Return to Transcripts main page


Latest on 2016 Election; Trump Fires Lewandowski; Iraqi PM: Fallujah Liberated From ISIS; Thousands Of Refugees Forced To Flee Fallujah; New Details On Navy SEAL's Death In Iraq; "Star Trek's" Anton Yelchin Killed By Own Car; Experimental Zika Vaccine Will Be Tested On Humans. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 20, 2016 - 16:30   ET



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you had somebody with a gun strapped on to their hip, somebody with a gun strapped on to their ankle, and you had bullets going in the opposite direction right at this animal who did this, you would have had a very, very different result, believe me, folks.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And on an unrelated note, Jake, we should report now that we're hearing from a law enforcement source that the 19-year-old man who was arrested at a Donald Trump rally in Las Vegas over the weekend, we are being told now that that individual, a 19-year-old named Michael Sanford, he attempted to grab a gun from a police officer there at the event.

We're now told by this source that this 19-year-old man told authorities or has told authorities in the last couple of days that he intended to use that gun to kill Donald Trump at that campaign event, Jake. We're right now trying to get more information about this, not only from the U.S. Secret Service, but from the Las Vegas Police Department.

But we are hearing from a law enforcement source that that man over the weekend intended to use that gun that he tried to grab from a police officer at that event in Las Vegas to cause harm to Donald Trump -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you for the report and thank you for the updated breaking news.

Let's bring in our political panel now. We have with us CNN political commentator and Morehouse College professor Marc Lamont Hill, "New York Times" presidential campaign correspondent Maggie Haberman, and Donald Trump New York campaign co-chair Joe Borelli.

The big question, of course, will Corey Lewandowski's firing help turn around a campaign that has recently hit the skids? But we also have this breaking news about a potential assassin of Mr.

Trump who thankfully was apprehended before he could do anything. We will talk about this all next coming up next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Continuing with our politics lead, Donald Trump trying to change the narrative after a difficult few weeks on the campaign trail. He fired his controversial campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski today.

Our political panel joins me now to discuss it.

And, Joe, let me start with you, as the New York co-chair of the Trump campaign. Why did Corey Lewandowski need to be fired? He had already been effectively been demoted. He was a very reliable and loyal aide to Mr. Trump. Why get rid of him?


Well, start here. Let's give him a little bit of credit for running the campaign through the primary season.


TAPPER: I'm giving him all of the credit. That's what I'm saying. Why did you get rid of him?

BORELLI: And doing a good job.

That said, I think Paul Manafort was brought on, and rightfully so, to somewhat professionalize the campaign and pivot it to a general election strategy that ultimately win in November.

I think something that's been well-reported, there's been some strife between the two men. And it seems as some of the efforts Paul had in sort of streamlining the campaign were stymied somewhat by Corey.

I think this is something that was probably going to happen at some point. And if you're someone like me, who is a Trump supporter, I'm happy that this happened now and not potentially after the convention or September, October.

TAPPER: Maggie, why do you think this happened? Is Corey kind of being released to the wolves here, who are -- you have all these donors saying that they are very concerned about the Trump campaign. Still, Republican officials saying that they are not going to endorse their own party nominee.

Is this -- is he kind of a sacrificial lamb? He wasn't the one that made the controversial comments about the judge in California. He wasn't the one that who -- I could go through the list and I won't.

But my only point is...

MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Because I was wondering how far you were going.

TAPPER: Well, is this -- is Corey taking the fall for things that Mr. Trump did?

HABERMAN: It's a legitimate question.

I don't think so. This had been coming. As Joe said, this had been I think in the works for quite some time. It had gotten kicked down the road a bit after a couple of different points. Ultimately speaking, a campaign can't be divided. And this one was in certain respects, but it was not in the way it's often portrayed as sort of the daily Corey is up, Manafort is down, Manafort is up, Corey is down.

They were playing different games and there were increasingly donors, Republican Party officials, some journalists who were making clear that they were having trouble getting through either in terms of coverage or in terms of trying to help the campaign or just basic decisions.

I think that all became clear to Trump. You're right that he is -- Corey Lewandowski is not responsible. A, he did accomplish a lot in the primary, number one, although Trump really, if we are being honest, Trump drove his own train, to a huge degree.

TAPPER: Right.

HABERMAN: Lewandowski may have been enabled that, but Trump was guiding a lot of that.

The demands of a general election are completely different and I think that that's become clear to Trump in a way that it just was not before. What I heard a lot today from Republicans was this is a great first step, and I heard this across the board, because Lewandowski was controversial. He did antagonize a lot of people.


HABERMAN: There are some people who like him, but others who had issues with him.

But what these Republicans said is, this has to be followed up by some consistent behavior from Trump himself.


MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And that's where it gets tricky, right?

It's like sports. You can't fire the players. Right. So, sometimes, you have to fire a coach because you can't get rid of the players. You can't get rid of Trump.

Of course he is the one who did all of these things. But what Lewandowski did was enable it. He's created a tone and tenor of the campaign that said let Trump be Trump. That was the whole mantra. And letting Trump be Trump got him through a primary season, but, as you said, it doesn't get you through a election.

So, it was necessary to rein in Trump, Trump and some of his eccentricities. But it's also important to signal again to donors, to voters, and to people inside the Trump campaign who were about to leave if he didn't go that change is coming.

But, again, it's not enough. It's a good first step, but we need a different tone. We need a different narrative. But all in all, it's kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we're not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We're not talking about something controversial. We're talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.


TAPPER: That's interesting.

Joe, I would love to get your thoughts on some comments made by Vice President Joe Biden today, who directly took on Donald Trump. Take a look.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our ability to lead by example and draw partners to our side, that's what has always been America's greatest capability, not empty bluster, not a sense of entitlement that fundamentally disrespects our partners, not an attitude and insecurity of a bully.


TAPPER: Your response. The vice president is clearly taking direct shots at Donald Trump.

BORELLI: Oh, sure.

Look, I will speak for -- I will take the liberty for speaking for a lot of the American public that might agree with me.

The rise of an outsider like Donald Trump is part and parcel a response to people like Joe Biden, who have been in the driver's seat, people like Hillary Clinton, who has been in the driver's seat on foreign policy.

The reason why we have such popular support for someone who is not in the system who's offering an alternative view, who is not being P.C. is because people are sick and tired of what they already have seen.

TAPPER: Maggie, 30 seconds. Do you think that Vice President Biden's response or comments will have any resonance at all?

HABERMAN: I think that the Democrats are going to continually frame the race the way that he did. So, it's not just Joe Biden, what we have seen.

We have seen this pretty impressive show of concentrated force on the Democratic side, the president, the vice president, Elizabeth Warren. Hillary Clinton actually ends up at the -- but the candidate ends up at the back of that.

It is contrast to what has happened on the Republican side. And I think that is part of what the Trump campaign is hoping to closer to. Again, they have ways to go, but that's what they are hoping to move towards.

TAPPER: All right, Joe, Maggie, Marc, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: The death of a Navy SEAL in Iraq is providing new details about just how involved the U.S. is in the fight against ISIS.

Plus, a young Hollywood star killed by his own car when it pins him against the wall. Now we're learning more about previous problems with the exact same vehicle model.

Stay with us.


[16:46:04] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Let's talk about our World Lead today, after four weeks of fierce fighting, Iraq's prime minister is declaring the key ISIS stronghold of Falluja liberated.

Iraqi counterterrorism forces are now in control of large portions of the city, we're told. It's the site, of course, of some of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war. That city has been in ISIS hands since January 2014.

Let's get right to CNN's Ben Wedeman. He is live in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad about 40 miles to the east of Falluja. Ben, has ISIS been completely rooted out of Falluja?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The short answer, Jake, no, it hasn't. In fact, we heard from security sources in Falluja that there was a counterattack by ISIS, which left 13 Iraqi soldiers either dead or wounded.

ISIS still controls a swath of territory in the northern part of the city. Iraqi forces do have them surrounded. They are pushing ahead but the fight is not easy.

When we were in the center of Falluja the other day, despite the statement the previous evening by the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, that Falluja had been liberated and freed from ISIS.

What we saw in front of us to our left and to our right that the fighting was still continuing and it continues today as well -- Jake. TAPPER: Ben, of course, we don't want to forget about the tens of thousands of civilians who have been displaced from Falluja. There is a major humanitarian crisis there.

WEDEMAN: And indeed there is, in fact, Iraqi officials who were focused on the battle are now having to refocus their attention on this situation. What you've had since the beginning of fighting on the 23rd of May was at least 84,000 people leaving that city to various camps around Falluja.

You had 30,000 who came out in the last three days alone. Now, the Iraqi authorities have set up camps around Falluja, but they have been overwhelmed. In some cases, there are three families sleeping in a tent and they are the lucky ones.

Many people simply have to sleep outside. There's a shortage of mattresses, a shortage of food and water. So this is really something that the Iraqi officials are scrambling to deal with. They did not anticipate this level of civilians leaving Falluja -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ben Wedeman in Baghdad, thank you so much for that report. Please stay safe.

Let's talk more about that growing humanitarian crisis in Falluja that only adds to the mystery of this next story. Imagine not knowing where you will eat your next meal or sleep tomorrow night.

Sadly, for more than 65.3 million refugees, that's the reality. According to a sobering new report by the United Nations on today, which is World Refugee Day, there are more refugees on earth now than ever before.

It means one out of every 113 people in the world has been forcibly displaced from his or her homes. Global conflicts, such as the war in Syria, are the leading cause behind the staggering number of refugees.

And more than half of them come from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. Among the 65 million plus refugees, the U.N. report says more than half are children. And among those children, merely 100,000 are now without parents or any adult guardians.

ISIS has been accused of killing those innocent civilians trying to flee violence in Iraq and Syria. The Obama administration insists, of course, that there are no American boots on the ground.

[16:50:02]That in defeating the terrorist group, the U.S. role is noncombat related and instead focused on training, on advising and assisting local forces. That is the White House spin.

But new details uncovered by CNN on the death of Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV during an ISIS in attack in Iraq last month proves the point that you've been hearing for quite some time now on THE LEAD.

There are U.S. boots on the ground and semantic games aside American service members are constantly being put in harm's way and they are engaging in combat. Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, you've learned that Keating was involved in a separate fire fight in Syria two months prior for which he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. This is a different mission than the one in which he was killed.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. As you say, U.S. troops are there to advise, assist, and train but combat is coming to them and one Navy SEAL team got caught twice.


STARR (voice-over): It was a fire fight last month in Northern Iraq against 100 ISIS fighters that lasted more than two hours. When it was over, Navy SEAL Charles Keating, was dead on a tour of duty that was not supposed to involve combat.

Hundreds of friends and family gathered to remember him. He was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest citation for valour, but not for the battle north of Mosul that killed him but for a different fight two months earlier, one that was not disclosed until after his death.

That March 4th morning, Keating's SEAL team and local Kurdish forces were attacked by more than 100 ISIS fighters. The initial assault was pushed back. Keating kept up a counter attack running back and forth along the front lines to stop the enemy advance.

Exposing himself to automatic weapons, mortars and rocket-prepared grenades. When a suicide car bomber approached his position, his team attacked with sniper and rocket fire.

Then, on May 3rd, it happened all over again. ISIS assembling a large attack force again in Northern Iraq. Keating's unit was behind the front lines as advisers with local Kurdish forces.

At 7:30 a.m., the SEALs and local forces are attacked by more than 100 ISIS fighters who charged the front lines with bulldozers, trucks and weapons.

At 7:50, the Americans call for help. Keating and about 20 other SEALs arrived quickly. The SEALs moved to each side of the front line, military sources tell CNN initial battlefield reports describe fighting so intense ammunition was running low.

Then, Keating's weapon malfunctioned. He went to a nearby vehicle for a new weapon and more ammunition. Now, equipped with his sniper rifle, he climbed on top of the building and began firing at ISIS when he was hit.

His death and the two fire fights, a stark reminder that U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria are in combat more than the military discloses.

Former Navy SEAL, Jeffrey Eggers, says there are new dangers for special operations forces. JEFFREY EGGERS, FORMER NAVY SEAL: What's new in this environment is that the advisory admission even though it's not a combat mission, another words, they are not supposed to be doing the majority of the fighting themselves is close to where the fighting is taking place.


STARR: Now, what the troops will tell you is there is a new reality, special operations forces very much operating in the gray zone, between peace and war -- Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, thanks for that report.

In our Pop Culture Lead, the bizarre death of a Hollywood actor. How did the 27-year-old get pinned between his car and his mailbox? That story, next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Pop Culture Lead today, some tragic news for fans of the new "Star Trek" film series, Anton Yelchin, best known as Chekov to the new generations of "Trekis" was killed yesterday in a freak accident.

The LAPD says the rising star stepped out of his car in his own driveway when the vehicle began to slide backwards and it ended up pinning him up against a pillar. Police do not know why Yelchin was behind the car or whether the car was running when he was found.

The LAPD confirmed Yelchin's car was a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. We should point out that in April that model was recalled because drivers reported confusion as to whether they knew if the gearshift was or was not in park.

Police cannot confirm whether that contributed in any way to Yelchin's death. "Star Trek" director, J.J. Abrams took to Twitter to remember Yelchin saying, "Anton, you are brilliant. You are kind. You are funny as hell and supremely talented and you weren't here nearly long enough."

Yelchin was only 27 years old. "Star Trek Beyond," the latest installment in the series will come out next month. Yelchin will be in the film.

In our Health Lead today, for the first time, the Food and Drug Administration is allowing a clinical trial for an experimental vaccine for the Zika virus.

The vaccine will be manufactured by two pharmaceutical companies, one in Pennsylvania, the other in Seoul, South Korea. The company say they are likely to begin their first tests on humans within the next few weeks. As part of the standard procedure for human drug trials, researchers will first test their vaccine on people who are healthy and without the Zika virus. Then if it is determined to be safe, will conduct further trials with people who actually have the virus.

That's it for THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer, who is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.