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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Anonymous Administration Official Releasing Anti-Trump Book; Russia And Turkey Teaming Up In Syria; President Trump Compares Impeachment Inquiry To Lynching; New Book Called "A Warning" By Writer Of Anonymous Op-Ed Who Vowed To Thwart Trump's Worst Inclinations; Salmon Shortage Threatening Food Chain In Pacific Northwest. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 22, 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]

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And not just African-Americans, but three-quarters of them all happened to African-Americans.

And it was for things like unpopularity, let alone unfounded crimes and allegations. The president has over a million words at his disposal that could be more apropos to talk about what he perceives to be a baseless allegation against himself.

But to reduce lynching to somehow thinking that it's, if I am inconvenienced by a charge against myself, then I'm involved in a lynching -- I don't like it when now Justice Clarence Thomas used it talking about the Anita Hill hearings as a high-tech lynching.

I didn't care for it when Bill Cosby spoke about it because it was an inconvenience of him of allegations. It cannot be reduced in this way. And here we are a few weeks from Halloween, when the president's favorite term has been a witch-hunt.

That might have worked better in this instance. It may have been a more parallel charge. But to have the president of the United States, given all the things he said about race in this country up to this moment in time, still be completely inept at understanding the racial dynamic in this country, we don't reduce things in that way.

And lynching is certainly not one of those categories to reduce and use as a colloquial punchline.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Mehdi?

MEHDI HASAN, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, THE INTERCEPT: And 4,743 people, I think, according to the NAACP, murdered, lynched in a domestic terrorism campaign by white supremacists, and Trump uses that word to describe impeachment.

I'm as disgusted as Laura is. I'm less dumbfounded, because he's a racist. And when his back is up against the wall, he tends to do lots of racist things.

The question is, did he tweet in this way because he was nudging and winking at the racists and white supremacists in his base who turn up at his rallies, or did he just tweet in this way because he's typically impulsive and racist and rude and crude on Twitter?

It's an eternal mystery with Trump. You're never quite sure if it's one or the other, or both.

I would say though, Lindsey Graham is the real villain of today.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: In fact, while you say it, let me interrupt you and we will come right back to you.

Let's play the sound of Lindsey Graham defending the president's use of the word lynching to describe what he's going through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It shows a lot of things about our national media. When it's about Trump, who cares about the process, as long as you get him?

So, yes, this is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Go ahead.

HASAN: He says, it's a lynching in every sense, is what he said, every sense, apart from the lynching sense of killing someone in the graphic way that Laura just described.

It's a ridiculous thing to say for a man from South Carolina, where I think 164 people were lynched in 36 different counties. Graham was born the month before 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered in Money, Mississippi.

I would say he should be ashamed of himself, but, clearly, Lindsey Graham has no shame anymore.

TAPPER: Do you think that -- I mean, I hear Trump defender sometimes saying he does things like this to get us chasing this distraction, instead of talking about, for instance, the Bill Taylor testimony, although we are capable of talking about both.

But do you think there's any rhyme and reason to it? Or do you think he just doesn't even think that way?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There is a bit of that sort of agent of chaos stuff.

But here's the thing. If you think it's a distraction, you don't have to defend it. And in this case, you absolutely should not. It is ludicrous. It is a -- impeachment is a constitutional process.

TAPPER: Right. HAM: And if you think this part of the constitutional process is

being -- is treating him unfairly, he's welcome to talk about that.

But we have all agreed as a society that we should not minimize lynching. That is one of the acts in this country's history that we have all agreed is super egregious. And that should be a societal standard. I'm not in favor of a bunch of speech codes and whatnot. But that's a pretty fair one.

And he just throws it out brazenly.

TAPPER: It was about a decade ago, I think -- I might be wrong on the timing. But I think it was a decade ago that the United States Senate took up a bill to formally apologize for lynching.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, I think we're giving the president way too much credit here.

Look, he can't figure out what the name of the secretary of defense is. He sent a ridiculous and embarrassing letter to the Turks that suggests just what his former secretary of state said, Tillerson, he's undisciplined and lazy.

He can't spell-check when American kids are occasionally, I assume, reading his tweets, can't bother to spell-check them, gets off the phone and says we're out of Syria without talking to anybody, decides on the fly in Southeast Asia to go see the North Koreans.

He's undisciplined and lazy. I don't even think he thought about what this meant. And I'm not sure today he still understands what lynching is.

TAPPER: Do you agree with that? Is that what...

HAM: I'm more in the camp of, like, he just heard the word lynching.

Like, he does not think through the implications.

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: I'm in that camp as well.

But I'm also in the camp that says he's a clear racist. So it's always a coincidence that, when he does the chaotic things, it tends to be racist things that he goes for, like, send her back in the summer, send them back. That was his choice to go off to the Squad. He could have done anything else.

COATES: I'm in the camp that says the president of the United States is asked to lead the United States of America and should be aware of the implications of his words.

And time and time again, he steps on a rake he already knows is there and then asks us to excuse and give a benefit the doubt when he has a bump on his head because of it. And this is an instance when the president United States should know better. Lindsey Graham should know better.

[16:35:00]

And, frankly, I think that they do. But really this issue for me is what you're talking about as well, Mary Katharine, is the issue of impeachment is actually a directive that the founding fathers gave and said to check an abuse of power, you have this as an option. You can exercise that.

The president seems to disregard the notion of the constitutional mandate of checking power -- separation of powers as being too inconvenient for him to take seriously. That's also an issue.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We have got more to talk about.

As a ceasefire expired minutes ago in Northern Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin may start calling the shots at the Turkish- Syrian border.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:00]

TAPPER: In our world today, a meeting of the authoritarian minds.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Turkish counterpart, President Erdogan, in Sochi, Russia, today, as the Turkish-Kurd cease- fire expired. The two leaders agreed to joint patrols along the Syrian border, filling the void left by the United States.

As CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports, this meeting also comes as we're learning new details about Putin's push to sour President Trump on Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, as President Trump continues to justify his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Northern Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have already carved up the area amongst themselves.

A triumphant Putin announcing the agreement.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have managed to reach very important, if not faithful agreements to resolve this very acute situation on the Syrian-Turkish border.

PLEITGEN: While American troops got pelted with rotten vegetables and rocks as they left Syria, Russians will now be taking their place.

Moscow's forces, instead of American troops, will now be patrolling the border region together with the Turks, and the Russians will ensure that armed Kurdish groups, America's former allies in the fight against ISIS, retreat from Turkish territory.

"Both sides will take necessary measures to prevent infiltration of terrorist elements," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov read from the agreement.

America's withdrawal another major win for Vladimir Putin, courtesy of President Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.

PLEITGEN: It comes as "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" report that both Hungarian President Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin tried to encourage President Trump to take a hostile view of Ukraine.

Officials familiar with the testimony of career diplomat George Kent before House committees last week told "The Washington Post" Trump's conversations with Putin and Orban reinforced his view of Ukraine as corrupt.

These conversations all happening before President Trump asked Ukraine's leader to investigate Joe Biden's son on that now famous July 25 phone call. Top Democrats, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, confronting President Trump about Putin's influence in a heated meeting at the White House just last week.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I also pointed out to the president I had concerns that the -- all roads seem to lead to Putin.

PLEITGEN: In Syria, all roads now lead to Vladimir Putin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: Now, Vladimir Putin, Jake, certainly isn't wasting any time.

The Russians tonight already announcing that they're going to move additional military hardware into Northeastern Syria simply because their area of influence is increasing so much. The Russians also telling America to get out as fast as possible.

The one leader that Vladimir Putin has spoken to tonight, Jake, has been Bashar al-Assad, who, no surprise, has voiced his satisfaction at the deal that Putin reached with Vladimir -- with Erdogan tonight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Frederik Pleitgen in Sochi, Russia, for us, thank you so much, Fred.

The author of the anonymous op-ed in "The New York Times" last year has a new warning for America. It's coming in a new book. And the White House just responded.

We will bring that story to you next. Stay with us.

[16:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: And we're back with the breaking news. Sources telling me that a book will soon be published in November by the anonymous senior Trump administration official. That person who wrote the 2018 New York Times op-ed describing what he or she called President Trump's immorality and who detailed an effort inside the administration to forge President Trump's worst inclinations.

The book about President Trump is titled A Warning. It's due to be released November 19th. A draft press release I've obtained describes the book as explosive with a "shocking first-hand account of President Trump." White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham responding to this news by saying, "It takes a lot of conviction and bravery to write a whole book anonymously."

We should also point out that Matt Latimer who works for the agency that represents anonymous tells me that -- they won't tell me whether or not the person still works for the administration. They're going to keep his or her identity secret and that most of the money or a sizable portion of the money is going to be given to the White House Correspondents Association and other organizations that fight for truth. Your reaction, Phil.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, how do you publicize this book? You come out. You can't do press interviews because the person is anonymous.

TAPPER: You can do print, I guess.

MUDD: I suppose you can, but you certainly can't come talk to Jake Tapper. You can't defend your book because somebody is going to say, how can you defend it? Not in person. But the real story, I think, if you're the publisher, you've got to be sitting there saying, I hope the book, when you buy the book, is published at a time when no other story will trump the book that we're publishing.

And what do you get? Right in the middle of a story that is more compelling with people aren't anonymous and is playing up for free on T.V. every day. I think this is bad timing unless they have a great story. I don't know how this beats, what's happening in impeachment.

TAPPER: What do you make of it all?

COATES: Well, here's why I think it's bad timing, because you have the arguments about why to protect the anonymity of a whistleblower. And you have the idea of you want people to be the adults in the room to be able to come forward in these very safe ways and save channels able to communicate the things the American people want to hear to check any abuse of power.

And now you have it in a way being undermined by the notion of anonymity should just be for everyone in the entire planet. And there was a reason why whistleblowers are protected because we want people not to be punished for providing information. I think it actually weakens argument about saying why we want to have

anonymity in other areas, if we allow people to have it this way. Now, having said that, I'm going to read the book cover to cover, and I'm going to probably look at it in a credible way and think about well, what are they really saying about this issue?

But if you're a member of Congress right now, Adam Schiff, for example, trying to pick a whistleblower, you're saving yourself, how do I make this argument in a dual fashion and retain credibility in both areas? It's hard.

[16:50:25]

TAPPER: And so, Mehdi, one of the other things that's interesting is it's entirely possible that this person will be subpoenaed through the publisher or through the literary agents, because if -- I mean, I don't know what's going to be in the book, but presumably, there will be the details of things that the House investigators will want to know more about.

HASAN: And they shouldn't have to be subpoenaed. I hate to agree with Stephanie Grisham in the White House, but this is a cowardly way to do -- you know, to do your resistance and warn people. And this idea that this book is going to say, don't reelect Trump. Well, if you don't want Trump to be reelected, why are you in the Trump administration because you're not doing any good in terms of restraining him as they claim they were doing last year.

HAM: It's a book based on one anonymous source. I don't know. I don't know how much credibility that has if the guy remains anonymous. Put your name on it, then we have more.

TAPPER: All right, strong feelings here. Coming up, one part of America could now be facing a tough choice between saving a key part of the local food chain and generating power. Stay with us.

[16:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our Earth Matters Series today, what was once in a seemingly endless supply, the Chinook Salmon, a critical link in the Pacific food chain, well, they're now endangered in the Pacific Northwest which has caused officials to cancel the fall fishing season in the Columbia River.

And CNN's Bill Weir reports, the salmon shortage is causing residents to have to make a very difficult choice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: As much as air or water, so much life and the Pacific Northwest depends on salmon. Over 130 species rely on nature's original food delivery. But fewer salmon are surviving the heroic swim from open ocean to spawning streams hundreds of miles inland. And that means trouble for two creatures that really love the king of fish, killer whales and us.

In your grandparent's day, the Columbia Basin seemed to produce a never-ending supply and salmon the size of people. But those big June Hog Chinooks are extinct now. And this year, numbers were so low, the Fall fishing season was canceled.

BRETT VANDENHEUVEL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COLUMBIA RIVERKEEPER: The estimates are about 17 million salmon would return to the Columbia every year. It was the greatest Salmon fishery in the world. And now it's about a million.

WEIR: And most of those are hatchery fish with weaker genes and less fat than their wild cousins. So the southern resident killer whales that live on Chinook are starving. There are only 73 of this kind of Orca left on the planet. And after a grieving mom pushed her dead calf around Puget Sound for weeks last summer, it rekindled a decade's old debate, salmon versus dance.

What would you say to folks who say the best thing that could happen for these animals in this ecosystem is to take these dams down?

TIM DYKSTRA, SENIOR FISH PROGRAM MANAGER, U.S. ARMY CORPS NORTHWESTERN DIVISION: I'd say, for the Army Corps of Engineers, we're looking to do the right thing. We're looking to operate the dams that are here. Well, we're taking a close look at what the future of these dams are in the region.

WEIR: To find their birth stream, many Chinook coming out of the Pacific must navigate at least eight dams, four on the Columbia, four on the lower snake. These are the four that would likely come down first. But removing a dam takes an act of Congress and will meet stiff resistance from special interest like wheat farmers who need dams and locks to float their crop to market.

And since Bonneville Dam alone can provide carbon-free power to a city the size of Seattle, the debate divides lovers of wildlife on all sides.

JASON SWEET, SUPERVISORY FISH BIOLOGIST, BONNEVILLE DAM: I think we're trying to do our best to improve conditions through the migration channel, through the river for the salmon, trying to make sure that power and fish can coexist here in the Columbia Basin.

WEIR: But 13 species of fish remain threatened or endangered even though the federal government has fed over 16 billion trying to make dammed rivers more fish-friendly.

VANDENHEUVEL: Yes, the salmon can cross the fish ladders, but the river, the Columbia River is too hot. The dam -- the reservoir is behind the dams have caused this hot water problem because they're stagnant, absorbing a lot of solar radiation.

WEIR: I see.

VANDENHEUVEL: And then couple that with climate change, and climate change is pushing that over the edge to make the river too warm for salmon to survive.

WEIR: And it's not just the rivers, scientists are worried that the infamous blob of warm water off the Washington Oregon coast is back.

NICK BOND, WASHINGTON STATE CLIMATOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: So we're kind of wondering, wow, is this -- is this happening again? And it's kind of alarming because it's so close on the heels of that past event.

WEIR: Dams have long been concrete symbols of human ingenuity. But now with entire ecosystems in hot water, how much longer can they stand?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington -- arguably the greenest governor in America is being very careful on this issue, Jake. He's applied to the task force to study the killer whale decline, but it's just a little sample of when it takes 100 years to break the planet, putting it back together is really, really complicated.

TAPPER: All right, another excellent report from Bill Weir. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet THE LEAD at @theleadcnn. Our coverage is going to continue -- CNN continues right now. Thank you so much for watching.