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State of the Union
Interview With Former Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara; Interview With Interview With Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Interview With Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Interview With Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Interview With White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired June 21, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Mixed messaging. A lighter-than- expected turnout, as President Trump plays down the risk of coronavirus in Oklahoma.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.
TAPPER: As cases continue to rise in the U.S., is the president moving on too soon?
I will speak with White House adviser Peter Navarro next.
And blind justice? The president and his attorney general fire a prosecutor who is investigating Trump associates, while a former top adviser excuses the president of more abuses.
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District New York Preet Bharara, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates join me ahead.
Plus: moment of reflection. The nation marks the anniversary of Juneteenth, as demands for policing reform reverberate across the country.
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), MAYOR OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA: There is no playbook for what we are dealing with right now across this country.
TAPPER: Is change on the way? Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms coming up.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is remembering that there is a presidential election in less than five months. (AUDIO GAP) was hoping to be back in his comfort zone this weekend,
holding his first campaign rally in months, Saturday night in the city of Tulsa in ruby-red Oklahoma. But the event was riddled with missteps, a much smaller-than-expected crowd, and news early Saturday that six members of the Trump campaign advance team had tested positive for COVID-19.
Instead of a speech of unity and hope, President Trump gave what critics described as a meandering speech filled with complaints and falsehoods. He spent about 14 minutes talking about West Point and defending his wobbly walk down that ramp.
The president also made no mention of George Floyd or Juneteenth or the massacre of black Americans in Tulsa 99 years ago this month, as many on his team had hoped he would.
The president also seemed to minimize the threat of the coronavirus. He used the racist term kung-flu to describe it. That's a term his own adviser Kellyanne Conway called highly offensive back in March.
And at a time when several states are experiencing increased cases of COVID-19 and increased hospitalizations, the president said this about testing:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people. You are going to find more cases. So, I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, a White House official later said that the president was -- quote -- "obviously kidding."
Just a reminder, there are currently more than two million cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 119,000 dead in the United States. That's more than the total number of Americans who died in World War I.
Sources tell CNN that the president was also upset to see so much news on Saturday focused not on his return to the campaign trail, but on his administration's ham-handed move to fire the widely respected and independent U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, whose office is currently investigating Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani.
The standoff between Attorney General Bill Barr and Berman ended when the president stepped in and fired Berman. Berman's deputy will now temporarily fill the role, rather than the administration's pick, who had been announced on Friday.
I want to start right there with the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Congressman from New York Jerry Nadler.
Chairman Nadler, thanks for joining us. Let's start about this president's and attorney general's decision to
fire the U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman.
You seem to be suggesting in statements you have made since the firing that Barr may be trying to impede an ongoing criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York. Which investigation?
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Well, I think it's obvious that the -- a number of investigations that the Southern District has been doing with reference to the president's associates, Giuliani, the Turkish investigation.
We have seen a pattern of the president opposing, of Barr corruptly impeding all these investigations. So, this is just more of the same.
TAPPER: You tweeted that you would like to invite I guess the now former U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman to testify in front of your committee, the House Judiciary, this week, on Wednesday.
Has he accepted your offer? Will that happen this week?
NADLER: I couldn't hear your question.
TAPPER: I'm sorry.
You said that you invited Geoffrey Berman to testify in front of your committee on Wednesday. Has he accepted your offer? Is that going to happen this week?
NADLER: Well, we are having a hearing on Wednesday in which we have a number of whistle-blowers from the Department of Justice who will testify.
We have invited Berman, and I'm sure he will -- I'm sure he -- I don't know about Wednesday, but I'm sure he will testify.
TAPPER: I know you announced you're going to investigate why Berman was fired.
Some congressional Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, have said that this is it, this is the last straw, Attorney General Bill Barr needs to be impeached.
You have not gone that far. Do you think calls for his impeachment are premature?
NADLER: No, I don't think calls for his impeachment are immature -- premature, any more than the calls for the president's impeachment were premature.
But they are a waste of time at this point, because we do know that we have a corrupt Republican majority in the Senate which will not consider an impeachment, no matter what the evidence and no matter what the facts. So, we're going to -- we're instead going to do what we have to do without that, and including barring $50 million from his own personal budget.
TAPPER: You're calling every Senate Republican who voted to acquit President Trump corrupt?
NADLER: I think, in the sense of being corrupt against the interests of the country, yes.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about new revelations, in addition, from this less redacted version of the Mueller report that CNN was able to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act.
We learned that Mueller raised the possibility that President Trump lied to him when the president said that he did not remember any conversations with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks, which obviously got those e-mails from the DNC that the Russians were to have -- are said to have hacked that were damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign.
We learned that testimony from Trump attorney Michael Cohen, Trump former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates suggests that President Trump did talk with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and this pending release of these damaging e-mails.
I know you are familiar with this. Do you think President Trump lied to Robert Mueller and his investigators about this issue?
NADLER: Yes, I think it's very clear that he lied, and that he committed a crime.
And I think it's also the case that, as Mueller implied in his report, that the only reason the president wasn't indicted is because Mueller was operating under the Department of Justice guidelines that say a sitting president cannot be indicted.
If he were not president, I think he would have been indicted and should've been.
TAPPER: For obstruction of justice or for something having to do with conspiracy with Russia?
NADLER: Well, for lying to -- for lying to Mueller. It's lying to the -- that's a crime, to lie to the committee, to the Mueller committee.
TAPPER: I want to turn to the latest from former National Security Adviser John Bolton coming out in his book that I think comes out on Tuesday.
Bolton accused Democrats, House Democrats, of committing -- quote -- "impeachment malpractice" by not broadening your impeachment investigation beyond the Ukraine controversy to include other episodes he describes as potential high crimes and misdemeanors involving the president with China, involving the president with Turkey.
What do you make of that charge? NADLER: Well, the fact is, the president could've been impeached on
other grounds, too, such as obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation. We chose to try to keep it simple.
But -- and Bolton, who has, as we now know, evidence that he could have offered and refused to offer, is certainly no one to talk.
TAPPER: Well, he did offer to testify before the Senate. But, as you know, the Senate voted not to hear any additional evidence, every Republican voting against...
NADLER: Well, he refused to testify before the House.
NADLER: He refused to testify before the House.
And the Senate, of course, was never going to call him, because the Senate Republicans were not interested in any evidence. As I said, they were corrupt in that respect.
TAPPER: Yes, every -- I should just note, every Republican voted against new evidence, except for Susan Collins and Mitt Romney.
NADLER: That's right.
TAPPER: Are you planning on calling Bolton to testify about this new information he has?
He suggests in his book that President Trump...
NADLER: I'm sorry. Am I planning to what?
TAPPER: To call John Bolton to testify?
NADLER: I'm sorry. Am I planning to what?
TAPPER: And Bolton -- are you planning on calling John Bolton to testify before your committee?
NADLER: Oh. No, we're not interested in Bolton's testimony.
TAPPER: Bolton says in his book that President Trump promised him he would stop the investigation into the Turkish bank that the Southern District of New York was doing at the time, which you brought up as a potential reason why Geoff Berman might've been fired.
It sounds as though Bolton has evidence to back that up. But you don't want to hear him because, what, because you're upset that he didn't voluntarily testify during impeachment? NADLER: Well, we may. We may. But we will see about that.
TAPPER: I mean, do you think that any of these new revelations from Bolton are impeachable, or is the door closed on impeachment for 2020?
NADLER: Well, I think -- I think the president has done a lot of impeachable things, including what Bolton is talking about.
But we have an election coming up. We know the Republicans in the Senate will not entertain an impeachment in any event. So that would be -- that would, at this point, be a waste of time and effort.
TAPPER: One last thing before we go.
You said that you think calls to impeach the attorney general were not premature. Does that mean that you think Attorney General Barr should be impeached?
NADLER: Well, I think he deserves impeachment. He certainly deserves impeachment.
But, again, that's a waste of time, because the Republicans in the Senate won't look at that, and we have other ways of getting at this.
TAPPER: All right, Chairman Jerry Nadler, congressman and Democrat of New York, thank you so much for your time today.
We really appreciate it.
I want to bring in the previous U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who President Trump fired in 2017, Preet Bharara, also a CNN senior legal analyst.
Preet, good to see you.
You just heard my interview with Chairman Nadler. What was your reaction to what he had to say?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, a couple reactions about what is going to happen going forward.
I understand that Jerry Nadler has asked the former U.S. attorney, now former U.S. attorney, Geoffrey Berman to come testify. I don't know that he will do that. And I don't know, actually, how much he will have to say.
After I was fired, lots of people wanted to ask me questions about what ongoing investigations I might've been overseeing to try to make a connection between the fact of those investigations, relationships to the Trump administration, to Trump himself, and the firing.
My policy was, and I think the standard operating procedure, is not to talk about ongoing investigations even when you leave office. So, I don't know how much -- I don't know how much progress you're going to make with respect to trying to get an answer to that question. With respect to the comments about Bill Barr, I leave it to members of
Congress to decide whether you impeach or not. What I have said publicly, and I think a lot of people understand clearly is the case, that, in the most recent incident starting last Thursday and Friday, the attorney general of the United States made a public misrepresentation about whether or not Geoff Berman was stepping down from office.
It was clearly not the case. It was clearly a falsehood. And he tried to cover that up with a letter that name-called the -- spent time calling names against Geoff Berman, and also retreated from the position a little bit, allowing Berman to decide that the office was going to be left in good hands with Audrey Strauss, the deputy.
And I think that conduct alone shows there's a sort of unfitness for office. We teach our assistant U.S. attorneys not to spin, not to make misrepresentations in court. And, if you do, you apologize for it and you withdraw the statement.
I know it's not the biggest thing in the world, and he was trying to accomplish something that probably President Trump wanted, which was Geoff Berman out, because he wasn't perceived to be loyal enough. But you make a representation that's not true, that's a problem for most people in any profession.
It's a particular problem if you're the attorney general of the United States of America.
TAPPER: We should, just to bring our viewers up to speed, make sure people know that Geoff Berman is a registered Republican, gave money to the president's campaign in 2016. But he's also regarded as an independent prosecutor.
His office got Michael Cohen convicted, sent to prison, Trump attorney Michael Cohen, also Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Republican businessmen. He also has been going after this Turkish bank that we talked about with Chairman Nadler. He's also been going after Rudy Giuliani, investigating Rudy Giuliani for his behavior. And, also, his office is looking into Jeffrey Epstein.
Why do you think Attorney General Barr wanted Berman gone?
BHARARA: Well, it seems to me the president wanted him gone.
There have been reports over time, including the recent report from the John Bolton book and prior reports, where the president seems to have been upset that Geoffrey Berman recused himself from the prosecution investigation of Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, which is parallel to his concern about Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
So, there have been repeated reports -- excuse me -- repeated reports that the president of the United States was not happy with Geoff Berman, not happy with my former office. He's shown himself, generally speaking, not to be happy with independent law enforcement.
He's not happy with inspectors general at all. It's going to be -- it's very hard in these circumstances to pinpoint the exact reason someone was let go. But the circumstances show that I don't think it was in good faith.
In fact, the whole idea that Geoff Berman did not lose the confidence of the department, such that he was being asked to move to some other position, not being told, you leave the department altogether, you're doing a terrible job, we have lost confidence in you, but the idea that Bill Barr puts in his -- in his letter to Geoff Berman, you have got the SEC chair, who has never tried a case, never been a litigator, never done a criminal case, and is doing a good job as the SEC chair, from what I can tell.
Let's put him into the office of the U.S. attorney in the Southern District. Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney, Geoff Berman, who is a criminal prosecutor and has been doing a good job in the Southern District, why don't they just swap jobs four-and-a-half months before an election?
Given that fact, and the weirdness of it, and all the other evidence that the president wasn't happy with how things were going in the Southern District, and wanting to make sure that they were stayed and they kept their place, stayed in their lane, that lane being loyalty to the president, I think it's a reasonable conclusion that the decision to get rid of Geoff Berman was not done in good faith.
TAPPER: You have talked about the woman who is now going to take over for Geoffrey Berman, the deputy.
Berman released a statement when he left his post saying that he's confident the Southern District will continue its -- quote -- "tradition of integrity and independence" under that deputy, Audrey Strauss, who you know.
Which of the investigations are you -- are you watching from your purview? And what could those investigations mean potentially for President Trump?
BHARARA: I don't know. I don't talk about investigations of people. They don't talk about them with me since I left office.
I will say, I should affirm, Audrey Strauss is an incredible lawyer, a principled lawyer, a lawyer with a lot of integrity and with a lot of experience and widely respected within the office.
I am a little concerned that there's no assurance that Audrey Strauss will be, so far as we know, going forward, until there is a permanent U.S. attorney confirmed, that her job is safe. That's implied by the letter of Bill Barr to Geoff Berman, but I don't know that that will continue to be true.
I would like to get some assurance. And if members of Congress can get that kind of assurance from the Justice Department that Audrey Strauss will be in place until there's a Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney, I think that would be good.
With respect to other investigations, I can't -- I can't speculate about what will happen. What I do know is, the people in the office are professionals. They're career folks. And Audrey Strauss is well- respected.
And if there is an investigation that leads to a prosecution, it'll be done on the facts and the law, without fear or favor, as the oath says. And so I'm not worried about that at all.
TAPPER: All right, Preet Bharara, thank you so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.
TAPPER: A White House aide called this nickname for the coronavirus -- quote -- "highly offensive." So, why did the president use the term last night?
White House adviser Peter Navarro will join me next.
And six Trump advance staffers now quarantined with the coronavirus in Oklahoma. After the rally last night, will more people get sick?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
President Trump returned to the campaign trail last night for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, but it did not quite feel like old times.
And the troubles facing the nation followed the president into the arena in many ways.
Joining me now, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.
Mr. Navarro, thanks so much for joining us.
I want to start on what the president said about coronavirus testing at his rally last night, which alarmed quite a few health experts.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people. You are going to find more cases. So, I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: Come on now, Jake.
TAPPER: Did the president -- did the president...
NAVARRO: You know that was tongue in cheek. Come on now. Come on now. That was tongue in cheek, please.
TAPPER: I don't know that it was -- I don't know that it was tongue in cheek at all.
NAVARRO: I know it was tongue in cheek. That's news for you, tongue in cheek.
TAPPER: He has said similar things for months.
TAPPER: He has said similar things for months.
TAPPER: But he has said similar things for months, that he's...
TAPPER: Go ahead.
NAVARRO: We've got over 30 million people unemployed, and we have seen over 100,000 people die because of the China Wuhan virus.
Let's talk about some serious issues, Jake. I don't -- I don't want to go there. I think there are some really important things. I will break a little news for you, if you want. Can I...
TAPPER: I think testing is a very serious issue. I'm not the one making jokes about it. You're the one that said the president was being...
NAVARRO: Come on. It was a light moment, OK?
TAPPER: ... the president was being tongue in cheek.
NAVARRO: All right, we're 60 seconds into a tongue in cheek thing, asked and answered.
I think -- I think what -- what -- what's important going on in this world today are things like John Bolton leaking, publishing a book. Here's the breaking news for you.
That -- I read the judge's decision on that. And... TAPPER: We will get to Bolton in a second.
NAVARRO: Sure. But I want to say this.
Highly classified information in that book...
NAVARRO: And that guy should be turning in his seersucker suit for an orange jumpsuit.
TAPPER: I want to get -- I'm going to get to Bolton in a second.
TAPPER: I want to get to Bolton in a second.
But I still want to talk about the pandemic for a second. Fine, you think it's tongue in cheek.
NAVARRO: Sure. That was a light moment for him.
TAPPER: I'm saying, 120,000, almost, Americans are dead.
NAVARRO: That was a light moment him in a rally.
TAPPER: Well, I'm not...
TAPPER: I'm not sure that -- I'm not sure that a deadly pandemic, where almost 120,000 Americans -- are really a good subject for a light moment.
NAVARRO: He takes that absolutely seriously. But, anyway, ask your question about the pandemic.
TAPPER: The CDC says...
TAPPER: The CDC says that this type of gathering -- quote -- "large in-person gatherings where it's difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area" -- that's the CDC talking -- poses the -- quote -- "highest risk."
They also -- the CDC urges (AUDIO GAP) to wear masks. But that wasn't happening last night. And I guess the second question I have is, you and the administration
are constantly telling the American people, us, to adhere to CDC guidelines. I respect that. I think that that's good advice. But then the president has an event like this that flies in the face of them.
Isn't that a bad example?
NAVARRO: Jake, you know this is not my lane.
And I'm the trade adviser. I'm the jobs czar helping the greatest jobs president in history. Ask me example, what's going to happen on Thursday.
We're going to Marinette, Wisconsin, to celebrate an award for 10 ships that will employ thousands of people in the state of Wisconsin in good high-paying jobs, at the same time will create new state-of- the-art frigates to defend this nation, economic security, job security.
TAPPER: So, you say it's not your lane, sir.
NAVARRO: It's not my lane. It's not my lane. I can wax eloquent on all sorts of question.
TAPPER: But you wrote a memo.
NAVARRO: No -- sure. Go ahead.
TAPPER: Well, you wrote a memo on February 23 warning the administration -- and I give you credit for this -- warning the administration to take this more seriously.
You're one of the few administration officials in the White House who took this pandemic threat as seriously as it should have been. You warned, as many as two million people could die if serious steps were not taken.
The president on that same day said -- quote -- "We have it very much under control in this country." Just this week, President Trump said, it's fading away.
It's not fading away. Well, so that's why I'm asking you about it.
TAPPER: You have actually been a voice of reason on this inside the White House.
And I can tell you, for example, two weeks ago, I went with the president to Guilford, Maine, where we stood up a factory there, which is providing the swabs we need for testing, which we are ramping up dramatically. And I can assure you, as I work across the street in my office, we are
filling the stockpile in anticipation of a possible problem in the fall. We are doing everything we can beneath the surface, working as hard as we possibly can.
And so that's my role in this. And to the extent that it does create jobs, that's a good thing. But this is a serious issue. But, look, last night was a campaign rally.
TAPPER: So, you're preparing for a second wave in the fall?
NAVARRO: Of course we're...
TAPPER: You're preparing for a second wave in the fall?
NAVARRO: You prepare -- you prepare for what can possibly happen. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but of course you prepare.
And I'll tell you what. We're a lot more prepared under this president than we were when China foisted this on us to begin with. And let's not forget that, Jake. China created this pandemic. They hid the virus. They created that virus. And they sent over hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens here to spread that around and around the world.
Whether they did that on purpose, that's an open question. But that's a fact.
And so I -- my role here, Jake, my role here at the White House is to help this president create jobs. And we are facing probably the worst economic crisis we have faced in our history.
And this president, in 3.5 years, did a beautiful job.
TAPPER: Right. So let's talk about that. Let's talk about the economy. Let's talk about the economy.
NAVARRO: Yes, let's go. Go for it.
TAPPER: Let's talk about the economy, because, wouldn't the smarter way to reopen the economy, to -- in accordance with the health officials and those saying we need mass surveillance testing, mass contract tracing, so that the virus can be isolated, so none of these states are going to have to retract and go back to stay-at-home orders?
For example, just in Orange County, Florida, two weeks ago, the rate of positivity, the number of people getting tested that tested positive for coronavirus was just 2 percent. Now it is closer to 15 percent, meaning it's not just increased testing that is showing more positive cases. People are actually getting -- there is increased community spread.
Would not there be better chance for an economic prosperity that you want to go back to before the pandemic if there were this nationwide, truly aggressive, millions of tests a day, response from the federal government?
NAVARRO: Jake, you're missing a great opportunity here. You're talking to the trade adviser, the manufacturing adviser. I can talk about a lot of things.
The only thing I can tell you about the issue of locking the economy up vs. not is that many, many more people would have died if we hadn't opened the economy. And that's the struggle we're facing.
We -- the Chinese Communist Party did tremendous damage to this society and this economy. I mean, last night -- last night, they tore down statues of Ulysses S. Grant and Francis Scott Key.
And it's like, what is going on in this country? And it's all tied up in, I think, a lot of pent-up frustration about what's going on in this world.
NAVARRO: And so my job, my job, Jake, is to help create jobs for this president.
And we got a long road ahead of us.
NAVARRO: We have made a great comeback in the last month.
But I'm telling you, there's sectors -- there's sectors -- hang on.
TAPPER: Can I just ask you, did you say that China....
NAVARRO: Go ahead.
TAPPER: I just want to ask about something you said. Did you say China created this virus? Did I hear you wrong?
NAVARRO: You did not hear me wrong.
That -- that virus was a product of the Chinese Communist Party. And until we get some information about what happened in those labs, or what happened in that wet market, we know that that virus was spawned in China. That is what I mean, spawned in China.
TAPPER: But you think it was purposely -- purposefully, purposefully created?
NAVARRO: In fact -- yes, that's an open question.
But I will tell you this. In 2006, in a book I wrote called "The Coming China Wars," on page...
TAPPER: Do you have evidence of that?
NAVARRO: On page 150, I predicted that China would create a viral pandemic that could possibly kill millions.
Why did I do that at the time? Because the whole structure of that authoritarian, repressive, non-transparent society is geared towards giving us exactly what they given us, which is a pandemic.
I would -- I would love to know...
NAVARRO: I would love to know -- hang on, Jake. You should be asking this question. You should be asking this question every day to the Chinese Communist Party.
What did you know? When did you know it?
TAPPER: Well, if President Xi gave me an interview, I would -- if President Xi gave me an interview, I would love to.
NAVARRO: Yes, well, but that doesn't prevent you from asking the question every day.
TAPPER: I'm not going to defend the Chinese...
NAVARRO: Go ahead.
TAPPER: I have been asking about the Chinese. And we did a whole special on the pandemic.
TAPPER: And there -- we have been very critical of the Chinese government for how it handled it.
Now, we have never said that they created this purposefully.
NAVARRO: Guilty until proven innocent, in my judgment.
Well, that's an open question. I did not say that. Roll the tape back. What I said was that virus came out of China. The Chinese Communist Party is responsible for it.
And, as far as I'm concerned, it...
TAPPER: Well, you said they created it, right?
NAVARRO: Well, spawned. Let us say spawned.
And it's an open question as to how that -- how that happened, OK? But in terms of the code of justice, I'm a Napoleonic code of justice for the Chinese Communist Party. They are guilty until proven innocent, because of what we know, Jake. They spawned the virus in China. They did it for two months, and they killed over 100,000 Americans.
And the beat goes on and on. And the question is, I mean, why aren't they responsible for the trillions of dollars of damage that they have inflicted on this?
But -- but, look, it's Sunday morning. I think what...
NAVARRO: I hope we can talk about the Bolton book.
TAPPER: I'm not going to defend the Chinese government.
I would like to see -- let's talk about it. I'm not defending the Chinese government. I'd love to see evidence for the allegation you seem to be suggesting is possible, that they created this on purpose.
NAVARRO: Well, keep asking for it. Maybe they will give it to us.
I said spawned the virus.
TAPPER: I'm sure the Chinese will hand it right over to me.
NAVARRO: Yes. Well, that is the problem.
TAPPER: Let's turn to the Bolton book.
NAVARRO: In fact, they wouldn't even let you in the country.
TAPPER: Let's turn it to the Bolton book.
NAVARRO: Sure. Yes.
TAPPER: Well, exactly.
Let's turn to the Bolton book. Bolton says that he was told to remove direct quotes from the book in some instances. "Vanity Fair" reports that Bolton had originally written that the president told Chinese President Xi at a meeting in Osaka -- quote -- "Make sure I win. I will probably win anyway, so don't hurt my farms. Buy a lot of soybeans and wheat. And make sure we win."
What's your response to that?
NAVARRO: A couple of things.
First of all, John Bolton has put highly classified information sprinkled throughout a very large book. And he -- I predict this. He will not only not get the profits from that book, but he risks a jail sentence. He has -- he has done something that is very, very serious in terms of
American national security, and he's got to pay a price for that. But in terms...
TAPPER: But did President Trump ask President Xi to help him win election?
NAVARRO: The room -- I hate the title of that book, but I was in those rooms too.
And whatever Bolton is saying about China is just -- just silly, because this president has been the toughest president on China of any American president ever.
And don't forget, Jake, there's still over $350 billion worth of tariffs.
TAPPER: But, yes or no, but, yes or no, did he -- did he ask President -- but, yes or no, did he ask President Xi to help him win reelection?
NAVARRO: No, no, there's no yes or -- oh, come on, Jake. Come on. Come on. That's -- that's a John Bolton fantasy.
TAPPER: What do you mean, come on? He did it with Russia and Ukraine.
NAVARRO: I never heard that. I was in the room. Lighthizer never heard it. He was in the room.
Here's the thing about Bolton. Here's what's so interesting about him.
I think what we need to do is take a serious read of the book. Everything that John Bolton was pushing here, right over there in the White House, would have made this country less peaceful and less prosperous. He wanted to bomb North Korea. He wanted to bomb Iran. He wanted to keep troops in Afghanistan.
NAVARRO: I mean, towards the end -- you have to understand this, Jake.
For months towards the end of his tenure, before he got fired, the president would openly joke about, hey, John wants to bomb everything, OK?
This is a guy who's like a 1950s throwback to "Dr. Strangelove," OK?
TAPPER: I get that you -- OK.
NAVARRO: He just -- and then, by the way, he talks about patterns of behavior in the book?
TAPPER: Yes. NAVARRO: Guess what? When he was with Bush, right, what did he do? He
quit and then he dumped -- he wrote a book, wrote a tell-all, kiss- all, dumped all over George W. And now he's doing it the same.
TAPPER: We got to go, unfortunately.
Well, I hope Bolton goes too.
TAPPER: Peter Navarro, thank you so much for your time today.
NAVARRO: Take care, Jake.
TAPPER: We -- we really appreciate it.
NAVARRO: Yes, sir.
TAPPER: Coming up -- oh, sorry. We're going to stick with the show right now.
The president's rally in Tulsa coming as Americans there and across the country celebrate Juneteenth, a moment with particular significance this year, amid protests over race and policing and racism.
Joining me now, an official dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and outrage over the killing of Rayshard Brooks by police, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Mayor Bottoms, thanks so much for joining us today.
The president held his first rally since the pandemic began last night.
What was your response to his remarks?
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), MAYOR OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA: You know, Jake, like so many people across this country, my first response was that I hope that this is a preview for November, that, finally, people are recognizing that this man is a danger to our country, a danger to our democracy, and he should not be the president of the United States of America.
That rally was an embarrassment. It was absolutely what the nation does not need right now. He did not speak about healing. He did not recognize any of the racial tensions that are happening across our country.
Instead, he does what he always does. He continues to try and divide us and really inflames the worst in people. And so I just hope that this is a good sign that the country is moving on from him.
TAPPER: He did talk about how, before the pandemic, black unemployment had gone down the most in history. And he did -- there was some mention of black Americans in the United States, in his defense.
That didn't ring true to you?
BOTTOMS: Jake, there are 20 million Americans who are out of work right now. So, whatever happened before the pandemic is probably not resonating with the people who are trying to figure out how they will pay their rent and put food on their table.
Again, this man has just a complete and blatant disregard for the past, present, and for the future.
The fact that he was even in Oklahoma during the Juneteenth celebration, the site of the worst racial massacre in this country's history, I mean, it speaks to who he is, no recognition and concern that -- where we are with COVID-19 and no concern about what it would mean for people who are gathering in these large numbers.
He absolutely -- he doesn't get it. And he is giving us the best that he has. And so when you know that over 120,000 people have lost their lives to COVID, and you dare speak that you have said, slow down the testing, it's insane to me that...
TAPPER: Yes. Well, you...
BOTTOMS: Go ahead.
TAPPER: You heard -- well, obviously, you heard Peter Navarro say, the president was speaking tongue in cheek about that.
BOTTOMS: This is no time to joke.
Even if it were a joke, which it was not, it was an inappropriate joke. Do you think the people, the 120,000 families out there who are missing their loved ones thought it was funny?
TAPPER: Let's turn to the death of Rayshard Brooks.
The officer, former officer, accused of killing Brooks has been charged with felony murder. And the second officer at the scene faces an aggravated assault charge.
The Atlanta interim police chief, Rodney Bryant, announced yesterday that nine police officers have resigned this month already, and many other officers have been calling in sick with the so-called blue flu in protest of what's going on.
What's your message to the police men and women of Atlanta?
BOTTOMS: My message to our officers is that this is not about division from our public safety personnel. We value our officers in Atlanta.
But this continues to be about where we are in this country and making sure that we don't have people who are part of our force who are not respectful of our communities. The loss of Rayshard Brooks and his killing was a tragedy, not just in
this city, but for the country as a whole. And I think that, to the extent that there is an attempt to divide us from public safety in this country, I think it's very dangerous.
But I also recognize that our communities are hurting and our officers are hurting.
And so, in the same way our demonstrators need an opportunity to vent and to express their frustration and their concern, understand that our officers need the opportunity to do that as well, but, as mayor and as a city, I think we owe it to our communities and to our officers to make sure that they have the training that they need, that they are appropriately trained in de-escalation techniques, and so that they are equipped to work alongside our communities in the way that we need and expect them to.
TAPPER: Mayor, I want to turn to politics for a sec.
Vice President Joe Biden has said that his first criteria for picking a running mate is that the person be ready on day one to be president of the United States. You are a contender to become Joe Biden's vice presidential nominee.
Are you ready on day one to be ready?
But I also think that Joe Biden has the right to pick whomever he wants to work alongside him and to serve as his vice president. And I think that he knows better than anyone else in this country what that role should be and who that person should be.
But there's been no handbook for so many mayors and so many governors across this country dealing with COVID-19 and now with the demonstrations that we are seeing about -- around the country. I think that there has been a response to crisis, that not many people have been tested in this way, in the same way that leaders across this country have been over the past several months.
TAPPER: All right, Mayor Bottoms, thank you so much for your time.
And good luck with everything going on in Atlanta these days. We appreciate it.
BOTTOMS: Thank you.
TAPPER: Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has criticism for the last three U.S. presidents in his book.
What does he make of these new allegations against President Trump from National Security Adviser Bolton?
I will ask him next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
President Trump is campaigning for reelection, as his former national security adviser is calling him -- quote -- "unfit for office."
Joining me now is someone who has worked for eight different presidents, President Trump not among them, former Defense Secretary under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Robert Gates.
Secretary Gates is also the author of a brand-new book, "Exercise of Power," available at bookstores and Amazon right now.
Secretary Gates, thanks for joining us.
I'm really interested in getting your reaction to what Bolton is saying about President Trump, specifically his asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection, and also offering to help Turkish President Erdogan avoid a Justice Department probe of a Turkish-owned bank.
Do you believe Bolton? The White House is denying it. And what was your reaction when you heard of these allegations?
ROBERT GATES, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don't know whether what he's written is true or not. I have read that he takes copious notes.
And -- but I would say that, if those allegations are true, that's pretty disappointing and a real mistake, frankly, in my view.
I think that -- you know, I -- the presidents I worked for obviously were always interested in reelection. But, as I wrote some years ago, in my experience with presidents, Bush 43, the second President Bush, and President Obama, I never once saw them make a decision in the Situation Room based on domestic politics.
I know that they had domestic politics in mind and it was a factor in their decisions, but I never saw a blatant decision along those lines.
TAPPER: That's interesting. Bolton says he can't think of any decision that was ever made without Trump's reelection in mind.
I'm really interested in your reaction to what Bolton says that President Trump said to President Xi about these concentration camps in China for Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in China.
Bolton writes -- quote -- "With only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do."
You have called the United States -- quote -- "the defender of human rights in the world." Do you still believe that's true?
GATES: Well, I certainly think we need to be.
And I make the point in the book that I don't -- I think that we need not -- we shouldn't be the world's policemen. We shouldn't interfere militarily in other countries in order to bring about democracy or to move the process along.
On the other hand, we always have to be an advocate for human rights, for political freedom. And so I think any effort to agree to or sympathize with building, in effect, concentration camps would be pretty shameful.
TAPPER: Your new book, which I have right here, "Exercise of Power," is -- you're quite critical of President Obama, even more so of President Trump.
You write of Trump -- quote -- "The appeal of our ideology was further reduced by President Trump's approach to foreign policy in which U.S. advocacy for human and political rights was silenced and subordinated to doing deals with other governments intended to singularly advantage the United States and its economy."
Obviously, the allegations made in the Bolton book back up that impression.
What do you think another four years of Donald Trump's foreign policy would mean for the role of the U.S. in the world?
GATES: The basic theme of the book is the importance of continued U.S. international leadership, not necessarily, as I said, being the world policemen.
But just like with the coronavirus, if the United States doesn't lead people working together, different countries working together, no other country is in a position to take that position, to provide that kind of leadership.
And so I worry particularly about the president's attitudes towards allies and friends. No one's pressed our allies more to increase defense spending than I have. And we need to keep the pressure on them. But, at the same time, having allies is critical to our leadership position.
And, frankly, it's a unique advantage we have over both Russia and China. They have -- they don't have any allies. And I worry that, at the rate we're going, neither will we.
So, I'm worried that there's a lack of understanding of the importance of, A, our international leadership role, and, B, the importance of allies and friends in cementing and sustaining that role.
TAPPER: Peter Navarro just -- the president's trade adviser, just accused China of spawning the coronavirus and said it's an open question as to whether or not it was created purposefully.
The president has also threatened to withdraw all funding from the World Health Organization. What do you think of the kind of leadership that you're calling for?
In the book, you talk about how it should not just be military. There's all sorts of different kinds of ways for the United States to exert leadership. What do you think about the role of the United States when it comes to fighting the coronavirus pandemic?
GATES: Well, the only answer to dealing with problems and organizations like the World Health Organization and other international organizations is to reform and restructure them, not to walk away from them.
When we walk away from these institutions, we give the Chinese open field running. They can move their people in.
And the question is, how do you shape the international environment to support your own national interest? And it's through these institutions that we're able to shape the international environment.
And so the answer is not to pick up your football and go home because you don't like the way the game has been played, but to get back in there and figure out how to fix what's wrong.
TAPPER: The book is "Exercise of Power." The author is former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
GATES: Thank you.
TAPPER: President Trump had already ignored the pleas of health officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who had asked him to reschedule last night's rally, held in a town where coronavirus cases are only increasing and done, frankly, the least safe way possible, indoors with no social distancing and no masks required.
And then the president took to the stage, and he said this.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.
TAPPER: Slow the testing down. Now you can choose to believe White House Advisor Peter Navarro who just told me that that was tongue-in- cheek but, first of all, nearly 21,000 Americans are dead from coronavirus. This is not a particularly amusing subject. And second, frankly, the president has said things like this before,
since the beginning of the (inaudible). You might recall when he mused that he did not want infected Americans trapped on a cruise ship to come into the United States to disembark because then the numbers of those infected in the U.S. would increase and that would look bad.
Once again the president is revealing that he seems to see this primarily as a public relations crisis, not as a deadly pandemic. The president's own health officials want there to be even more testing, the flooding the zone, because right now in states such as Florida and Arizona there are increases in community spread. Ones that are not just due to the spikes in contained environments such as nursing homes or prisons.
In 23 states, cases are going up. There is spread going on in the U.S., that the U.S. government does not have control of. And health officials are not sure as to why that is. And instead of leading an aggressive nationwide effort to test millions of Americans every day and undergo contact tracing and isolation of the virus to stop the spread, and truly allow the economy to restart, President Trump seems to be just hoping it goes away, while he mocks those who adhere to CDC guidelines and wears masks.
The United States needs leadership to address this continuing pandemic. The United States does not need glib indifference and a myopic focus on bad headlines instead of how to prevent more sick and more dead Americans.
Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, especially my dad and my father-in-law. Thanks for everything.