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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Seeking Trump's Tax Returns; Trump Advocates For Vladimir Putin; Storm to Reach Near-Hurricane Strength As It Spins Closer to Puerto Rico; Biden Talks Tragedy in New Ad on Health Care. Aired 4- 4:30p ET
Aired August 27, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TODRICK HALL, CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, TAYLOR SWIFT'S "YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN" VIDEO: No. I still cannot believe it. I can't believe I'm here with you.
You look gorgeous, by the way.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Thank you. I'll take the compliment from you any day of the week.
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And thank you all for being with us. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.
ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: President Trump tries to feed world leaders a spoonful of Putin.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Breaking news, brand-new details on President Trump's tense and bitter summit with world leaders and how he just would not let go of the issue of bringing Russia back into the group.
Plans and policy vs. getting personal. Joe Biden tugging at voters' heartstrings in a new ad, as his campaign chooses a different lane than his closest challenger.
Plus, Puerto Rico and Florida in the danger zone, bracing as Dorian picks up steam, with thousands still living under blue tarps after Hurricane Maria.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
HILL: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Erica Hill, in for Jake Tapper.
And we begin today with breaking news, brand-new reporting on just what happened behind the scenes at a G7 welcome dinner, sharp, sometimes bitter disagreements breaking out over President Trump's push to let Russia back into the group.
That is according to two diplomatic officials and a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the exchange. Those sources telling CNN the president repeatedly insisted at a summit dinner that Russia be included in the talks and continued to falsely blame his predecessor, Barack Obama, for kicking Vladimir Putin out of the alliance.
Boris Sanchez brings us the insider details from the White House.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Donald Trump returning to Washington from the G7, calling it a great success on Twitter. But two diplomatic sources and one senior U.S. official tell CNN behind the scenes there was feuding between world leaders in France over his insistence that Russia be invited to rejoin the group.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people say having Russia, which is a power, having them inside the room is better than having them outside of the room.
By the way, there were numerous people during the G7 that felt that way. And we didn't take a vote or anything, but we did discuss it. My inclination is to say, yes, they should be in.
SANCHEZ: But CNN has learned that was not the case at all. Only outgoing Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte agreed with Trump, while most of the allies, including Britain's Boris Johnson, Germany's Angela Merkel, and France's Emmanuel Macron balked at the idea, leading to tense, heated exchanges during a Saturday dinner.
One diplomatic source saying Trump repeatedly blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for ejecting Russia from the group, even as he was outnumbered by counterparts who argued that Russia had become more undemocratic since it was ejected for invading Crimea in 2014.
On Twitter today, Trump launched attacks on the press, trying to spin coverage of his dizzying performance at the G7, writing -- quote -- "Media coverage bore no relationship to what actually happened in France. Fake news. It was great."
Trump's trip also punctuated by confounding and misleading statements about the state of trade discussions with China, the first lady's relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and his outlook on relations with Iran.
The president saying he's open to meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, while also threatening violence.
QUESTION: Would you agree to meet with Rouhani?
TRUMP: If the circumstances were correct or right, I would certainly agree to that. They can't do what they're saying they're going to do, because, if they do that, they're going to be met with really very violent force.
SANCHEZ: Rouhani with an insulting response, saying he will only meet with Trump if:
HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If you lift all these sanctions and if you bow your head in respect to the nation of Iran, well, then the situation would be different.
SANCHEZ: The White House has declined to comment in response to Rouhani's statements.
Yesterday, the president was asked about the strategy behind his bluster and his often contradictory statements, Erica. He said: "It is the way I negotiate." He said it served him well and it served the country well, too -- Erica.
HILL: Boris Sanchez with the latest for us -- Boris, thank you.
And as we learn more about just what did happen behind the scenes, it is fascinating too, S.E., as we look at this, that the president, we knew he was going to continue to push for Russia to be allowed back in. But to hear about how this happened at the dinner is somewhat remarkable and yet not surprising all at once.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
In some ways, this is peak Trump. In other ways, we should continue to be surprised and alarmed by this behavior, whether it is on the world stage, domestically, behind closed doors, at a podium in front of the world to see. We should call it out. We should report it, as we are, and we should talk about it.
All those caveats aside, just to make a political comment for a second, 2020, November, far away. Don't think voters are going to really be moved by the crazy chaos, arguably crazy chaos we saw over the weekend.
And while there are important foreign policy implications, politically, he's doing Trump. Trump is going to be Trump. And I don't think people are going to sort of breathe this in and think any differently of Trump than they already do.
HILL: No, and that works for his base. But the question is, if they're not breathing it any differently, then, Harry, as you know, the issue is he needs to grow that base a little bit.
CUPP: He's not interested in doing that at all, though.
HILL: Maybe not. But he may need to.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICAL SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: He's at 40 percent approval rating.
Everything he has done has led to this, and he's at 40 percent approval rating on foreign policy. The president needs to do things differently if he wants to actually reach out to voters besides his own base.
His own base is not going to win him 2020, and, yes, it is true this probably doesn't have an impact on voters. But, look, it is part of a pattern. If he continues that pattern, adios, amigos, to the president.
HILL: Well, it's also a part of what happens to the United States, right, whether it's in another year or so or perhaps another five years depending on how long Donald Trump is president.
And, as we know, we heard about this from Boris, but hearing about the leaders who did speak up and say something, so Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau all speaking out against the idea of letting Russia back in, the fact that they are now perhaps speaking a little bit more forcefully, does that change something in what we're seeing in the way that world leaders are reacting?
CAITLIN DICKERSON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think that world leaders have been critical of the president for a while.
I think your point is right that typically something like G7 isn't going to make a big impact in 2020, except that on the Democratic side, the race is heating up, such that you have very prominent Democrats hitting on these points over and over again.
So I think that some of the mistakes that the president has made, whether it is misrepresenting what happened with Russia and why Russia is no longer in the G7, or whether it is misrepresenting or not showing up to a climate meeting at all, that is a key campaign issue for 2020.
So I do think it is possible actually that these blunders sort of stick around and have an impact and that we're still talking about them, in the way we haven't in the past.
HILL: It is interesting, too, the way that from what we understand that Emmanuel Macron played it, said to have played it very diplomatically, to the point where afterwards Boris Johnson told him, well played.
That is fascinating, in and of itself, because he seems to have figured out how to work with the president here or work within the parameters of what he has.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think that anybody has figured out how to work with this president because he's just so completely erratic that you can't trust anything about him.
But I want to go to something around the political consequences here. I don't think that, come next November, anybody is going to care about the conversation that happen or didn't happen. What is interesting, though, is what we're not hearing. And we're not
hearing much conversation about Russian interference in our elections, which now there is a report that said that there is a whole lot of nefarious digital activity that is still ongoing.
The president refuses to comment about that, to talk about that. We know that voter suppression is a clear tactic. Keeping people home is what Donald Trump and what Republicans want to do. And by having this constant love affair with Vladimir Putin and refusing to condemn the Russians for anything, I think that the conversation that we are missing right now around how Russia may or may not be interfering in our elections is really problematic.
And I don't want us to lose sight of that, because no one's going to remember the devil of the details come November about what happened.
HILL: It is important we talk more about Russia and meddling in election. I will agree with you on that.
What is interesting is, it came up in this letter that a number of top Democratic senators wrote to the president. They did mention it and in part also said: "The G7 nations are unified by both economic status and a shared commitment to democratic values, human rights and the rule of law. Readmitting Putin's Russia to the G7 would be contrary to our values and a clear abdication of the United States' responsibilities as the world's leading democracy."
Now, I think we can all agree that they probably didn't expect the letter to sway the president at all.
HILL: I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I'm guessing he wasn't maybe the intended target, S.E., that maybe this was aimed perhaps at voters, perhaps at other world leaders, a little attention.
Does it move the conversation forward at all.
CUPP: Are you suggesting, Erica, that this might be a little politically motivated?
CUPP: Look, I mean, there's not -- what they're saying is not wrong. It's not incorrect.
But, yes, I'm with you. I'm a little suspicious of the motives and intention here. You can harangue the president for getting a little too cozy with Putin, I would say a lot to cozy with Putin. And yet now you're sort of banging your fists on the table. Well, why won't you let us in to talk to Putin? We want to talk to Putin. And it's really important that we talk to Putin.
I mean, politics is politics. So I'm not surprised by any of this. But as important as it is that we, America, make our position about Russia's involvement in the G7/G8 clear, I do think that there's a lot of politics at play here.
HILL: All right, well, also a lot of politics at play when you talk about Puerto Rico, which, of course, is still covering from two deadly hurricanes, now preparing for a tropical storm that is gaining strength.
We have the latest forecast just ahead.
Plus, more breaking news: President Trump's banks responding moments ago to questions over his tax returns. One question that was actually pretty easy to answer.
HILL: Breaking news in our politics lead on President Trump's tax returns.
Two of his banks responding to the court just moments ago, revealing which financial records of President Trump's they may have.
I want to bring in CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.
So, Sara, the banks responding to the court. What did they say?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right.
Deutsche Bank has responded in their letter. And they basically said that, look, we do have some of these tax returns you're talking about. But they are not telling the general public which ones.
They filed their full answer under seal, but they redacted the names of the tax returns that they do have. So, we still don't know if they have President Trump's tax returns, if they have members of his family, or if they have the tax returns of the Trump Organization or related entities. All of those were covered in the subpoena.
[16:15:04] And it's not clear if the judge is going to require Deutsche Bank to make that answer fully public. They are arguing in doing, so they would somehow compromise the business relationship they have with their clients and the client's expectation of privacy.
Now, Capital One had a much shorter answer. They said, essentially, we don't have any of the tax returns you're looking for in this subpoena. So, it looks it's going to be an issue with Deutsche Bank going forward.
HILL: We look forward perhaps get a little bit more on that.
HILL: Sara, thank you.
The national lead, as Puerto Rico prepares for another potential hurricane, the president is tweeting about the island's recovery. Wow. Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico, he wrote. Will it ever end? Congress approved $92 billion for Puerto Rico last year, an all-time record of its kind for, quote, anywhere.
Well, here's the thing. An important point to make, the figure the president uses and which he's used in the past, is not accurate. Congress did approve money for Puerto Rico, $42 billion. Not $92 billion. The White House estimates Puerto Rico could get $90 billion in the years to come. But, again, another reminder -- facts, they matter.
Meantime, Dorian could be near hurricane strength when it hits the island which is still in recovery mode from Hurricanes Maria and Irma two years ago. Now, FEMA said it does have more resources in place ahead of the storm than it did in 2017.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is on the southern port of the island where Dorian is taking aim.
So, Omar, given what Puerto Rico has been through and is still working to recover from, what are you finding? Are folks ready?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erica, they've been through a lot and here we are almost two years after Hurricane Maria made landfall and it is very much on the minds of many people ahead of Dorian's landfall as well. And we're waiting to see exactly how that hits.
There are many people who still have not recovered, even from all of the time ago. And this is among those places. This is a home that was destroyed over the course of Maria, again, almost two years ago to this day. The homeowner here tells me that they were not given enough to rebuild, specifically FEMA, they showed us documents that FEMA only gave them below $9,000 to repair this, and as you could see this needed to be a rebuilding effort.
We have reached out to FEMA at this point, but this is -- these are the conditions that they are living in right now. At this point, the only way to get into a back portion that they are still going through is not by walking on this portion, because it is loose, but by balancing along these beams in the middle so they can go up to a back portion of again the remainder of this home, just so they could live and that is where they are planning to shelter in regards to Dorian coming tomorrow.
They are doing everything they can to be as safe as possible. But the reality is, this is going to bring a lot of rain, whether it hits as a tropical storm or as a hurricane in the end. And, of course, it's going to bring back a lot of the same memories that people had when Maria struck again close to two years ago.
We spoke to the mayor of Ponce, this town about 70 miles southwest of San Juan and she said no matter how it hits, they would rather be safe over sorry. -- Erica.
HILL: Yes, certainly.
Omar Jimenez with the latest for us -- Omar, thank you.
I want to bring in, also, CNN meteorologist Tom Sater who has a closer look at the latest track.
And give us a sense to how much time people have in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to still prepare.
TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Erica, I think you could say Dorian is like the storm that came out of nowhere and it keeps on going. It's like the little train that could. It has been defying an atmosphere extremely dry, should have died the system out, it is defying some computer models but it made its way across Barbados and St. Lucia, Martinique, downed power lines, downed trees and some flooding. Now, we've got until late tomorrow, or at least tomorrow evening when it makes its closest approach to Puerto Rico.
The storm right now, winds are at 50 miles per hour. The tropical storm force winds extend outward at 50 miles an hour and its closest approach to San Juan -- I think San Juan could be 93 miles away. So, we're not sure. It's trying to wobble a little bit and that is a concern.
And peak, that is the important part here, that is the hurricane watch for Puerto Rico and that coast of Dominican Republic, but it's the track that means everything. If this threads the needle and stays over warmer waters, it's got a better chance to develop and strengthen. If it makes its way toward the west, toward, let's say, Dominican Republic and interacts with the land in some of that higher terrain, that could break the system apart.
Because it's a small storm, it is very vulnerable to all the elements. So, it doesn't take much for a small storm to automatically generate power, but on the other side, it doesn't take much to dissipate. And that's what we would like to see. If it makes its way closer toward Puerto Rico, again as mentioned, if tropical storm force winds are out 50 miles and San Juan is 93, that may help them.
But let me end with this: I talked to a friend of mine this morning who moved so San Juan in December.
[16:20:04] He sent me an article from the "Miami Herald". The island utility company runs 16 electricity generators, 11 of those 16 are out of service and the other five could go down with a stiff wind. So, this means everything.
If it makes it toward hurricane strength or even if it doesn't, if it threads the needle between Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, then it's got a better chance to further strengthen as it moves through the Bahamas and then later on this weekend toward Florida.
So, there is a lot of uncertainty here. Much like Barry, though, that was a minimal hurricane, it dropped record rainfall, one to two feet for the state of Arkansas as well. So, these little storms can do some damage as well.
HILL: Yes, they certainly can. We know you'll continue to follow it and check in with you.
Tom Sater, thank you.
A new emotional TV ad from Joe Biden as he reflects on the family's tragedies to make the case for his health care plan. This as another top Democrat takes a different approach.
[16:25:41] HILL: In our 2020 lead, Joe Biden releasing an emotional TV ad in Iowa titled "Personal" and it is. He speaks about the deaths of his wife, daughter and adult son to highlight his deep connection with health care.
The former vice president tweeting: The ad wasn't easy for me to record.
As CNN's Arlette Saenz reports, Biden seems to be taking an increasingly personal approach to his campaign as he works to secure his position as a Democratic front-runner.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): Joe Biden laying out the stakes on health care in raw and emotional terms.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Health care is personal to me. Obamacare is personal to me.
SAENZ: A new TV ad running in Iowa touching on his own experience with health care. After a car accident claimed the lives of his wife and young daughter and injured his two sons, and later his son Beau's battle with brain cancer.
BIDEN: I can't fathom what would have happened if the insurance companies said for the last six months of his life, you're on your own.
SAENZ: It's the latest example of the 2020 candidates weaving in personal stories to connect with voters, from Bernie Sanders --
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lack of money was always a point of stress in our family.
SAENZ: -- to Elizabeth Warren.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Without childcare, I was a goner. Today I am a United States senator.
SAENZ: Warren using her life story to accompany her came's mantra.
WARREN: And I've got a plan for that.
SAENZ: Tying those experiences to pitch the policy plans central to her campaign.
But Biden's approach is a bit different, making a nod to loss, an element of his life that plays out over and over on the campaign trail.
BIDEN: How many of you have lost somebody to cancer or a terminal disease?
SAENZ: Biden growing emotional in Iowa last month as he talked about personal caregivers.
BIDEN: There is nobody, nobody more important to you than that person and you would do anything to help you with a bed pan to when they get really scared, you know? Hold their hand, you know?
SAENZ: Delaware Congressman Lisa Blunt Rochester is among those to connect with Biden over grief, shortly after her husband Charles unexpectedly passed away at the age of 52, she received a call from Biden whom she met years earlier.
REP. LISA BLUNT ROCHESTER (D-DE): That call was a pivotal moment. That promise that things will be better. That joy can come back.
SAENZ: Rochester turning her grief into a run for Congress.
ROCHESTER: You can sometimes take your pain and turn it into purpose.
SAENZ: Voters also sharing their personal struggles and stories of loss --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Affordable Care Act saved my life.
SAENZ: -- with a man who has repeatedly coped with grief in the public eye.
SAENZ: Though he doesn't name any of his Democratic primary rivals in this TV ad, Biden does characterize President Trump and others as posing a threat to Obamacare. That's an argument he makes over and over on the campaign trail as he has warned that Medicare for All would scrap the Affordable Care Act and tries to paint himself as the protector of that initiative -- Erica.
HILL: Arlette, good to see you. Appreciate it. Thank you.
So, as we look at all of this, I just want to play the end of that new ad again. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Health care is personal to me. Obamacare is personal to me. When I see the president try to tear down and others propose to replace it and start over, that's personal to me too.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HILL: You could listen to that and you could see that, perhaps, Aisha, it's a clear dig at perhaps some of his opponents, specifically if we're talking about Medicare-for-All.
Is health care going to be a way that Joe Biden could really distinguish himself?
MOODIE-MILLS: I think that Joe Biden thinks that health care is going to be a way that he distinguishes himself, but the truth is he's got to figure out how he's going to get over the massive enthusiasm gap that is hiding behind the poll numbers that suggests he is doing perhaps better than he is actually doing.
And so, I think it is wonderful how personal he could be. In fact, it is one of the things most charming to me. The man has done some amazing work throughout his career. But the truth is, is that the electability idea isn't going to take him over the top. And so, I'm not sure that that ad is going to necessarily cut it in Iowa. I don't know that it's going to cut it with young people who actually care about Medicare-for-All.
HILL: Well, in terms of caring, too, what strikes me is, so this most recent polling from --