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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; Interview With Bill Maher; Trump Upset Over Democratic Victories on Budget; Putin Talks With Trump; Hillary Clinton Speaks Out; Clinton: I'd Be President if Election Were Oct. 27. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 2, 2017 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:04]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton today accepting full responsibility for the election loss, except for the part when she blamed Comey, Putin, WikiLeaks, misogyny, and the media.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump speaking with Vladimir Putin for the first time since the U.S. bombed an air base in Syria, and all the good vibes over Trump being elect had gone south. Did the president bring up Russia's election hacking and interference?

And speaking of which, Hillary Clinton opening up about the campaign in a big way, taking full responsibility, before suggesting all the other people who were to blame for her loss, stating she would be president if not for FBI Director Comey. Comedian Bill Maher will be here to react.

Plus, is it three strikes and you're out? Republicans right now hanging on their latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare by the slimmest of margins. Did Vice President Pence manage to save the legislation today?

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

President Trump is strolling to the strongmen section of the presidential Rolodex today with his first phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin since that cooling off in the relationship between the two leaders.

The White House says that the conversation was -- quote -- "a very good one."

On the home front, the president seems to be sending some mixed messages about the congressional budget deal. Before a crowd of Air Force Academy cadets earlier today, he declared the agreement a clear win or the American people, but he's also clearly irritated that Democrats are claiming victory, given that the White House had to drop a raft of priorities to get that budget passed through the Senate.

A short while ago, the president sent out his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, to express frustration that the president is not getting enough credit.

CNN correspondent Jason Carroll is live for us at the White House now.

And, Jason, we're just learning more about the presidential phone call with Vladimir Putin. What can you tell us?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, Jake, was also on that call, and he described it as -- quote -- "very constructive." He said there were a lot of detailed exchanges.

Meanwhile, this president is saying what this city needs is a good government shutdown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is what winning looks like.

CARROLL (voice-over): President Trump, facing conservative criticism on the budget bill, declared victory today.

TRUMP: After years of partisan bickering and gridlock, this bill is a clear win for the American people.

CARROLL: This despite a pair of tweets this morning where the president said, "Our country needs a good shutdown in September to fix mess."

QUESTION: How can a shutdown be good?

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: The president wants to see Washington better, get better, get fixed, change the way it does business.

CARROLL: The White House pointing fingers, claiming the Democrats were actually the ones who wanted a shutdown and the president was not happy with how they were claiming victory in budget negotiations.

MULVANEY: The president is frustrated with the fact that he negotiated in good faith with the Democrats and they went out to try and spike a football and make him look bad.

CARROLL: Congressional leaders announced late Sunday they had reached a deal to avert a government shutdown until September. The deal did include money for border security, but not specifically for a new border wall, in part because GOP leaders needed Democratic votes to pass the bill, but the White House saying today funding will go toward enhancing an existing barrier on the border.

TRUMP: Any member of Congress who opposes our plans on border security, and I know these folks didn't, is only empowering these deadly and dangerous threats, and we will not put up with it, and the public won't put up with it.

CARROLL: Meanwhile, the president spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone today. The call was the leaders' third since Trump took office, but the first since Trump's decision for military strikes in Syria following a chemical weapons attack and Trump's comments on the U.S.-Russia relationship at a joint presser last month.

TRUMP: We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.

CARROLL: The White House says the two leaders agreed the suffering in Syria had gone on too long, to also discuss working together to fight terrorism in the Middle East and the nuclear threat on North Korea.

Trump's former challenger, Hillary Clinton, speaking today, critical of the president's foreign policy, particularly his tweets.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: But they have to be part of a broader strategy, not just thrown off on a tweet some morning that, hey, let's get together and, you know, see if we can't get along, and maybe we can, you know, come up with some sort of a deal. That doesn't work.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Well, that comment Clinton made was about a tweet that Trump made last month with regards to North Korea, where he basically said that China and the United States could have a better trade agreement perhaps if China did a better job of trying to do more with North Korea.

[16:05:03]

And, Jake, I also have to say there were certainly more questions the press corps had for this administration, but shortly after the budget chief gave his briefing, the briefing was quickly ended -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jason Carroll at the White House for us, thank you so much.

As Hillary Clinton took jabs at President Trump and his administration, she also talked openly about factors she believes cost her the 2016 election. Even though she lost the race, Clinton was quick to remind the crowd in New York City today that she did win the popular vote by more than three million votes.

Let's bring in CNN's Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, the former Democratic candidate seemed candid, I think it's fair to say, authentically angry still about the loss, about why she thinks she lost in November.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She certainly did, Jake. She was asked if she thought misogyny played a role, and she said that she did, but she also seemed to place much more blame on Russian interference in the election and also in FBI Director Jim Comey's letter that he sent to Congress letting them know that he was reexamining the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private server and a private e-mail address while she was secretary of state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey's letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me, but got scared off.

As Nate Silver, who I -- doesn't work for me, he's an independent analyst, but one considered to be very reliable -- has concluded, if the election had been on October 27, I would be your president.

And it wasn't. It was on October 28. And there was just lot of funny business going on around that. And ask yourself this. Within an hour or two of the "Hollywood Access" tape being made public, the Russian theft of John Podesta's e-mails hit WikiLeaks. What a coincidence.

The reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: All of this, these comments coming as FBI Director Comey is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

And Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have made it clear, Jake, they intend to press Comey on this, so perhaps we will hear more, will follow on what Hillary Clinton said.

Ultimately, as you know, a couple days before the election, he essentially cleared Hillary Clinton, but, at that point, many Democrats feel, certainly Hillary Clinton feels, the damage was done.

TAPPER: And certainly a lot of pundits out there think there are plenty of other reasons why Hillary Clinton lost.

KEILAR: Exactly, right.

She -- in fairness, while she did not point the finger at herself primarily, she said she was the candidate. She said that she -- we will see in her book that's coming out in the fall how she has been requesting absolution, so hints that there may be some soul-searching that we will learn about.

TAPPER: We will see. Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.

My next guest fiercely supported Hillary Clinton during the campaign, so does former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright agree with Clinton's assessment of why Donald Trump is now in the White House? I will ask her coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:11:55] TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead, Hillary Clinton opening up

about her election loss in a remarkable and candid interview this afternoon, telling CNN's Christiane Amanpour that she would be president if it were not for FBI Director James Comey and Russian meddling.

With me now to discuss this and much more is Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.

Madam Secretary, thanks so much for being here.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Great to be with you.

TAPPER: So, you were one of Hillary Clinton's strongest supporters.

And I wanted to get your reaction to her comments today, obviously putting most of the blame at Comey and Putin. There are critics who will say, you know, she called a quarter of the electorate deplorable. She didn't visit Wisconsin. She didn't have a great economic message for white working-class voters, et cetera.

What do you think about what she said today?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I didn't have a chance to see it, but I do -- what I have heard is it that she took responsibility, but I also -- I was out on the road, and I know that there was -- the Comey letter made a difference. I saw that.

And...

TAPPER: How did you see it?

ALBRIGHT: Well, because as I was out and about, people would ask a lot about it. And it really kind of raised questions that, as it turns out, were unnecessary.

So, I think that -- I think that she did the right thing in taking responsibility. But I also do think that these were these outside factors, Comey and what the Russians were doing.

TAPPER: You're friends with her, personal friends with her. You have known her for decades.

How is she dealing with all of this? I know that it's always tough for anyone to lose a presidential election. There's the old story about Mike Dukakis saying to George McGovern, how long does it take to get over it? And McGovern says something like, I will let you know when it happens.

But is this weighing particularly hard on her because of the Russians, because of Comey, and because she won the popular vote?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think she's actually dealing with it in a very responsible and deep way in many ways. I think that, personally, I believe that she would have been an

incredibly good president at a time when the world is as complicated as anything I have ever seen. And she is somebody, as I said at the time, that was most experienced, better ready to be president than anybody.

And I think that she is dealing with it in a responsible way. I think she has taken some downtime. I'm very glad she did an interview -- I look forward to actually seeing all of it -- and that she's writing a book, and I think she's doing the right thing.

TAPPER: All right, stick around.

We got a lot -- much more to talk about in terms of foreign policy, the latest threat from North Korea, and whether you think President Trump should meet with Kim Jong-un.

We will be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:26] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our world lead now: North Korea is warning the United States that the two nations are closer to the, quote, "brink of nuclear war." This comes after the U.S. flew two supersonic B1 bombers over the Korean peninsula in what the Pentagon called a training drill.

Let's continue our conversation with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

So, Madam Secretary, President Trump said he would be honored, that's the word he used, honored to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances. Do you think that's a good idea?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE (1997-2001): No. I think it's very important to meet in diplomatic discussions, but a president doesn't go to a country without any preparation, and "honored" would definitely be the wrong way to discuss somebody that is keeping his people impoverished and starving and controlled. So, I was a little surprised at the term, and also that President Trump would think that he could have a one-on-one conversation with somebody like Kim Jong-un without preparation, and discussions -- he did say under the right circumstances. So, I think we have to try to figure out what he means by that.

TAPPER: And we should point, you have an interesting perspective on this. You to this day are the highest ranking American official, not including former presidents because they don't actually have any specific president rank, to ever meet with the head of state. You did it as President Clinton's secretary of state to solve the problem with Kim Jong-Il. You even had a champagne toast with him.

So, just to play devil's advocate here, what's wrong with President Trump attempting the same thing you attempted? ALBRIGHT: No, well, let me just say, specifically, what had happened

was the number two guy, Vice Marshal Jo, had come to the United States in order to invite President Clinton.

[16:20:06] And President Clinton quite rightly said, "I need to have the secretary of state go over there and see whether this is a doable thing," which is the thing if you're going to be talking to a country is to do some preparation, especially in a place where we don't have any ambassadors.

So, I must say that when I was there, it was a rather peculiar visit because we didn't know what was going to happen. I did have some very good discussions about missile limits, but it was, if you remember that strange time in 2000, when it was unclear who was going to be president of the United States. And so, during that period, we briefed at that stage, Secretary-designate Powell and there was a hope that those talks would be carried on.

TAPPER: And, ultimately North Korea failed to live up to the agreement you negotiated. Every president in modern history has tried to do something with North Korea, and they keep -- they seem determined to do what they want, no matter what agreement, whether it's Bush, Obama or Clinton.

What advice would you give the Trump administration when it comes to dealing with North Korea, just given the fact that their agreements seem to mean nothing?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think one has to be clear about things that we agreed to and they agreed to. In the case of what I was doing was we were in the middle of negotiations with them at a rather peculiar time, but I do think that it's important to push them it. I do think that the Chinese can be more helpful on this and that we have to be very clear about the fact that they cannot be a nuclear power which is why I think it's kind of strange that President Trump would say that it would be an honor to meet Kim Jong-un. So I think it is a problem.

And I do think, Jake, part of the issue that troubles me is that President Trump seems to believe that he can have just one-on-one relationships. And maybe that's possible when you're in business, but it is not something that's possible when you're president of the United States and you need to have a diplomatic corps that is able to carry on the discussions. You're actually dealing government to government, and this is not ma matter of charming somebody by saying that you're honored and that he's a smart cookie.

So, that is not the way that I see the president of the United States properly representing our country.

TAPPER: He did refer to Kim Jong-un as a smart cookie, that's true.

President Trump just recently got off the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They talked about Syria. They talked about North Korea. Both leaders have suggested that the relationship between the U.S. and Russia right now is at its worst level since the Cold War.

Do you agree?

ALBRIGHT: It certainly looks that way. And I think part of it is because the Russian behavior in Syria has been very troubling in terms of their support for Assad and the kinds of things that he is doing in terms of using chemical weapons against his own people and barrel bombs, and I think that it's not a good relationship, and I think it's unfortunate.

I do think that it's important to have a functional relationship with the Russians, to tell them what is acceptable and what isn't. And so, I think the phone calls are fine. I hope that in fact they are very honest in terms of how we get to some kind of political settlement in Syria and how the Russians are generally behaving and interfering in elections not only in the United States but also with what they have been doing in Europe.

TAPPER: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright -- it's always an honor to have you, if I can use the word honor to describe you. You'll permit it this time. Thank you so much. I appreciate it so much.

ALBRIGHT: Great, Jake. Thanks.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton opening up about her presidential loss, saying she was on the way of winning until, quote, "the intervening events of the last ten days." What does Bill Maher think about that? We'll talk to him next. Thanks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:27:56] HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey's letter on October 28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me. You know, if the election had been on October 27th, I'd be your president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Welcome back. More in our politics lead.

That was Hillary Clinton today at the Women for Women International Conference talking about her 2016 loss to Donald Trump.

Joining me now to discuss it is Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" in our sister network, HBO.

Bill, good to see you.

What do you make of Hillary Clinton's decisions about the reason she lost?

BILL MAHER, HOST, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I don't think she's wrong. I don't know why she needs to be coming back. She had her turn, and it didn't work out. I compared her to Bill Buckner. The ball rolled through her legs.

Having said that, she's right about the letter. I don't understand why Director Comey didn't release both. You know, he seemed to be in a tough place, I get it. He had to say something he thought 11 days before the election. Why not say that and then also mention the stuff about Russia with Donald Trump? That seemed to be to me the fair way to handle it.

TAPPER: When Hillary Clinton was asked at the event if misogyny played a role in her loss, she said yes. Do you agree?

MAHER: Of course, absolutely. I think we learned a lot about this country, and we're learning more about it as we watch what goes on with FOX News every day.

TAPPER: That is a pretty remarkable turn of events, but you think that that's about a misogynistic problem in American corporate culture and not just a few bad apples I'm guessing?

MAHER: Not just corporate culture. You know, I think race is more on the surface and people talk about it and there's movements like Black Lives Matter and I'm glad there are, but I think -- I think we thought we were further along on the woman issue than we are, and I don't think we are.

I mean, there's something like 80 countries who have had a woman leader. Pakistan has had a woman leader.