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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Latest from the Campaign Trail; Former Giuliani Aide Backs Clinton; Panel Discusses Issues for Campaigns; Iran Receives $400 Million Same Day Americans Released; First U.S. Police Officer Charged With Supporting ISIS; Thirty Three U.S. Military Members Infected With Zika. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired August 3, 2016 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: He will make America once again like the president I worked for, Ronald Reagan, the shining city on the hill.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, well, you don't work for Rudy anymore. So, maybe this will be easier than the time that you did. But why is Mayor Giuliani wrong?
MATT HIGGINS, FORMER GIULIANI PRESS SECRETARY: Well, first, my love for Rudy is undying.
And all due respect to Mayor Bloomberg, I think he is the greatest mayor the city has ever had and every will have. But I also didn't sign a lifelong pledge to agree with everything he says. I respect his opinion.
But I know Mayor Giuliani respected people who went in their own direction. I think he is wrong. I don't want to live in a country where we build walls to keep people out, and one day maybe keep us in. I don't want to live in a country where eventually we have a litmus test based upon our religion on whether you can be an American citizen.
In some respects, we have woken up to a dystopian reality about what America might look like to make it great again. I think America is pretty great. I think we have a lot of challenges that we need to tackle, but I don't agree with Donald Trump's vision for this country.
TAPPER: A recent CNN poll found that 64 percent of Americans polled believe Hillary Clinton is not honest or trustworthy. Do you share any of those concerns at all?
HIGGINS: I don't share those concerns. Unfortunately, I think familiarity can breed contempt. There is a degree of overexposure, by definition, that she has been around for a very long time. But when you look at her qualifications, when you look at her intellect, when you look the endorsement of people around her, Bob Gates, who hasn't officially endorsed her, but when you look at what he says about her, people I respect, I think she deserves a fresh look.
I hope throughout the next three months, she gets a chance to make her case again. And I hope the people will say the stakes are so high, the future of our country is at stake, let me give her a second look. That's what I did. I reached out to the campaign four weeks ago and said I would like to get to know her and her policies and I made my decision.
TAPPER: Matt, last question, I want to give you the preemptive opportunity to respond to people who are going to be flooding your e- mails and Twitter mentions calling you a traitor.
What are you going to say to them?
HIGGINS: I'm going to say that when the stakes are as high as they are right now, you have to vote your conscience.
I love this country. I love what we're about. I want my son, my 9- year-old son, to grow up in a country that reflects the values of our founding fathers. And the vision that Donald Trump has portrayed for the United States does not represent the Republican Party that I came to love. I fully expect and hoped to be called a loser by the Trump campaign, and I'm prepared for it.
TAPPER: Matt Higgins, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.
HIGGINS: Thank you.
TAPPER: Donald Trump has said he is concerned about the election being rigged. Will that be a possible excuse if he loses in November? What are the ramifications of that? That story next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
You're looking at live pictures of Donald Trump. He's in Daytona Beach, Florida, giving a speech that seems to be fairly on message.
Joining me now to discuss Mr. Trump, Secretary Clinton and much, much more is our political panel, "Weekly Standard" senior editor Bill Kristol, Donald Trump's Kayleigh McEnany, and former adviser to President Obama Stephanie Cutter.
Kayleigh, I want to play you something that former Barack Obama adviser David Axelrod said on CNN this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If Donald Trump were trying to lose this election, and I'm not saying he is, but if he were, I'm not sure he would behave any differently than he has in the last few days. I mean, this is something I have never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It might be a little harsh, but, Kayleigh, can you point to anything Mr. Trump has done since his convention that has helped to expand and grow his voter base?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes.
You know, there are a bunch of controversies this week and things boiling around. I think they should be split into two categories, the attack or reference to the Khans and the back and forth there. It should not have happened. That was a big mistake.
But some of the other controversies or alleged controversies, like not endorsing Paul Ryan, for instance, or the kind of billionaire class, Meg Whitman coming to Hillary Clinton, I think that plays into his message of being anti-Washington.
The billionaires are with Hillary Clinton, I'm with you. I think there is an opportunity there, but all of this gets lost and the message gets lost when we get mired and kind of enmeshed in the Khan situation. So, I think he needs to stay on message. And this is a very critical moment if he wants to win in November.
TAPPER: Take a listen, Bill, to what Mr. Trump had to say in an interview Monday night about Khizr Khan, the father of that slain Muslim American soldier, the hero, and why thinks Khizr Khan spoke out against him. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you have radical Islamic terrorists, probably all over the place, we're allowing them to come in by the thousands and thousands, and I think that's what bothered Mr. Khan more than anything else.
And, you know, I'm not going to change my views on that. We have radical Islamic terrorists coming in that have to be stopped. We're taking them in by the thousands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: This actually didn't get as much attention as one would think. But he is saying that Khizr Khan, Gold Star father, whose son did something braver and more heroic than I can even imagine, that he opposed Donald Trump because he -- because Khizr Khan wants radical Islamist terrorists, thousands and thousands of them, to come into the United States.
Where do you even begin?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, I know.
I suppose he means that Khizr Khan opposes the blanket ban on Muslim immigrants, and that's why he spoke.
But what was most revealing -- the whole Khan controversy is so horrifying in terms of what it reveals about Trump's character.
But the most revealing thing to me was his initial statement where it didn't even occur to when he was asked about it, as a grace, as a matter of graciousness and decency, to thank the Khan family for their son's heroism, to say, express gratitude for what he did.
It doesn't even occur to Trump, because he is such a narcissist. And she's honest uns -- unfit to be president of the United States.
TAPPER: You were going to say unstable.
KRISTOL: Yes, he is unstable. I really think so.
Hillary Clinton should not be elected, because this country deserves better. A great country deserves better than Hillary Clinton. The same country deserves better than Donald Trump. And I do think he is unstable.
And he is so narcissistic that you couldn't trust his judgment about anything.
TAPPER: Stephanie, instead of just giving you a gimme on Donald Trump, I want to ask you...
TAPPER: I know you want to talk about Donald Trump, but it has been 243 days since Secretary Clinton had a formal press conference with multiple questions and reporters seated.
Back in May, she told me she would have one soon. Doesn't her refusal to hold a press conference -- Donald Trump holds them all the time. Doesn't her refusal really kind of undermine her argument when she tries to go after him on transparency or media issues?
STEPHANIE CUTTER, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think transparency has to do with his tax returns and many other things that he is refusing to release.
But, look, Jake, she does lots of media interviews. I agree she should probably have a press conference some time soon. It has been 243 days, is that you said?
TAPPER: And 243, yes.
TAPPER: That's a long time. CUTTER: That's a long time.
TAPPER: Presidents don't go that long.
CUTTER: Well, remember, when you're running for president, there is always criticism of presidential campaigns. I think Trump is not the norm on this. He does press conferences more often than others.
It doesn't necessarily help him with voters. But on the campaign, you have to make decisions about time and how you're going to drive the message and how not to step on your message. And I think that all goes into when and how you schedule press conferences.
KRISTOL: You're running against Donald Trump
CUTTER: You should stay out of the way.
KRISTOL: Hillary Clinton should go on vacation for the next..
KRISTOL: She should let eloquent surrogates, Republicans, members of military, say why Donald Trump can't be president of the United States, and she shouldn't remind anyone of all the reasons why she probably shouldn't be president either.
CUTTER: She has done plenty of interviews.
TAPPER: Yes, but it is not the same thing.
CUTTER: And talking with voters and taking questions from voters.
But I understand your point. And I feel like you and I had this conversation every four years.
TAPPER: Not like this.
Kayleigh, let me ask you. Mr. Trump said he thought that the election was going to be rigged. What do you think that is all about?
MCENANY: I think there are a lot of people who are really questioning democratic institutions right now.
We saw at the DNC that they were purportedly unbiased, but they wanted to use Senator Sanders' religion against him and in fact make up a story about him at the top levels of the DNC, CEO, CFO. So you look at that, and you combine that with the report out of L.A., for instance, from CBS last month saying there are hundreds of dead people eligible to vote right now.
In elections that can come down to a few hundred votes, when you see institutions like the IRS bullying Tea Party groups, it is very concerning to a lot of voters. I think this puts the spotlight on the election and we're all going to be keenly aware now of issues going forward. I think this was a smart move of him to really put the spotlight on it. TAPPER: Bill, last word?
KRISTOL: For a presidential candidate to just cavalierly assert that an election is rigged, and therefore increase, I guess, lack of confidence in our democratic process, that is not the normal thing that's done.
CUTTER: A lot of people think he is going to drop out.
TAPPER: I don't think -- let's stick with facts.
MCENANY: Conspiracy theory.
TAPPER: Stephanie, let me just ask you, though, this could really hurt the Democratic Party, you know, 90, whatever, days before the election, the CEO, the CFO, the communications director all shown the door. That's kind of a big deal.
CUTTER: It is a big deal. And, you know, some of them are my personal friends, and they did a great job and great service to the Democratic Party.
TAPPER: Mr. Sanders would probably disagree.
CUTTER: But there is a whole career of service here to the Democratic Party.
But, you know, I understand what Donna Brazile is doing. She needs to clean house, start fresh, and show that there is going to be a change.
TAPPER: Will that hurt your get-out-the-vote efforts?
CUTTER: Well, I think, no, I don't actually. I don't think it will hurt the get-out-the-vote efforts.
TAPPER: All right, Stephanie, Bill, Kayleigh, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
MCENANY: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Be sure to tune in tonight to CNN when the Libertarian ticket takes the stage in a live town hall, Gary Johnson, William Weld. Anderson Cooper will moderate. It all starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.
The U.S. delivered $400 million in cash to Iran on the same day four American prisoners were released. The White House says, hey, we weren't paying ransom. Why won't they say what would have happened if the government didn't pay up?
Then an American police officer arrested and charged with trying to help ISIS -- details on the officer's alleged ties to the terrorist group next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Our World Lead
now, outrage today after lawmakers learned a plane full of cold hard cash sent secretly to Iran. The Obama administration admitting that it airlifted currency worth $400 million to Tehran in January and it just happened to arrive on the very same day that Iran released four detained Americans.
Now, at the time, back in January, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander said that the money was directly in return for, quote, "The release of the spies" referencing the prisoners.
Joining me with more is CNN's Elise Labott. Elise, for an administration which publicly has the posture and policy of refusing to pay for hostages or even allow American families to do so, this looks an awful lot like ransom paid to a state sponsor of terror.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it definitely looks like that, Jake. The administration says that the money was to resolve a decades' long financial dispute with Iran, not a ransom to free the four Americans. But the curious timing is raising new questions about the administration's judgment when it comes to Iran and Congress is demanding answers.
LABOTT (voice-over): Four Americans including "Washington Post" reporter, Jason Rezaian, were freed from an Iranian prison on January 17th.
[16:50:01]But just as the Americans boarded a Swiss aircraft bound for Germany, another unmarked cargo plane was landing in Iran, loaded with pallets of $400 million worth of cash, shrink wrapped Euros, Swiss Francs and other currencies.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is a good day.
LABOTT: While the freed Americans were in the air, President Obama announced a historic nuclear agreement with Iran. The White House insists the money entering Iran within a few hours of the American prisoners leaving, was all a coincidence, and there was no quid pro quo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it is not a ransom payment. It is not accurate to describe it that way.
LABOTT: But that's not how Iranian leaders described it at the time. Republicans armed with these new details of the money transfer, as first described in the "Wall Street Journal," are outraged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the reasons you don't want to transfer $400 million in unmarked bills in cash to Iran is because it is going to end up in the hands of Hezbollah, or end up in the hands of the other Iranian agents.
LABOTT: While U.S. and Iranian diplomats were secretly negotiating a prisoner exchange, separate teams from both countries were resolving a decades old Iranian claim before an international tribunal at The Hague.
The $400 million, the first payment ending a dispute over a failed arms deal dating back to the Shah of Iran. President Obama announced the settlement in January, the day after the prisoners were freed and the nuclear deal was signed.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Iran will be returned its own funds including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount they sought. With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.
LABOTT: What the president left out was the first payment was flown into Iran a day earlier, $400 million in non-U.S. currencies, skirting U.S. sanctions that ban transaction with Iran in U.S. dollars.
After the cash filled plane landed in Iran and the Americans were freed, Iranian military commanders boasted the money was a ransom. But the State Department insists the prisoners would have been freed the same day, even without the payment.
MARK TONER, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We believe so because that was worked through a different process and it was concluded successfully.
LABOTT: Now, Congress is debating legislation preventing the White House from making any more cash payments to Iran and requiring the White House to make the details of the $1.7 billion settlement public.
Meanwhile, just last week, Iran detained another American, (inaudible), two other citizens, (inaudible) and his father (inaudible) have been helf for months. Their family fears, Jake, the Iranians are looking for another cash payment before the Obama administration leaves office.
TAPPER: That's the whole reason to have a policy against ransom because it only encourages the hostage takers. Elise Labott, thank you so much.
He had been on investigators' radar since 2010 so why did the FBI wait six years to arrest an American police officer for allegedly trying to help ISIS.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our National Lead today, for the first time ever here in the United States, a law enforcement officer is facing a terror charge for allegedly attempting to support ISIS.
More startling, not only was the suspect a 13-year veteran police officer, but he was specifically assigned to the massive public transit system, right here in Washington, D.C.
Let's bring in CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez. Evan, the officer appeared in court this afternoon. Tell us more.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, the FBI has been keeping a close eye on Nicholas Young for the past six years. During that time, undercover agents and informants have been recording his conversations, including threats he allegedly made against federal agents.
None of that crossed the line according to prosecutors to merit charges until last week, when he bought 22 gift cards for use in messaging apps that he sent to someone he thought was working with ISIS overseas.
Now he is charged with providing material support to terrorists. There is a lot of confusing parts of his background. Now he was a Muslim convert, but he spoke of having Nazi sympathies in the past and he dressed up as Jihadi John for a Halloween party, carrying around a headless orange jump suit.
But he had an eagle tattoo on his neck associated with neo Nazis. Now during the time this has been under investigation by the FBI, the feds have also arrested two of his associates.
One is Zachary Chesser (ph) serving time for supporting a Somali known as Shabaab (ph), and he's known for making threat to the creators of the TV show, "South Park."
Another is Amin Il Khalifi (ph), he was arrested in a plot to blow up the U.S. capitol. This D.C. transit officer, Jake, is facing 20 years if he is convicted of these charges.
TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much.
Turning now to our Health Lead, the Zika virus continuing to spread while members of Congress continue to enjoy that recess they called for themselves before coming to any agreement on funding to stop the spread of the virus in this country.
Today, the Pentagon said 33 U.S. military members, including one pregnant woman, have been infected while serving overseas.
Back on U.S. shores, the situation is not getting any better. Florida officials confirmed that another person in Miami has been infected with the virus, and the rush to produce a vaccine is more urgent than ever.
Health and Human Services Secretary Silvia Burwell (ph) sent out a letter saying the money to develop a Zika vaccine will run out by the end of the month unless Congress acts. So Congress, you might want to get on that.
Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or tweet the show @theleadcnn. That's it for THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, tailspin, sources say Donald Trump's campaign is in disarray after a series of blunders by the nominee. Staffers and GOP leader --