Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

White House and Senate Differ on 9/11 Bill to Sue Saudi Arabia; Jeb Bush Slamming Donald Trump; Interview with Rep. Xavier Becerra; Women Slam Trump's Comments In New Pro-Clinton Ad; CDC Director Warns Of "Unprecedented" Zika Threat. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 17, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:03]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Democratic New York Senator Chuck Schumer said it's a bill dear to his heart that may give victims -- quote -- "some small measure of justice."

But Schumer is at direct odds with President Obama. The White House is promising he will veto the legislation, saying it could have major consequences for the United States.

Michelle Kosinski live at the White House.

Michelle, I cannot remember a time when a president vowed to veto a bill and the entire U.S. Senate voted for it anyway.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. What kind of message is that? How much more clear could that be?

And it's remarkable that not a single Democrat expressed opposition to this bill today, passed unanimously by voice vote. This is despite the White House's now several strongly worded warnings about this legislation, saying that it could hurt national security, that it could be dangerous, was the word the White House used today, that it could open up the U.S. to lawsuits that are similar in, as they called it, kangaroo courts.

But, clearly, the Senate wasn't buying that, even Democrats. At least, they're placing interest of these families above any potential risk that the White House has been citing -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Michelle Kosinski at the White House, thank you so much.

My panel is back with me.

My Gloria, this is a huge defeat for the president.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

TAPPER: The bill now goes to the House, by the way, not exactly a bastion of Obama supporters. BORGER: Right. So, you have to assume it's going to wind up on his

desk. And you have to assume that the president is going to veto this.

And, you know, the White House, as Michelle was saying, you know, raises the legal arguments that this puts America at risk abroad legally. And, you know, but when you have Chuck Schumer and Senator Cornyn of Texas uniting on a measure that allows these families to sue the Saudis, how can you how -- can you oppose that?

The American public right now, as we look at our polling, particularly on the Republican side, is very concerned about terror. You have a candidate who is very popular on the Republican side who talks about how we have been soft to our enemies, and I think this was a political vote that the White House just knew that it was going to lose.

TAPPER: I want to get back to primary day coverage.

But, Kayleigh, you are graduating from Harvard Law School within a matter of days, and you have talked to Professor Jack Goldsmith, a very respected conservative professor at Harvard. What is the argument in favor of the president's position? I'm not saying this is your position, but what is that argument?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I haven't spoke to him on this matter. I did take his course, however, and I have studied what he thinks about it, and he thinks it violates international law.

There's a concept called sovereign immunity, where states, nation- states like Saudi Arabia are immune from prosecution. And he's exactly right. He's a conservative, I want to point out, worked for George W. Bush.

And he points out the very real legal concerns that, when you set a precedent that you can sue Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia, citizens can then sue the United States on several matters. But legality is set on a collision course with morality, because it's hard to look at these victims in a unanimous vote and say you cannot get the remedies when you deserve. And when legality and morality clash, morality tends to win the day.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Isn't the real object here discovery, to find out what happened in 9/11 and to see what the role of some of the Saudis were?

And, as a reporter, I would say this might be a good piece of legislation, because we really need to know what the hell...

TAPPER: Well, we're for transparency.

BERNSTEIN: We need to know what the hell happened in this area.

TAPPER: Yes. Yes. We want to know everything. We want to have everything opened up.

Maggie, let me bring you back, because I want to talk about -- we were just talking about Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton and that really ugly, ugly convention in Nevada. And Ana Navarro said that Bernie Sanders has the high ground here, and he needs to continue to have the high ground and condemn this violence.

You and Nia-Malika said, not so fast. Tell me why.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's no question that Sanders has channeled and led a movement, and I think it's a very different movement than we saw with Bradley or with Howard Dean.

And I think that's important for Democrats to recognize and grapple with. But I think there has been a portrayal of Sanders as sort of above politics and above the fray. He's a pretty adept politician of several decades and he wields the blade very effectively. And he has gotten much better about that as time has gone on.

But the questions that he's asking about Clinton and the Goldman Sachs speeches' transcripts, for instance, those are wrapped in you need -- you are too close to the banks, but those are character attacks. That is what it is.

TAPPER: And, Nia-Malika, we have heard Donald Trump start to actually quote Bernie Sanders in his attacks on Hillary Clinton.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Yes, in his hope -- and it could be a futile hope and desire -- to get some of those Bernie Sanders supporters. I do think Bernie Sanders in terms of the ground, I think they have sometimes played the low -- taken the low road, too. For instance, he accused the Clinton campaign of sort of being in a collusion with the DNC and illegally fund-raising because of their joint fund-raising agreement, an agreement that Sanders could have taken part in, but he decided not to.

[16:35:00]

And I think his supporters sometimes do kind of traffic in conspiracy theories and this idea that somehow the DNC is rigged against them. This is the same sort of DNC and state and party apparatuses that elected Obama in 2008. I think the difference between Obama and Sanders...

(CROSSTALK)

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That allowed him to be a superdelegate from the state of Vermont.

(CROSSTALK)

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He's a senator from the state of Vermont.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: But he was not a Democrat. Hold on. I have got to get back to my neutral chair.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Ana, Ana, 20 seconds.

NAVARRO: Everything in life is relative. Compared to what we have been going through in the Republican primary for the last 10 months, I would say they have been playing patty-cake.

(CROSSTALK)

HABERMAN: But it's not -- but that doesn't -- that doesn't mean that we shouldn't say what it is either, right? Like you say -- if everything in the election is...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: ... the DNC of being in Hillary's camp, you consider that a personal and character attack?

HABERMAN: I think that...

(CROSSTALK)

HABERMAN: I think that saying she needs to release -- and it's not...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Democratic Party.

(CROSSTALK)

HABERMAN: I'm not talking about the DNC being rigged.

(CROSSTALK)

HABERMAN: The idea that there is -- the idea that saying that Sanders is running above the fray, while making pretty specific character attacks, that's what I'm referring to. And that just seems real.

TAPPER: All right, thank you so much.

Coming up next: Jeb Bush comes out swinging against this Donald Trump tweet, the Cinco de Mayo tweet, his reaction ahead.

Plus, new warnings about the Zika virus coming to the United States, continental United States.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:50]

TAPPER: Welcome back. Jeb Bush is slamming Donald Trump. He's going after the presumptive

nominee for this Cinco de Mayo tweet. It's a picture of Trump eating a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo, as I mentioned, Trump writing -- quote -- "I love Hispanics."

Jeb Bush called the move insensitive, saying -- quote -- "It's like eating a watermelon and saying I love African-Americans" -- unquote.

Joining me now, Congressman Chris Collins of New York. He was the very first House Republican to endorse Donald Trump back in February.

Congressman Collins, you heard Jeb Bush's reaction, that that is the same as eating a watermelon and saying "I love African-Americans."

Your response, sir?

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Well, I'm certainly disappointed in Governor Bush.

I was an early supporter of his, contributed to the campaign. His campaign never caught fire. It's time for him to get on the Trump train. We have got to defeat Hillary Clinton. So, I'm certainly disappointed in what he, effectively his brother and father have been saying.

They lost. It's time to move on. We're going to be seeing tonight Hillary Clinton continue to flounder. I think Bernie may well win both Oregon and Kentucky. She can't get past the 74-year-old self- avowed socialist.

Here we are on May 17. With the exception of the Bushes, we're all coming together. On the House floor, Trump train is moving. The unity is moving along. And what we don't need are the Bushes down in Florida continuing -- and Texas -- continuing to try, along with Mitt Romney.

At this point, Jake, they're irrelevant. It's just kind of sad to see the tack that they're taking. I would have thought they would have been above that.

TAPPER: Wow.

COLLINS: The party's moving on without them.

TAPPER: All right, harsh words, calling Jeb Bush irrelevant.

Donald Trump hired veteran Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio. This is a move that he has slammed in the past. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't have pollsters. I don't want to waste money on pollsters because they -- I don't want to be unreal. I want to be me. I have to be me. We have enough of that in Washington with pollsters telling everybody what to say.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: So how is it going to be different with these pollsters and Donald Trump than what he just criticized about pollsters in Washington traditionally telling politicians what to say?

COLLINS: Well, Jake, I think you're talking to me right now. I was a little confused.

But the pollsters have not had their pulse on this election. I have said from day one when I endorsed Donald 11 weeks ago. And you are going to see a Trump tsunami come November. There's no question he's going to win. It's just by how many.

The pollsters have not been able to figure out what demographic to even talk to. You know, you have to poll by saying here's the folks I'm talking to. These are new voters. These are swing voters. These are Democrat working men and women who with the trades we know are going to be with Mr. Trump.

So, the pollsters haven't even figured out right now who to call, but we know the momentum's behind Donald Trump. I know at home in Western New York, the autoworkers, the steelworkers, certainly in West Virginia, the miners, these normal Democrat supporters are with Trump. They're going to bring jobs back.

The soccer moms want to be raising a family in a safe country, a safe world. So, I'm not worried about pollsters either.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You're saying it's more about targeting voters than it is about messaging. Appreciate it, Congressman. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

COLLINS: Very good, Jake. Yes. Good to be with you.

TAPPER: A pro-Clinton super PAC is making a big ad buy in key battleground states. Here's part of their attack on Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her whenever.

Does she have a good body? No. Does she have a fat ass? Absolutely.

You like girls that are 5'1''? They come up to you know where.

If Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Let's bring in Clinton supporter Congressman Xavier Becerra of California.

Congressman Becerra, thanks for joining us. You heard that new ad from the pro-Clinton super PAC. These comments

have been used in Web ads before. They did not make a difference during the primaries. Why will these make a difference?

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, because they're true.

And while Donald Trump seems to be a very slippery guy, at some point, the truth will catch up to him, and we will see where things go. But I think it's worth the public knowing what Donald Trump stands for, what he says, what he does, because, oftentimes, they conflict.

[16:45:00] What he says and what he does often conflicts with each other. And, at some point, we're going to find out who the real Donald Trump really is for the American public to know.

TAPPER: But what I mean is a lot of the same words that Donald Trump has spoken have been used in Republican ads against Donald Trump before and didn't stop his momentum in the primaries. So why would they be effective in the general election?

BECERRA: There's a world of difference, Jake, as you know, between November elections and the primary elections where only Republicans are voting. Clearly there are a lot voters who were not paying at close attention because they weren't going to be voting in a Republican primary.

I'm not just talking about Democrats, there are a lot of independent voters, others who didn't take the time to go out and vote in a primary in their state.

So this is a very different election once we get down to the November run-off between the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee.

TAPPER: So Congressman, every time Hillary Clinton or her allies go after Donald Trump on these issues, Donald Trump has the same response and he did it this time, too, with a Twitter tirade with comments like this, quote, "Amazing that crooked Hillary can do a hit ad on me concerning women when her husband was the worst abuser of women in U.S. political history."

Every time Democrats go after Trump and women, he's going to go after former President Bill Clinton and women. How do you combat that?

BECERRA: It sounds to me like a guy who's a little irritated and may not have the type of demeanor that you need to be the next president of the United States. Listen, Donald Trump will say what Donald Trump wants to say.

I believe Secretary Clinton's going to move forward, she's proven that she's tough, tested, and understands what it means to be a leader for not just America but for the free world. And let the chips fall where they may.

I think in Secretary Clinton, Democrats have someone who is ready to become the next president. TAPPER: We've discussing this hour these reports of Sanders supporters causing chaos at the Nevada State Democratic Convention this weekend. They were very upset. They said it was a corrupt process.

They overturned chairs, rushed the stage. Are you concerned that this kind of discord within the Democratic Party could ruin your party's national convention this summer?

BECERRA: Well, I feel very good about the way that primaries have run on the Democratic side. We've been tackling the issues, not each other. And I do believe that there's a lot of animation on our side.

I give Senator Sanders credit for some of that and certainly Secretary Clinton has brought out a lot of Democratic votes. So long as we're tackling the issues we're on good standing, in a good place.

I hope we don't descend to what we saw in the Republican primaries where they were tackling each other, not the issues. But let's let the two candidates go out and debate.

Senator Sanders is going to work very hard. I feel very good about both Oregon and Kentucky both as a Democrat and as a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

And I'm looking forward to California because I believe that whether it's this week or by June 7th in California, Secretary Clinton will have a majority of the pledge delegates and certainly have substantially more votes than Bernie Sanders.

TAPPER: Congressman, one quick yes or no question, I realize that's tough for politicians. Your name has been bandied about as possible vice presidential candidate with Hillary Clinton. Has anyone from the Clinton campaign asked you to submit any tax documentation or any records at all for possible vetting?

BECERRA: I've been working with the Clinton campaign, but I have not submitted any kind of documents?

TAPPER: All right, Congressman, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

Coming up next, new details about how serious the Zika virus is becoming.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:53:13]

TAPPER: Some breaking news, the showdown over the fight against Zika is intensifying. The rapidly spreading virus that's been linked to horrific birth defects, including brain damage in newborns.

The House and Senate are putting forth separate funding proposals, but the White House just now threatened to veto at least one of those bills because it is far less than the $1.9 billion requested by President Obama.

Now, the deadly virus is active in nearly 50 countries here in the United States. It's been detected in almost every state.

Dr. Tom Frieden is the director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and he joins me now here in studio. Thanks so much for being here.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: Great to be here.

TAPPER: So President Obama threatening to veto the $622 million funding bill from, I believe, the House, because it's not $1.9 billion that he wants. Why is $622 million not enough? What won't it do?

FRIEDEN: It's nowhere near enough for us to protect Americans as well as we need to. First off, this is an unprecedented situation. We've never had an experience before where a mosquito bite could cause a terrible birth malformation.

We have to first repay the money we borrowed from emergency funding that Congress had the wisdom to apply to the Ebola epidemic. So we can make sure that doesn't come back.

Second, we have to start today the multi-year efforts to understand and confront what this disease does for women and children so we could reduce the human impact.

And, third, we have to develop new tools, better ways to diagnose it and a vaccine. We can't start that a few months here or there. We need a multiyear, robust effort to protect Americans.

TAPPER: Now I've heard you say that beyond the humanitarian cost of one of these children born with microcephaly, beyond that there is an actual cost.

[16:55:04]Each one of the children will cost more than $10 million largely paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, I assume. Given the fact that in this country unintended, almost half of pregnancies are unintended, do American women have enough tools at their disposal to prevent these pregnancies from happening to begin with?

FRIEDEN: There are a few things that we can do today and that's one of the things we need resources now from Congress for. The first is to protect pregnant women by advising women not to travel to places where Zika is spreading and in places where it's spreading like Puerto Rico to give women the choice to decide whether they want to become pregnant or not.

And if they decide not to, the tools to not become pregnant. Third, where women are living in places like Puerto Rico and there is Zika spreading, we have to protect them reducing the risk of getting infected with the Zika virus.

This is an urgent matter. Every day that passes makes it harder to stop. One of the key things about funding public health emergencies is that the sooner and more robustly you start, the less you have to do in long term.

The mosquito is not waiting for the end of the fiscal year. We need resources now to begin multiyear efforts.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Tom Frieden, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, thank you so much.

FRIEDEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Next, we are counting down Kentucky's 64 delegates up for grabs this evening. The polls are about to close. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over now to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer and one Mr. Anderson Cooper. They're right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."