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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Says It's My Decision to Invite, Disinvite Taliban to Camp David; Trump Downplays North Carolina Special Election as He Goes to Stump; Baltimore on Edge as Van Packed with 1,000 Gallons Of Gas Found; Air Force Orders Review After Layover at Trump's Resort; Felicity Huffman Says I Feel Utter Shame for Role in Cheating Scandal; Democrats Demanding Trump Take Action on Guns. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 9, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we'll see, but I cancelled Camp David on the basis that they did something that sure as hell shouldn't have done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: No, I don't see it as a bellwether, they always ask that question. I mean you never talk about the fact as an example in '18 that we won the Senate. Nobody ever talks about that. The Senate being very important because that's how I'm getting all the judges approved, it doesn't go through the House, it goes through the Senate. So I'm getting all these judges. We'll be up as I said, we'll be up to 180 judges plus two Supreme Court judges.

And I don't know if there's ever been a record like that. President Obama gave me a beautiful birthday present when he gave me 138 judges that weren't approved. And frankly how do you consider that being a great President, when you hand to the opposition 138 slots of federal judges, including Appellate Court judges and one Supreme Court judge?

So that's the story. Well we've got two Supreme Court justices and we'll have in a very short number of weeks, 180 judges approved including appellate. And that number from 180 will easily and rather rapidly go over 200. I don't think there's been.

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ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Just hearing there from the President. He was asking questions about the election of course coming up. And he said listen, we're really focused on here is the Senate, and in his words that's how we got all the judges in. Gloria Borger is with us as well. The President as we know has long touted his accomplishment on getting these judges appointed and approved and through the process, but to hear him say it, here we are. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, look, he's

traveling you know to North Carolina, because of this special election, so if it's not important why is he going? I mean, this President really understands that people are going to look at this election, and he said, oh, it's not a bellwether, they're going to look at this election and say, is it an indication of things to come? Are the winds still blowing in the same direction they were blowing in the 2018 midterm elections or have things shifted?

And they understand that's important? But let me say he is right about keeping control of the Senate. He needs to really try and do that, I mean he lost 40 seats in the House last time, but he really needs to keep control of the Senate. Because as he understands, he got his judges through. He got his Supreme Court appointments through, and that's truly important to him, because that will be part of his lasting legacy in this country will be the justices and the judges that he's gotten on the bench.

HILL: Right, it's something that can't be overturned for example with an executive order?

BORGER: Correct.

HILL: He was also asked about, also asked about his Republican challengers.

BORGER: Right.

HILL: So he started by saying moments ago, he doesn't know who any of them are, which is interesting, because he basically tweeted a resume for Mark Sanford earlier today, talking about his history as well. Went on to say it's a joke. They're just looking for notoriety. It's all a publicity stunt. None of that is all that surprising but clearly, Gloria, he knows who they are --

BORGER: Of course.

HILL: And he's paying attention, because why else would he be tweeting about it.?

BORGER: Of course he knows who they are. I mean he was talking in this little impromptu press conference about you know he's hiked the Appalachian Trail, he said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail referring to Mark Sanford but he was in Argentina with his girlfriend. And so of course Trump knows who Sanford is. And Walsh used to be a supporter of his and William Weld ran as a Vice Presidential candidate last time. So he knows who they are. He's downplaying who they are.

[15:35:00]

And as you know, and I believe he spoke about it a little bit. The Republican National Committee is cancelling some primaries in certain states so there won't even be a contest.

HILL: Which that is fascinating too, Gloria always good to talk to you. Thank you. BORGER: Sure.

HILL: We are also following some breaking news out of Baltimore at this hour. A suspicious vehicle containing a thousand gallons of gasoline has people in the city on edge. We have more details, just ahead, stand by.

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HILL: Breaking news out of Baltimore, where there's reports of a suspicious vehicle -- we can actually we see the footage here obviously. Shimon Prokupecz is with us now. So what more do we know about this vehicle and what's happening in Baltimore?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, certainly raising a lot of concern there for law enforcement, the ATF and other federal officials on scene, and the local police department. Concern here is that this van is loaded with about a thousand gallons of gasoline obviously causing a lot of concern there for law enforcement officials.

They've evacuated an office building there, about 1,000 employees were evacuated. They've closed streets, nearby hotels have been evacuated, and right now, it's just an investigation that is underway, because they're trying to figure out if there's anything else in that van that can cause it to explode. And did someone place this there on purpose?

We're told that it's an abandoned van, so it's not clear that officials have been able to determine who placed the van there, who the van belongs to. But the biggest concern right now is that there's a huge amount of gasoline in this van that is causing this evacuation. And this has been going on since about 11:00, 10:30 to 11:00 this morning for several hours now. Law enforcement officials still investigating this, a lot of concern there. There's nothing to indicate that there's anything nefarious at this point. But, nonetheless.

HILL: But it's still strange that you have much --

PROKUPECZ: Very strange this amount of gasoline. So you can you understand why law enforcement is so concerned.

HILL: And so many people to your point have been evacuated in the area. We know you'll stay on it for us. We'll continue to check in, Shimon, thank you.

PROKUPECZ: Sure.

HILL: The President also weighing in a short time ago on yet another controversy surrounding one of his resorts. The Air Force is launching a review of all international layovers stays following a big jump in visits by crew members to President Trump's Turnberry Golf Resort in Scotland. President Trump today tweeting he knows nothing, in his words about the military stays, saying the crew have quote, good taste. But adding the visits to his resort have, quote, nothing to do with me.

In a statement, the Air Force said in part, while an initial review suggests all procedures were followed, quote, we must still be considerate of perceptions of not being good stewards of taxpayer funds that may be created through the appearance of air crews staying at such locations.

CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne joining us now. So what more do we know about this investigation -- Ryan?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Erica, the investigation is taking a look at the series of overnight stays that have been conducted by Air Force personnel have been using this airfield in Scotland. Now it is in close proximity to Turnberry, Trump's hotel there is Scotland. And that least one instance that the air crew that was staying there selected the hotel, because they had done a review, and actually found out it was cheaper than some of the equivalents, kind of under the per diem that is allocated to personnel staying there in at least one instance in the review.

But there's been a huge jump in overnight stays in this area because the Air Force has been using this airfield more and more. Not clear if all those stays or many of the stays were in fact at a Trump property. The Air Force is looking into that. But again, in a case by case basis, but as you said, Air Force officials really want to take a look at this because they are concerned about the potential optics here, saying what is allowable isn't necessarily advisable.

President Trump though asked the White House about this issue today, he spoke about it and he said he didn't need the Air Force's money.

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TRUMP: -- condition. And you'll be extremely shocked that the numbers are many, many times what you think. I don't need to have somebody take a room overnight at a hotel. So what is happening is the following. Every time you find a person landing an airplane within 500 miles of something I own.

Mike Pence as an example. His family lives in Doonbeg, Ireland. And he's actually told me that he stayed there many years ago at the same. I bought it years ago but he was there before I bought it, I believe he said, a long time ago. But he was in Ireland, so he said, you know what I'll do? I'll see my family, I didn't know about that, but I can say, he has good taste.

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BROWNE: So President Trump downplaying any connection between the U.S. military using the resorts and Vice President Pence using one of his resorts in Ireland. But the Air Force will take a look at this, and saying right now, it looks like all the rules were followed but it will be interesting to see whether they advise a policy change with regards to Trump properties in the future -- Erica.

HILL: That certainly will, Ryan Browne with the latest for us, Ryan, thank you.

Actress Felicity Huffman says she just wanted to give her daughter a fair shot. And then the major fallout for her role on the college admission scandal. And then said that sounds like it's a bit of an ironic statement in her words. So will those words and a few others in a letter to the judge help spare her jail time?

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HILL: One of the most recognizable faces of the college admissions scandal is now telling her side of the story. Actress Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty of course to conspiring to pay $15,000 to a fake charity to rig her daughter's S.A.T. scores.

Well, in a letterhead to the judge ahead of her sentencing which is set for this Friday, she explains how and why she said yes to the scheme, and details early struggle with her daughter's learning disabilities. Writing, I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor. I didn't want my daughter to be prevented from getting a shot at auditioning and doing what she loves because she can't do math.

The actress said she struggled with the decision to cheat for weeks and even considered doing it for her second daughter, ultimately though decided to stop the process for her.

She also writes in a letter, in my desperation to be a good mother, I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot. I see the irony in that statement now because what I've done is the opposite of fair.

C.J. Farley is the author of the book, "Around Harvard Square," a novel that deals with a college admissions scandal. Also, an executive editor of Audible and joins me now

I'm just curious I know you read the full letter as did I, it was a three-page letter to the judge. What was your reaction to what she said in that letter?

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, AUTHOR, "AROUND HARVARD SQUARE": Well, I thought it was very interesting that she thought she was giving her daughter a fair shot.

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Because the entire system is actually rigged for people like her, people that are rich, influential, they are the ones with the access to S.A.T. and A.C.T. test prep. They're the ones with access to private coaches. They're the ones with access to people who may be involved with the admissions process. And a whole host of other things.

So her daughter, and the daughter of people like her, are much likely to get a much better shot and a fairer shot than everybody else. I think it is important not to personalize the scandal. It's really not about Felicity Huffman. It's really about an entire system that is rigged to help out people who are rich and powerful and make them think they're actually smarter than other people, because they're getting into the top universities when really, they just have access to things that help them with the admissions process.

HILL: There is a real gut reaction to this letter, right. You have the camp of people who say, I mean, this is ridiculous, who does she think we are, are we going to believe she's contrite and she understands the gravity of what happened. And there are the people who look at this and say, she gets it. She knows that she really messed up. Not only with the law, with her own daughter, with her family, that she was completely out of bounds.

What do you think this does in terms of changing the way the system is? Because to your point, you say it is a rigged system, and she was trying to rig the rigged system. Does it change anything?

FARLEY: I don't think it changes anything. We'll see what her sentence is, whether it sends a message to people that you can't cross certain lines. But the problem isn't what is illegal, the problem is what is legal? Where people get away with now and to get into these top colleges. That's a problem. And I'm not --

HILL: Are you talking about just buying a building or are you talking about something else?

FARLEY: I'm not talking about buying a building. I'm just talking about the things we consider ordinary. The fact that people have -- certain people have access to A.C.T., S.A.T., test prep You know I have access to that. My son is definitely going through that. But the problem is not everyone has access to that, and so when colleges look at those scores, are they really getting the best people or are they getting the people who have the access and the money to send their kids every day during the summers to these prep services? So they come out the other end able to get into the colleges. That's what's really happening and that's totally legal, that's totally above board, but totally unfair.

HILL: And to your point, I didn't have access to any of those things. So I see what you're saying with that. The big question is, right, this is an easy question to ask, and a tough one to answer is how do you level that playing field.? Because it's happening not just in communities, it's happening within schools as well.

FARLEY: Well. number one, people have to realize that one reason why the admissions rates are so low these days, places like Harvard, where it's around 4 or 5 percent, is that many more people are applying to these schools, many more international students are applying to those schools. So I think that people have to -- have to stop saying I have to get into these name brand schools in order to realize my life.

I mean I loved going to Harvard. My brothers went there. They loved going there. It's a great school. There are lots of great schools out there and studies show whatever school you go to, for the most part, if you're a nonminority, you're going to have a great successful academic and job career. So stop focusing on the name brands, start focusing on what school do you really want to get to? Where are you going to realize yourself as a person? And not worry just about the name brands.

HILL: That's a great point. After I was rejected from the ivy leagues, a friend said to me the hardest thing was getting in otherwise you're going to get just as good an education anywhere else. It's all about how you apply yourself. Great to have you with us.

FARLEY: Thank you.

HILL: Thank you for the perspective.

Just ahead, we have more on our breaking news the President under fire for inviting Taliban to Camp David. Now saying peace talks with the Taliban dead.

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HILL: Moments ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging the President Trump to take action on gun control.

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SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We're here today for one simple reason. Too many Americans are losing their lives to gun violence. Too many families are just weeping because they have lost loved ones. Americans are suffering from this, from the abundance of gun violence in America.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Our first order of business is to save lives by passing hopefully in the Senate, the bill passed in the House for gun violence prevention.

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HILL: Members of Congress, of course, back on Capitol Hill today, following their summer recess and in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, and Odessa, Texas, which claimed dozens of lives in the span of just a month. There were calls for lawmakers of course to come back to work sooner to address gun violence. They didn't. Senate Majority Leader McConnell insisting he will only allow a vote on legislation he knows the President will sign, President Trump, however, is not clear on just what he wants, consistently changing his message and there is -- despite all of that a growing appetite for gun reform.

Take a look at some brand-new polling from "The Washington Post" and ABC News, which finds nearly nine in ten Americans support background checks on all potential gun buyers. We are not seeing that, of course, in Congress, at least not yet. So we will continue to watch.

Also, do want to let you know we're keeping a close eye on the situation in Baltimore, where there is an abandoned vehicle that has been found, it is in a parking garage, according to officials, it's a van with nearly a thousand gallons of fuel in it, a garage near the harbor. Now the Mayor saying a short time ago, no bomb has been detected there. But we can tell you but as this vehicle has been under investigation for several hours now, much of the surrounding area has been evacuated.

We'll continue to stay on that. Stay with us. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

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