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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview with Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin; Clinton Scraps Events, Tries to Avoid California Nightmare; Donald Trump Attacks Media. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired May 31, 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 HOST: Donald Trump today calling reporters dishonest, sleazy liars. And those are the ones he let into the press conference.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Some tough talk from Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner taking some tough questions about the millions he promised to veterans charities and what he promised Trump University students who just wanted to be rich like him.
She calls Donald Trump the loose cannon. So, how will Hillary Clinton react to today's testy Trumpy media showdown? We will ask the Democratic front-runner live right here on THE LEAD.
Plus, crime, corruption, raw sewage, and Zika? The Olympic torch shining a light on Rio and some now wondering whether the 2016 Games are cursed.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Donald Trump today facing accountability questions on two fronts, his promise in January to donate $6 million to veterans groups and the lawsuit regarding Trump University, his controversial real estate investment program.
Mr. Trump addressed both today at his news conference. And today we have some new reporting going behind the scenes at the now defunct Trump University.
CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has more on that story.
But we're going to begin today with CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who is outside Trump Tower.
Jim, at Mr. Trump's press conference today, he seemed angry about being asked some pretty basic questions about how much he actually raised for these veterans charities and where the money went.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. Donald Trump tried to clear up some of the questions about the money
he's raised for these veterans causes, but he did not take any joy in doing so, accusing the news media of generating controversy to damage his campaign.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It was supposed to be a day for Donald Trump to salute the nation's veterans and highlight the $5.6 million he's raised for their causes.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is my check for a million dollars.
ACOSTA: Trump ticked off the more than 40 groups he claims are receiving donations, some in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, from the Fisher House Foundation to the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
But clearly furious after months of questions about exactly where the money is going, Trump engaged in some verbal combat of his own, against a target he's attacked before.
TRUMP: You know my opinion of the media. It's very low.
ACOSTA: The news media.
TRUMP: Instead of being like, thank you very much, Mr. Trump, or Trump did a good job, everyone is saying who got it, who got it, who got it? And you make me look very bad.
ACOSTA: So, Trump took aim at the reporters asking the questions.
(on camera): To follow up on that, you keep calling us the dishonest press. It seems as though you're resistant to scrutiny, the kind of scrutiny that comes with running for president of the United States.
TRUMP: But you know what?
ACOSTA: You raise money for veterans.
TRUMP: Excuse me. I have watched you on television. You're a real beauty.
What I don't want is when I raise millions of dollars, have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC -- he's a sleaze in my book.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Trump went on to say he never wanted any credit for helping veterans' causes.
TRUMP: But I didn't want to have credit for it. Now, actually, though, what I got was worse than credit, because they were questioning me.
ACOSTA: But it was Trump who launched his fund-raising drive as a major media event, rivaling a GOP debate in Iowa he was skipping.
TRUMP: We actually raised close to six, to be totally honest. But -- and I have to say, a lot more to come.
ACOSTA: Trump's fiery news conference was only the latest example of how the real estate tycoon treats people he doesn't like. Today, he was asked why he highlighted the Mexican heritage of the judge handling the alleged fraud case against Trump University.
TRUMP: Because I'm a man of principle and most of the people who took those courses have letters saying they thought it was great, essentially.
ACOSTA: He didn't answer the question. Then there's the disabled reporter he once mocked.
TRUMP: I don't know what I said.
ACOSTA: FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly.
TRUMP: You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.
ACOSTA: Or Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
TRUMP: I was being hit by Pocahontas. That's Pocahontas. Pocahontas, that's Elizabeth Warren.
ACOSTA: Critics charge it's the same kind of intolerance that gave birth to his call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and as Trump told reporters today, his combative style isn't about to change, even at White House news conferences.
TRUMP: It is going to like this, David, if the press writes false stories like they did with this.
ACOSTA: Trump also wrote off the possibility of a third-party election challenge coming up in the general election campaign. He described Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson as a -- quote -- "fringe candidate."
But, Jake, Trump heads to California next, even though he has the GOP nomination well within his grasp. And he will find out in California there are plenty of Trump critics out there as well. But as you heard today, he's not changing his style one bit -- Jake.
TAPPER: Jim Acosta, thanks so much.
As Trump tried to celebrate his good deeds, a class-action lawsuit is putting a spotlight on alleged transgressions. A California judge released the so-called playbooks from Trump University, the actual sales pitch manuals Trump tried to keep private. Some students of Trump University who are now suing him are calling the real estate courses a fraud and claiming they were duped out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Let's bring in CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.
Drew, the judge says releasing the playbook serves a public interest since Trump is a presidential candidate. What did these people, these students think they were getting when they signed up for this course?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they thought they were going to be taught the secrets to Donald Trump's real estate success. And it seems clear now, from the depositions in the case, that that may not have been the case.
As for the playbooks that are released, they're really dealing with how to do everything to bring these potential clients to an emotional level where they're going to buy into this stuff. It's the sales material here that's most interesting. It shows what the lawsuits have been alleging, that Trump University, not really a university, BTW, was less in the business of education and more in the business of making money.
Jake, here's some examples. Salespeople were told to go after potential clients with a net worth of $200,000. Never -- always make customers feel special and selected, that only the qualified would be able to take a Trump University course. Find out about financial lives, how much credit these people had on each credit card they brought, and encourage them to use credit cards to pay for tuition.
And never give customers details about what they will be learning in advanced training, all while being "mindful of the ethical and moral impact of our actions." That is an interesting statement, considering the lawsuits filed, including the one here in New York by the attorney general.
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is thousands of people who are taking for millions of dollars.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): New York's attorney general Eric Schneiderman is leading one of three lawsuits against Donald Trump and his Trump University.
The lawsuits all basically say the same thing, that almost everything about Trump University was a lie, starting with the name.
TRUMP: Action is what Trump University is all about.
GRIFFIN: It wasn't a university. And its teachers didn't teach any Donald Trump secrets, according to New York's attorney general.
TRUMP: And these are all people that are hand-picked by me. GRIFFIN: And none of Trump University's experts who taught at the seminars were picked by Donald Trump.
Felicisimo Limon says he paid more than $26,000 for the real estate course. But he says he got useless information and instructors constantly pressuring him to buy even more.
FELICISIMO LIMON, FORMER TRUMP UNIVERSITY STUDENT: What the heck are you talking about? More money, and I'm not learning anything.
GRIFFIN (on camera): You didn't learn anything in that class?
GRIFFIN (voice-over): He's now one of many former students suing in class-action lawsuits against Trump University. Trump has been complaining of unfair treatment by the various courts, including one of the cases in California, where he hit back at San Diego federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose ruling last week allowed for the release of the Trump University sales playbooks.
TRUMP: But I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He's a hater.
His name is Gonzalo Curiel.
And he's not doing the right thing. The judge, who happens to be, we believe Mexican, which is great. I think that's fine. You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump.
GRIFFIN: Jake, these cases are going to continue to be a campaign issue because they are moving along and will continue through the November election, the first trial set to take place the end of November -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Drew Griffin, thank you.
Donald Trump taking several swipes today at Hillary Clinton today in the press conference. And Hillary Clinton herself will respond live right here in just a few minutes. That's coming up.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Donald Trump has promised to do more to unify the Republican Party after the divisive primaries. Today, though, when asked about criticisms from within his party that he needs to stop attacking his fellow Republicans such as Mitt Romney or Governor Susana Martinez and William Kristol, Trump said in response, well, Romney looks like a fool, Martinez wasn't nice to him, and Kristol is a loser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If somebody is going to say a little bit negative or a lot negative about me, and if they happen to be a Republican, I may choose to hit them back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So, how does that sit with his newfound supporters.
Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy was a Rubio supporter. But he now backs the nominee. And he joins me now.
Congressman, thanks for being here.
And first and foremost, congratulations on your eighth child, your baby boy.
REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: Yes. Thank you very much. We just had him a couple days ago. And he's now finally safe at home. Thank you.
TAPPER: That's wonderful, wonderful. Please tell your wife we say hello and best wishes.
DUFFY: I will.
TAPPER: But let's get to the issue here. I want to get your opinion on the press conference.
When it comes to dealing with Republicans who are critical of him, does he have a point? Is counterpunching when people say critical things about him, is that fair game?
DUFFY: Listen, I think it doesn't take any skin off him when he punches back on Republicans or conservatives who bring him down.
But when you talk about unifying the party, I don't think anything unifies the party more than a press conference where he goes after the media, where a lot of Republicans and conservatives think the media leans left, and going after Hillary Clinton. Those are two things that Republicans love their candidate to do. And Donald Trump did it today. And I think that's how you unify this party. It's around a common theme and a common set of ideas.
TAPPER: Well, I take your point on the lack of trust that many in the country, but certainly especially conservatives and Republicans, have when it comes to the media.
But to be fair to the people at the press conference, those reporters were trying to find out what happened to money, millions of dollars, that Mr. Trump said he was going to give to veterans charities.
[16:15:06] And it was just basic accountability questions.
DUFFY: Yes. And that's not you, Jake. You're fair.
But I would say to the press conference, I think it is fair to ask the question. And they did. But I also think conservatives look and say, well, hey, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton made $25 million giving speeches in the last two years. How much has she given to veterans? How much has she raised for veterans? I think those are all fair questions.
We had a hearing in today in Tomah about the V.A. system and long wait lines. We've had some doubts down in Tomah. Those are the questions that we should have to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, how do we fix the V.A. system and taking care of our vets?
And here you have Donald Trump who's actually doing the right thing trying to raise money to protect and care for our vets. And it seems like the media was coming at him a little bit hard. And he pushed back. I think he gets a lot of love for that, which is a good thing when you want -- when you want to unify the party.
TAPPER: Speaking of unifying the party, you supported Marco Rubio, Senator Rubio who told me Sunday that he will support the nominee, but he still stands by his criticisms of Donald Trump during the primaries and caucuses.
Now, you once said that Donald Trump talks big but doesn't have any ideas. Do you stand by that criticism and other criticisms you made of Mr. Trump?
DUFFY: Yes, so at the start, I thought he was a lot of bluster and not a lot of ideas. I think he's gone a long way in building out his set of ideas on how you secure the border, how you grow the economy, how you take care of ISIS. And those were all things that my constituents care about and I think people around the country care about.
So, he's moving in the right direction. I think it's helpful. A lot of Republicans care about the Supreme Court. He's put out his initial list of who he would put on the court. That's very helpful.
But listen, he's not a policy guy. He's not a life-long politician. He's a businessman. And I think right now Americans want someone who understands business, understands growth, understands how rules and regulations affect our ability to grow and create jobs. And that's why they look to a guy like Donald Trump to grow the economy and give them better wages.
So, no, listen, he's not perfect. But also, that's not his forte. When you can stand in front of the media like he did today and punch as hard as he did and I think come out the winner, it's impressive because Republicans haven't been able to do that for decades. And that's why you get a slow clap back at home from Republicans on their couch watching this, thinking he's absolutely fantastic.
TAPPER: Even though he was attacking reporters as sleazes and liars when all the reporters were doing were asking questions on behalf of veterans' charities? DUFFY: No, no, it's a good point. But take a roll back to Candy
Crowley, Jake, in the interview -- or the debate four years ago between Obama and Mitt Romney. Conservatives are still angry about that. Katie Couric in her recent documentary on guns is misrepresenting those who she was interviewing.
There's a left-leaning bias. And so, he's going after a media that leans left. And again, not you, but the media leans left and he starts to punch back. I think independents even like that.
And that's why, you know, the media has a trustworthiness of like 40 percent, because they lean so far left. I don't even think they get it.
So, he's willing to push back that hard and come out a victor, I don't like the language, Jake, calling people sleaze bags, that's not the language that I use. But I think people sit at home and appreciate that he's willing to look them in the eye and call it the way he sees it and still stand up and go, you know what, I gave $6 million almost to veterans. I want to take care of them, I want to look out for them.
What has Hillary Clinton done? How is she helping veterans? How is Barack Obama actually rectifying and remedying the V.A. where people have long wait lines that are being compared to the line at --
DUFFY: -- you know, it's a small world at Disneyworld?
This stuff is unacceptable. And I think Donald Trump has kept this at the forefront for the last eight months, which is a great thing because it has to be fixed. Veterans shouldn't die in V.A. when they survive the battlefield.
TAPPER: Congresswoman Sean Duffy, Republican of Wisconsin -- best to you, your newest baby, your seven others and your wife. Thanks for joining us.
DUFFY: Hey. Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Appreciate it.
TAPPER: She has nearly all the delegates she needs to clinch the nomination if you include the superdelegates. So, why is Hillary Clinton heading to California for last-minute campaigning before Tuesday's primary?
Plus, one NBA star saying he might skip the Olympics over fears of Zika. And that's not all he should be worried about. That story, ahead.
[16:23:44] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
In just minutes, hopefully, I will speak with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
With Senator Bernie Sanders seeming to gain momentum in California which holds its primary in a week, Clinton scrapped events in New Jersey to spend more time out west.
CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is here with me in Washington.
It seems like there is some concern in the Clinton campaign that it's possible, possible, that the headlines will be Clinton clinches a number of delegates needed to win the nomination, including superdelegates, but loses California.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They feel -- they feel very good about New Jersey, as you know, Jake. They actually think in California she is polling ahead of where some of the public polls show. But California is a lot closer.
So, the Clinton campaign is emphasizing that she doesn't need to win California or even New Jersey to be the nominee. The problem with that reasoning is that she needs to project strength going into the general election. And you don't do that by losing a big prize.
KEILAR (voice-over): The end of the Democratic primary is in sight. And it runs through California where a whopping 475 pledged delegates are at stake as polls show Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders neck and neck. Even though Clinton is likely to clinch the nomination even before the polls close in California next week, a Sanders victory could be a big symbolic loss for Clinton headed into the general election.
[16:25:12] Sanders hit the trail in northern California today.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need radical transformation of the American health care system.
KEILAR: As Clinton fundraised in New York, after walking in the Memorial Day parade in her hometown of Chappaqua.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love it. I love being here.
KEILAR: Clinton cancelled her plan campaign events for Thursday in New Jersey, where voters also cast ballots in a week, to moved up her final push in California.
CLINTON: Wow, I am so happy to be here.
KEILAR: She won a big endorsement from California Governor Brown. But as polls show, voters struggle to trust Clinton even this prize brings back memories of old allegations. This was Brown debating then-Governor Bill Clinton in 1992.
JERRY BROWN (D), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is funneling money to his wife's law firm for state business. That's number one.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I don't care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife. You're not worth being on the same platform with my wife.
BROWN: I tell you something, Mr. Clinton, don't try to escape it.
KEILAR: Sanders has spent days on end in California, even paying respect Monday night to the Golden State Warriors. As he trails Clinton significantly, he's hoping for a game seven style comeback like the Warriors pulled off to advance to the NBA Finals.
SANDERS: They turned it around. I think that is what our campaign is going to do as well. A very good omen for our campaign.
KEILAR: Still, Sanders may be hedging his bet. Asked Sunday about a Clinton/Sanders ticket, he did not dismiss the idea.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Would you take the call if Hillary Clinton asked you to be her running mate?
SANDERS: Well, right now, again, what I am -- here we are in California. I'm knocking my brains out to win the Democratic nomination.
TODD: Yes, you are.
SANDERS: That's where I am right now. What happens afterwards, we will -- you know, we'll see.
KEILAR: Sanders has been saying should he not be the nominee, Clinton needs to pick a liberal running mate, not a moderate Democrat. He's clearly trying to influence not only the party platform but the ticket here.
Now, Hillary Clinton recently told CNN the talk of a Clinton-Sanders pairing is, quote, something down the road. So, I think it's pretty unlikely that she's going to pick Sanders as a running mate assuming she is the nominee. But she's certainly doesn't want to irk his supporters about that.
Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.
She is fewer than 100 delegates away from clinching the nomination if you include super delegates. So, why is Hillary Clinton worrying about campaigning in California? Is she worried that she'll lose the state to Senator Sanders?
Our interview with Hillary Clinton is coming in minutes. Don't go anywhere.