Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Announces New Sanctions, Says Iran "Going To Hell"; Biden: No Outlet Has Given Any Credibility To Trump's Claim; Millions March Demanding Action On Climate Crisis; First TV Interview With Former State Department Analyst Who Quit When WH Blocked His Climate Testimony; Patriots Release Antonio Brown Amid Rape Allegations. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:30:51]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country. We've never done it to this level. And it's too bad what's happening with Iran. It's going to hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're going to continue with the Ukraine story in a second. But first, President Trump today announced what he called, quote, the highest level of sanctions on Iran because of the attacks on Saudi oil plants. The president meeting with the National Security Council today to discuss options insisting that he's showed great restraint by not doing what he calls the easiest thing, using the military option.

CNN's Nic Robertson got a first-hand look at one of the oil facilities that was attacked in Saudi Arabia -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Jake, it is astounding when you there. This is ground zero of what really strikes you, we went to Abqaiq and Khurais. Abqaiq is the world's largest oil refinery, a massive facility, yet 18 drones were able to target 18 different small pieces of equipment there and that is what really struck me. That you have these long lines of towers and inside of the plant and the drones hit them really precisely.

This was sophisticated, it was coordinated and it was designed to take down some of the key elements at the early stages of the refining process. But that's the clue here. I mean, that is really the clue because what was taken down in these strikes is going to be relatively easily repaired. The fires were put out within a couple of hours. Aramco, the company that who owns this property and the oil whose coming out of the ground there was proud of that fact.

But the reality was that these strikes on Aramco and the Saudi leadership know this, could have targeted huge oil storage facilities, could have targeted areas or oil wells themselves that could have burned for days and days and days and not been so easily contained. So, this was huge. It was big. It will be relatively easy for the government to get it back up and running to full speed by the end of the month, they say.

But then that leaves even bigger question and the harder problem, rebuilding international faith that this was a one-off strike and not a precursor to the beginning of a wider war. So this site, huge. The impression left on us by what we saw, huge. But the reality of what this means for the Saudis going forward, even bigger, more staggering.

TAPPER: All right. Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

Some breaking news for you now. Joe Biden reacting to President Trump's comments concerning the former V.P. and Ukraine and his son Hunter Biden. That story next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:53]

TAPPER: Breaking news, former Vice President Joe Biden responded just moments ago to President Trump's comments and also the "Wall Street Journal" breaking story about the Ukraine phone call with President Trump.

Take a listen to Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second.

Not one single credible outlet has given any credibility to his assertion. Not one single one. And so, I have no comment except the president should start to be president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: All right. Let's chew over all of this.

Your response?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey, if you are leading in the Democratic primary because people think you're the guy who can take on Donald Trump, you want to be attacked by Donald Trump. And I think he did fine.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just -- I think -- I would worry if I were a Biden supporter that this is essentially waving a red flag at the Trump folks and that what happens is it wouldn't -- it wouldn't be because they don't think anything is there but because he is not going to be well-positioned to be the most authentic, progressive to combat Donald Trump.

FINNEY: But that's not -- but then in the context of what's happening today, being attacked and having a back and forth with Trump in the next couple of days about this, this is good and what you want.

MADDEN: Yes.

FINNEY: And I think within a couple of hours, he'll have a more robust response.

MADDEN: It's going to invite more aggression definitely from the White House.

FINNEY: That's good.

TAPPER: I'm actually surprised, Jane, that Biden wasn't more like offended not about going after his son Hunter but the idea of the president of trying to get a foreign leader to dig up dirt on him and his son.

JANE COASTON, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, VOX: I think that is the focus of his upcoming remarks, because you did get that comment that the president should be busy being president. And I think that there's a sense that if you are supportive of Joe Biden and we see this in the numbers, it very much is like Joe Biden promises a return to normalcy where this wasn't what we did all day.

And I think that if that is -- if that's your pitch if you're Joe Biden and then you spend most of your time having Donald Trump yell at you about various things and allegedly calling a foreign government to try to get information on your family, and you keep making the "I'm normal and we'll go back to the way things used to be when you didn't have to think about the president all that much, I'm normal" pitch, that could prove to be a surprisingly effective.

I think that the ins and outs of these scandals are the kind of things that we'll discuss and people who are involved in politics will discuss.

[16:40:05]

But I think the existence of scandal and the existence of whose name is first involved in it really matters to voters. But I also think that there are voters who are not going to change their minds one way or another based on one particular scandal or another, but they're saying I'm tired of this. I'm tired of all of this. I'm tired of the president of the United States taking up such a large swath of my mental space.

And I think that Biden's response is very much like, why isn't the president off presidenting? I think it is worthwhile from his perspective.

TAPPER: And, Toluse, I want to play some sound from the president talking earlier today. He didn't deny that he talked with the president of Ukraine about the -- about Joe Biden and his son. But he did say, quote, I don't know the identity of the whistleblower. I just hear it is a partisan person -- meaning it comes from another party. But I don't have any idea.

But I can say it was a totally appropriate conversation. It was actually a beautiful conversation.

Now we know that the conversation was at least -- a big chunk of it was about -- I need you to investigate my potential rival's son.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and even when the president was saying it was a beautiful conversation, he wasn't acknowledged which conversation he was talking about. He was just saying, all of my conversations were appropriate and I know other people are on the calls that I have with foreign leaders and I never say anything inappropriate.

I think the one thing that's going to be very important is how Democrats respond to this. You see the response from Joe Biden and they have the power to hold the president accountable and the House and whether they decide to keep sending nasty letters or take action to hold the president responsible for what a growing number of Democrats are saying are impeachable offenses.

You're seeing some of that angst within the party with certain Democrats saying we should be doing more than we are doing right now.

FINNEY: But I do think people are going to stay focused, certainly Adam Schiff on, and whether or not this is the conversation that the whistleblower was referring to. That is something they're not going to let it go because there is a precedent there. I mean, the whole point of a whistleblower law so that you can come forward and raise your hand and say, I'm concerned about something. And so, the obstruction that we're seeing from the White House and the Justice Department, that can't stand.

So that one I think for sure they're going to have to keep pursuing.

COASTON: I also think this is definitely who can rid me of this meddlesome prison kind of moment.

TAPPER: Exactly.

COASTON: And those end bad for everyone involved but I also think that, you know, we're going to learn a lot more over the coming days and weeks about the ins and outs of the story but I do think that, you know, the entire point of this, one, you know, when you heard from Republican leaders saying why haven't we heard this in Congress -- well, the White House is why we haven't heard this in Congress. And if the White House is so very interested in getting to the bottom of who this person is and what the story is, then let them testify before Congress and then we can all learn together.

MADDEN: There will be. There will be more investigations. And you're all right on that. And the White House is going to simply say there they go again. TAPPER: And just for those who didn't get Jane's literally reference

of who will rid me of this meddlesome priest, the idea that the president said, somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement, somebody ought to look into this, an invitation for Ukraine or somebody to drop the dirt.

COASTON: Someone.

TAPPER: Russia, if you're listening --

FINNEY: Look, is it Russia, China --

TAPPER: Russia, if you're listening, exactly.

Thanks one and all.

More than 1 million New York students were given permission to skip school today. We'll explain why next.

[16:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Look at that. You're looking at live pictures right now from New York City, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Johannesburg, Bangkok, and Sidney, Australia, part of our breaking news in our Earth Matter Series, a massive show of solidarity today with huge global protests.

Protesters wanting to protect the planet, millions of young people and activists demanding action from their governments on the climate crisis. This is happening in 139 countries and what might be the largest environmental demonstration in the history of the world. CNN's Bill Weir is with protesters in New York City right now. Bill, what are you seeing on the ground there?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right behind me, Greta Thunberg, the very famous Swedish teenager is speaking to the crowd, to chants of Greta, huge cheers. Fans even in the trees as she actually puts the numbers here in New York City to 250,000 today, and over four million worldwide.

Those are the organizers numbers yet to be confirmed officially. But no doubt this has grown exponentially since last summer since she first sat in front of the parliament in Stockholm, Sweden and demanding the country start meeting the Paris Accord targets. That would be about a 15 percent reduction in CO2 a year which is a massive lift for the richest countries in the world.

And yet I talk to so many kids here today who are so frustrated with the lack of urgency. And what they -- what resonates the most from young Miss Thunberg is her -- Thunberg is her just clear-eyed brutal blunt honesty and in a way that isn't condescending or insulting but that connects with them.

So they say this is just the beginning. Unlike protest marches that happen once a year, this is a weekly thing for a lot of these kids and it looks like today, Jake, their numbers grew big-time.

TAPPER: All right, Bill Weir in New York City with environmental protesters and young activists, thanks so much. Joining me now is former State Department Senior Intelligence Analyst Rod Schoonover.

He quit his job this summer after the White House blocked his written testimony warning of the "potentially catastrophic effects of human- caused climate change" from being delivered to Congress. They didn't want to let him do that. Thank you so much for being here, Rod. What was so damning in your remarks that the White House didn't want you to share it?

[16:50:10]

ROD SCHOONOVER, FORMER SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, STATE DEPARTMENT: So thanks for having me here. The nature of the risk assessment that my bureau prepared for Congress was first to assess the risk from -- to characterize the risk from climate change and then to talk about the implications from climate change.

And so, part of the risk assessment, the characterization on climate change is necessarily based on climate science. And so, it was that inclusion of climate science drawing from federal science agencies like NASA, NOAA, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, National Academies of Science drawn from that scientific basis. The inclusion of the science in this testimony was --

TAPPER: That's what offended them.

SCHOONOVER: -- stated -- yes.

TAPPER: So, in your view, how dangerous is it that we now have a White House that is trying to block the presentation of science by government officials like yourself, former government official now, to Congress?

SCHOONOVER: Well, I mean, it's certainly unusual. This was the House Intelligence Committee asking for an assessment on climate change from one of the 16 elements of the U.S. Intelligence Community. It's very unusual for any kind of White House interference in that relationship. And so, it was I think rather unprecedented for this intervention.

TAPPER: How many people do you think there are in the Trump administration still in the Trump administration who are experts on climate science, experts on the climate crisis, worried that President Trump is not only doing nothing but actually making the matter worse in their view, but they're not resigning, they're not coming forward?

SCHOONOVER: That's hard for me to judge. The government is quite large.

TAPPER: Yes.

SCHOONOVER: There's a lot of -- there's a lot of people, scientists devoted to studying climate change. So, I would say that it's a significant number. TAPPER: All right, Rod Schoonover, thank you so much. I appreciate

your time. So breaking news, the frightening video just in of a car driving through a mall in the Illinois, that story next.

[16:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Breaking News in our "NATIONAL LEAD," sheer panic in an Illinois shopping mall this afternoon as video shows a person driving an SUV inside the mall. A source telling CNN that the car made it to the center court of the mall in Schaumburg, about 30 miles outside of Chicago. Police have one suspect in custody. Officials say there are no reports of injuries so far.

And we have more breaking news and our "SPORTS LEAD." The New England Patriots have released wide receiver Antonio Brown amended investigation into sexual assault accusations from his former trainer Britney Taylor. The Patriots releasing a statement saying, "We appreciate the hard work of many people over the past 11 days but we feel that it is best to move in a different direction at this time."

Calls for Brown to be removed from the Patriots roster have been growing. Nike dropped his endorsement deal just yesterday. Brown tweeting just moments ago, thanks for the opportunity. Brown has denied the allegations made against him by his former trainer.

In our "POLITICS LEAD," the Trump administration reversing course today and announcing it will allow undocumented immigrants to apply to stay in the United States if they have a severe medical condition and are relying on medical treatment here in the U.S.

The Trump administration originally decided to enter that process this summer. It sparked a massive outcry and an emergency hearing on Capitol Hill were various impacted children essentially begged Congress and the Trump administration for their lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN SANCHEZ, PATIENT FROM HONDURAS: I don't want to die. I don't want to die. If I go back to Honduras, I will die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: One undocumented immigrant Maria Isabel Bueso tells CNN, "While we have not received any official confirmation that our deferred action case will be approved, we are cautiously optimistic about this news."

And, of course, we have even more breaking news today in our "POLITICS LEAD." President Trump urged the President of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden's son multiple times in a phone call earlier this summer according to The Wall Street Journal.

And a breaking news story just about an hour ago, sources telling the Journal that President Trump made the request about eight times on that July phone call and told Ukraine to work with Rudy Giuliani, the President's Personal attorney, who just last night admitted to Chris Cuomo on CNN, that he asked the Ukrainians to investigate Biden.

Joe Biden just responded to all of these take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wait a second, wait a second. Not one single credible outlet has given any credibility to his assertion, not one single one. And so, I have no comment except the President start to be pressured.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Tune in to CNN Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION." I will be talking exclusively to the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff about all of this. Plus, we're going to have Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to talk about new sanctions on Iran and the U.S. economy. It's 9:00 a.m. and noon, Eastern on Sunday.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thank you for watching. I'll see you Sunday morning.