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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Dems Expand Probes Into Trump Possibly Profiting From Presidency; Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) is Interviewed About Trump Diverting Military Funds for Wall Funding; Decaying School On Military Base Loses Money To Trump's Wall; CNN: Investigators Find Evidence That Seller Of The Gun Used In Shooting Rampage Was Manufacturing Firearms. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired September 6, 2019 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the opening up of this new front, of course, is part of the House Democrats' new strategy to widen their investigation of President Trump, widening it out beyond just the Mueller report, investigate other aspects of President Trump where they see potential abuses of power and to potentially help them, of course, answer whether they will formally recommend articles of impeachment.
This will be a big focus for the fall for Democrats, of course, with Congress, Jake, back in session next week.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thanks so much.
Jen Psaki, let me ask you. What do you make of the Democrats launching an investigation into this, the idea that the president is using his presidency to send taxpayer dollars essentially to his pockets, through all the administration officials who spend a lot of money at his properties?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's illegal, and I think in any other presidency, it would be a massive scandal, and I think the Democrats are trying to do their jobs, and look into steps -- abuses of power, abuses of resources and that -- this is an example of that. Now, it seems in the grand scheme of all the things Trump has been accused of to be minor, but that doesn't mean it isn't problematic, it shouldn't be investigated. That's how I think the Democrats see it.
Now, they also see it as a continuing effort to story-tell and communicate with the public on the indiscretions and illegal activities in their view of Donald Trump. And so, that's an ongoing effort. There have been more Democrats who have come out in favor of impeachment.
TAPPER: There are 134 total now.
PSAKI: Right, it hasn't been, it's not the majority as we know.
TAPPER: But it's the majority of the majority, the majority of Democrats. Yes.
PSAKI: The majority of the majority. So, Nancy Pelosi, you know, she is somebody who is watching every day and every week to see where her caucus is, not just the majority of the majority, but where her vulnerable members are, and I think that's where her views and her actions could shift.
TAPPER: And, Toluse, in addition to that, Democrats are now talking about holding hearings looking at President Trump's role in those hush money payments made to adult film star and director Stormy Daniels whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. She tweeted: I have no fear of being under oath because I have been and will be honest. Bring it.
Are Democrats nervous at all about having Stormy Daniels testify in the House and the circus that theoretically could become?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so. I think they want a painted picture of the circus that President Trump has brought to the White House and the fact that not only did the Southern District of New York say he was individual one, but they actually put someone in prison for what happened with Stormy Daniels. They put Michael Cohen behind bars for these illegal hush money payments and the fact that the president was implicated in that filing means that the Democrats want to show the American public that, you know, this is a witness that they can bring before the Congress without having to fight in court like they have with all the other people who were White House officials or administration officials who the president said were not going to let these people testify. These folks in this situation will be able to be brought before the American people.
PSAKI: And beyond the legal part, the president of the United States paid off a porn star. I mean, that is good for the Democrats to show the public, so you know, that's --
TAPPER: I guess the question that I hear from some Democratic consultants is the people already knew that that's the person Donald Trump was when he was elected.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's true, they did know that that was the kind of person he was. I think we're in a little bit of a different climate. Donald Trump was sort of elected before we went through this whole #metoo reckoning. And so, I actually don't know if that is going to make a difference at all in the next election, that people are going to care about that.
But I can see why Democrats think it's worth rolling the dice and going forward with this, because it is the only crime that the president was directly implicated in by prosecutors in court. And if you were going to try to make a case for impeachment or for bad behavior or whatever it is that Democrats are deciding they're going to prosecute, that's pretty clear road to follow.
TAPPER: Bill, I want to ask you about something else that's going on, which is right now even as there are at least three individuals planning on challenging President Trump in the Republican primary, including Weld and I think Sanford and Joe Walsh, Republican officials in multiple states are actually moving to get rid of their state's primaries. Now, it's happened before in South Carolina, but this is much more widespread.
BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE WRITER: Jen said that in any other presidency, it would be a massive scandal talking about the travel and that's true of so many things. That should be put over, I don't know what --
KRISTOL: But in any other presidency, in any other party, it would be a massive scandal to take a bunch of primaries that have been going on a long time and caucuses and suddenly decide, OK, we don't need to have a primary when there are people challenging the president.
KRISTOL: It's one thing to cancel the primary, the state parties in some places pay for the primary, not the state government, they don't want to pay if there's no challenger literally as with Reagan in '84, George W. Bush in 2004.
TAPPER: Or Obama in 2012.
KRISTOL: Fine, cancel the primary. But there are two already, three, there are might be more and they are cancelling it. It does suggest to me they're a little nervous about the total vote that Walsh and Weld and Sanford and maybe others could get. It is a reflection just of Trump's -- Trump is authoritarian and now the whole party is behaving in an authoritarian way.
Trump has been corrupt, and now, the Republican Party has been corrupted.
TAPPER: Just a reminder that's he a Republican.
It was money meant to build a new middle school for military families. Now that money is going to instead pay for part of the border wall. We're going to take a look at the real world impact of Mexico not paying for the wall.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our national lead now, a military community in Kentucky is hurting after the Pentagon decided after being told to do so by President Trump to redistrict money to build a middle school, funds allocated by the Congress, originally approved by the Pentagon to pay for a small section of the border wall.
Now, Fort Campbell will not get the school it desperately needs and kids will be stuck in an old and overcrowded building.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANE LOGGINS, FORT CAMPBELL TEACHER: These are military children. These are military families. They put their lives on the line, and they deserve the best.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's crap. The funding was raised for the kids. It should be spent for the kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The school joins 127 projects all taken a hit to raise $3.6 billion to build 175 miles to deliver on the president's biggest campaign promise, the border wall. A promise he's not been able to solve by working with Congress.
Joining me is now Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. She sits on the House Armed Services Committee. She held a senior position at the Pentagon in her previous life.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's spokesman says he's committed to protecting the funding for that middle school adding, quote, we would not be in this situation if Democrats were serious about protecting our homeland and worked with us to provide the funding needed to secure our borders.
McConnell blaming this on Democrats.
What's your response?
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Yes, I mean, first of all, I think there's sort of two issues going on right now. There's one, just the straight removal of the money from the Pentagon budget and all the families and the communities that are going to suffer because of that.
But then there's sort of the bigger strategic issue of the politicizing of the military. The Pentagon has been a place that has enjoyed bipartisan support. We want to believe that everything they're asking for, all the billions of dollars that they're asking for, are for the right reasons, and this just brings the Pentagon into the political conversation in a way that is not good for them and not good for us as a country.
Listen, I'm on the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. I am ready to have the conversation about border security. Frankly, as a CIA officer, I worked my entire life to preserve the homeland from attack.
So, there's plenty of us who want to have that conversation. I just think that this way of doing it just kills a couple of long-standing principles that we want for our military, bipartisanship.
TAPPER: So, not to defend this move, but haven't Democrat leaders in Congress basically said to President Trump we're not going to give you any money for your border wall no matter what? I mean, hasn't it been a nonstarter with Speaker Pelosi?
SLOTKIN: So I think, you know, I think the wall -- I don't know that there's anyone, including the president who still walks about a wall from sea to shining sea. I think that most people think we're talking about security at the border, fencing, barriers, and I personally don't have a problem with those things. I don't think the speaker has a problem with real border security, but it has to be focused on the actual threats.
And while I support doing more where we need it, most people right now are coming through the ports of entry. They're not sneaking over. They're coming right through our borders. We have organizations that are completely overwhelmed by that. Let's focus on what the real concerns are and address that and pay for that instead of just like over and over.
TAPPER: Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn's district will be directly impacted as well. He says, quote: It is unfortunate that it has come to this but the primary job of the commander-in-chief and purpose for our military is to guarantee our national sovereignty, unquote.
What do you make of that argument?
SLOTKIN: I mean, again, I don't have a problem with the conversation. It's just this idea that the president is redefining his relationship with Congress and with the military in a way that just breaks with tradition of how any president of any party has done it. The Congress allocates money. That's in the Constitution.
So, the president's continual sort of ignoring of those division of powers to me is the more dangerous piece of this. It's not one specific base, one specific community, it's the precedent it sets.
So I understand we all want to have a security conversation, but let's have it in the appropriate place, not take it from our military.
TAPPER: What's your response to the moms that you just heard in the introduction who are saying basically -- one of them said this is crap. The idea that our kids are going to suffer, that school -- our understanding is that sometimes in one classroom at one time there will be multiple classes because it's so overcrowded, and this is the result of this order.
SLOTKIN: I mean, listen, my husband was 30 years in the military. He spent many years of his life on Fort Campbell. My stepdaughter's in the military and just left Fort Campbell. So, this one is just very personal.
The schools are one thing, but there's a lot of facilities, including at places like Tyndall and Lejeune where we've had devastating weather-related problems, where the communities need these things, and it just -- I just don't believe in blaming and punishing those folks for the political conversation to continue for the president. And, you know, you heard it, I couldn't have said it any more clearly
than those moms.
TAPPER: So -- but you think that President Trump is specifically directly hurting military families for the sake of politics?
SLOTKIN: Well, I mean, he's taking his money for a political promise from --
Well, I mean, I think the -- he's taking his money for a political promise from people who have done the right thing, serve their country. Their projects have been in line. And the military specifically looked at those needs and asked the Congress for that money and we gave it, and we gave it. So I think they're right to be frustrated.
Why is it coming out of their school or their rehabilitation project or their cyber center and not from where it belongs which is an honest to God homeland security conversation.
TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.
TAPPER: Coming up, frightening new information about where the Odessa, Texas shooter obtained his firearm and what that seller might have been doing against the law. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD," law enforcement sources are telling CNN that investigators in the Texas mass shooting have found some evidence that they believe shows the alleged seller of the firearm used in the crime was manufacturing firearms himself.
Seven people were murdered in the Odessa, Texas, shooting spree, 25 others were wounded. I want to bring in former FBI Intelligence Analyst Phil Mud as well as CNN's Evan Perez. And Evan, tell us what you're learning.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake what this alleged seller of the -- of the firearm was doing is apparently manufacturing firearms for resale. Now, you're allowed to buy stuff and make firearms at home. What you're not allowed to do is essentially become an unlicensed dealer of firearms, manufacturer of firearms. And so that's what investigators are focusing on.
Now, they're trying to see whether the evidence that they found in the searches that they did earlier this week indicates a pattern that this person was buying parts of guns at home and making it into more lethal weapons, doing it in a pattern whereby he was essentially acting as a dealer not just as a hobbyist. And if they can then bring a case against him, they're going to bring
some federal charges against him because again, you're supposed to license -- take out a license with the ATF in order to do some of these things.
TAPPER: Quickly though, are hobbyists are these individuals who manufacture their -- manufacture their own guns, are they allowed to sell them?
PEREZ: Yes. I mean, if you make something at home and they later want to put it on Craigslist or whatever, you are allowed to do that. Again, you're not allowed to do it as a business.
TAPPER: I got it. OK. Phil, let me bring you in here. How concerning is it for law enforcement that people can manufacture guns in their homes and sell them without the authorities even knowing it.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, you've seen this all the time on shows like your show, Jake, that is you see a SWAT team go into a house in media coverage of an investigation in the United States. And you look on media coverage, and you're going to say, why are those guys dressed in a SWAT outfit when they're executing an indictment on a house?
Drug house, gang house, even a domestic dispute, if you've got situations like this where people are selling weapons that are altered to make them semi-automatic like we might have seen in this case, how the heck does somebody who's executing a raid know what's in the house.
You can search the owner's background to determine what licenses they have, but if they've got an altered weapon that allows them to engage you with a semi-automatic arm, how the heck do you decide I'm going to go in soft if you think that might be in the house? This is really tough.
TAPPER: And Phil, what are your former colleagues in the FBI think about the ability of gun buyers to avoid background checks by going through private sales?
MUDD: Well, let's do a quick contrast. You go into a raid situation you're facing a 22 rifle. You go into a raid situation, you're facing a semiotic weapon that's unlicensed. If you're going into the second situation, you're multiplying risk which unlike almost every profession in America multiplying risk in state-local federal law enforcement means death.
Let's cut to the chase, Jake. The fact of political divides on automatic weapons in Washington means more law enforcement will die because they've got to face people who don't have a 22, they've got an AR-15. That's the facts, Jake.
PEREZ: And look, one of the complications here is that it the job of law enforcement which is to protect public safety is made harder. Right now this alleged seller would be in jail right now, Jake, facing charges for not doing a background check if there was a universal background check law.
Instead what the ATF is having to do and prosecutors have to do is try to figure out a way to use the patchwork of existing laws to try to bring charges here. And so that's what I think you're hearing from law enforcement officials who have been pushing for this. Even Bill Barr the Attorney General is telling the president look, we think that universal background check is not such a bad thing to do.
The problem is obviously there's people inside the White House who don't want this to happen and of course, you know the NRA and other forces on Capitol Hill who are opposed to it.
TAPPER: And the overwhelming majority of the American people according to poll after poll supports universal background checks. Evan Perez, Phil Mudd, thanks so much. Remember that Jeep that ended up in the ocean during Hurricane Dorian? Well, we finally learned how it got there. That's next.
TAPPER: It's the Jeep that took the Internet and the world of T.V. news by storm abandoned in Myrtle Beach as Hurricane Dorian swept in, but now we know how it ended up there. The owner telling our CNN affiliate WMBF that he lent his Jeep to his cousin who wanted to get a video of the sunrise before the storm but obviously ended up getting stuck instead.
The SUV was towed off the beach earlier today. The owner also says he didn't even know what happened until police showed up at his door. I'm guessing, just guessing now, that's the last time this gentleman lends his Jeep to his cousin.
Be sure to tune in to "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday morning. My guest Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Democratic Presidential Candidates Senator Amy Klobuchar, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. That's 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern.