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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Dirty Water at Olympics?; President Obama Calls Out Republican Leaders Over Trump Support; Obama on TPP: "I'm President and I'm For It". Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired August 2, 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: President Obama today laying into Donald Trump and distancing himself from Hillary Clinton on a key campaign issue.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Unfit, President Obama charging Donald Trump as being so woefully unprepared to be commander in chief, the U.S. government might just stop functioning if he elected. The president also didn't let Hillary Clinton skate by without a touch of trade-related shade.
Plus, the controversy the Republican's top advisers want him to ditch, but the candidate himself keeps struggling to not feed.
And with just three days to go until the Olympics, officials now say the water in Rio is so toxic, swallowing just three teaspoons could make athletes violently ill. So how exactly are competitors supposed to swim in this stuff?
Hey, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Just when you thought maybe the back-and-forth between Donald Trump and those grieving parents of the fallen Muslim American Army Captain Humayun Khan might be coming to a close, well, along comes President Obama to breathe new life into it.
Just hours ago, in an extraordinary rebuke, President Obama called out not just Mr. Trump, but every Republican official that still supports Donald Trump. He called the Republican presidential nominee unfit, woefully unprepared, and says he lacks the judgment and temperament to be president.
White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski joins me now from the White House.
Michelle, the president today drawing a distinction between Trump and previous Republican nominees like John McCain and Mitt Romney.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right.
He said, in the past, even though those were his own opponents, he felt like they at least had that temperament to be president, and that things would be OK even if they were elected. Not so much, though, Donald Trump.
This really felt like the gloves coming off. Just the words that President Obama chose, here he is in the East Room of the White House, standing next to another world leader, and having his say on Donald Trump.
He was asked something very specific, too. Do you think that Trump's recent comments criticizing the parents of a fallen Muslim soldier make him unfit to be president? But President Obama went way beyond unfit, calling him woefully unprepared. And he went well beyond recent comments, questioning Trump's knowledge, his common sense, and his basic decency.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president. I said so last week, and he keeps on proving it.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): A blunt answer to a simple question, but President Obama didn't want to stop there, unleashing a more-than- five-minute smackdown.
OBAMA: The notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that had made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country, the fact that he doesn't appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues means that he is woefully unprepared to do this job.
KOSINSKI: Extending his pointed words to top Republicans and the party as a whole.
OBAMA: What has been interesting is the repeated denunciations of his statements by leading Republicans, including the speaker of the House, and the Senate majority leader, and prominent Republicans like John McCain.
And the question I think that they have to ask themselves is, if you're repeatedly having to say, in very strong terms, that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? What does this say about your party, that this is your standard-bearer?
This isn't a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily. There has to come a point at which you say, somebody who makes those kinds of statements doesn't have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world. There has to come a point at which you say, enough.
And the alternative is that entire party, the Republican Party, effectively endorses and validates the positions that are being articulated by Mr. Trump.
KOSINSKI: A warning there, but President Obama also has some words for the current Democratic nominee. Hillary Clinton opposes the TPP, the massive trade partnership with Asia that Obama has been pushing so hard for.
OBAMA: Well, right now, I'm president, and I'm for it. And I think I have got the better argument. Hopefully, after the election is over, and the dust settles, there will be more attention to the actual facts behind the deal and it won't just be a political symbol or a political football.
KOSINSKI: Both Republican leaders today in the House and the Senate through spokespeople declined to respond to the president's words -- Jake.
TAPPER: I will bet they did.
Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Of course, it did not take long for Trump to respond to the president calling him unfit. Mr. Trump famously likes to counterpunch.
Let's bring in CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
Now, Jim, Trump put up lengthy, lengthy statement, hitting back at President Obama.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, and tying the president to Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump tried to turn the page today, after his damaging confrontation with the Khan family, but again the GOP nominee found his growing chorus of critics only getting louder here in Washington on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Under fire for his very public battle with the parents of a fallen Muslim American soldier, Donald Trump tried to show he still has plenty of military support, introducing a crowd in Virginia to a self-described veteran who offered a medal to the GOP nominee.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A man came up to me and he handed me his Purple Heart. And I said, man, that's like -- that's like big stuff. I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.
But I tell you it was such an honor.
ACOSTA: So far at his rallies this week, Trump has steered clear of his incendiary comments on the Khan family who scolded him at the Democratic Convention.
Trump is attempting to change the subject back to Hillary Clinton.
D. TRUMP: Hillary Clinton will be worse. She has bad relationships with people like Putin. I will give you an example. She has a terrible relationships with Putin. She wants to play the tough one. She's not tough.
ACOSTA: But unlike his past incendiary comments, Trump is having trouble outrunning his war of words with the Khan family. Same goes for his V.P. pick, Mike Pence, who was challenged by a military mother and Clinton supporter to rebuke Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump has disrespected our nation's armed forces and veterans. And his disrespect for Mr. Khan and his family is just an example of that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will there ever be a point in time when you're able to look at Trump in the eye and tell him enough is enough? You have a son in the military. How do you tolerate his disrespect?
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's OK. It's all right. It's all right.
Folks, that is what freedom looks like and that is what freedom sounds like, OK?
ACOSTA: Some Republicans have had enough. One New York GOP Congressman, Richard Hanna, wrote an op-ed, saying: "While I disagree with her on many issues, I will vote for Mrs. Clinton."
President Obama added to the pressure, calling on the GOP to abandon its nominee.
OBAMA: Yes, I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president.
ACOSTA: Trump fired right back with a statement saying it's Hillary Clinton who has proven herself unfit to serve in any government office. The Trump campaign the candidate's son Eric have accused the media of blowing the Khan story out of proportion.
Eric Trump tried to say his father has apologized, even though he hasn't.
ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I think that's a great question for him. And I think he has by calling them a hero.
ACOSTA: And Eric Trump seemed to stand by his father's comments on how daughter Ivanka would respond to sexual harassment in the workplace. Donald Trump had said she would leave her career or company. Eric Trump suggested strong women somehow don't get sexually harassed.
QUESTION: Does your father stick by what he said?
E. TRUMP: There is no question. There is no question that obviously should be addressed and it should be addressed strongly. And Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman. She would not allow herself to be objected to it. ACOSTA: So far, the latest controversies haven't dampened the energy
at his rallies, where supporters seem to be enjoying every moment, even when their candidate jokes about kicking out crying babies.
D. TRUMP: Don't worry about that baby. I love babies. I love babies. I hear that baby crying, I like it. I like it. Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here.
ACOSTA: We all like crying babies.
And just today, one of Trump's top supporters, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, was asked about the Khans today. He said he did not want to criticize the couple, but he did say any of that criticism is inappropriate.
I have spoken with two other key supporters of Donald Trump today, Jake, who told me privately they believe Donald Trump should apologize to the Khans. Of course, that has not happened yet.
TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you so much.
Major changes today at the Democratic National Convention in the wake of last week's e-mail hacking scandal. The CEO of the DNC, Amy Dacey, is now stepping down, and she is far from alone.
Let's bring in CNN's Joe Johns.
Joe, this all started with the hacking into the DNC server and the WikiLeaks revelations of the e-mails, many of them talking very harshly about attacking Bernie Sanders during the primaries.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: And just reading through it, you knew there was going to be some blowback, quite frankly, Jake.
And I think the other thing that is important to say is that it's just a tough time for a national party to have a big leadership transition, less than 100 days before the election. But after the e-mail fiasco at the start of the Democratic National Convention, they don't appear to have much choice.
The DNC announced the departures today, as Jake said, of three people, including the executive director and CEO, Amy Dacey, communications director Luis Miranda. You have seen him on TV. And CFO Brad Marshall, who made an issue of Bernie Sanders' religious beliefs.
In interim chair, Donna Brazile, made the announcement and put out a statement praising all three of them. She also said she appointing a transition team to help the party position itself for the election. And that team includes some veterans that have been around before actually for a long time. TAPPER: Still, as you know, could not be a worse time for a party to
have major leadership changes.
President Obama today, one of Hillary Clinton's biggest cheerleaders, distancing himself, differing with her on trade, especially the Pacific trade deal. I know Secretary Clinton is not on the trail today, but did he have any response at all?
JOHNS: Not so far.
But we have reached out to them and this is such a flash point in the campaign, but the president supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton opposes it. Donald Trump wants to renegotiate it, all because of the fear that, well, relaxing trade restrictions and tariffs, it could actually hurt American workers and jobs.
It was destined to become a fault line in the concrete between Clinton and President Obama. He expressed hope today that once the election is over cooler heads will prevail and Congress will move on the deal, perhaps in a lame-duck session.
There had been some predictions that Hillary Clinton would soften her position, especially since she was in favor of it when she was President Obama's secretary of state. But now she's the nominee. And her campaign chairman, John Podesta, has said she is against it before the election, and she is against it after the election as well.
TAPPER: OK, Joe Johns, thank you so much.
President Obama's comments -- sorry -- a crying baby disrupting a Donald Trump event. Now Hillary Clinton's running mate is wondering out lout if Donald Trump is the real baby -- that story next.
[16:16:41] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Let's keep talking about politics. I'm joined now by our panel, former communications director to Senator Ted Cruz, Amanda Carpenter, Democratic strategist and Hillary Clinton supporter, Hilary Rosen, and former South Carolina lieutenant governor and Donald Trump supporter, Andre Bauer.
Thanks one and all for being here.
Let's start with this problem between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He very aggressively out there again pushing the Pacific trade deal. This isn't something she particularly wants to talk about, Amanda.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, neither candidates want to talk about stuff that they're going to demonize it. Hillary Clinton once said it was the gold standard, now she is trying to run away from it, likely pushed by Bernie Sanders. I predict this is going to rough up in the lame duck. This is what
happens when the next president doesn't want to deal with an issue. You have Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, Republican, who wants it. Paul Ryan, who likes free trade, they're going to strike a deal and take it off of the table before the next administration. The question is, do Democrats in the Senate or the House throw enough of a fit to try to derail it in that critical lame duck session?
TAPPER: When we heard during the convention, Terry McAuliffe, the governor of the great commonwealth of Virginia and a very close friend of Hillary Clinton, saying, oh, she was going to, after a couple of tweaks, that she's going to pass that, and he had to back away from that after the Clinton campaign put out a bunch of statements.
But President Obama saying kind of the same thing saying he hopes cooler heads will prevail. Doesn't that hurt her ultimately in terms of her position, Hilary?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, you know, I don't think it will be dealt with so easily in the lame duck. I think there are a lot of -- there's a lot of opposition to this.
Look, President Obama said today that I'm for it, and she's against it, and friends are allowed to disagree on this issue. And I think that's where they are.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump think that they will be able to negotiate better trade deals than we have. You know, let's give it to the next president and see. I happen to think that President Obama made a good case for this, but Hillary Clinton has taken a different view.
I think that unlike Donald Trump who doesn't have specific plans for the economy, doesn't have specific plans on how to manage trade, Hillary Clinton actually does. She has a very focused set of standards she is trying and achieve in future trade deals. And Donald Trump just saying, "I'm going to throw it all out, I'm going to do better." You know, that's just not specific enough.
TAPPER: Andre, I want to ask you about something you heard earlier in the show, Donald Trump confronted by a crying baby at a rally in Ashburn, Virginia. First, he said he loved the sound of a crying baby, and then I think maybe a few minutes later, the crying baby got to him and he said, you know, probably a better idea if the crying baby and the mom leave.
Hillary Clinton's running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, just weighed on this all. Why don't you take a listen?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I saw that Donald Trump kicked a crying baby out of an event earlier today. So as I'm thinking about pre-K, sometimes you wonder who the baby is. Right. You wonder who the baby is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Your thoughts, sir?
ANDRE BAUER, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I don't know that I have any thoughts on it. He must have been a Democrat, the baby. I don't know. I wasn't there, I didn't see it, and I don't know if he was doing it just in good fun or what. But I hope that we'll focus more on the issues than a crying baby at a rally.
TAPPER: OK, fair enough.
Amanda, I want to read you something from a scathing op-ed by a "Wall Street Journal" deputy editor. Quote, "Conservative die-hards may try to hold fast to the excuse that Hillary Clinton was, is, and always will be worse than Trump, but the argument cannot be sustained indefinitely.
[16:20:08] She may be a corner-cutter and a liar, and she'll almost surely appoint liberals to the Supreme Court. But at least she's not a sociopath."
I don't know if that fits a bumper sticker for Hillary Clinton, but I assume she'll take the vote. You're one of these Republicans who cannot stomach Mr. Trump. Where are you right now? How are you going to vote?
CARPENTER: Politically homeless.
TAPPER: Politically homeless.
CARPENTER: I'm prepared to live under the bridge in a driving rain for the next administration, but fully realize that other people will want to seek shelter. I think that's kind of what Ted Cruz is saying earlier, to vote your conscience.
People are talking about creating a permission structure to vote for Hillary Clinton. I think it's very hard to say "I'm not voting for anybody". I'm going to vote down ballot. You're seeing other Republicans coming out saying "I'll vote for Hillary Clinton."
My question really is, Hillary Clinton does have a big opportunity in this election to pick up Republicans because Donald Trump is so offensive, quite frankly. But what is she going to do to strike a deal? Is she just going to force people to come grumbling over to her, or would she really make some overtures to Republicans to have a successful presidency? I never thought I would say this about Hillary Clinton having this opportunity, but she does.
I don't see her taking any steps to seize that moment right now. Maybe it will come. But if she just wants to wait for people to come to her, I don't think she's squandering a big chance.
ROSEN: You had Mike Bloomberg speaking at the Democratic convention. Someone who Republicans have always liked, a strong, independent voice. You have, you know, Warren Buffett. You have other business leaders coming out and saying Hillary Clinton will be a good steward for the economy.
Sally Bradshaw today, Jeb Bush's former aide, made the most sense to me. She said, "I cannot look my children in the eye and tell them that I was going to vote for Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is a good alternative."
And so, I don't know what kind of new litmus test there is. But when she was a senator, she worked with Republicans well.
TAPPER: Andre, let me bring in Andre.
Andre, I just want to ask you so much of the objection to Donald Trump. It's not about his positions. It's not about his policies. It's not about even the fact that he thinks that the nation is on the right track. So much of it is stylistic.
And if you'll permit me to say, it's a style that you do not share. You are gentlemanly. You are chivalrous. You are generous in your comments.
What do you say to Republicans back in South Carolina, I know they play politics rough back there, back these Republicans, your fellow Charleston Republicans, who say, boy, I really want to vote for Trump, but he is not making it easy for me. I know South Carolina is going to go red. But you know what I'm saying. What do you say to them?
BAUER: Well, Jake, thank you for the comments. I appreciate you being so kind to me.
Donald Trump has got a backbone, and nobody in politics has backbone anymore. Hillary doesn't have it. As soon as the AFL and SEIU say, hey, you need to be the other way on trade, she immediately flops. I mean, it's whatever you say that day to make somebody happy.
Donald Trump dug in. Mr. Khan made comments, he didn't agree with him, he said, look, we appreciate the sacrifice of what your son did, but let's examine this further.
And I don't know if you've seen already, Mr. Khan has pulled down his website helping Muslims get into the country and exploiting the EB-5 system --
TAPPER: He's an immigration attorney. But keep going. I'm sorry.
BAUER: Yes, but he's now pulled his whole website down as of today, around 3:00 today, because it was riddled with all kinds of problems, exactly reinforcing Donald Trump has been talking about.
And so, it goes back -- it's easy to jump on somebody when they say something with a little backbone, because most people in politics don't have any. The media -- once the media jumps on you, everyone immediately draws back because they're scared the death of it and the phone start ringing and the email start coming. And for once, we've got a guy that's got a little backbone. I don't
always agree with him, but I'm glad to see somebody who's willing to take a stand and not immediately back down when there is a little bit controversy that comes with it.
TAPPER: Amanda, I just want, we only have a little bit of time, but I do want to touch on this issue of sexual harassment and the allegations made against Roger Ailes who was reportedly possibly going to advise Donald Trump's campaign. When asked how he would feel if Ivanka Trump were successfully harassed, Mr. Trump said, quote, that's his daughter obviously, "I would like to think she would find another career, to find another company, if that was the case."
Eric Trump, her brother, saying this morning that Ivanka was too strong a woman to allow herself to be harassed, or something along those lines.
You took issue with those comments.
CARPENTER: This comes from a position where it's easy to have a fall back plan. A lot of women don't. Once they achieve a good job with good pay, it's very hard to leave it. You can't recreate those circumstances.
And so, I put out there on Twitter that, you know, a lot of women, they may choose to leave and strong women may also choose to dig in, fight, endure and to ultimately be in a position of power where they can protect other women.
[16:25:02] And I was very heartened to see that Eric Trump responded on Twitter and said that was well-said. And so, I appreciate that. That's a good thing. And I'd like to see more of that recognition.
TAPPER: All right. Amanda, Hillary, Andre, thanks one and all for being here, appreciate it.
President Obama calling on Republicans to rescind their endorsements of Donald Trump, calling the candidate unfit to be commander in chief. We'll talk to one Republican member of Congress about that next.
Plus, the family in the middle of a public feud with Donald Trump. Their emotional moment long before they ever stood on that convention stage. We have a clip from an HBO documentary back in 2008, coming up.