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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With California Congressman Xavier Becerra; Donald Trump Under Fire; Clinton Hours Away from Declaring Historic Victory. Aired 3-3:30 ET
Aired June 7, 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: Hillary Rodham Clinton just hours away from declaring victory, as voters in six states head to the polls today.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans piling on, swinging against their party's presumptive nominee. We are just getting a statement now from Donald Trump. We are going to read that to you, a special Election Day edition of THE LEAD starting right now.
Good afternoon, and welcome to a special edition of THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper.
We just got a statement from Donald Trump.
We are going to go live to our reporter on the scene, Sara Murray, to tell us what the statement says. I believe it is about the judge -- Sara.
We are not ready for Sara yet. We're going to bring that to you in a second.
But let us take a moment. Exactly eight years to the day after ending her first bid for the White House, Hillary Clinton tonight will declare she has enough delegates to be the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president.
We now have Sara Murray.
Let's go to Sara Murray to tell us this breaking news from the Trump campaign.
Sara, what does the statement say?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You guys -- Jake, it's a pretty lengthy statement, so stick with me. I will come with the first part here.
It is unfortunate that my comments" -- this is a call from Donald Trump.
"It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent. The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard."
Trump goes on to say: "I do not feel that one's heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial. Over the past few weeks, I have watched as the media has reported one inaccuracy after another concerning the ongoing litigation involving Trump University. There are several important facts the public should know and that the media has failed to report."
Now, he's going on here to explore a little bit more of this Trump University case, Jake, saying: "Throughout the litigation, my attorneys have continually demonstrated that students who participated in Trump University were provided a substantive, valuable education based upon a curriculum developed by professors from Northwestern University, Columbia Business School, Stanford University and other respected institutions. And the response from students was overwhelming.
Over a five-year period, more than 10,000 paying students filled out surveys giving the courses high marks and expressing their overwhelming satisfaction with Trump University's programs."
Now, of course, Jake, this trial is based on students saying the opposite, feeling like they spent tens of thousands of dollars, feeling like they were defrauded. This is a class-action lawsuit.
Now, he goes on in the statement to list a number of people who felt like they did have a positive experience at Trump University. He touts a Web site where you can see some of those testimonials.
He continues on in the statement to say: "For those students who decided that Trump University's programs were not for them, the company had a generous refund policy," talking about offering a full refund to any student.
Now, he continues on, but he gets back to his court case, Jake, saying: "Normally, legal issues in a civil case would be heard in a neutral environment. However, given my unique circumstances as nominee of the Republican Party and the core issues of my campaign that focus on illegal immigration, jobs and unfair trade, I have concerns as to my ability to receive a fair trial."
He continues on: "I am fighting hard to bring jobs back to the United States," and then talks again about how he feels like he's getting an unfair shake in this.
"Due to what I believe are unfair and mistaken rulings in this case and the judge's reported associations with certain professional organizations, questions were raised regarding the Obama-appointed judge's impartiality. It is a fair question. I hope it is not the case."
"While this lawsuit should have been dismissed" -- this is something we have Trump say over and over -- "it is now scheduled for trial in November. I do not intend to comment on this matter any further. With all of the thousands of people who have given the courses such high marks and accolades, we will win this case."
So, Jake, it's pretty amazing there to see Donald Trump saying he does not want to comment on this case any further, amidst the uproar his comments have caused among members of his own party. We have seen Paul Ryan, we have seen Mitch McConnell, we have seen pretty much every leader of the Republican Party at this point try to distance themselves from Donald Trump on his remarks about this judge, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray with this breaking news story, thanks so much.
And thanks to you, the viewer, for bearing with us as we dealt with this, the Trump campaign just issuing the statement.
Let's discuss this with our panel for the hour.
Chief national correspondent and host of "INSIDE POLITICS," John King, senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, former adviser to four presidents, including Presidents Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, Donald Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany, CNN political commentator Mary Katharine Ham, a Bernie Sanders supporter, and the host of "The Bill Press Show," who would that be? Bill Press.
TAPPER: And the former mayor of the greatest city in the world, Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, who is a Hillary Clinton supporter.
So, Kayleigh, let's just start with you. You're the Trump supporter in the room. Donald Trump issuing this statement. Do you think this will put this controversy to bed? We had even House Speaker Paul Ryan today say that the comments Mr. Trump made were the definition of racist.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, it's certainly not textbook racism. First of all, being Mexican is an ethnicity. It's not a race.
So, by virtue of that, it's not textbook racism.
TAPPER: It's a little pedantic, but let's call it bigotry if that makes you more comfortable.
MCENANY: It doesn't matter. If you're calling someone racist, which, at the end of the day, that is what this boils down to -- people have been calling Donald Trump this, making judgments on his character as a person. That's a very strong claim to make. It's a wrong claim to make.
TAPPER: How would you characterize the remark he made?
MCENANY: I think that it was poorly worded. I think he had viable claims against the judge.
He had reasons he suspected the judge were biased. If he truly was against a judge simply by virtue of his heritage, why then did he not say two years ago, I don't want this judge on my case, he's of Mexican heritage?
It was only after certain actions were taken that he came out and said, this judge is biased against me. He struggled to find a reason for that. I think he never should have mentioned the heritage, but this is exactly what he needed to do. He came out and he clarified it. Let's move onto issues that Americans care about.
TAPPER: Mayor Nutter?
MICHAEL NUTTER (D), FORMER MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: Jake, I think the only problem here is that he caused this problem himself. He raised the issue himself, and then put together, he's Mexican, I'm building a wall.
I mean, I saw your interview. He said it like 95 times. Right? So he put himself in this position to raise all these questions about his mind-set, about his view, then doubles down or maybe triples down with throwing when you asked about possibly a Muslim judge...
TAPPER: That was John Dickerson, but yes.
NUTTER: The other interview. Yes, maybe that too.
I mean, you know, where is this going? He caused this problem himself, dug his hole, is now getting buried by his own party, and is trying to claw his way back out.
TAPPER: Mary Katharine, let me bring you, in as a Republican and undecided voter, I believe. No?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, because who knows what I'm thinking?
TAPPER: Who knows what you're going to do. It's a mystery to all of us.
But do you think that this will -- he says, I'm not going to talk about this anymore. This issue is over.
HAM: He will not talk about it until the moment he wants to talk about it again.
HAM: This is the essence of Donald Trump. And he tells you who he is every day. He's a guy who is very self-interested and interested in serving Donald Trump in that given moment and he will say what it takes to do that.
That's why he didn't say before that -- he didn't point out heritage before, because now it served his purposes, for whatever that fleeting moment was when he said something about his heritage. And now it does not serve his purposes anymore, so he's like, never mind, I'm not going to talk about this anymore.
As soon as he feels like it does, he will talk about it again. And the fact is, it's inescapable that he said the man could not do his job because of his ethnicity. That's the problem. It's very clear. He made it very clear. And so everybody has to respond to that.
TAPPER: I want to come to you in a second, but let me give Kayleigh a chance to respond to what you have heard so far.
MCENANY: Well, I just think, if he had truly -- if at bottom he wasn't comfortable with someone's heritage, two years ago, he would said, can't have this judge, he's of Mexican heritage. That simply wasn't the case.
He was inartful in pointing out the way he did the heritage. He should have stepped back and said, look, I have been issued unfair rulings, here's what I feel they are. This judge -- I ask myself, why am I getting these rulings? Perhaps it's become he's a member of an organization that has overseen the giving of a scholarship to an illegal immigrant. That's antithetical to what I stand for.
TAPPER: But he didn't bring that up.
MCENANY: He's not a polished politician. It's his biggest attribute.
HAM: We're always filling in blanks for him.
BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't want to give him a pass for not saying it two years ago.
He said it now. And as far as I'm concerned, if Paul Ryan says it's racism, he called it that -- I didn't -- if Lindsey Graham say Times Square racism, that's good enough for me.
But I think there are two things to point out. One is, this case has nothing to do with immigration or the wall or anything. It's about his, allegedly, defrauding students at Trump University. And if you read the case, it's a pretty strong case, I think, against Donald Trump. And, you know, it just goes on and on.
HAM: One more thing. He has -- if he wants facts of this case out and he wants to make those arguments, guess who has the biggest platform to do it? He can do that. The argument he made was this one. TAPPER: I want to bring in some people for this table for one second.
And, Gloria, there's actually some very big news just made. Jon Martin from "The New York Times" tweeted it a second ago, which is an incumbent Republican senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois, who is up for reelection, and we should not pretend that he isn't running in a blue state. He is. Illinois is a blue state.
He says he's not going to endorse Donald Trump. That's pretty shocking.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is.
And I think that you can draw a direct line between what is occurring with Trump University and Kirk's decision here.
Two things in Trump's statement that are of interest to me. Number one, he tried to walk it back. OK? There is a line. I do not feel that one's heritage makes them incapable of impartial. So, he clearly is listening to the people on the Hill who have twisted themselves into pretzels to endorse him and now are trying to find a way not to back off of that. So that's number one, because he's trying to back off.
But, number two, he is a Republican presidential nominee. And what we are talking about here is a civil fraud case, and which he is involved as a businessman. His personal business issues are not the equivalent, to me at least, of a president -- to his presidential campaign.
And yet it remains front and center, which gives you a large hint into the way Donald Trump is thinking, because his business life is so important to him, that he's kind of putting it front and center in a presidential contest. And that doesn't make his supporters in Congress feel really comfortable at all.
TAPPER: John King?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You pressed him repeatedly, A, asking smart follow-up questions, but, B, impressing him, isn't that the definition of racism? That was his opportunity to think about what he had said and take it back.
In this statement, as Gloria just said, he said I do not feel that one's heritage makes them incapable of being impartial. He repeatedly said in the interview with you that he believes this judge's heritage made him incapable of being impartial.
So, will the real Donald Trump please stand up is the issue here, because is going to be -- he may not want to talk about it again. This will be in Democratic campaign ads from now until November.
TAPPER: OK, what are we doing right now?
OK, I want to bring in Clinton supporter Congressman Xavier Becerra of California.
Congressman Becerra, thanks so much for doing this.
What is your reaction to the statement from Donald Trump? He is saying he does not think -- quote -- "that one's heritage does makes him incapable of being impartial, but based on the rulings I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I'm receiving a fair trial in this case."
REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Jake, you can correct me if I'm wrong, but in a quick glance of what he said in the statement, must be close to 500 words, probably more than 500 words, nowhere in there does he say I'm sorry. Nowhere does he actually retract his racist remarks.
And he tries to actually explain them again. You have said the but. He said but. And so this is a guy who made a clearly racist statement. I'm not saying that by myself. Republicans are saying that. And he's unwilling to retract it.
And if he really believes that this judge, Judge Curiel, could not be fair, then he would go through the normal motions in court and file a motion to remove the judge. He's never once done that. He's not yet said he would do that. And so clearly this guy, Donald Trump, is saying that a respected jurist who was confirmed by a bipartisan vote in the Senate is uncapable of serving because of his Mexican heritage, Mexican-American heritage.
I think that's racist. We should call it that. And any Republican who says it's wrong or offensive is simply allowing this guy to move forward because they continue to endorse. For Speaker Ryan to say it's wrong and it's racist, but yet say I'm going to endorse a racist for the White House, that's scary.
TAPPER: But this is an Obama-appointed judge in your home state of California. Do you know him at all?
BECERRA: I know of him. I know his cousin who used to serve in the Clinton administration as an ambassador.
The Curiel family is a distinguished family, worked their way up, similar to my family of immigrant background. I'm the first to get a college degree. I suspect most of Judge Curiel's family also had to go through that rough road to get educated. He comes from Indiana.
I doubt that most people consider Indiana the most Latino state in the nation. And it's unfortunate that in one fell swoop Donald Trump can encapsulate the work, the hard work of a judge. All he's struggled to do, by the way, fighting drug cartels as a prosecutor, federal prosecutor, and this guy, Donald Trump, can somehow box him in by calling him Mexican.
I think it's outrageous and it's racist. TAPPER: Congressman, a few days ago, I had the Senate majority
leader, Mitch McConnell, on my show. We were talking about his book. And in his book, he -- it's a memoir -- he talked about how he, even though he was a loyal Republican, he did not vote for Barry Goldwater in 1964 because Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act.
And in the words of McConnell, Goldwater in that act and in the nomination of Goldwater by the Republican Party in '64, alienated African-Americans for generations. I said to McConnell, are you worried that Donald Trump, as your nominee, is going to do that with Latinos? And he said he was.
[16:15:05] Do you think it's possible that Donald Trump as the nominee will alienate Latino voters for not just this election but future ones as well?
BECERRA: I don't think it's just Donald Trump at this stage, Jake. Three times Senator McConnell refused to answer your direct question, was that a racist remark from Donald Trump? And he tried to evade -- he did evade three times the direct question that you asked. And to me you can evade racism only so long. You're either with them or you're not.
And in this country, I thought we had pretty much decided that we would not make judgments about people based on their national origin, their racial heritage. And, unfortunately, we seem to see Republicans putting party before country, party before Constitution and party certainly before a lot of hard working Americans who've earned their position as a judge.
TAPPER: All right. Congressman Becerra, thank you so much.
Coming up next, House Speaker Paul Ryan calls Trump's comments racist, as another top Republican gives Donald Trump a deadline to change his campaign around.
Plus, Rand Paul under no uncertain terms talks to me about Donald Trump.
And Bernie Sanders rejecting Hillary Clinton's victory to be declared this evening noting super delegates can change their mind. Is there any reason to think any of them will? We'll ask my next guest, Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver.
Stay with us.
[16:20:28] TAPPER: Welcome back to a special edition of THE LEAD.
Exactly eight years to the day after she ended her first bid for the White House, Hillary Clinton this evening will, we assume, declare that she has enough delegates to become the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president, earning a majority of pledge delegates and the endorsements of hundreds of super delegates, she will say that all of that officially clinches the magic number 2,383 delegates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: According to the news we are on the brink of a historic, historic, unprecedented moment. But we still have work to do, don't we?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, has preemptively rejected this declaration of victory, noting that superdelegates can change their minds. The problem is that the only super delegate who has changed his mind flipped from supporting Sanders to supporting Clinton. In a moment, we're going to talk to the Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver about all of that.
But, first, Brianna Keilar is on the campaign trail in Santa Monica, California.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton accomplishing what she could not in 2008, reaching the number of delegates she needs both pledged delegates and endorsements from superdelegates to be declared the presumptive Democratic nominee.
CLINTON: I got to tell you -- according to the news, we are on the brink of a historic, historic, unprecedented moment. But we still have work to do, don't we?
KEILAR: A very different story than eight years ago, to the day, when she suspended her run for the White House.
CLINTON: Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it's got about 18 million cracks in it.
KEILAR: But the Clinton campaign is worried some of her supporters in California might stay home thinking the mission is accomplished. As they fund raised off of the news so this just happened an e-mail asking for donations reads, they also told supporters but this primary isn't quite over, as the campaign urges voters in six states casting ballots today to give Clinton a strong primary finish.
Bernie Sanders is neck and neck with Clinton here in the Golden State, and fighting to win as many of the 475 delegates as possible, criticizing Clinton's climate policies.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a global crisis. That is why we need a ban on fracking. And I sincerely hope Secretary Clinton will change her view on that issue and join us.
KEILAR: Despite Clinton about to declare she has reached the magic number of delegates, the Sanders campaign is not ready to concede the race just yet.
JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: There's a long way to go between now and the convention.
KEILAR: Meanwhile, Clinton picked up an endorsement from California's most prominent politician, House Minority Nancy Pelosi.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I'm a voter in California, and I have voted for Hillary Clinton for president of the United States and proud to endorse her for that position. But I hasten to say it's not over until it's over.
KEILAR: The first woman to be speaker of the House, Pelosi also said she likes the idea of Clinton picking Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, or another woman as her running mate.
PELOSI: Over and over again for hundreds of years, I think that two women who really may be that would be fabulous as well. But Hillary Clinton will choose a person that she feels most comfortable with.
KEILAR: The Clinton campaign's message to surrogates who will be talking her up today is to not call on Bernie Sanders to get out of the race, Jake, at least not yet though they will be saying basically that he shouldn't take this all the way to the convention.
We are expecting, we've heard from aides that she will try to extend an olive branch to his supporters. Bernie Sanders we have learned will be going home to Burlington tomorrow, perhaps taking some time to think about what his next steps are. And certainly some of those people around Hillary Clinton as the days go on may be pressuring him, but they're hoping that if she does win California as well as New Jersey there will be a lot of external pressure on Bernie Sanders.
TAPPER: All right. Orange County, California's own Brianna Keilar -- thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Joining me now, Bernie Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver.
Jeff, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
WEAVER: Thanks, Jake. Happy to be here.
TAPPER: So, it's anticipated this evening Hillary Clinton will declare herself the presumptive nominee.
[16:25:00] If she ends up after the polls close, having the majority of pledged delegates and majority of endorsements from superdelegates, and that does add up to the number needed to clinch the nomination, what is the Sanders campaign going to say?
WEAVER: Well, Jake, the truth of the matter is that superdelegates as you know don't vote until the convention. So, there's been a poll of super delegates, but it's just a poll. They haven't actually voted.
In terms of the way the process works, we didn't establish the process but we are playing by the rules given to us in the beginning, if you don't have 2,383 in the pledge delegates, go to the convention and super delegates will decide. Even though somebody may be ahead, if they have not won if they have 2,383 in pledged delegates, we have to wait to see what the super delegates do.
And let's be clear, the public polling is consistent that Bernie Sanders is a much stronger general election against Donald Trump than the secretary. I mean, given the outrageous Trump comments that you spoke about earlier, his racist comments against the judge, I think we all have to get together and beat Trump, and Bernie Sanders is a much stronger choice to do that.
TAPPER: But you keep on talking about how you hope to get super delegates to switch their stated allegiance, you and Senator Sanders have been saying that for months. And only one super delegate has changed affiliation. And he went in the wrong direction. He's now with Clinton.
Do you have any reason to think that superdelegates are going to switch?
WEAVER: Well, look the superdelegate election is at the end of July, at the convention. And like every voter, superdelegates take a hard look at the race as to when they actually have to vote.
And evidence is mounting. Senator Sanders has been much stronger in the second half of this race, coming from 3 percent when he started in this race, 2.5 million individual contributors, over 10 million votes, winning 20 states and obviously will probably win some more tonight. It's a pretty strong case given where the public polling is and the need to defeat Trump and the Republicans.
TAPPER: But, Jeff, the argument you're making is that super delegates should go against the majority of the popular vote and pledged delegates, Clinton has received a total of 13,027,983 raw votes, that's 55.6 percent. Sanders has received 10,014,447, which is 42.7.
Why should superdelegates go against what Democratic voters want?
WEAVER: Well, Jake, those numbers are a little deceptive because a lot of the states where Sanders won were in caucus states. If you extrapolate the population of those states, compare those to similar size states that had primaries, that number gets much, much smaller, the difference between the two gets much smaller by millions.
But the problem is --
TAPPER: But she still leads.
WEAVER: This is the way the process was established. This is the way the Democratic primary process not established by Bernie Sanders --
TAPPER: But super delegates have never gone against the will of the voters. They've never done that in the history of super delegates when they started I think in 1982.
WEAVER: But that is their function, Jake. That's their function.
TAPPER: Not to go against. They can vote however they want but not supposed to go against what the majority of voters want.
WEAVER: Well, if they weren't supposed to do that they wouldn't be there. Their purpose is to make sure the party at the end of the day -- I'm not saying this is the way we would have set it up, but they're supposed to make a judgment alt the end of the process, to make sure that the candidate that's picked, if a candidate hasn't gotten the overwhelming number of pledged delegates 2,383, which the secretary has not gotten, their job is to make sure they elect the strongest candidate in the fall.
TAPPER: Jeff, you're actually making an argument -- you're actually kind of making an argument in favor of the way this used to be done in like the '50s, with party bosses deciding what they want. Like Estes Kefauver got more votes when he ran against Adlai Stevenson but Stevenson was picked because the guys in the smoke filled room picked Stevenson.
You're actually arguing in favor of a typical similar type situation.
WEAVER: No, I'm arguing that the process in 2016 should play out according to the rules that have been established for this contest. This is not the 1950s rules. This is the 2016 rules. Not established by us, but we are playing by them.
Do you want to talk about changing them in the future? I think we're happy to engage in that conversation, but that's not where we are right now.
TAPPER: But just to underline it, you will want superdelegates to go against the will of the majority of voters assuming that Hillary Clinton has the majority when all the voting is over?
WEAVER: Well, Jake, how about this. Should super delegates from states where Bernie Sanders got 70 percent or 80 percent of the vote support Secretary Clinton or should they support Bernie Sanders?
TAPPER: I think when you do that math it actually ends up that Hillary Clinton still wins.
WEAVER: Yes, but you're talking about a principle here. You just articulated a principle and I'm articulating a principle back to you. Should super delegates in states that overwhelmingly went for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders --
TAPPER: I didn't come up with your Picasso rules, it's the DNC. But my point is, you're actually arguing in favor of something.
But, Jeff, let's leave it on that note. We really appreciate it. Good luck on the primaries. Our best to Senator Sanders.
WEAVER: Everybody, get out and vote. Everybody should get out and vote.
TAPPER: Everybody should get out and vote. I agree with that 100 percent.
TAPPER: Coming up, we're following the breaking news, Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, his announcement just moments ago saying he cannot support his party's presidential nominee. Why? What's his reasoning?
Plus, my interview with former Trump rival, Rand Paul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It's a huge mistake to categorize people based on their race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)