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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Clinton Adds Stops In California Ahead Of Primary; California Governor Jerry Brown Endorses Clinton; Hillary Clinton Calls In Live To CNN. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 31, 2016 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Secretary Clinton will be live on THE LEAD in just minutes.

But, right now, let's turn to our sports lead. With the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games just 66 days away, Brazil is facing a mountain of potential problems. Zika virus fears are growing among athletes and spectators, with more than 150 doctors and scientists petitioning for the postponement of the Olympics.

Then there's the political turmoil, along with possibly the worst recession in the history of the country, which is sparking more violence and more crime in Rio.

Let's bring in CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh, who is live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Nick, it's not just spectators who are concerned about Zika. Now some athletes are saying they might even skip the world's biggest sporting event.


This growing drumbeat of concern amongst athletes here, most recently the twice NBA title holder, six-time All-Star Pau Gasol, himself of Spanish descent, but, in fact, briefly at medical school himself, mother a doctor, so his opinion suggesting he's deeply concerned about what Zika could do to his health if he were to catch it here carrying extra weight, and joining, I think, not a chorus, but a growing number of sports people who aren't worrying about their events, but instead their own personal health here.

We heard from U.S. female soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo back in February that she was concerned. Now we're hearing British athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, others now coming forward to say they really are not sure about what it means to be here, and increasing uncertainty, I think, about how dangerous the disease is itself.

The World Health Organization coming out and saying people who have been exposed to countries that have Zika in them or Zika itself should abstain from unprotected for eight weeks now. That puts their advice in line with the U.S. CDC's. But I it certainly shows, I think, how more information is coming to light and perhaps undermines confidence in what scientists know about this particular stage, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Paton Walsh, live in Rio, thank you so much.

Hillary Clinton will be live on THE LEAD in just a few minutes. We will ask her what she made of Donald Trump's news conference.

Plus, in our world lead, tens of thousands of innocent civilians trapped, as deadly fighting erupts, now reports ISIS terrorists are using those civilians as human shields.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In our world lead today, Iraqi security forces continue to intensify their offensive to reclaim the Iraqi city of Fallujah, a place where dozens of U.S. troops lost their lives in two different brutal battles a dozen years ago.

But the terrorists of ISIS, unfortunately, are not backing down, violent clashes between Iraqi troops and ISIS today, as the Iraqi coalition recaptured key villages outside the city. Just miles from Fallujah, thousands of civilians are desperately trying to make their escape to avoid the violence.

But according to the United Nations, ISIS gunmen are going door to door, yanking men, women and children from their homes and using some as human shields.

Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, we're also just learning that two U.S. service members were injured over the weekend?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake, one in Syria, one in Iraq. For U.S. military advisers in this area, it is getting very dangerous, as these battles intensify.


STARR (voice-over): Syria's youngest caught in the line of fire in Idlib. Rescue crews work desperately, a small body pulled from the wreckage. At least 23 people were killed in airstrikes, one hitting near a hospital.

The Russians deny they conducted the strikes. Across Syria and Iraq, civilians caught in the middle, as ISIS tries to defend its turf. In Fallujah, the last major ISIS stronghold in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, Iraqi forces are pushing from the south and east, Iranian- backed militias from the north. The U.N. says there are heavy civilian casualties, as ISIS callously uses them for protection. WILLIAM SPINDLER, UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES:

There are also reports of several hundred families being used as human shields by ISIL in the center of Fallujah.


STARR: Iraqi and militia forces not yet in the city's center. There are thousands of booby traps and mines laid by ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're being used as human shields, as the U.N. report indicates, that means that they have absolutely no way out. And they are going to be pawns in the struggle between ISIS and the Iraqi government, as well as the Shia militias. And it is going to be one of the worst scenes that we can possibly imagine.

STARR: It's significant the Iraqis are staying to fight in Fallujah, not running away as the battle intensifies.

COL. STEVE WARREN, U.S. SPOKESMAN FOR OPERATION AGAINST ISIS: We think that the state of play is much improved from a year ago. A year ago, here in Iraq, the barbarians were at the gate. Baghdad was actually threatened and, in theory, was in direct danger of being invaded by these animals that we call ISIL.

Now we have driven them back.

STARR: But from the top U.S. commander, continuing caution.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I am being very pragmatic in this, as I think we will continue to work through more obstacles, we will continue to see some setbacks, but I think we will also see some continued progress.


STARR: But make no mistake, ISIS right now fighting bitterly to hold on to every scrap of territory it has.

And around Fallujah, there is another complication, Iranian-backed Shia militias very much in the fight to counter ISIS, but they are Shia, Fallujah, a Sunni city, some concern that eventually some -- a new round of sectarian violence there could break out -- Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

Hillary Clinton is no stranger to grillings, but what did she make of Donald Trump's contentious sparring match with reporters today? We will ask her that and much more coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Any minute now we expect Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton to call in and we'll talk to her.

But first let's bring in two CNN political commentators, Hilary Rosen is a Democratic strategist and a Clinton supporter and also with me Amanda Carpenter who is a former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz.

Amanda, let's start with you. It's an interesting thing that's going on today. Donald Trump giving his press conference about veterans' charities.

Hillary Clinton trying to bracket it. First doing a preemptive attack in a press release and now doing these phoners, hopefully calling in in a few seconds here. This is the fight for the control of the narrative.

AMANDA CARPENDER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, we're starting to see how the general election will shape up. I do think if we take away all the spectacle of Donald Trump's press conference today, he's trying to address real problems related to his financial interest.

Number one, the Trump University and also his problems getting the checks out to the veterans. He has a lot of bombast. He covers up a lot of insults, but he was trying to clear the air on these issues today.

Hillary Clinton has an opportunity to capitalize on that but I will say, she shouldn't have to wait hours and hours to respond to Trump because he's had free air time for the last four hours.

TAPPER: Hilary, you heard Congressman Shawn Duffy, Republican of Wisconsin earlier in the show saying basically here are the two things he got out of the press conference, one, Donald Trump hates the media. That's going to help him unify the party. And, two, Donald Trump gave millions of dollars to veterans' charities. Is this a win for him on that level?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a small bore thing. Trump just plays this like a fiddle beautifully. I have to give him credit for this. He did this the first time when he did this event instead of the debate.

Then the only reason we, as we know, he went ahead today and did this press conference and actually forked over all that money is because reporters like our folks at CNN kept on him about where that money was for these veterans groups who had not yet received it.

So you know, probably a win for him today. But for all those veterans that he kicked out of trying to sell things in front of Trump Tower for the veterans, or for the veterans he screwed at Trump University or for the veterans who won't get the G.I. Bill because he's against it, you know, those aren't so lucky.

So I think he has a lot to answer for on the score of veterans. I think Hillary Clinton will keep at it.

CARPENTER: But one point on Hillary Clinton, her press opportunity wasn't after Donald Trump delivered the checks. It was before. She should have been pounding the airwaves saying you promised the vets millions of dollars. Where is that check, Donald Trump?

So that when he finally did write it, she could take credit. Now it's sort of seems to be the Democrats are going to be complaining that he didn't deliver the money fast enough, which isn't really an effective talking point.

So they should be drawing some lessons from this if they want to beat Donald Trump because he took a huge negative of not paying the veterans into a long commercial of him listing all the charities he gave to.

TAPPER: Hilary, how many Democrats do you hear from who are worried about Hillary Clinton losing to Donald Trump, not waging the kind of campaign that he is waging.

ROSEN: By the way, I hear it from a lot of Republicans who are not so Trump supportive either. Look, this is an asymmetric campaign. It requires asymmetric attacks and responses.

And I think that it's natural that campaign is looking for its footing to figure out how you get ahead of what Trump is doing. But because Hillary Clinton is a serious person.

She actually wants to talk about what the American people are doing and interested in and what issues are going to be on the voters' kitchen tables.

And you know, in some respects that is not the campaign that the media is going to let her run and it's definitely not the campaign Donald Trump is going to run.

So I do think that Democrats are going to need to be more aggressive, keeping him on the defensive and I think that the Clinton campaign is getting their footing about it.

TAPPER: Amanda, Hillary Clinton cancelling an event in New Jersey to spend more time in California. It is possible, I don't know exactly what is going to happen in terms of the polls and the actual votes. She's still ahead in all the polls I've seen.

[16:50:12]But it is possible that Bernie Sanders could win California and she could still clinch the nomination if you include superdelegates.

CARPENTER: Yes, and I think that is going to cause a lot of problems for Hillary Clinton in the general election because she has to come out of the Democratic primary looking like a winner who won it on the merits against Bernie Sanders, not by superdelegates, not by this rigged process that Donald Trump is certain to talk about.

But that she vanquished Bernie Sanders and she won the nomination outright. Right now, it doesn't look like that. We've only had a few debates compared to the Republicans. You know, I really liked the Brooklyn debate.

It was feisty, loud, I think Hillary Clinton showed some personality. She'd do well to show a lot more of that. I think she should debate Bernie Sanders again, not for the purpose of beating Bernie Sanders in a debate, but showing she has what it takes to take on Donald Trump.

ROSEN: The Brooklyn debate had the lowest ratings of all the debates, but this is the most important thing --

TAPPER: Thanks for reminding us of that.

ROSEN: Whichever way we cut it, Hillary Clinton will win. If you give Bernie Sanders all the superdelegates from every states he wins, including California, if he wins California, Hillary Clinton will still win. So this is a phony argument that superdelegates are giving Hillary Clinton a win. Primary voters are giving Hillary Clinton a win.

TAPPER: Do you think Democratic voters are trying to send a message to Hillary Clinton, though, to maybe consider bringing somebody from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on to the ticket with all these strong showings for Bernie Sanders at the end of the campaign here?

ROSEN: Look, I think Hillary Clinton is going to consider strong progressives regardless. I don't think she needs to get that message. But I think what she's hearing from Democratic voters is that they like this discussion of the issues that has happened between her and Sanders.

We're not getting that in a Trump matchup and I think Democrats are a little bit loathed to give up that, you know, conversation, since it actually is about the issues.

TAPPER: Amanda, Jerry Brown, the governor of California endorsed Hillary Clinton today, one week before the primary. Does -- do endorsements matter these days?

CARPENTER: I really don't think so, because really, this is a candidate focused election. I know that might sound strange. Before you could depend on endorsements, you could depend on surrogates.

But the way that Donald Trump is so active, as his own primary surrogate defender in the media at all times, Hillary Clinton has to adopt a little bit more of that role.

You can't say this person endorsed me, that's a reason for voting me. When we don't have an up-close look at you personally compared to Donald Trump.

ROSEN: It's a big vote of confidence for Jerry Brown to come out for Hillary Clinton for two reasons. First of all, Jerry Brown was Bernie Sanders before Bernie Sanders was Bernie Sanders. Right? He was the ultimate progressive radical and so, him saying, look, Hillary Clinton is the best person to take us into beating Donald Trump is a big thing.

TAPPER: All right. And joining me now on the phone is Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton, thanks for joining me.

HILLARY CLINTON, PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE (via telephone): Good to talk to you. Thanks a lot.

TAPPER: So Donald Trump today said he raised at least $5.6 million for veterans' charities. He provided an accounting of those donations. Your campaign says, quote, "Nobody should be fooled by this stunt." What do you mean?

CLINTON: Well, I think the problem here is the difference between what Donald Trump says and what Donald Trump does. He's bragged for months about raising $6 million for veterans and donating a million dollars himself. But it took a reporter to shame him into actually making his contribution and getting the money to veterans.

So I -- look, I'm glad he finally did, but I don't know that he should get much credit for that.

TAPPER: Take a listen to Mr. Trump from today's press conference.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Find out how much Hillary Clinton's given to the veterans. Nothing.


TAPPER: What's your response to that? What have you given to veterans' charities? And more broadly, what have you done for veterans?

CLINTON: Well, I, of course, have given money to veterans' charities. And John McCain and I actually helped raise funding for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund at Brook Army Medical Center to build a rehabilitation facility for veterans to get the very best world-class rehabilitation services.

I've also worked, starting as first lady, to deal with some of the problems veterans had, whether it was Agent Orange or whether it was the mysterious illnesses they were bringing back from the Gulf War.

I worked as a senator on the Armed Services Committee on many things. For example, increasing death benefits for families of the fallen from just $12,000 to $100,000.

[16:55:01]And I worked with Senator Lindsey Graham to expand health care to National Guard and Reserve members. And so much of the work that I've done has meant tens of millions of dollars in increased benefits to veterans and their families, as well as a personal commitment.

TAPPER: Historically speaking throughout your decades in public life you and your husband have had occasionally contentious relationships with journalists, though, it certainly never went as far publicly as it did today with Donald Trump calling journalists sleazy and dishonest and unfair. So what went through your mind watching his press conference today?

CLINTON: Well, I have to say, Jake, I had my team check. I have done nearly 300 interviews just in 2016 and I believe that it's important to continue to, you know, speak to the press as I'm doing right now.

And to understand that his attacking everybody, fellow Republicans, Democrats, the press, you just name it. He attacks everybody, is a recipe for gridlock in Washington. And that's what we've got to break and get away with.

You know, he seems to believe, or at least is demonstrating that insulting and attacks is his mode of operations. And you know, I just don't think that's going to cut it. If you want to actually produce results for the American people and not only lead it home, but lead the world.

TAPPER: You do, do interviews and you're calling in right now obviously and we appreciate that. But it has been pointed out to me that it's something like five or six months since you've held an actual press conference. Is that something you're going to remedy soon?

CLINTON: Oh, I'm sure we will. You know look, I was shocked myself that I've done nearly 300 interviews. And they're not even sure they've captured all the ones that I've done.

But I believe that we do and we should answer questions. Of course, I'm going to, and many, many different kinds of settings.

TAPPER: I want to turn to the inspector general's report about your private email server, which you said you set up for convenience.

In an editorial out today "USA Today" called this, quote, "a threat to national security, one that she repeatedly ignored despite multiple warnings."

And they added that you are now, quote, "going to have to convince voters that she can put the national security of the United States above her own short-term self-interest."

Do you see this as a challenge that you have to face to convince voters you'll put national security ahead of your own interests?

CLINTON: Well, I have -- I think that is obvious. I always have. And the report, just to go back to the actual report, makes it clear that personal email use was the practice under other secretaries of State.

And that the rules that they are now referencing were not clarified until after I had left. But look, I've said many times it was still a mistake and if I could go back I would do it differently.

And I understand people may have concerns about this. But I hope voters look at the full picture of everything I've done in my career and the full threat posed by a Donald Trump presidency. And if they do I have faith in the American people that they will make the right choice here.

TAPPER: Final question, Secretary Clinton, thanks so much, again, for calling in. Senator Sanders is mounting such a strong challenge in California that you've moved around your schedule to spend more time there, though, mathematically you'll likely clinch the number of delegates needed even if you don't win the California primary next week if one includes super delegates.

You've talked a lot about the Democratic Party needing to unify and what happened eight years ago with you and Senator Obama. Learning from that experience, what's one thing you would like Senator Sanders to do to help unify the Democratic Party? And what's one thing you're willing to do to reach out to his supporters?

CLINTON: Well, Jake, first let me say that I am going to campaign hard. I'll be in New Jersey tomorrow. We're campaigning hard in all the states that are upcoming.

But clearly California is a big state. And I am going to do everything I can to meet as many voters as possible. I was proud today to be endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown.

And we're going to keep working as diligently and as tirelessly as we can to get as many voters to turn out and vote for me next Tuesday.

But your question is an important one. And I have said repeatedly I will certainly do everything I can to unify the Democratic Party. Our campaigns have been reaching out to one another. We will continue to do that.