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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory; Trump Refuses to Release Tax Returns; Clinton Hits Trump on Tax Return Refusal; Clinton's Political War on Two Fronts. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired May 11, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What does Donald Trump not want us to see?
THE LEAD starts right now.
Every presidential nominee has done it since Richard Nixon, so why is Donald Trump now going back on his own word to let the voters see what's in his tax returns, the tax returns of the super rich candidate?
He is the man who signed what is perhaps the most controversial law in this country right now, North Carolina's so-called bathroom bill, a measure that critics say is discrimination against transgender individuals, plain and simple. Today, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is here to tell why he thinks it's necessary.
Plus, more mystery surrounding Prince's death. What was doctor doing at his estate the day Prince died?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
QUESTION: Would you release tax returns?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would release tax returns. The answer is, yes, I would do it. I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary. I have no objection to certainly showing tax returns.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: Hmm, interesting. That was 2015.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Our politics lead. Mitt Romney predicted there would be a bombshell in Donald Trump's taxes, something so damaging, it might destroy Trump's taxes at winning the White House. You have just heard Trump say four times way back in February 2015 that if he faced these kinds of requests and challenges on his taxes, he would release his tax returns.
Well, now we likely will not get the chance to ow if there are any bombshells before Americans vote in November. Trump told the Associated Press in an interview that -- quote -- "There's nothing to learn" from his stack of 1040s and W-2s and he will not follow the example of every single Democratic and Republican presidential nominee since 1976.
Sara Murray is in New York.
Sara, what's the Trump campaign's thinking on this issue? Why not just release his returns?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, their latest explanation is that Donald Trump is in the process of being audited and they don't want to release the returns at that point.
But what's not clear is why he hasn't released perhaps returns from earlier years. What is clear is that Donald Trump is once again trying to rewrite the political playbook.
MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump's bucking tradition once again, refusing to release his tax returns before Election Day. Trump tells the Associated Press: "There's nothing to learn from them."
But Trump would be the first nominee since 1976 to keep all his tax info under wraps. The returns shed light on a candidate's effective tax rate, charitable giving and investment income, all issues that have tripped up politicians in the past.
Earlier this year, Trump suggested it was only a matter of months before he'd release his returns.
TRUMP: But I have one of the world's most complicated tax returns. It's a massive return. And -- but I will get it done as soon as I can.
MURRAY: Now the billionaire businessman isn't budging. His latest reason, claiming he can't release them because they're under audit.
TRUMP: I will absolutely give my return, but I'm being audited now for two or three years, so I can't do it until the audit is finished, obviously.
While I'm under audit, I'm not going to release my tax returns. No lawyer would let you do that.
MURRAY: It's an excuse some tax experts balked at, saying releasing the returns wasn't likely to cause additional problems.
But other experts said it may make sense as a legal strategy to keep his taxes under wraps. As for the IRS, it says individuals are free to release their own tax information. In fact, Richard Nixon did just that, releasing his returns while he was under audit in the 1970s.
Today, Hillary Clinton seizing on Trump's reluctance to release his returns. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you run for
president, especially when you become the nominee, that is kind of expected. My husband and I have released 33 years of tax returns. We have got eight years on our Web site right now. So you have got to ask yourself, why doesn't he want to release them? Yes, well, we're going to find out.
MURRAY: Trump's resistance is a sharp about-face after he criticized 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney for failing to release his tax returns sooner.
TRUMP: I think that Mitt was hurt really very badly by this whole thing with the income tax returns. I believe that he should have either said I'm giving them April 1 or I'm giving them soon.
MURRAY: This year, the tables have turned, and it's Romney questioning what Trump is hiding.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I predict that there are more bombshells in his tax returns.
MURRAY: While Trump may never win over Romney, he's still looking to patch things up with Paul Ryan tomorrow on Capitol Hill. Even though the House speaker said he's not quite ready to endorse Trump, he insists he's still pushing for party unity.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What we're trying to do is be as constructive as possible, but have a real unification. We just finished probably one of the most grueling primaries in modern history. It's going to take some work, and that's the kind of work we're dedicated to doing.
MURRAY: Now, Donald Trump has taken an unorthodox approach to pretty much everything in this campaign. And here is another example. He also told the Associated Press that he thought President Obama's data operation during his campaign was overrated. And Trump believes his recipe for success in November will rely more on his own personality and less on analytics -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much.
Donald Trump's refusal to reject the support of white supremacist organizations in an interview he did with me earlier this year made many Republican officials at the time nervous. But to those who belong to white supremacist or white nationalist groups, it was music to their ears.
Take, for example, William Johnson. He's a Los Angeles-based corporate attorney selected by the Trump campaign to be one of its delegates in California. He's also chairman of the white nationalist American Freedom Party. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the group -- quote -- "a political party initially established by racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule" -- unquote -- although Johnson is seemingly trying to make the group seem more mainstream.
It is Johnson's voice you heard on those pro-Trump robo-calls that offended many Americans which we reported on back in February when Trump was running against senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
WILLIAM JOHNSON, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN FREEDOM PARTY: The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called racists. Donald Trump is not a racist, but Donald Trump is not afraid. Don't vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, Hope Hicks, told "The Washington Post" that a database error led to Johnson's inclusion as a potential delegate after he had already been rejected by the campaign.
Joining me now is William Johnson. Mr. Johnson, thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it.
JOHNSON: Oh, you're welcome. I'm happy to be here.
TAPPER: I'm not here to debate your ideology, with which, for the record, I could not disagree more strongly.
I am interested, however, in what happened in the last day. My understanding is once some reporters noticed that you were a delegate and asked the Trump campaign about you, the Trump campaign tried to get you removed as a delegate, but it was too late. Is that correct?
JOHNSON: Well, I think that I was approved as a delegate. I submitted my application and I was approved. And then immediately when the list came out, they saw that they had a clerical error and so then they sent me an e-mail saying that you are removed from the list, so I wrote back an e-mail telling them, I understand. I resign.
And then later in the day, I got contacted by a media person who says, well, you're still on the list. And so then I sent them a second e- mail saying that, I resign, I will not attend the convention, I will not be a delegate.
TAPPER: So the Trump campaign found it objectionable that you were on the list before reporters did; is that correct?
JOHNSON: No, I think what happens is that I slipped through the cracks, and they approved me. And then once the list came out, the media had intense interest in my listing, and so that caused them to review the situation, and that's how it transpired.
TAPPER: So you believe the campaign when they say that a database error led to you being chosen as a delegate? JOHNSON: Yes, I believe that I submitted the application, and they
did not intentionally have me on as a delegate. And so then when they found out about it, they corrected it and I concurred.
TAPPER: Do you think that Ms. Lagomarsino, Trump's California delegate coordinator, knew your views and your history when she first reached out to you and congratulated you on being a delegate?
JOHNSON: I believe that she did not know my views at all.
TAPPER: You told "Mother Jones," which broke the story, the following -- quote -- "For many, many years, when I would say these things, other white people would call me names. Oh, you're a hate-monger, you're a Nazi, you're like Hitler. Now they say -- now they come in and say, oh, you're like Donald Trump."
What do you mean by that?
JOHNSON: Well, right now in today's society, they're passing around the word racist more and more and everybody is being called a racist nowadays.
And so that term and all of these invectives are having less meaning. What I mean by that is that we're now able to more openly discuss issues regarding race because everybody is being called such invectives nowadays that it doesn't mean much anymore.
TAPPER: Do you believe that the white race or the European white race is the superior race? Is that your view?
JOHNSON: I believe that Western civilization is declining and dying out in every country around the world that has traditionally been white.
Europe is being replaced by immigrants from Africa. America is -- the same thing is happening here. And so I believe that we need to be aware of this precipitous decline in the white race. And I think it's good for people to be proud of your heritage, whatever heritage that might be, but particularly for white people, because the whites now are so afraid to be proud of their heritage, because they're called bad names if they are.
TAPPER: What is it about Mr. Trump that you like?
JOHNSON: Mr. Trump is the real deal.
He does not govern, he will not govern by public opinion poll. He says what's on his mind. This is kind of like what Ron Paul did. This is what Bernie Sanders is doing. And that's a refreshing change from the politicians that we have had for many decades. That is probably the best thing about him and what endears him to most people in general. TAPPER: Do you think that he shares your views in terms of the
decline of the United States because of other races coming to the United States?
JOHNSON: Well, no, I have not said that America has declined for that reason.
TAPPER: You suggested it.
JOHNSON: I'm saying that we are being dispossessed, but I have not attributed it to the other races.
And you're saying things that I have not said. But I do believe that when you replace one people with another, that is not a good thing, whether it takes place in Mongolia or in Sweden.
I think that Donald Trump has to be a president for all peoples. That's what all the presidents must do. It is up to me as an advocate for the white group to push our agenda more than any other agenda. That's my responsibility. His responsibility is to lead the entire country.
TAPPER: Mr. Johnson, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
JOHNSON: You're welcome.
TAPPER: So, how do other Trump supporters and the Republican Party respond to a Trump supporter who is a white nationalist? We will discuss next.
[16:15:51] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Let's stay with our politics lead and bring in our political panel to digest the latest in today's news -- Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, Republican strategist Ana Navarro, and Donald Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany.
Kayleigh, let me start with you and give you an opportunity to respond to William Johnson, this white nationalist, who said Mr. Trump is the real deal.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Sure. First, I want to say there's no place for white supremacist views in our society. There just simply isn't. But, you know, I believe and I know Mr. Trump believes like Martin Luther King that people should not be judged for the color of their skin, but the content of their character.
I think that this idea that Trump somehow okayed this or was in Trump Tower trying to seek out white nationalists to make as his delegates is a crazy thought. He's employed people of all skin colors, of all sexes. There are many people online in fact. You can find African- Americans who have worked for him, who come out and praise him and praise the way that they have been treated equally. So I don't think this has any reflection on Donald Trump. I think it was simply a mistake, someone who fell through the cracks.
TAPPER: Ana, your thoughts.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think the Trump campaign from what it looks like went out to try to seek this guy as a delegate. I guess I can say, you know, I guess white supremacists have votes too.
I do think that one of the things that has happened as a result of some of the rhetoric, some of the very heated, divisive rhetoric that Donald Trump has used during this campaign is that it's given rise and it's made it OK to say some of these things out loud and in public.
Some of these folks wouldn't be saying these things out loud and in public before it became, quote/unquote, "politically correct" because they felt that Donald Trump, you know, was not -- was actually kind of espousing some of this.
I think he can do more to try to tamp this down. I think he can do more to say to folks who are white supremacists who support him, don't -- you know, don't do that. Let's be a United States. Let's look at the positive things. Let's look at the things that bring us together. Let's look at our commonalities and not divide.
At some point, I hope that I can hear that kind of unity talk coming out of Donald Trump's mouth. We have yet to hear it.
TAPPER: Lots to discuss today. Steve, I want to turn to something Hillary Clinton said today about Mr. Trump's tax returns. Let's play that sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My husband and I have released 33 years of tax returns. We've got eight years on our website right now. So, you've got to ask yourself, why doesn't he want to release them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Can she credibly make that argument when she has yet to release the transcripts of those Goldman Sachs speeches, as so many Democrats who support Bernie Sanders have called for her to do?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think she can. I mean, they are two separate issues. And I think Bernie Sanders people will continue to call for those speech transcripts being released.
But this is a serious matter and she's absolutely right that every major nominee for president for as long as I can remember has released their tax returns. She's got 33 years out there, she and her husband. And, Donald Trump, you know, a lot of people wonder if he paid taxes, if he paid his fair share. It's not just Hillary Clinton, by the way. Mitt Romney and
Republicans are concerned about this as well. You know, I'm a lawyer and I can tell you that this notion that it's somehow illegal or lawyers wouldn't allow him to release them is utter hog wash. He can release his own tax returns any time he wants and he should.
TAPPER: And even if he's under audit, he could release --
MCMAHON: Absolutely, absolutely.
NAVARRO: You know, between the e-mail stuff and --
TAPPER: Well, I want to ask you about that.
NAVARRO: -- and the transcripts, I think that Hillary Clinton may not be the best vehicle to make the transparency argument.
MCMAHON: Mitt Romney is making the argument as well. There are other Republicans, many Republicans --
TAPPER: Let me ask you this, Ana, because today, the FBI Director James Comey, he disputed the way the Clinton campaign is referring to the FBI inquiry. The campaign calls it a security inquiry. Mr. Comey says he's not familiar with that term. He called it an investigation. It is after all, he noted, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Do you think that she needs to be more transparent about this story?
NAVARRO: Absolutely. I think, you know, she needs to put it to rest.
It's going to come back. I mean, if there was something that we have seen this week, it's that Donald Trump is going to hit her and hit her hard. He's not going to be wearing silk gloves on her because she's a woman, because she's a Clinton. And the e-mail issue is a very legitimate issue.
[16:20:01] Frankly, I hope that he concentrates on those kind of issues, not Bill Clinton's philandering. And I think that at some point, they're going to have to stop the political spin. And if the FBI director wants to put the legal term out there, the FBI term out there, he should do more for it.
We cannot have this get lost in the next six months. We need to get this resolved and out there before there is an election.
TAPPER: Kayleigh, quickly, if you can, Mr. Trump has said that he will not follow the Obama model of building a strong data-driven campaign. He's just going to keep doing the speeches that got him to the World Series, he says.
Is that a mistake do you think?
MCENANY: I think he does need to focus on data. The speeches are huge, they're important, the excitement behind Donald Trump is undeniable and that will carry him a long way.
But to me, to get the millennial vote, that means going on Facebook, that means micro-targeting. That means finding young people who are disenchanted with Hillary Clinton and who are previously Bernie Supporters. So I think the data operation is going to be very important.
TAPPER: All right. Kayleigh, Ana, Steve, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
He cannot mathematically catch up to her, but Bernie Sanders is forcing Hillary Clinton to do something on the campaign trail. That she may not be ready to do. And that story is next.
Plus, the investigation into Prince's death raises another question. What was a doctor doing at Prince's estate the day he died?
[16:25:46] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Just in to CNN, former presidential nominee Mitt Romney says Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns is, quote, "disqualifying". In a Facebook post, Romney, a long-time Trump critic, says, quote, "It is disqualifying for a modern day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters, especially one who has not been subject to public scrutiny in either military or public service." Romney goes on to say, quote, "There is only one logical reason for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns, there is a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump's equanimity his other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size," unquote.
Donald Trump has already christened his likely Democratic opponent "crooked Hillary" and given the staying power of Senator Bernie Sanders who demolished Clinton in the West Virginia primary, Mr. Trump decided to mark that occasion by bestowing one of his trademark nasty nicknames upon Sanders as well, "Crazy Bernie", he called him. Sanders reiterated last night that he is in the race to win the nomination.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Blackwood, New Jersey, where Hillary Clinton spoke today.
Jeff, with Sanders still in the race, some Democratic officials are concerned that Clinton is being pulled to the left instead of focusing on the general election.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there's little doubt that throughout the course of the last year, Hillary Clinton has moved left on trade, on immigration, on health care, just among a few things here. But she's following Bernie Sanders, no question, but also where her party is. It is in such a different place and when she first run eight years ago.
But it's an open question how that will play in the general election. In a general election with Trump, who's on the left of Hillary Clinton, anything could be fair game.
CLINTON: Thank you, New Jersey!
ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is moonlighting, still campaigning for the Democratic primary.
CLINTON: I believe if we do what we need to do in the next few weeks, we will have a big victory on June 7th that will take us all the way to the White House.
ZELENY: Even as she desperately tries concentrating on the battle ahead.
CLINTON: It's pretty clear at this point that we're going to have a real difference in the general election.
ZELENY: She's focusing more and more on Donald Trump. But Bernie Sanders remains a distraction. His West Virginia victory on Tuesday promises to keep the Democratic race alive.
In New Jersey today, Clinton was all Trump all the time.
CLINTON: I have to tell you how concerned I am with what I hear Trump saying. I have said that he is a loose cannon.
ZELENY: From policy to personal attacks.
CLINTON: I am not going to respond to the insults and the attacks coming from Donald Trump in this campaign.
ZELENY: But her Democratic rival is still on stage, winning one contest after another. He's talking Trump, too.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While we may have many disagreements with Secretary Clinton, there is one area we agree. And that is we must defeat Donald Trump.
ZELENY: Sanders big 15-point win in West Virginia, earning him only seven more delegates than Clinton. The commanding victory does little to change Clinton's muscular lead in delegates.
But Clinton is steadily moving left, following sanders an what voters like about him. The latest shift comes on health care, saying this week, people over 50 should be able to buy into Medicare plans.
CLINTON: I also am in favor of what's called the public option, so that people can buy into, you know, Medicare above a certain age.
ZELENY: From trade to immigration to the minimum wage, Clinton is aligning with more liberal positions, setting up a political test for the fall election. But Clinton made clear she just wants to get there.
CLINTON: We are better than the campaign that the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party is running. You know, the choice in this campaign literally could not be clearer.
ZELENY: Of course, that campaign is the general election campaign she's talking about.