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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Impeachment Trial Fallout; Coronavirus Fears; Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash Investigation. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 28, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She spilled the beans. She just came out and flat said it.

You know, the whole impeachment trial, for Trump, is just a political hit job to try to smear me, because he is scared to death to run against me. And he has good reason to be concerned.

You Iowa caucus-goers have a chance for a twofer here. You can ruin Donald Trump's night by caucusing for me, and you can ruin Joni Ernst's night as well.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: So, Joe Biden essentially they're issuing a rallying cry for those Democrats who are working to defeat President Trump.

And at stop after stop over the past 24 hours, Joe Biden has talked about those attacks from Republicans, saying that, one, he can't hold grudges for that because a president in the future will have to be a healer.

But he's also saying that these attacks have made him stronger. And he's arguing that, politically, being the focus of these Trump arguments could help him. He says, every time the president's team mentions him, that it's going to get him another vote here in Iowa, the caucuses just six days away -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Arlette Saenz in Davenport, thank you so much.

Let's chat about this.

And Jackie Kucinich us now.

So, Biden says Joni Ernst spilled the beans. Specifically, she said: "I'm really interested to see how this discussion informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden?"

I agree. But, then again, I'm not a Republican senator.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She said the quiet part loud.

And it came after this very self-serious presentation by the president's lawyers about how what the Bidens did was a legitimate reason. It was a legitimate issue for the president to be concerned about and their corruption was -- needed looked into.

And then right after, she walked down the steps to the Senate basement and said that. So that contrast really was jarring last night. And no senators have been able to answer the question of, if they were so concerned about all of this corruption with the Bidens, why didn't they look into this in 2015, when some of these reports that were cited on the Senate floor last night were first rolled out?

No one's been able to answer that. They had control. They could have done it.

TAPPER: It's possible that they were too busy with the following, which is, in 2015, then Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy described the investigation into Hillary Clinton and Benghazi as a part of a political strategy. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable.

But no one would have known any of that had happened had we had not fought and made that happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Untrustable.

(LAUGHTER)

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: New word.

TAPPER: But, look, whatever one suspects needed to be looked at in Benghazi or even with the Bidens, the fact that it's being described in such harsh political terms definitely takes away from the seriousness of it.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: I mean, what Senator Ernst said was really so inappropriate. She is supposed to be sitting as part of a Senate as court of impeachment.

And then she walks out and makes this political comment about how maybe this will hurt Biden in Iowa, as were McCarthy's comments at the time very inappropriate.

Having said that, I do think the Benghazi hearings hurt Hillary Clinton. They hurt her in the general election more, but they hurt her against Sanders too, because if you wanted change and you were a little worried about corruption, and you wanted to shake things up as a Democrat, you probably were a little more inclined to vote for Sanders in 2016 because of the drip, drip, drip of that, what, year or two on Benghazi.

And I don't buy -- I mean, it's nice that Joe Biden is -- I guess, if I were in his shoes, I'd be trying to say the same thing. See, they're scared to me. It can't be helping Joe Biden. I don't really buy that.

The fact that Biden is talking about this one week before the primary, not about what he would do as president, not how he can bring the country together, but is sort of answering Joni Ernst about his son having this $50,000-a-month retainer from a Ukrainian company, that can't be good for Biden.

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: I mean, I disagree with that, because I think what Biden wants is to generate some excitement and some attention to his candidacy in the state and nationally, too.

And right now, he's looking like the candidate that the Republicans are scared of, that Trump is scared of, that Joni Ernst wants to raise, that they're trying to create this whole political circus so that he doesn't become the nominee.

That's something that I think he can use to his advantage.

TAPPER: Although he's not exactly thriving in Iowa right now, according to local polls. Sanders is ahead of him.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think that's right.

Sanders didn't need an impeachment or allegations against his son to generate excitement. He's got lots of money in the bank. He almost won Iowa last go-round.

I guess the last poll, yes, he's 25 percent. I think there's another poll that shows Biden in the lead. Listen, Iowans are late deciders in some ways. Maybe that will be bad for Biden, because sort of the closing weekend before they go to the polls, there's going to be this impeachment vote.

The president will certainly get off. But, again, it'll be about swampy Washington and part of it will be about Biden.

[16:35:04]

TAPPER: Stick around. We got more to talk about.

President Trump defending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today, after a reporter said the secretary of state cursed her out behind closed doors for asking questions.

That's next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Any minute, President Trump will head to a rally in the Garden State, New Jersey, as his defense team rests its case in the impeachment trial, and after the president unveiled his version of a Mideast peace plan with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who was indicted just hours before on corruption charges.

This peace plan was spearheaded by the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with no consulting with Palestinian leaders, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.

[16:40:06]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As his defense team was on Capitol Hill making its final arguments, President Trump was at the White House presenting his Middle East peace plan, which he says is a win-win opportunity for both sides.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel's security.

COLLINS: In a ceremony that indicated who the peace plan favors, only one of those sides was present.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the embattled Israeli prime minister formally indicted on corruption charges just hours earlier, stood by Trump's side as he unveiled his vision.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: It's a great plan for Israel. It's a great plan for peace.

COLLINS: No one from the Palestinian leadership attended the ceremony. And the Palestinian Authority president called it this afternoon the slap of the century.

Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and plan's architect, defended it to CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: The Palestinian leadership have to ask themselves a question. Do they want to have a state? Do they want to have a better life? If they don't, then they're going to screw up another opportunity.

COLLINS: The plan gives Israel the green light to immediately annex all of its settlements in the West Bank, something the U.S. has not supported in the past, while offering Palestinians a pathway to limited statehood, if they meet a set of conditions.

And it asks the Palestinians to give up on claims to nearly 30 percent of the West Bank.

TRUMP: Of course, our great Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (APPLAUSE)

COLLINS: Today, Trump also weighed in for the first time since his secretary of state blew up at an NPR reporter who asked him about Ukraine.

TRUMP: That reporter couldn't have done to get a job on you yesterday, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I think you did a good job on her, actually.

COLLINS: The clash started this weekend, when Pompeo abruptly ended an interview and, according to the reporter, berated her afterward.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, NPR: He asked: "Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?" He used the F-word in that sentence and many others.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, the State Department is yet to explain why they kicked a separate, but another NPR reporter off Secretary Pompeo's upcoming trip overseas this week.

But the State Department Correspondents Association said they believe it's retaliation for that clash.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Let's chew over all this.

First of all, Nia-Malika, how do you have a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal if the Palestinians are not part of it?

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, it's easy in some ways, because you don't actually have to do anything. You just write the plan.

And, of course, we know how they responded. Listen, this is about Netanyahu. This might be good for his reelection. And he's obviously just been indicted.

And it's also, I think, good politics for Donald Trump, right, with white evangelicals. They very much see him as God's chosen one. And I don't say that in a disparaging way at all. They see him as someone who can do great things, do great things for Israel and obviously do great things for Christians here at home.

And so that's how I looked at it. It's good for Netanyahu, as well as his domestic politics, Donald Trump, in terms of generating enthusiasm among that core base of voters.

TAPPER: Jackie, take a listen to Kushner just moments ago talking to Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KUSHNER: It's a big opportunity for the Palestinians. And they have a perfect track record of blowing every opportunity they have had in their past, but perhaps maybe their leadership will read the details of it, stop posturing, and do what's best to try to make the Palestinian people's lives better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KUCINICH: I mean, Jen Psaki knows this world better than I do, but that just sounds like some skillful diplomacy to me.

(LAUGHTER)

KUCINICH: Just saying, you better like it and wise up.

TAPPER: They're a bunch of horrible leaders.

KUCINICH: I mean, perhaps it's better that they didn't talk. We would be in even worse position if they had tried to negotiate this current plan.

But, no, this was a photo-op. This was something that the president can trot out as, you know, perhaps a campaign and down the line, because they don't really observe traditional rules.

So, yes, there was no substance to this.

TAPPER: Bill, take a listen to President Trump talking about the Palestinians in this deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's something they should want. They probably won't want it initially, but I think, in the end, they will. I think, in the end, they're going to want it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Thoughts?

KRISTOL: I mean, well, normally you do consult with both parties to the peace plan, or at least try to.

And even those peace plans don't -- haven't worked too well. So, I think it is a photo-op for -- I guess President Trump thinks it helps him drastically, though I don't know.

If you look at the Middle East, all the great promises, getting out of the Iran deal was going to set back Iran, killing Soleimani was going to -- there wasn't going to be any retribution against Americans.

I mean, I think a lot of stuff is falling apart there due to his policies, obviously.

TAPPER: I do want to ask you about the interaction that Secretary of State Pompeo had with Mary Louise Kelly and now Michele Kelemen. You were the press secretary for the secretary of state. I'm sure

there were times that you didn't like questions that were being asked.

[16:45:02]

What do you think of what's going on there?

PSAKI: Absolutely.

And there were moments where I had heated arguments sometimes on camera with reporters and sometimes off camera. But never, when I was there, did we kick a reporter off of a trip, for a variety of reasons.

One, it's the wrong message to send to the world. When you're the State Department, oftentimes, you're going into countries and you're saying, you should -- the freedom of the press is something we believe in. You should let reporters into press conferences. They're taking that off the table. They can no longer do that.

And, two, you need these reporters there to report on what you're doing internationally. Otherwise, you're relying on state-run media, and the stories being told by foreign governments.

Also, let me just say, I have worked with both of these reporters. They're tough and smart. And I didn't always like what they reported or what they said. But they are substantive and policy-driven. And so this is even more outrageous because of that.

TAPPER: I can't imagine, as a former campaign and then White House reporter under Obama, when you were -- I can't imagine, if you guys sought retribution like that, I wouldn't have gotten any interviews.

PSAKI: No, they were many times we did not like what you were reporting, for sure.

(LAUGHTER)

KRISTOL: You know what is striking, Jake, don't you think, is that Pompeo personally wanted to put out the statement attacking her?

TAPPER: He.

KRISTOL: He didn't have his press -- his equivalent of Jen Psaki doing it.

PSAKI: And that is not a sign of strength.

KRISTOL: That is a sign catering to Trump and to Trump's base. That's what that is.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

Coming up next, the new video showing Kobe Bryant's helicopter just moments before the tragic and deadly crash on Sunday. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:33]

TAPPER: In our sports lead, new video showing the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant moments before the helicopter crashed into a California hillside, killing him and all nine people on board.

The NTSB says it had been flying under low visibility flight rules. That's a clearance allowing pilots to fly in adverse conditions.

In Los Angeles, mourners outside the Staples Center continue to gather after the NBA postponed tonight's Lakers-Clippers game.

CNN's Nick Watt joins me now from the scene of the tragic crash.

Nick, on Sunday, the day of the crash, the LAPD grounded all their helicopters because of low visibility. Why was this helicopter still allowed to fly?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, different models of helicopter, Jake.

So, I mean, as you mentioned, this pilot asked Burbank Air Traffic Control, can I fly under these special visual flight rules, which means that the visibility is not optimal, but that pilot, however he made this decision, decided that he could still fly on safely.

Now, that will, of course, be a focus of this investigation. In fact, we heard from the NTSB this morning that they will be asking the questions why he asked for that special dispensation and whether he should have.

So the weather is potentially a big factor here. It was foggy this morning. The NTSB -- sorry -- Sunday morning. The NTSB also asking members of the public around here to send in any photographs they have from Sunday morning showing what the weather conditions were like.

So what we do know is, he was granted that dispensation. He flew on. The last contact with controllers was the pilot saying he was going to climb to avoid a cloud.

The radar shows him climbing to 2,300 feet, then turning, and then descending. Now, they descended about 1,200 feet into that mountainside which is behind me.

The coroner, we have heard from. They say that they have now managed to recover the nine bodies of the people on board, but, of course, the investigation the ground continues. They are trying to get the perishable evidence.

And, from there, they say they're confident they will determine why Kobe Bryant's plane -- helicopter crashed -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt, so tragic. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, the urgent request from the United States to China, as health officials are scrambling to contain the deadly coronavirus.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:57:22]

TAPPER: In our health lead, Alex Azar, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, is pressuring the Chinese government for more -- quote -- "cooperation and transparency" on the deadly coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 100 people in China and sickened close to 5,000 people.

United Airlines just announcing this afternoon that they are suspending some flights between the U.S. and China, where 60 million people are under full or partial lockdowns.

Outside China, more than 70 cases have been confirmed around the world, including five cases in the United States.

CNN's David Culver joins me now live from Beijing.

David, hundreds of Americans were just evacuated today from Wuhan by the State Department.

What precautions are being taken to make sure they are not carrying the virus back with them to the U.S.?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Jake, just within the past few minutes, we have heard from the State Department confirming to CNN that that plane has in fact taken off from Wuhan.

As to the precautions for the 240 people on board, including U.S. diplomats, their families, and a select number of civilians who live within the lockdown zone who are allowed to apply for seats, they went through not one, but two health screenings here in China, one done by Chinese officials, the other done by U.S. officials.

And then they will go through a third screening once they land in Anchorage, and be cleared to then go on to California. Then, Jake, they're going to spend anywhere from three to 14 days in quarantine.

TAPPER: What are health officials doing to contain the known cases from spreading in the United States?

CULVER: Well, a couple of things here.

On the U.S. side of things, we know that they have airport screenings in place at, at least 20 airports around the U.S. We also know that the CDC is really kind of streamlining the testing here. They're the only ones to officially go forward with some of the confirmation that somebody may or may not have the coronavirus. But, really, they're looking to China to really handle this more than

anything else. I mean, they have got the major containment effort, and they are canceling large gatherings. They're even, Jake, putting off the lunar new year holiday, continuing to extend it, so people don't get together in these large groups.

TAPPER: And you were just in Wuhan. You left before the lockdown took effect.

What is like -- life for the people who are there right now?

CULVER: It's a little strange.

The people I have been talking to on the ground, I mean, they're kind of portraying this weird, surreal life. I mean, for them, some things are going on, as usual. But then everybody's wearing face masks. It's mandatory there.

They're not able to use public transportation because of the lockdown. And, quite frankly, some people are describing desperate situations, Jake.

One person even had to stay in their car to avoid going into their home with their family, essentially self-quarantine.

TAPPER: Oh, sounds awful.

David Culver, stay safe. Thank you so much.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet show @THELEADCNN.

[17:00:00]