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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Warren, Sanders Moving Up In Polls; Interview With Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL); Aerial Tour Of Amazon Fires Reveals Endless Devastation; Trump Considering Hosting Next G7 Summit At Trump FL Resort, Says He Won't Make Money; CA Deputy Accused Of Faking Sniper Shooting Under Criminal Investigation. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 26, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Ten percent behind Bernie Sanders, six percent behind Elizabeth Warren.

Now you look at these numbers, Joe Biden's at 22 percent. And look at how much support has ticked up for both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, again, conservative and moderate Democrats.

What do you attribute that shift to?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So I will say the sample size of this pool was a little small. And so we might be looking at an outlier. But the trend lines are similar to other polls in terms of the rise of Warren and Bernie Sanders, and they're sort of pulling at each other's support.

HILL: Right.

KUCINICH: Listen, Joe Biden's support, while among some demographics is strong, it's soft among others, and they're -- they're shopping, they're looking at these other candidates, seeing who might better represent them.

One thing Elizabeth Warren has going for her that Sanders sort of struggles is she explains her policies really well, so that people can understand them.

HILL: She's got a plan.

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: She's got a plan. She has that down. But she's good on the stump, and she's able to break things down, instead of I wrote the damn plan or whatever he is.

HILL: I wrote the damn bill.

KUCINICH: Yes. I wrote the damn bill.

So there is -- that is one place that I have heard from folks who've been out on the trail and been listening that she has an advantage. But we are the very beginning of this process. And we're going to see Biden's support move from some of these or candidates.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, here's where Joe Biden is in trouble. And, yes, this poll is an outlier. But if it goes in that direction, the case for his candidacy has essentially been, you like me, you know me, I'm electable, and maybe we will talk about how I'm a more moderate candidate later.

Well, on some of those things, Elizabeth Warren starts to pierce that veil and say, oh, guess what, I'm electable too, you do like me, too.

And I think this is the rationale behind those crowd sizes. Why did she feel the need to get a big crowd in Seattle, which isn't really going to change the election? She needs those photos to demonstrate to the Democratic base, yes, I can get those crowds too. If you doubt I have the ability to go head to head with Trump, take a picture.

SHAWNA THOMAS, WASHINGTON, D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, VICE NEWS: Yes, I'm serious about this. And those crowd sizes show it.

And I know you were making the joke about how President Trump used to talk about his crowd size in 2016. But you know what? There was something that was telling in the crowd, the actual crowds he got in the places he was able to fill at the time that the media, including myself, sort of missed because our heads were buried in the polling.

And it speaks to that idea of having strength and having power. I also think what this poll sort of says to me with the moderate and conservative Democrats, or moderate and middle or whatever we're calling them, as well as the fact that 53 percent of Democratic voters say they want the system that offers an opt into Medicare, while retaining the private health insurance market, is this poll just says Democrats are just trying to figure out who can beat Trump.

It comes back to the electability, because all of the things in here don't quite add up to supporting Elizabeth Warren or supporting Joe Biden or supporting Bernie Sanders. They add up to, oh, my God, there's a new person, OK. I didn't know who Elizabeth Warren was before. Let me figure out if that's the person who can beat Trump.

That's what I keep seeing at least in these early polls.

HILL: Which is interesting, because that's what we heard, right, from Jill Biden last week, was, don't worry about all of the details here. You should just...

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: She was saying, don't worry about the details. You may not love my husband on everything, but he's the guy who can beat Donald Trump, which, again, I go back to -- that is not the strongest campaign message if you're trying to talk about a vision for the future.

But is that the message the Democrats ultimately need? XOCHITL HINOJOSA, DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think it's

both.

It's not an either/or here. Yes, you're right that people do want to know who is going to beat Donald Trump. But they also want to know, who's got my back? And right now, I think that, with all of these debates, these have been very substantive conversations.

We might not all agree on how to move forward on health care. We might not all agree on immigration. But the one thing is clear is anyone on that stage, their message has been, I have got your back.

And I think that's the difference. They're not only playing in a primary, but everyone knows, moving forward, you know what? We're going to have to beat Donald Trump. And the Democratic Party's message has been very clear that, yes, we're going to beat him, but we're going to do it on our values.

HILL: Well, we have a lot of time to keep talking about this. That is the good news, ladies. We are not done yet.

As 2020 Democrats face off to challenge President Trump, there is actually a new Republican who at one time supported the president who is now after his seat as well.

I will speak with the newest presidential candidate, former Congressman Joe Walsh, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:44]

HILL: In our 2020 lead: We now have another Republican challenger to President Trump, former Illinois Congressman and conservative talk show host Joe Walsh, who says the president is unfit for office and thinks he's the guy to replace him.

He joins me now.

Sir, good to have you with us.

So, tell us, why are you the Trump alternative?

JOE WALSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Erica, good to be with you, by the way.

He's unfit. We have a child in the White House. Somebody needs to say that. I have been stunned, Erica, at my Republican Party that nobody has stepped up to make the moral case against this president.

It needs to be made. Every day that goes by in this country, Erica, we realize that he doesn't know what he's doing. He lies every time he opens his mouth. He's a narcissist. That case has to be made against him. And I'm going to do it.

HILL: So you want to make that case. You say he's morally unfit. You want to make the moral case.

We can't ignore that you have a lengthy list of controversial tweets. I know you have apologized for a number of them. A lot of people, though, still uncomfortable with the language that you used.

WALSH: Yes.

HILL: But since you have also declared, you have called the president, as you just did, a narcissist, a child, cruel, incompetent. You said he's nuts.

How is going down that path any different from the rhetoric that we hear from the president that you say you want to campaign against?

[16:40:00]

WALSH: You know what, Erica? It's a good question. It's a fair question.

I just think this is an urgent time in our country's history. We have never, ever had a president like this. And we saw it again today over at the G7. We have never had a president in the history of this country who you could not believe a single word that came out of his mouth.

That's what we have got here. And I don't care what your politics are. That's dangerous. And it's dangerous, Erica, because now we're at a point where this president is so erratic, he's tweeting this country into a recession.

And I'm just, again, so disappointed that my former Republican colleagues don't speak up.

HILL: But just to be clear too on the question, from what I just heard come out of your mouth, it doesn't sound like you see a real difference between the rhetoric that you're using and the rhetoric that you're complaining about that President Trump is using.

WALSH: No.

HILL: Did I miss something there?

WALSH: No, you know what? I'm going to make the case that he's incompetent.

I'm going to make the case, Erica, respectfully that he doesn't know what he's doing. I'm going to make the case, Erica, respectfully that he puts his own interests ahead of the country's interests. And I'm going to make the case respectfully that he lies almost every time he opens his mouth.

I will do that with respect. But as far as I'm concerned, those are just facts that right now are presenting a real dangerous situation for this country.

HILL: You said in this "New York Times" op-ed that you penned a couple of weeks ago: "Americans want fixes to our most basic problems."

Part of a tweet that you put out in the past reads: "I have a right to use an AR-15 to defend my family and my home. That's America. Get off my lawn."

Gun control is a major issue for Americans at this point. And it is something that we know an overwhelming number of Americans would like to see addressed.

Let's start with universal background checks. The president has backed off his support after conversations with the NRA. Where do you stand? Do you support universal background checks?

WALSH: No.

But vis-a-vis the president, Erica, he's been all over the map. A week or two ago, he said yes. This past week, he's sort of hedging and going the other way.

Look, 98, 99 percent of all the guns bought and sold in this country are already covered by universal background checks. We have a problem. You're right. Too many mass shootings in this country. I don't think that's an issue when it comes to background checks, though.

We have got a white nationalism, white supremacy problem in this country that we need to be honest about and go after.

HILL: So you want to go after that. But just to be clear here, you do not support universal background checks?

I should point out, 89 percent of Americans, 84 percent of Republicans do believe that implementing background checks for gun purchases is a good idea. That's from a PBS/NPR/Marist poll just last month.

And, as you know, 60 percent of Americans do favor some sort of stricter gun control legislation. This is going to come up a lot. And it's a broad topic.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Yes. No, I know it is, Erica.

And, again, to be clear, we already have universal background checks. We have back -- I mean, major background checks in this country that already cover 98 to 99 percent of every gun purchase made in this country. I'm just saying I -- and I support that, by the way.

I just don't think that's where our emphasis needs to be right now.

HILL: So you talk about the problem of white nationalism, white supremacists.

In the past, you have put out tweets about...

WALSH: Yes. HILL: ... former President Obama saying that he was elected just

because he was black. You called him a Muslim.

I'm not clear if that is supposed to be derogatory. I'm not sure there's something wrong with being a Muslim. But if you look at those tweets, are you concerned that those may be read as white nationalism?

WALSH: No.

And, Erica, there was nothing derogatory meant by that, because, as you rightly said, there's nothing derogatory about being called Muslim. But to that tweet, yes, that is a tweet I apologize for. I called Barack Obama a Muslim.

Erica, that was wrong. I regret doing it.

And you referenced "The New York Times" op-ed piece two weeks ago. One of the reasons I wrote that op-ed piece was to apologize, I mean genuinely apologize for the role that I played, that I played in putting what I believe is an unfit con man in the White House.

Too often in the past, Erica, I engaged in this hateful personal rhetoric, so caught up in our political battles, and I believe some of the demonizing that I and others did, I think it led to Trump.

And I regret that.

HILL: What is your next step here? Are you -- is it next stop Iowa?

WALSH: Next stop, Iowa, New Hampshire.

We're going to get in the president's face every day. We're going to get in front of voters every day. Our campaign slogan is be brave.

I could be wrong, Erica, but I believe most Republicans privately believe this president is unfit. They're tired of all of his drama. We just want them to be brave enough to come public with that.

HILL: Joe Walsh, thanks for joining us this afternoon.

WALSH: Thanks, Erica.

[16:45:00] HILL: All you can see is death, the world's largest rain forest being compared to a cemetery, as CNN flies above the Amazon fires.

We are live in Brazil next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: In our "WORLD LEAD," the White House trying to explain why President Trump skipped a climate meeting at the G7 today saying "the president had scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India so a senior member of the administration attended in his stead.

Here's the thing though, there's this photo with both Germany's Chancellor and India's Prime Minister, they're at the meeting, the seat for President Trump empty. When asked if he considers the climate crisis a priority, the president today claims he knows more about the environment than most people, called himself an environmentalist, and in his answer focused on the financials not the climate crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:50:12] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I'm not going to lose that wealth I'm not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: The main focus of the meeting Mr. Trump skipped, an international response to the fires devastating the Amazon rainforest. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Brazil. And Nick, you actually got a rare close-up look at the devastation earlier.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, nothing to do with dreams and windmills here. And in fact, the richest seven nations on earth could only get together $20 million for emergency help on this the most pressing environmental crisis that they face.

Will Brazil even accept it? Well, as President Jair Bolsonaro has been in a Twitter spat about an offensive meme that he commented on to do with Emmanuel Macron and the French president's wife today. They're too busy distracted frankly and the politics of this and the urgency of the problem well, that's what frankly we saw just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Miles and miles of seemingly endless devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is almost a cemetery.

WALSH: Once you get past the billows of smoke, cinders, and scorched land.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All you can see is death.

WALSH: CNN getting a rare aerial look of the newest fires ravaging Amazon rainforests known as the Earth's lungs providing 20 percent of the world's oxygen. This area has been the worst hit. There are 85 percent more fires burning in Brazil than this time last year. As of Sunday night, more than 80,000 nationwide.

These apocalyptic sites are kind of like the warnings about what might happen if the world doesn't do something about the climate crisis that you keep hearing, but instead, it's right below us right here and right now.

The Amazon is seen as the key player in the fight against the climate crisis. Deforestation has had its toll making the land more susceptible to burning. And now, this fire is helping fuel exactly what the planet doesn't need, more carbon dioxide and threatening the water supply for all of South America.

ROSANA VILLAR, SPOKESWOMAN, GREENPEACE BRAZIL: Amazon is extremely fundamental the water system for all over the continent. So if we could cut off the forest, in some years we're not going to have rain on the south of the country.

WALSH: The G7 today announcing $20 million in emergency aid. French President Emmanuel Macron said the fires were --

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT, FRANCE (through translator): Two times the surface area of France.

WALSH: Brazil's president vowing to send 43,000 troops to fight the fire after immense international pressure. But as we flew over the area, there were few signs of human life, let alone an increased military presence. Instead, destruction and death that could deepen the climate crisis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now, here there are intermittent shower storms, rains, sometimes that makes the supporters of President Bolsonaro on Twitter suggest that rain may cure this. It won't. There possibly needs to be an international response. The army is on its way.

Can they get a grip on it? It's not clear. 85 percent more fires than last year. We've seen how intense they are. They haven't stopped and the bickering around this frankly is just distracting from the urgency of the problem, Erica.

HILL: Yes, certainly not helpful. That is for sure. Nick, thank you. It was a massive manhunt for a sniper in one of -- near one of America's largest cities. Now though, there was word a sheriff's deputy made it all up. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] HILL: In our "MONEY LEAD," President Trump says he knows just the place to hold next year's G7 and it just happens to have his name on it. The President says he's considering holding the summit at his Doral Golf Resort outside of Miami. He wants you to know, though, this has nothing to do with business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: From my standpoint, I'm not going to make any money. In my opinion, I'm not going to make any money. I don't want to make money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Well the President has not made a final decision. He said officials "haven't found anything that's even close to competing with it. In the "NATIONAL LEAD," it was all a lie. The California deputy now

facing criminal charges after authorities say he made up a story about a sniper shooting him. CNN's Stephanie Elam joins me live from Los Angeles. This was a major story across the country. Why do officials now believe he made it up?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are several things, Erica. For one thing, there are several people standing in the parking lot who didn't hear any shots. And also the story just wasn't adding up. They didn't find bullet casings, none of that.

And this deputy had said that it was coming from the apartment building, four-story building outside of the parking lot but when they checked, all they recovered was a pellet gun. Well, now this deputy Angel Reynosa has admitted he made it up and used a knife to make the holes in his uniform to look like a bullet hole, that he was never actually penetrated by a bullet. All of this made up.

And at this though, it looks like according to the mayor of Lancaster, California that the motive may have been his poor performance but we're still waiting to hear from him as to exactly why he did it, Erica.

HILL: Interesting motivation if that ends up being the answer. Stephanie Elam, I appreciate it. Thank you. Stay with us. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.