Harris had initially signaled he would eliminate private insurance before walking that back. Now you have Bernie Sanders having been some union or labor representatives saying they have negotiated their benefits under the existing system, so with his Medicare for All plan, what would that mean for them? He said you can go back to the drawing board with the supervision of the National Labor Relations Board and try to renegotiate.

So, is that opening up the door for some role for private insurance? His campaign says no, some others say yes. And this might sound very much in the weeds, there's a lot of nuance in this debate over healthcare, but what it really speaks to is the important of health care not just for the general electorate, but specifically in the Democratic primary. I think it's going to be a tough priority for a lot of Democrats going to the polls, and that's why you see these candidates really jockeying to position themselves at the center of that debate.

HILL: And those voters are going to need clear answers and that's been tough until now. Really get an answer that makes sense to where I'm at as a voter.

(CROSSTALK) FINNEY: -- being a frontrunner and being a challenger. And Bernie is now a front-runner. That means you have to listen to what people are asking for.

HILL: It is true.

A hotel cook is behind bars after telling a co-worker a story. Wait until you see what police found inside his home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:27] HILL: Our national lead, an urgent manhunt underway right now across California for a sniper who shot a sheriff's deputy walking to his car outside his station yesterday. That shooting took place in Lancaster, about an hour north of Los Angeles.

Let's get straight to CNN's Stephanie Elam who is there for us this afternoon.

So, what more do we know about the targeting of this officer, Steph?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know, Erica, that he was targeted. We don't even know why the shooting happened. There's so many questions here.

But I want to show you exactly what is of concern to many of the people who work in this area. As you can see through this gate which is happening on cue right now, you case back there, that is an apartment complex, and below that, these are personal vehicles these deputies. This is where this one officer was walking yesterday, just about 3:00 in the afternoon, when shots rang out. He was able to call for backup. The bullet actually his bulletproof vest, ricocheted off and hit him in his right shoulder.

He's expected to make a full recovery. It could have been so much worse. Obviously after that, the deputies locking down the building. They went through the building, making sure that there was nothing they can find in there, they didn't. There was also a nearby school that they locked down.

But, still, with all of this information, all of that locking down, they still have not been able to identify who the shooter was and why they did it. At this point, there's nobody in custody, Erica.

HILL: That is chilling.

All right. Stephanie, thank you for that.

Meantime, authorities in California also revealing chilling new details about a plan to carry out a mass shooting at a Marriott Hotel. That shooting to be carried out by one of the employees.

As CNN's Nick Watt reports, it is just one of a series of plots thwarted by law enforcement since the massacres in El Paso and Dayton.

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