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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); John Bolton's Explosive Claims. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:03]

L. CHRIS STEWART, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF RAYSHARD BROOKS: It's the courageousness of district attorneys that are going to do their job. And we were willing to accept whatever the findings were.

But that's why people elect you. Do your job. That's why you become a police officer. Do what's right.

So, it's not a day of joy watching the charges and what's going to happen to this officer, because it shouldn't happen. So, it's heartbreaking, but it is an attempt to redefine justice, because, like I said before, we don't have any idea what it is anymore in this world.

And if this is what justice is going to start looking like, officers stepping forward to stop other officers, coming forward and helping try and get a family who now has their father gone, justice, then we support it.

I thank everybody out there who is supporting this family and trying to change the world of policing for the better for everybody.

PAUL HOWARD, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: All right. I am going to try to take a few questions. I wanted to -- I promised Ms. Miller...

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, some big news there.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. And

you have been watching the district attorney in Atlanta holding a news conference, where we have just learned about 11 charges for the now former police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks twice in the back.

Among those charges, felony murder. According to the district attorney, the former officer could face the death penalty. And we're going to get back to that story in just moments.

But we have some other big breaking news in our politics lead today. And there is a very good reason, it seems, that the White House wanted to stop John Bolton, once one of the president's former top aides, from publishing his book, explosive bombshells in it, major new claims about President Trump coming from one of his closest aides for nearly 18 months.

In excerpts from former National Security Adviser Bolton's new book obtained by "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal" and "The Washington Post," Bolton claims President Trump asked the Chinese president to help him win reelection, writing this about President Trump during a meeting last June -- quote -- "He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the upcoming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China's economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Chinese President Xi to ensure that he, Trump, would win. Trump stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome" -- unquote.

And Bolton claims that President Trump went even further to try to win over leaders such as President Xi. According to "The New York Times" -- quote -- "Mr. Bolton described several episodes where the president expressed willingness to halt criminal investigations to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked, citing cases involving major firms in China and Turkey."

"The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn't accept," Mr. Bolton writes, adding that he reported his concerns to Attorney General William Barr.

And as for why President Trump would make these decisions, Bolton writes -- quote -- "I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations."

CNN's Vivian Salama and Dana Bash join me now to discuss.

And, Dana, Bolton makes a lot of claims in these new excerpts. But I started I want to start with this idea of President Trump asking China to get involved in the 2020 election. This is an immediate flashback to, Russia, if you're listening, or the entire Ukraine scandal.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that is why the former national security adviser in this book and also in an op-ed that he writes is making very clear that he believes that House Democrats conducted their probe in too narrow of a way, that they should have gone beyond Ukraine, because this is a pattern, that they could have proved the pattern.

I will say, because I think it's important to say, that, if I am a House Democrat, if I am an impeachment manager, I'm tearing my hair out right now, because this is exactly what Democrats on both sides of the Capitol were hoping John Bolton would do, in some way, shape or form before now, before five months before the election, or, most importantly, three or four months after the impeachment inquiry and the probe and the votes were all over.

There are lots of discussions about why. And I know that John Bolton was supposed to get to that in this book. But that is really the big question, is, why now, and why are we not learning -- why did we not know about this and why did the investigators not know about these other instances beyond Ukraine and Russia during the campaign? [16:05:07]

TAPPER: Of course, we should know that Bolton did offer to testify before the Senate, and the Senate voted against it, except for Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, every Republican voting against any new evidence.

Vivian, this is an issue that was also at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, the president getting a foreign power, trying to get a foreign power to interfere with the U.S. election. Criticism already rolling in from Democrats about this, of course.

But, beyond that, we should just talk about the issue. It's unprecedented for a U.S. president to ask rivals, foreign countries, for help in his own reelection.

VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. And it was essentially at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

And to Dana's point. I just got a text message from one of my sources on the House impeachment team with just a cringe face, because that's how they're reacting right now as these details come out, so many of these details that would have helped the Democrats' case during the House impeachment inquiry, but really did not sway Republicans in any way because of the fact that they fell short, a lot of them believed, of what they needed to really get a lot of Republicans to come on board with them and see things through.

So, John Bolton here now laying things out in a very detailed manner, both in his op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal," but also the excerpts that we're now seeing published in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times," where he's indicating that not only was this a problem with Ukraine.

You also had instances with China. And his China anecdotes are the ones that he really gets into in quite a lot of detail. And he talks about, in one case, one of the highlights in his "Wall Street Journal" op-ed -- I don't know if you have this pullout.

But it says: "One highlight came Xi said that he wanted to work with Trump for six more years, and Trump replied, people were saying the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him. Xi said the U.S. had too many elections, because he didn't want to switch away from Trump, who nodded approvingly."

And Bolton goes on to say, these were such explosive and unprecedented exchanges with a foreign leader, and especially one who, in Bolton's opinion certainly, was someone that the U.S. should have viewed with a lot of skepticism.

He also goes on to talk about Ukraine and the exchanges with the Ukrainian leader, saying that -- essentially confirming what we heard from so many of the House impeachment witnesses in their public testimonies about Bolton being very wary about the president's reluctance to provide aid to Ukraine.

And he says that he wasn't the only one. Secretaries Esper and Pompeo were also pushing for it as well.

TAPPER: Right. And Bolton goes on to say that the aid to Ukraine was, in President Trump's mind, completely tied in with the Ukrainian government announcing investigations into Joe Biden and also Hillary Clinton.

Vivian, there's another national security at play here having to do with the Chinese. Bolton notes that, in 2018, the Trump administration was considering sanctions against China for how they're treating the Uyghurs, these Muslim Chinese.

Months later, Bolton writes -- quote -- "At the opening dinner of the Osaka G20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, President Xi, the president of China, had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in China. According to our interpreter, Trump said that President Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do."

That is, if true, obscene, the president of the United States of America signing off with the Chinese president, go ahead and build your concentration camps, locking up this ethnic minority.

SALAMA: That's right.

And President Trump has been very unapologetic about the fact that he doesn't feel he needs to tell other countries what to do with regard to human rights in their own domestic instances.

But this is just a very blatant abuse of human rights that is something that even Secretary Pompeo and others within the administration have publicly expressed their concern about at varying times. And for someone like Ambassador Bolton, who is always wary of the Chinese and has been a staunch opponent of theirs and a lot of their domestic practices, this is just something that it was so shocking.

Now, I can't speak to the president's mind-set, obviously. I don't know, to the extent to which he was briefed in advance on the issue of the Uyghurs. And so there is that to take into consideration. That's not revealed so far in the excerpts that we have.

However, it's something that, typically, any U.S. president would sort of know that they should not proceed with any kind of encouragement about any kind of concentration camps or something like that.

[16:10:00]

And so, obviously, Ambassador Bolton noting that and saying that it was very disturbing for him and other advisers.

TAPPER: And, Dana, it's no surprise that the former national security adviser, Ambassador Bolton, was skeptical of the president's attempts to broker some sort of deal with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong- un. That's no surprise. He's a longtime hawk, a long time skeptic of diplomacy with Kim Jong-un. But I want -- there's this other revealing excerpt where it becomes

clear that he's not the only skeptic, including some of the president's most public defenders.

According to "The New York Times" -- quote -- "During Mr. Trump's 2018 meeting with North Korea's leader," according to the book, "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Mr. Bolton a note disparaging President Trump, saying, "He is so full of S-H-I-T."

"A month later," Mr. Bolton writes, "Mr. Pompeo dismissed the president's North Korea diplomacy, declaring that there was -- quote -- 'zero probability of success'" -- unquote.

I mean, Secretary of State Pompeo has been vocally one of the president's most forceful and aggressive defenders when it comes to North Korean diplomacy. But, according to Bolton, he thinks it's a crock.

BASH: Yes, I mean, that is really a remarkable picture that Bolton paints there. I would imagine we're going to hear from Secretary Pompeo at some point denying that.

But it does speak to the broader message in this book, which I think it is important to underscore, that we have seen and heard from former aides to presidents, Democrat and Republican, but never in -- I don't think in -- certainly in modern history, especially when a president is still in office, have we seen something this just absolutely stunning and intense and eviscerating, as we are seeing in this Bolton book.

It's certainly what he signaled that he was going to do in every way, shape or form, but he certainly seems to have delivered on that promise, talking about the president being inept on foreign policy and in every other way, and not just inept, effectively saying he's a corrupt person.

And that is something that is going to be very hard for the Trump administration and for the Trump campaign to overcome, even though, obviously, they're going to try.

TAPPER: That's right.

John Bolton being one of -- for decades now, one of the most conservative pundits and policy-makers in the United States, former FOX commentator.

Vivian, Dana, thanks so much.

I want to bring in Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

And, Senator Murphy, let me just posit that every Democrat on Capitol Hill thinks that John Bolton should have said this during the impeachment hearing, and, if not, then Republicans should have voted to hear from him during the impeachment trial. I get that.

But I -- I don't want to waste any time on that, because the allegations he's making are so stunning. There is a lot here.

Here's one quote from John Bolton: "I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations" -- unquote.

And that's part of, in Bolton's view, President Trump asking the president of China for help getting reelected. What's your response?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, it's stunning, but not surprising.

The president made very clear early on in his tenure that, if a foreign government came to him with an offer of election help, he would not report them to the authorities, that he'd hear them out.

So, the president's been pretty unapologetic since the very beginning that he was going to likely solicit help from foreign governments. And the entire impeachment was over the question of whether it's legitimate for the executive to use the powers of the Oval Office to try to get foreign governments integrated into a president's reelection efforts.

So, it's always stunning. I refuse for any of this to feel normal. But, I mean, we have been told over and over again by this president that he believes he is allowed to use the foreign policy of this country to try to help himself politically. So, nothing in Bolton's book really changes what we have been told consistently by President Trump.

TAPPER: And "The New York Times" writes that Bolton described several episodes where the president expressed willingness to halt criminal investigations to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked involving major firms in China and Turkey.

Bolton writes: "The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life."

This isn't Chuck Schumer saying this. This is John Bolton, obstruction of justice as a way of life.

MURPHY: Listen, so, everything John Bolton is saying here is consistent with what we know about this president.

At the same time, I know you told me I couldn't say it, but it is important to note that John Bolton is trying to make money here.

[16:15:04]

And it is curious to all of us that he wasn't willing to say this stuff to Congress. But he is willing to say it when he can make money.

I'm not suggesting that what he's saying isn't true. I'm just saying that you do have to question his motives. And I have to question his motives even as a Democrat.

But, yes, you are getting further color in this book about this president's love affair with dictators, information in this book that suggests President Trump may have gotten advanced notice that President Xi was going to set up concentration camps for Muslims and may have in fact endorsed that idea in a private meeting.

All of this is just incredibly disturbing. And it just speaks to how huge a job President Biden is going to have to try to turn around this sort of campaign of affection for dictators around the world.

TAPPER: I didn't say you couldn't say it. I would never censor you. I just didn't want to waste our time with it.

And I would note that every Senate Democrat plus Senator Susan Collins and Senator Mitt Romney voted to have more evidence, including a subpoena of John Bolton. But all of your other Republican friends voted against it.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thank you so much.

MURPHY: Thanks.

TAPPER: I appreciate your time.

We have some breaking news now. Eleven charges, including felony murder just announced for the police officer, now former police officer, who shot Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta over the weekend. He could even face the death penalty. That's next.

Plus, a coronavirus task force meeting is underway this hour as the vice president misleads the public about the state of the pandemic. And President Trump plans to pack an arena full of people, no masks required.

Stay with us.

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[16:20:42]

TAPPER: Moments ago, the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney announced that the now fired police officer Garrett Rolfe is facing 11 charges, including felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. If he is found guilty, he could even face the death penalty.

Rolfe, of course, shot Rayshard Brooks twice in the back as brooks was running away from officers following a scuffle over the weekend. A video from the scene showed Brooks had gained control of an officer's Taser and appeared to point it toward the police as he ran.

The other officer present, Devin Brosnan, is facing three charges, aggravated assault and two counts of oath violation. But Brosnan has agreed to become a state witness in the case against Rolfe.

I want to bring in CNN's Ryan Young who was at that news conference just a few minutes ago.

Ryan, the district attorney really laying out a case against former officer Rolfe.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He did. Not only did he lay out the case, but they brought evidence into the room that had sort of the crowd inside aghast, really. I can tell you, the family members of Rayshard Brooks were on the inside. And there were some other witnesses that are going to be playing a key role in all this.

One of the things I think that caught everyone off guard is the analyzation of the video that was there. Everybody sort of watched the body camera video. But what they didn't realize is that at some point both officers interacted with Brooks after he'd already been shot. We're told that Garrett Rolfe actually kicked Mr. Brooks while he was down. Officer Brosnan stood on top of him saying he wasn't sure if he had a weapon.

Now, of course, there was a 41-minute conversation before the sort of altercation took place. And at no time according to the D.A. Paul Howard did they tell him that he was going to be under arrest.

They actually said that he seemed jovial during the entire process. He didn't seem like a threat. He ran off with the Taser at some point it seemed like he fired a gun.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know, what -- are you reporting on the fact that his feet --

YOUNG: Hold on one second. We're talking about Paul Howard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you reporting on the fact that his feet on his soldier?

YOUNG: That's what I'm actually talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that we can provide -- so that we can show you what justice for the next generation looks like.

YOUNG: So you can understand why people are upset about what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This media outlet needs to be reporting that this is what justice for the next generation --

TAPPER: All right. We're going to take it over now from Ryan. Sorry about that, Ryan.

I want to bring in CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Laura Coates.

Obviously, some very strong emotions going on in Atlanta, understandably. First, though, I just want to get your reaction to these charges for both police officers. LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it is stunning it,

not because it's something that's not justified but because you rarely see the speed and the breadth of these scopes -- breadth of these charges being charged against officers in this manner. I mean, we are talking about this happening really over the weekend. They immediately began investigating early morning hours after he was killed.

You have the ideas of all the analysis of the videos. I think what is sticking in everyone's mind as it was palpable of the frustration and anguish that that man behind Ryan Young was speaking about was two things. Number one, it was the phrase "I got him" said by the officer after he shoots him twice, after knowing that he's not armed with anything besides a Taser that can no longer be operable. And then kicks him while he is down on the ground after being shot at least twice in the back.

You see, all the attention has been on this point, those 41 minutes where he was compliant before any sort of struggle ensued. But in reality, the tone of this prosecution has been on what happened not only during but after the conduct of these officers after, not rendering aid for over two minutes, Jake, kicking him, standing on his body, desecrating him in that fashion. And then to find out that another officer is going to turn state's witness and cooperate in an investigation against another police officer, this is very, very rare.

And, finally, the fact that they are citing these two Supreme Court cases, Tennessee versus Garner about not being able to shoot a fleeing suspect, and also the idea of Graham versus Conner about a reasonable standard. This is something people have been waiting for, for a very long time.

TAPPER: And let me go back to Ryan in Atlanta, if I can.

And, Ryan, tell us more about the second officer --

[16:25:02]

YOUNG: Yes.

TAPPER: -- agreeing to become a witness for the state. As Laura Coates points out, that's very, very rare.

YOUNG: Look, that was inside the room people sort of were in shock when that happened as well. And I think that's the sort of reaction that we're getting from the public, look, that you can feel the heat in terms of people being upset. They are blocking traffic all the way around us and not letting any sort of traffic go by the Justice Center.

That man wanted to come over. And he said, look, they didn't know that the officers were standing on top of Mr. Brooks. They're very angry about that. And, in fact, they hadn't planned this protest until they heard that. So, you can understand that.

The other part that they're upset about right now is that Paul Howard said they have until tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. to turn themselves in. What they want is for police to go arrest them. They don't understand why they're getting a chance to turn themselves in.

But when you think about the fact that this thing is actually going step-by-step in terms of what the process is, you can obviously tell that there is something that's going to change here, that's what's -- change in the city.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan, thank you.

Let me go back to Laura Coates.

According to Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University, who studies police statistics -- between 2005 and April 2017, so that's 12 years, 80 officers were arrested on murder or manslaughter charges for on-duty shootings. Only 35 percent of those were convicted while the rest were pending or not convicted.

It is very rare -- there are about a thousand police shootings a year. It's very rare that officers are accused, charged, and even -- and also rare that they're ever found guilty.

COATES: That's true, which is one of the reasons people were sort of smirking at a national database in the executive order that only contemplated, in part, those who had actually been convicted, knowing the rarity of it, or those who had had a civil charge against them, which the qualified immunity does away with in many respects.

So you're seeing the rarity of all of these things. But you're also seeing something that you don't often see here, Jake. And that is not only are these officers charged for what they have done to Mr. Rayshard Brooks. There are at least three counts involving what they could have done to bystanders who were in the car near about ten feet where Mr. Rayshard Brooks was gunned down.

The fact that they have considered not only the danger to Rayshard Brooks but also these three other people who were in a car is also quite expansive here, and says to you that the only person who in that drive-thru who posed a real threat, at least one, were the officers.

And one more thing. I was really surprised to see, Jake, and I did not know about this aspect, that the officers not only had had this cordial 41-minute conversation. They suspected there was a bulge in his pocket, and they did not seek to investigate it because they took his word that it wasn't a weapon.

Now tell me what officer feels as though their life is being threatened and doesn't bother to do a comprehensive search on one's body. That led to these charges as well. But that kick, that kick of that man, the standing on his shoulders is something that I can understand about the palpable anger and what is probably one of the biggest considerations of these particular prosecutors in this case.

TAPPER: All right, Laura Coates, thank you so much. Our thanks to Ryan as well.

President Trump's plan to pack 20,000 enthusiastic supporters into an arena during a pandemic, now another expert is sounding the alarm. Stay with us.

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