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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Obama Blasts Trump; Republican V.P. Candidate Refuses to Call Former KKK Leader 'Deplorable'; North Korea Nuclear Fears; Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 13, 2016 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:05]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Hillary Clinton must be thinking, thanks, Obama.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Donald Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, facing bipartisan criticism today for refusing to use the word deplorable. It's a word that Hillary Clinton used to describe millions of Trump voters, but he would not touch it. As

Hillary Clinton takes a sick day today, President Obama stepping up, rallying an enthusiastic crowd, but it's one in a traditionally very blue state. Why start there?

Plus, show of force, the U.S. bringing out the big guns in a warning to Kim Jong-un after what could be North Korea's most powerful nuke test yet. What is the next move?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In eight weeks, Americans will go to the polls and elect a new president of the United States. Eight weeks. President Obama today appearing in Philadelphia, in battleground state Pennsylvania, to make the case for Hillary Clinton, one that the recuperating former secretary of state was not able to make for herself on the stump today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do you mind if I just vent for a second?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: You know, you know, the -- you don't grade the presidency on a curve.

This is serious business. And when we see folks talking about transparency, you want to debate transparency? You have got one candidate in this race who's released decades' worth of her tax returns.

The other candidate is the first in decades who refuses to release any at all.

You want to debate who's more fit to be our president? One candidates who's traveled to more countries than any secretary of state ever has, has more qualifications than pretty much anyone who's ever run for this job, and the other who isn't fit in any way, shape, or form to represent this country abroad and be its commander in chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: For his part, Mr. Trump was in Clive, Iowa, at the same time, with plans this evening to head to Pennsylvania to put forward what his campaign calls a real concrete plan to guarantee working moms six weeks of paid maternity leave.

Of course, that's not the only thing the Trump campaign has been talking about today. Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was on Capitol Hill earlier, where at least one Republican senator, Mike Lee of Utah, cautioned the Indiana governor to actually call deplorable the racism of Trump supporters such as David Duke or others on the so- called alt-right.

Pence yesterday in an interview with Wolf Blitzer of course had refused to indulge in what he labeled name-calling.

Jason Carroll is in Clive, Iowa, for us.

Jason, we should point out Pence did say that the Republican ticket does not want David Duke's support.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. He has said that repeatedly.

But, look, at the end of the day, Jake, you know this is a road that the Trump campaign does not want to go down again. You remember how much criticism Trump took after that interview he did with you several months ago when critics say he wasn't quick enough to disavow David Duke's support.

I think at the time, he blamed it on not understanding the question on a faulty earpiece. Look, at this point, at the stage in this game, they want the folks to be on Hillary Clinton and that deplorable comment that she made. That was part of the focus when he had his rally here today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): Donald Trump is not letting Hillary Clinton off the hook for her basket of deplorables remark.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While my opponent slanders you as deplorable and irredeemable, I call you hardworking American patriots who love your country and want a better future for all of our people.

CARROLL: The GOP nominee in Iowa today continuing to hammer his Democratic rival for these comments on Friday. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You could put

half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right, the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.

TRUMP: These are not deplorable people. That, I can tell you.

CARROLL: Trump bringing supporters on stage at his event in Asheville, North Carolina, Monday night to drive his point home.

Clinton has said she regrets using the term half, but she and her campaign are not backing down from calling out what they see as racist and intolerant comments expressed by Trump and his supporters, among them, former KKK grand wizard David Duke.

[16:05:05]

GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence on Monday refused to call Duke deplorable in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't want his support and we don't want the support of people who think like him.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you call him a deplorable? You would call him that?

PENCE: No, I don't -- I am not in the name-calling business, Wolf.

CARROLL: A comment welcomed by Duke, who told BuzzFeed, "It's good to see an individual like Pence and others start to reject this absolute controlled media."

Pence passed up another opportunity to label Duke as deplorable on Capitol Hill today. But he reiterated that he and Trump have disavowed Duke's support.

PENCE: My colleagues in the House of Representatives know that I believe that civility is essential in a vibrant democracy. And it's just never been my practice.

CARROLL: Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, blasting Pence for his comments.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you can't call it out, and you stand back and you're silent around it, you are enabling it to grow, you are enabling it to become more powerful.

CARROLL: The Clinton campaign hammering the point with a new TV ad featuring past comments from Trump.

TRUMP: They're losers. Losers. Losers. Disgusting. Stupid. You can't lead this nation if you have such a low opinion for its citizens.

CARROLL: But Trump says it's Clinton's campaign that's a campaign of hate.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton has been running a hate-filled and negative campaign with no policy, no solutions, and no new ideas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And, Jake, tonight, the focus for Trump will be on policy when he delivers a speech in Pennsylvania. He will be unveiling his child care affordability plan. He told the crowd here in Iowa that his daughter, Ivanka, who actually helped to develop this plan, really pushed for the plan -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jason Carroll in Iowa, thank you so much.

Joining me now, national spokeswoman for the Trump campaign Katrina Pierson.

Katrina, thank you so much for coming on today. We appreciate it.

KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Great to be here. Thank you.

TAPPER: So, you heard what Governor Pence said last night on CNN and you heard what he said today about using the word deplorable and David Duke, who I think by any objective measure believes horrific, deplorable, racist, anti-Semitic things.

Now, the campaign has said they do not want his support. The campaign has said they do not want the support of people who think like him. Why not call him deplorable? The critics say that not doing so makes it look as though the Trump campaign is trying to not offend white supremacists, white nationalists and the like.

PIERSON: Well, not at all, Jake.

I mean, look, Donald Trump has already denounced David Duke on a number of occasions, on the exact first day the word came out that he was supporting Mr. Trump. And I believe CNN was the one that asked the question at the press conference and he shut it down immediately.

The only reason why David Duke even has a platform is because CNN keeps talking about it. But let me agree with something that Tim Kaine just said in that little package there about if you ignore something, it grows and gets worse. And that's absolutely right.

And that's exactly why we have ISIS today. For Hillary Clinton to call half of the people of this country deplorable does absolutely disqualify her. And it wasn't just half of Trump's supporters. She actually went after all of Trump's supporters by saying half are all those terrible names, racist, sexist, homophobic, and the other half are just desperate.

She has essentially called out 100 percent of Trump's supporters. But I will say that this is typical of the elite politicians, and if you don't agree with them, then somehow you're a deplorable person. And that's exactly what Hillary Clinton thinks of half of America. TAPPER: Well, she has backed off the word half. She said she

shouldn't have said half, but she has said that there is a basket of deplorables that support Donald Trump.

Let's talk about some of them. Pence's interview last night has earned praise from white supremacists and neo-Nazis and other racists. David Duke told BuzzFeed: "It's good to see an individual like Pence and others start to reject this absolute controlled media."

James Edwards, a white supremacist radio host, tweeted: "Bravo."

The Daily Stormer, which is a neo-Nazi Web site, said of the Trump -- said of the interview with Pence: "Trump chose a solid guy to back him up, it seems."

Does it make you at all uncomfortable to hear praise from people like that?

PIERSON: No, because you can't control what other people do.

What makes me uncomfortable is when the father of a terrorist openly supports a presidential candidate, when someone who simply wants to secure the border is somehow a racist or a bigot.

People who want to control illegal immigration are labeled racists and bigots. People who want to stop ISIS from coming into their communities are called Islamophobic. These are hardworking American citizens.

And I know that Hillary Clinton and a lot of her friends don't live on a border state. Their children go to private schools. And they don't have to deal with the impact of illegal immigration, like many of us in border states do.

[16:10:00]

But to insult them based upon an insinuation is absolutely absurd.

TAPPER: Katrina...

PIERSON: We can around and say look at the people that are supporting Hillary Clinton, burning the American flag, defacing public property, violently protesting, calling for cops to be murdered in the streets. That's absurd.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: No one has called people who don't want ISIS to move into their neighborhood Islamophobic. That has never happened in the history of the world.

PIERSON: That is absolutely what they are talking about. If you speak out against bringing in Syrian refugees, you are a bigot.

TAPPER: No. People call people who hate Muslims Islamophobic. But people don't say that about people who don't want ISIS to move in. Listen, it's not critics who are in the "liberal media" -- quote,

unquote. According to his office, Republican Senator Mike Lee today spoke with Pence and told him -- quote -- "Republicans must identify David Duke's racism as deplorable. Lee also encouraged the Trump campaign to be explicit in its denunciation of the alt-right movement."

That is not a liberal. That is Utah Senator Mike Lee, a Tea Party conservative, red Republican. He thinks your campaign and your candidates are not doing enough to condemn these racist views. Is Mike Lee wrong?

PIERSON: And he is also a never-Trumper who has never had anything nice to say about Mr. Trump.

And, really, this entire interview and all of these interviews based around this one word, deplorable, is simply because the Trump campaign is not going to use Hillary Clinton's terminology. That's what we're talking about here.

The campaign has disavowed. The campaign, Mr. Trump, as well as Mike Pence, has said we do not like the support, do not want the support of individuals like this, yet we cannot control them.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: OK. Don't use the word deplorable. That's fine.

PIERSON: But just because we don't use Hillary Clinton's terminology?

TAPPER: Let's break out the thesaurus. Is David Duke vile?

PIERSON: Absolutely. And that's exactly why the campaign wants nothing to do with him. And we have said that a number of times on a number of networks. And the only reason why David Duke gets play is because the media keeps him out there, not the Trump campaign.

TAPPER: All right, Katrina Pierson, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

PIERSON: Great to be here. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: With soaring approval ratings, President Obama hits the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, laughing off Trump as a reality TV candidate who will do nothing for working-class Americans.

But if it's so funny, how come Obama is in a state that hasn't voted a Republican for president since 1988? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:19] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Let's stay with politics now.

Hillary Clinton, her campaign says, is feeling better as she recovers from pneumonia. Today, a rather high-profile supporter campaigned on her behalf, President Obama. But with 56 days until the election, is Hillary Clinton potentially losing ground by being off the campaign trail?

CNN's senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns joins me now.

And, Joe, when is the next time we expect to see the Democratic nominee?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No word yet on when Hillary Clinton plans to go back to work, Jake. We do know she was supposed to be in California today and Nevada tomorrow and that Bill Clinton is stepping in for her at those events. But while she took the day off today, her old boss, President Obama, made a solo appearance on the campaign's behalf today with an enthusiastic speech in Philadelphia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): President Obama giving Hillary Clinton's presidential bid a lift tonight, as the Democratic nominee recuperates from a bout of pneumonia.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Can I just say, I am really into electing Hillary Clinton.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

This is not me going through the motions here. I really, really, really want to elect Hillary Clinton.

JOHNS: Clinton tells CNN she had hoped to be able to avoid taking a break from her campaign schedule.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Like a lot of people, I just thought I could keep going forward and power through it, and obviously that didn't work out s well.

JOHNS: But the decision to wait to illness until after video surfaced of her stumbling while leaving a 9/11 ceremony on Sunday is raising new questions about Clinton's lack of transparency.

CLINTON: I just didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal.

JOHNS: That as Clinton and her Clinton try to turn the transparency issue on Trump, saying isn't being held to the same standard.

CLINTON: Compare everything you know about me with my opponent. I think it's time he met the same level of disclosure that I have for years.

JOHNS: Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, suggesting during an appearance on MSNBC that candidates should be entitled to privacy when it comes to health records.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't know why we need such extensive medical reporting when we all have a right to privacy.

JOHNS: But it seemed to suggest medical privacy doesn't apply to Clinton in this case.

CONWAY: The question remains, if this is about transparency and medical records and health conditions, then why -- why did -- why was she so furtive in the business of concealment here?

JOHNS: President Obama today calling out Trump on another matter -- tax returns.

OBAMA: Do you want to debate transparency? You've got one candidate in this race who's released decades' worth of her tax returns. The other candidate is the first in decades who refuses to release any at all.

JOHNS: Trump's campaign deflecting questions about Trump's refusal to release his tax returns and also failing to provide specifics in terms of his charitable giving after running mate Mike Pence told CNN Monday that Trump had given away tens of millions of dollars.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Part of the reason we want to know is so that we know how much he himself has given to charity. Will you or the campaign release exactly what that number is? The reason I ask --

CONWAY: I doubt it.

CAMEROTA: Why would you doubt it?

CONWAY: I doubt it because this is like badgering. In other words, I don't see it as journalism. I see it as badgering.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The takeaway here is that both of these candidates have major transparency issues, but at the moment, health is the big issue. The Clinton campaign says additional medical records on the candidate will be coming out this week. And Donald Trump reportedly will discuss his medical record on "The Dr. Oz Show" on Thursday.

[16:20:03] TAPPER: Joe Johns, thank you so much.

The U.S. answers with a sonic boom or two after North Korea claims it conducted another nuclear test. How will Kim Jong-un respond to American bombers in the air?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

TAPPER: Texas Governor Rick Perry on "Dancing with the Stars," one year and one day before the former Texas governor suspended his second campaign for president.

[16:25:01] Last night, he and his partner performed a Texas-themed cha-cha.

And on that note I am joined by our political panel, CNN political director David Chalian and "Real Clear Politics" national political reporter Rebecca Berg.

I'm not going to ask either one of you to weigh in on Governor Perry's whatever you call that.

So, David, let me ask you, President Obama, in Philly today, in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, a state that has not voted for a Republican for president since 1988. Does the fact that he went to Pennsylvania suggests that that state is in play?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it definitely suggests that. There is no doubt about it. Also, where he went specifically in Philadelphia is with a task at hand because there are certain parts of the Obama coalition that right now Hillary Clinton is underperforming with in a lot of battleground state polls that we've seen across the country, specifically with Latinos and with young people.

So, going to a minority heavy community like Philadelphia where it also has a lot of you people, he is there to actually turn out the coalition. But more broadly to Pennsylvania and your point, I think Pennsylvania may end up being one of the keys to this election, because Donald Trump's path, as you and I know talked about, it is narrow. It's a tough climb to get him to 270 --

TAPPER: He needs to run the table really.

CHALIAN: He does. Pennsylvania is a trigger for him. If he can't make an inroad there and actually convert that state, his ability to get to 270 becomes much more complicated. He has to put like seven other really competitive states on his side. Pennsylvania, if he can woo it to his side, opens up a path to 270.

TAPPER: I agree it's key. He is going there this evening to present his plan for paid maternity leave.

Rebecca, I just wonder, other Republicans in the past, everyone always talks about going after Pennsylvania the same way Democrats always talk about Missouri. And at the end of the day, three weeks, four weeks out --

REBECCA BERG, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: It never happens.

TAPPER: It never happens.

I think he means it. I think -- Mr. Trump going there tonight, I think he's going to be campaigning there until the very end.

BERG: Well, the reason he is doing fairly well in Pennsylvania and maybe better than we would expect is because, as you know, the white working class there -- there's a higher proportion than you see in some other states. That's also why Trump is doing well in Iowa, which Obama won by five points in 2012. Because he was able to win over that white working class in a way Hillary Clinton is not. Donald Trump is basically completely consolidating this demographic.

And so, in states with a higher proportion of white working class, a lower proportion of college-educated voters, he has a really good chance. But with this new message, he is looking to bring some new voters in his fold, suburban white women I would argue. The people he's targeting with this new paid maternity leave push, because it's really not a conventional Republican position. It's certainly one that some of Trump's supporters in the past like Laura Ingraham, like Sean Hannity have actually mocked because it's really unconventional for Republicans.

TAPPER: It's a Democratic position, basically, to have six weeks paid maternity leave for moms.

David, let me ask you, that attempt to go around the collar of Philadelphia and winning over the moms, not just in Pennsylvania, but all over the country. When Mike Pence refuses to use the word "deplorable" to talk about David Duke and this comes in the context of a lot of rather deplorable people being very vocal Trump supporters, not a majority, not half, but a lot of them. And I just wondered, does that hurt that attempt to go into the collar, to go into Montgomery County and the other suburbs outside Philly and other liberal to moderate Republican women?

CHALIAN: It is without a question where those controversies are first felt electorally for the Trump campaign. There's no doubt about that. It's why we see -- you know, when Donald Trump was out courting the African-American vote, going -- you remember he went to Michigan, he went to other places. Even though he was talking to largely white crowds initially before his Detroit trip, he was talking about his wooing of the African-American vote and how well he thought -- we talked then, it wasn't about just trying to dig into Hillary Clinton's enormous advantage with African-Americans. Part of that was to appeal to white suburbanites as a more tolerant person than they think he is. That he is willing to do the outreach. That was a critical component of what he was doing.

So, when Mike Pence, you know, doesn't want to use the word "deplorable" and won't use that and say David Duke is deplorable and the Clinton campaign makes hay of that, the first place that that's going to be felt is in these suburban areas, because all of a sudden, people who may already be sort of on the fence, if they think that the Trump/Pence campaign is tolerant of this hatred, that becomes a huge turnoff.

TAPPER: And I guess, Rebecca, the big question is, OK, you don't want to use the same word as Hillary Clinton. Why not just say it's disgusting, it's racist, I hate it, I don't want to have anything to do it. Why this reluctance to do it. We saw that earlier this year with Donald Trump and we've seen this, you know, Donald Trump retweeting white supremacists, people with the name "white genocide" in their handle. Are they -- explain to me what you think is going on because it's --

BERG: It's a little confusing because Mike Pence will go out there and say we don't want his support, we don't want the support of people who think the way that David Duke thinks, but then going one step further to say deplorable, that's a line that he won't cross.