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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump Once Again Retweeting COVID-19 Misinformation; Bill Barr Faces Congress; Biden Set to Pick Running Mate. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired July 28, 2020 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Tell us what he had to say about a possible timeline and who your reporting indicates are the front-runners.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.
Well, Jake, I -- we wanted to know if they were going to stick to that timeline. He had originally said early August. He said that was, again, what they were looking at. So we should have a V.P. selection here in the next several weeks.
I wanted to know, too, because of COVID, will they be able to meet in person? The vice president, the former vice president demurring on that. I asked if they would wear masks, and he just said that they're going to see.
He noted that he had not been tested for COVID just yet, but -- so a lot to come on the V.P. front. But, Jake, what we do know is that we're getting ever closer to that deadline. And we have seen a number of names floating up there.
Just yesterday, when the Bidens were at the Capitol, the U.S. Capitol, he had kind of an impromptu meeting with one of the people that has been floated, Congresswoman Karen Bass, but also, of course, Kamala Harris, Susan Rice, a number of names that have been floated out there, but they still got to get through this final process, Jake.
And all we know is that it is closing in on getting to the time when he's going to make that announcement.
TAPPER: OK. Well, early August, I mean, that's coming right up. That's the end of the week.
DEAN: It's coming right up, isn't it? Yes. Yes.
TAPPER: Thank you so much to -- yes -- Dana, Kaitlan, Abby, and Jessica, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Just moments ago, the attorney general, Bill Barr, wrapped up what was often a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill.
We will tell you all about that. That's next.
TAPPER: A defiant and direct attorney general just finishing a contentious and largely partisan hearing on Capitol Hill.
In his first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Bill Barr spent five hours attempting to defend his tenure as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, including the decision to send federal agents to the sites of protests in various cities.
And he said calls by some on the left to defund the police were -- quote -- "grossly irresponsible."
Democrats devoted much of the hearing to accusing Barr of doing President Trump's personal bidding and putting the president's political interests above the nation's, a charge Barr vehemently denied.
Barr tried to remain unflappable, but there were moments when that did not work out. Facing questions, for instance, from Democrats Ted Deutch of Florida or Eric Swalwell of California, Barr bristled when asked about his intervention in the case of Trump confidant Roger Stone.
Barr struggled when asked whether a president should ever help -- ever accept help from a foreign country. He was also put on the defensive when asked why he took action against protesters in Portland, Oregon, but not armed right-wing protesters in Michigan.
Republicans, for their part, spent much of their time attacking Democrats, saying that their criticisms of the attorney general's credibility and conduct were more about Barr's harsh words about the Russia investigation.
Notably, while Barr did say he does not believe the 2020 election will be rigged, he did give the blunt assessment that Russia is attempting to try again.
CNN's Jessica Schneider kicks off our coverage from Capitol Hill.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Barr standing his ground...
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president has not attempted to interfere in these decisions.
SCHNEIDER: ... in the long-awaited showdown between the attorney general and House Democrats, holding firm that he is not using his position to do the president's bidding.
BARR: On the contrary, he has told me from the start that he expects me to exercise my independent judgment to make whatever call I think is right. And that is precisely what I have done. SCHNEIDER: Democrats today laid into him.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Shame on you, Mr. Barr.
SCHNEIDER: Accusing him of politicizing protests around the country by sending in federal agents, inappropriately stepping in to investigate the origins of the Russia probe, and protecting the president's allies, like Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.
But Barr pushed back.
BARR: You say I helped the president's friends. The cases that are cited, the Stone case and the Flynn case, are both cases where I determined that some intervention was necessary to rectify the rule of law, to make sure people are treated the same.
I agree the president's friends don't deserve special breaks, but they also don't deserve to be treated more harshly than other people.
SCHNEIDER: Barr also repeatedly defended the presence of federal officers in Portland, Oregon.
BARR: We're trying to protect federal functions and federal buildings. If the state would come in and keep peace on the streets in front of the courthouse, we wouldn't need additional people at the courthouse.
SCHNEIDER: But the committee chair brushed off Barr's explanations.
NADLER: The president wants footage for his campaign ads, and you appear to be serving it up to him, as ordered.
SCHNEIDER: Referencing the killing of George Floyd, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee confronted Barr about police brutality. And she said the DOJ has failed to adequately pursue federal cases against officers accused of police brutality.
BARR: I don't agree that there's systemic racism in police departments.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): That's what we need you to join us on, Mr. Attorney General, and to recognize that institutional racism does exist. And until we accept that, we will not finish our job and reach the goals and aspirations of our late, iconic John Lewis.
SCHNEIDER: Republicans went on the attack, accusing Democrats of targeting the attorney general because he has ordered a probe into the origins of the Russia investigation and because of the A.G.'s previous assertion the Trump campaign was spied on.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It sure is. And since that day, since that day, when you had the courage to state the truth, they attack you. They have been attacking you ever since.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: And the attorney general was repeatedly pressed on the
upcoming election. He said he sees no reason to believe that it could be rigged. That's a term that's repeatedly been used by the president.
But Bill Barr did say that there is a high risk of widespread voter fraud when it comes to those mail-in ballots. That was echoing a false claim that is also repeatedly made by the president.
But, Jake, Bill Barr dodged when he was asked if the president could move the date of the actual election. And he did not answer, directly answer, anyway, whether or not -- what he would do if the president refused to leave office if he was defeated in this election -- Jake.
TAPPER: Yes, he had a lot of oddly nuanced answers for fairly direct questions.
Jessica Schneider on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.
Let's discuss Barr's hearing with former federal prosecutors Laura Coates and Elie Honig and retired Congressman Mike Rogers, who was the former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Thanks, one and all, for being here.
Laura, let me start with you.
So, the attorney general once again insisted that his actions and the Justice Department's actions have been completely independent of President Trump. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: I'm supposedly punishing the president's enemies and helping his friends. What enemies have I indicted?
Who -- could you point to one indictment that has been under the department that you feel is unmerited, that you feel violates the rule of law, one indictment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It's interesting that that's the framing that he presented. Can you name one of the president's enemies who has been indicted? Because, of course, there's a whole raft of evidence having to do with how he has treated the president's opposition, opponents, and what he has done for the president's friends that aren't necessarily about one specific indictment.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Precisely.
And the fact, the reason names like Roger Stone and Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, the reason these names are common to everyone in America and across the globe is precisely for the reasons that he is dodging, the reasoning being that these individuals, to some extent, either through sentencing rollbacks or interference by the attorney general into the sentence recommendations on behalf of career prosecutors, has been weighed in on.
The thumb has been on those scales. And so, except for the one persona non grata who apparently goes back and forth between prison, depending upon whether he will sign away his First Amendment rights, that being Michael Cohen.
But what you saw here was a defiant attorney general who would like people to believe that, no, it's not the president I'm acting under his instructions. I have my own independent judgment.
Well, sir, that's precisely what people are questioning right now, the nature and the substance of your judgment when it comes to things like sentencing, like the dispatching of federal agents and officers to places like Portland and abroad, the idea of what you're saying about Russia-gate, as opposed to what you have said in that very hearing, Jake, was that he believes that they have interfered and will continue to interfere in the elections.
And yet he'd like to have this be about some narrative by the Democrats, as opposed to his own actions, his own conduct being under a microscope since that 20-page memo in 2018.
TAPPER: Congressman Rogers, take a listen to this exchange between Florida Congressman Ted Deutch, a Democrat, and the attorney general over his push to reduce Roger Stone's suggested sentence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: The judge agreed with me, Congressman.
REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL): No, that's not what asking. I'm not asking you that.
BARR: The judge agreed with me.
DEUTCH: I'm not asking whether...
BARR: I know you're not asking it. I'm saying it.
DEUTCH: I'm not asking you that.
And the issue here is -- the issue here is whether Roger Stone was treated differently because he was friends with the president.
BARR: The judge agreed with our...
DEUTCH: Can you think of even one -- I'm not asking about the judge. I'm asking about what you did to reduce the sentence of Roger Stone. BARR: Yes.
DEUTCH: Can you think -- Mr. Attorney General, he threatened the life of a witness.
DEUTCH: And you viewed that as a technicality, Mr. Attorney General.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Congressman Rogers, what do you make of that?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, obviously, that's an unpleasant case.
It is a bit unusual for the attorney general to weigh in on a case like Roger Stone, although, being a former FBI agent, I can tell you I thought the sentence, even though I thought Roger Stone should serve time in jail (AUDIO GAP) a bit much.
Now, that being said, it's still a bit unusual for the attorney general to weigh in. And in a fully -- where you would have more than the five minute I have to make my point vs. allowing the attorney general to talk about it, I think that could have been a better exchange, learning why the attorney general did what he did.
Was there other extenuating circumstances? And, as he said, he went with the judge's recommendation, which I found interesting, which is probably a pretty solid legal argument, but not necessarily the public opinion argument.
And he's going to lose that all day long on interceding in that particular case.
TAPPER: Elie Honig, take a listen to this exchange between Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California about whether the attorney general should investigate President Trump because of the decision to grant Stone clemency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Are you investigating Donald Trump for commuting the prison sentence of his longtime friend and political adviser Roger Stone?
SWALWELL: Why not?
BARR: Why should I?
SWALWELL: You would agree that it's a federal crime to lie under oath; is that right?
[16:45:00] BARR: Yes.
SWALWELL: It's a crime for you. It's a crime for me. And it's certainly a crime for the president of the United States. Is that right?
SWALWELL: Are you familiar with the December 3, 2018, tweet where Donald Trump said Roger Stone had shown guts by not testifying against him?
BARR: No, I'm not familiar with that.
SWALWELL: You don't read the president's tweets?
SWALWELL: Well, there's a lot of evidence in the president's tweets, Mr. Attorney General. I think you should start reading them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What do you make of that, Elie?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jake, as a Justice Department alum, that exchange and much of this hearing was really hard to watch.
And I want to make sure people understand. There is nothing normal about the way William Barr has done his job as attorney general. I served under four attorneys general, three of them Republican- appointed, one Democratic appointee.
We have never seen any of them lie to the public, dissemble, bend the law, like we just saw in that clip, and inject politics into this process.
And I know Barr said right up front, everything I do is independent, everything I do is righteous.
Fine. But the problem is, he has a track record. He's been in office 18 months. The Roger Stone case is not in isolation. He did virtually the same thing on Michael Flynn. He did the president's bidding on Mueller, on Ukraine, on the SDNY.
So I don't think you can just take the rhetoric and elevate it above the actual conduct we have seen from this attorney general.
TAPPER: Laura, Barr went to great lengths to say that the inappropriate actions by officers must be scrutinized, and that he understood why some African-Americans might think that they're mistreated by law enforcement.
But he also insisted, in a lot of instances, the data does not reflect that there is systemic racism in law enforcement. What did you make of that whole part? COATES: Well, first, I don't think he did go to great lengths to try
to prove that point. I think he used the terms that he can understand why there'd be an ambivalence or distrust.
And I think he pointed to the anecdotes of two black people that apparently he spoke to, Senator Tim Scott and also an unidentified, I think the word was somebody who was very prominent, a black professional in Washington, D.C., and, apparently, that was enough to legitimize that there had been this fundamental mistrust and a whole host of instances that are not anecdotes, but are part of a systemic issue of racism and racist encounters with police officers.
Also, his statistics, I find it very difficult to ever give weight to the Department of Justice's statistics here, Jake, when they do not have transparency and actual registries that tell me what the excessive force cases have been, both lethal and non-lethal, as asked for by members who looked for reform in the justice system.
But the numbers he did give us actually show what he is trying to disprove. It actually shows a disproportionate representation of the killing of black men, excluding women, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, and many others, oh, the long line of people have been harmed by officers who are women -- but talking about these eight deaths of black men, compared to 11 deaths of white men.
Well, given the population, the proportion of African-Americans in this country, don't you find that to be an over-representation? And he hasn't explained what the cause of it is. All he does is instead say -- deflect and say, well, look, you have got black-on-black crime, and that's somehow, some way more of a priority.
And I always take issue with this overused vehicle of whataboutism, Jake, because no other group of people ever has to have an either/or choice. Either you can focus on black-on-black crime or killing at the hands of officers.
No one gets a choice of curing cancer or curing COVID-19. They don't get these either/ors. But when it comes to the issues facing African- Americans in this country, in particular, when it comes to justice- related issues, this either/or fallacy is promoted.
And to have it be perpetuated by the person at the helm of the Justice Department, he should go ahead right now and tell the entire Civil Rights Division, you can go ahead and leave, your work is obsolete. There is no systematic racism here in this country.
Sir, you have to inform yourself better than this.
TAPPER: We only have about a minute left.
Elie and Congressman Rogers, I want to get your just brief takes on how you think the day went for Attorney General Barr and for the House Judiciary Committee.
Elie, let's start with you. HONIG: Yes, look, the House Judiciary Committee did their job. They
got off to a very slow start. I think the questioning was much more effective from the more junior members.
Look, Bill -- William Barr, I think, was exposed for being a partisan and being not credible. But, as always, he got through it, he will survive, and he will continue to serve, but it's important that we know.
TAPPER: And, Congressman Rogers, what did you think?
ROGERS: Yes, Jake, as my mother always said, anything that starts out in anger is just not likely to end well.
And I just thought it was not a productive day. I do think we have real problems in this country to solve. And this we-vs.-them attitude in things like trouble with racial bias in policing and other things are not going to get solved by finger-wagging at each other in this contentious hearing.
That's what worries me most about what I saw today. I don't think anyone came out a winner. Clearly, the people who are looking for solutions in cities like Chicago and Portland and other places, I don't think that they felt like they had a winner today either.
And that's what I hope, all of them go back and reevaluate where we're going.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman Rogers, Elie Honig, Laura Coates, thanks, one and all. Really appreciate your time today.
One note from us about the hearing today.
At the beginning of the Attorney General Barr hearing at the House Judiciary Committee, the ranking member of the committee, Republican congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, played a video featuring many upsetting images of mayhem and violence from protests and riots of crowds across the country.
And that was, included along with a mash-up of members of the media and others using the term peaceful protests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Peaceful protests.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Peaceful protests.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Peaceful protests.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peaceful protests.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: The motive was clearly to show members of the media,
including many of my CNN colleagues, calling violent protests peaceful.
But Congressman Jordan neglected to give the full context of these comments.
So, my team and I did it for him.
Here, for example, is the full sentence of what CNN reporter Josh Campbell said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL: And this has been the epicenter, where there have been largely peaceful protests during the day, at night sometimes turning violent, with these confrontations between protesters and police.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Here are the fuller context of the remarks of our correspondent Dianne Gallagher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: This is something that we have been seeing here on the streets of Atlanta, mostly peaceful protests since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
And when it was one of their own, that anger, that frustration, that pain simply exploded, and we saw the result of that overnight and into this morning in those protests.
Again, for the most part, throughout the entire day on Saturday, the protest after Rayshard Brooks' death were peaceful. And as it began to get dark, things began to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, do you understand what Congressman Jordan and his team did there?
Our reporters Dianne Gallagher and Josh Campbell, as you saw, accurately described the protests as peaceful, and then often exploding into something else, including violence at night.
But, Congressman Jordan, you just quoted the part of what they said that said peaceful protests, when that wasn't the full context. That's not what they said. They weren't calling violent protests peaceful.
Congressman Jordan, you did a disservice to them. And, more importantly, you did a disservice to the American people. And you did a disservice to the truth.
Congressman Jordan, you owe them and anyone else whose comments you completely misrepresented today on Capitol Hill, you owe them an apology. Any person of honor, any person who cares about the truth would do that.
I guess we will see what you're going to do.
Sticking with our politics today, the president has been receiving high marks from his supporters at FOX and elsewhere for supposedly staying on message the last few days on the coronavirus pandemic, which, as of now, has infected, tragically, more than 4.3 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 148,000.
The president, of course, undermined all of that overnight. He retweeted a message that falsely claimed Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, purposely misled the American public.
In another bizarre retweet, the president pushed a video of the doctor spewing unsubstantiated claims about coronavirus, a doctor who, it should be noted, has a history of bizarre non-factual claims.
Just yesterday, in a video, I noticed this same doctor demanded that Fauci and Chris Cuomo and, indeed, every one of us at CNN turn over our urine to her to prove, according to her, that we're all taking hydroxychloroquine.
For the record, we're not.
Twitter took action against the messages the president retweeted and restricted the tweets of his son Donald Trump Jr. Twitter says it did so because the video shared misinformation about the pandemic, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of the most promising vaccine candidates.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Donald Trump's brief attempt to appear to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously came to an end overnight.
During a retweeting spree, the president promoted a series of posts to his 84 million followers that made misleading and inaccurate claims about COVID-19, including a video featuring this woman.
STELLA IMMANUEL, PURPORTED DOCTOR: Hello. I'm Dr. Stella Immanuel.
COLLINS: In the video elevated by Trump, Immanuel identifies herself as a doctor and wrongly claims that people don't need masks to stop the spread of coronavirus and wrongly asserts that studies showing hydroxychloroquine isn't an effective treatment are -- quote -- "fake science."
COLLINS: Her comments contradict the FDA and the president's own health experts, and the video was removed by Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but not before millions had already seen it.
Twitter added a warning quoting the FDA saying that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19, and the social media giant even penalize Donald Trump Jr. for sharing it by preventing him from tweeting until he deleted his post.
According to The Daily Beast, the woman the president and his son promoted has a history of making bizarre claims, including that DNA from space aliens is used in medicine, and that scientists want to create a vaccine making people immune from becoming religious.
The White House press secretary left questions about the president's tweets to him.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Hey, guys, we will be hearing from the president at 5:00.
COLLINS: Trump's overnight retweet spree also included two posts calling Dr. Anthony Fauci a fraud and claiming he's misled the public, accusations the doctor pushed back on today.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I don't know how to address that. I'm just going to certainly continue doing my job. I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances.
COLLINS: Trump and his aides have insisted he has a good relationship with Fauci, despite the sustained attacks on him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Anthony Fauci!
COLLINS: But Fauci may have been the driving force behind the president's recent announcement, then cancellation, that he would throw out the first pitch at the Yankees game.
TRUMP: I think I'm doing that on August 15 at Yankee Stadium.
"The New York Times" reports that Trump was never actually asked to throw out the first pitch that day, and his statement caught his own staff by surprise. One source told "The Times" that Trump had been annoyed that Dr. Fauci had been invited to throw out the first pitch for the Washington Nationals last week.
COLLINS: And, Jake, the president is likely going to be asked about all of those retweets and more when he comes out here to the Briefing Room in just a few moments.
TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you so much.
To our health lead now and a tragic new record. Today, Florida reported its highest number of coronavirus deaths in just one day; 186 people died. More than 1,000 Americans died from COVID yesterday. Cases are rising in 22 states.
And, as CNN's Erica Hill reports, only eight states are seeing a decline in new coronavirus infections.
DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, PROFESSOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Wuhan, China, in the total epidemic, has 70,000 cases. We're having one Wuhan a day in the United States. That is just an out-of-control epidemic.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Mississippi, 80 percent of infections now linked to social gatherings, in New Jersey outbreaks among lifeguards at the state's beaches, infections among young people rising in Pennsylvania and Maryland, as cases tick up in 22 states and Puerto Rico over the past week, concern growing for the middle of the country.
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We can see the virus moving north. And we can see the test positivity rate rising in Virginia. We have been in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee.
HILL: Bars and restaurants in Columbus, Ohio, must close at 10:00 p.m. starting tonight, Kentucky's bars shuttered for the next two weeks after consulting with the White House Task Force.
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): I don't want to be a state where a doctor has to look at 10 young people, knowing they have three ventilators and make a decision in possibly who lives and who dies.
HILL: Tennessee's governor resisting calls from Dr. Birx to do the same.
GOV. BILL LEE (R-TN): I have said from the very beginning of this pandemic that there's nothing off the table. I have also said we're not going to close the economy back down, and we're not going to.
HILL: Since reopening began on May 4, Florida's seven-day moving average for new cases has skyrocketed, up more than 1500 percent, the seven-day average positivity rate just over 19 percent.
FAUCI: We just can't afford yet again another surge. We have got to get back to a very prudent advance from one stage to another.
HILL: While new cases in Florida over the past week are now holding steady, daily reported deaths hit a new high on Tuesday.
DAN GELBER (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: People need to have a sense of urgency that this is important. When they hear the governor and they hear the president saying, don't worry, they believe that maybe this is a green light to do whatever you want.
HILL: At least 27 states have now paused or rolled back reopening plans.
Less than a week into its shortened season, baseball is also facing setbacks, the MLB postponing multiple games out of an abundance of caution after several Marlins tested positive, the NFL canceling its preseason games, and more players opting out altogether.
HILL: And Derek Jeter, the CEO of the Miami Marlins, has just released a statement saying the team is having a difficult time during all of this. They have also stepped up to daily testing as they file isolation and quarantine protocols -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill, thank you so much for that coverage.
Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I will see you here tomorrow. Thanks for watching.