Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

North Korean Nuclear Fears; Investigating Jared Kushner. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 30, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Took a picture likening themselves to that orb picture that you had with President Trump and the Saudi king. So that was a bit of a lighter moment.

But, generally, there is quite a bit of frustration right now here in Europe, as -- as the White House is perceived to be quite negative towards many European countries, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And French President Emmanuel Macron, he had a couple of interesting interactions with President Trump during the trip, including this tense handshake that we're showing right now, white-knuckled, and Macron would not let go.

And then another time, Macron walking straight towards a group of world leaders, looking like he's headed for President Trump, and then he veered off to Angela Merkel and goes through the crowd and finally gets to President Trump.

Clearly, Emmanuel Macron trying to send a message to the president.

PLEITGEN: Yes, certainly.

And the strange thing about it, Jake, is that he's completely open about it. He ran out and he said, yes, I did all of these things on purpose. He said the never-ending handshake was because he didn't want to show any sort of weakness in front of President Trump.

In fact, he compared President Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and to Vladimir Putin, saying these are all leaders who see international relations as power politics, as a balancing of relations.

So he felt that, even in gestures, he couldn't give an inch. And that's why he did the things he did, including that never-ending handshake, which he himself said was quite awkward for him as well, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

We have lots to talk about with my panel today.

And, Jen Psaki, let me start with you, former communications director for the Obama White House, because a lot of issues that President Trump has with Germany and with Angela Merkel in terms of not paying enough on defense, according to NATO obligations, in terms of the trade deficit, these are issues that President Trump shares with President Obama and previous presidents.

His supporters might say, hey, he's at least bringing it out in the open. President Obama didn't get results.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, President Obama did get results.

In 2014, Germany and a number of European countries pledged to contribute 2 percent of their GDP by 2024. That's in process. Right now, Germany is paying for about 15 percent of NATO's operating budget. The United States pays for 22 percent. Should they do more? Yes, and they have pledged to do more over the next 10 years.

But the issue here is that German leaders, long been one of our strongest partners in Europe through Obama and through Bush, are questioning whether the United States is a strong ally anymore and whether even the United States has as much influence globally anymore.

And that should be a concern to anyone of either party.

TAPPER: What do you think, Molly? Is this tension between the United States and Europe, is it overstated, or is President Trump really actually sticking his finger in people's eyes?

MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": I think he is, but I think that's the point.

I think what he promised was to be unpredictable. What he promised was to disrupt the status quo a little bit. And I think that includes some of our traditional alliances, which is going to trouble people who believe in those traditional alliances. And it clearly troubles the Europeans.

But I think that, as you were saying, he would say that this -- if you don't show people you're serious about being willing to upset that apple cart, you are not going to make as much progress, so I do think that in the minds of the president and the administration, it's not necessarily a bad thing to set people on edge a little bit.

TAPPER: David Urban, President Trump was much friendlier to the Saudis and the Egyptians than he was to traditional American allies Germany, France and Italy. That might upset a lot of people.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I don't think that should be seen as troubling at all.

And let's just go back to Jen's comment briefly about the world not taking this president seriously. President Obama that drew a red line in the sand on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, walked back, walked it back, our allies and our enemies saw that.

This president took a much stronger stance, and I think that was really evident. As far as -- as far as visiting the Saudis and paying close attention to what's going on in the Middle East, that's a very important part of world. It always has been.

I don't think he's paying less attention to NATO. I think it's just -- it's where are you going to start, in Europe or in the Middle East? He decided to start in the Middle East. I don't think there's that much, that we should be paying attention to it.

TAPPER: Jen, do you want to respond?

PSAKI: Look, I think President Obama hasn't been president for four months. We didn't solve the Syria crisis. Trump hasn't solved it either.

I think there are people who came out and said they were happy to see that President Trump went and took military action, but we have seen no plan since then.

These aren't my criticisms. These are criticisms from European leaders, and they were very specific.

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: Let me finish. Some of the specific concerns were about the Paris climate agreement. They were about arming in conflict, which is something that came out of the Saudi Arabia trip, allowing them to use weapons.

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: Let me finish.

URBAN: OK.

PSAKI: In Yemen -- there were some specific concerns.

These are concerns that President Trump can address, or he cannot address. He will have another opportunity at the G20 in July.

URBAN: You're speaking about global leadership, global leadership in times of crisis.

President Trump in that instance took a very specific stance. It was completely opposite of what President Barack Obama did, and I think was widely -- widely praised for it.

[16:35:10]

TAPPER: I want to turn to another issue kind of in the pop culture sphere.

And I want to warn you out there, especially if you have kids, you might find what we're about to show you a little bit graphic. It's not an actual photograph, but let's show it to you now.

It's a depiction of comedian Kathy Griffin, who does work for CNN on New Year's Eve. She is pictured in this new photo. She's holding a bloody Donald Trump head. It's pretty disgusting, and I can't imagine how anybody would think

that's appropriate.

Donald Trump Jr. is out there saying this is now considered to be acceptable discourse by the left, Molly.

BALL: Who is saying it's acceptable discourse?

TAPPER: Don Trump Jr. said that...

(CROSSTALK)

BALL: Who is saying it's even discourse?

I have a hard time bringing myself to care about something like this. I think it just speaks to the need to see themselves as a victim that they have, that they are constantly being persecuted. It's constantly...

TAPPER: The Trumps, you're talking about.

BALL: The Trumps -- the Trump people are constantly having to point to the elites who are looking down on them.

Of course comedians and celebrities say dumb stuff and do dumb stuff. And violence is not appropriate, but I just don't think that that's the source of President Trump's problems.

TAPPER: David?

URBAN: I think we have got much bigger issues to focus on than Kathy Griffin.

TAPPER: Jen, do you want to weigh in at all?

PSAKI: Agree with David.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: I do want to ask you, David, because there's a lot of speculation in the press about President Trump maybe bringing you on board, which we would oppose, because we like having you on this show as a matter of policy, but I could certainly understand why someone would want you. Are you talking to the White House?

URBAN: I have no comment on that, Jake.

TAPPER: You have no comment.

URBAN: No comment.

TAPPER: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: I would be happy to keep showing up here every day with you. TAPPER: Well, we love having you.

I do want to ask about Molly's week on Capitol Hill, because, Molly, you spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill talking to Republican congressmen. What are they telling you?

BALL: You know, there's really a fatalism that's setting in. I think Republicans, even Republicans who, you know, didn't support Trump in the primaries or even in the general election, there was a lot of hope when he was elected because you did have unified Republican government. There was a lot that they saw the potential for getting done.

Now that it's been four months, there's a sort of sense that they don't see progress on a lot of the issues that Republicans care about, that conservatives care about.

TAPPER: Tax reform or...

URBAN: Things like tax reform, things like health care. It's stalled, and the Senate is basically not moving on it, and who knows where -- what big accomplishments this administration is going to be able to rack up?

And so a lot of Republican congressmen are sort of sitting around going, what if it doesn't get any better than this? What if our whole lives for the next year-and-a-half are just answering reporters' questions about the scandals consuming the White House that we don't want to answer for and aren't doing -- and can't do anything about? And they are not going to be having a lot of fun if that's the case.

TAPPER: I think one of them compared it to the last scene in "Reservoir Dogs."

What would you do, theoretically? You don't work for the White House, but were you to be called up to talk to leadership? You used to work on the Senate side for Rick Santorum. What would you tell them?

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: I worked for Senator Arlen Specter.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Yes.

URBAN: So, listen, I think there's a lot being done right now on tax reform.

They are working diligently to try to get a package together. On health care reform, they are working diligently. There are lots of nominees that are being slow-walked by the Democrats in the Senate. The president today talked about, you know, reforming the rules on filibusters so that we can get some things moving.

The Democrats are doing a good job at slow-walking a lot of stuff. You know, tax reform -- none of this stuff is easy. Governing is not easy. It's very difficult. You will need 55, 60 votes in the Senate perhaps, you know, to get this tax reform package through.

But it's going to be -- it's a lot of work, and it's being done right now. Things don't get done overnight, unfortunately. This isn't a TV show where it's all done in 22 minutes.

TAPPER: Jen, I want to ask you about your successor, Mike Dubke, who was -- I guess he's still White House communications director for President Trump. You were that job for President Obama. And I thought about you today, because, when I covered the Obama White House, I remember there would be some awful thing going on or some bill that was flailing or some way that President Trump -- President Obama was being criticized, maybe for Syria, whatever.

And the inclination of people was always to blame the communications office. Oh, it's Jen Psaki's fault or it's Josh Earnest's fault or whomever's fault, as if -- when in actuality it's the product being sold, not the ad pitch.

PSAKI: Yes.

We used to joke that we would get T-shirts made that said it's a communications problem. There are times when it is a communications problem. And I think anybody who has ever served in that job can say, I wish I could have done this better or this differently.

But it's almost indicative of a larger problem, and whether that is not having policy to sell or accomplishments on the Hill to sell, and, oftentimes, it's a problem with the person at the top. So, I hope, for them and for America, that they take a look at the larger problems in here.

[16:40:10]

I don't know Mike Dubke, but, from looking at the outside, it seems unlikely this is a Mike Dubke problem. It seems more likely it's a much larger internal issue.

TAPPER: Do you have sympathy for people who have your job, but in the Trump administration?

PSAKI: Absolutely. I hope I just sort of expressed that.

TAPPER: Yes. You seem to be, yes.

PSAKI: And I think that you're only as good as the product you have to sell.

And, yes, you can come up with wonderful tactics and events and language and talking points, but, you know, it's hard to sell -- it's hard to sell a product that isn't going to make it on the market.

TAPPER: All right, David Urban, Molly Ball and Jen Psaki, thanks, one and all, for being here.

David, I'll see you tomorrow maybe.

URBAN: Hopefully.

TAPPER: Maybe.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Breaking news from the Pentagon: The U.S. military just conducted its first ever test of a new interceptor missile. Was it successful? The answer to that crucial question next.

Then, a top Senate Republican wants to investigate a company with ties to the Kushner family business. That's coming up in our conflict of interest watch.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We have some breaking news in our "WORLD LEAD" today. Moments ago the Pentagon successfully tested an upgraded missile defense system at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. The test simulated the mid-air intercept of an intercontinental ballistic missile, potentially from Iran or North Korea. On Monday, Kim Jong-un's regime conducted its third missile test in three weeks which North Korea claims it's a major step forward in its weapons program. CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us live now. And Barbara, U.S. officials described this interceptor test as a high-speed effort to hit a bullet with another bullet. How big of a deal is this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, the Pentagon needed a win on this one and today they do believe they got it. The latest information saying the test was successful. One target missile, if you will, launching from far out in the Pacific, the interceptor launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base just a short time ago. You see the simulation there. They hit over the Pacific high outside the atmosphere. Bullet hitting a bullet essentially, as you say, destroying what would be in the real world an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile. The North Korean threat of such an attack is very real for the Pentagon, so getting this system up and working with this new upgraded version that we're seeing tested today was a must win for the Pentagon.

Now, let's be clear, this was a test, so the sensors, the technology programmed to really know what they are looking for out there, looking for the target, maneuvering and hitting the target, in the real world it will be a very tough job. You're not going to know necessarily that the North Koreans are launching. It will take a few seconds, minutes to determine a flight path of an incoming missile in the real world. The U.S. system would have to respond in reality very quickly, probably launch more than one missile. So while it was a successful test today, they are going to look at all the technology - all the data, all the information and determine where they go from here. This system has had a spotty record in the past. They know they may - it may have worked today, but they face a real world threat. North Korea right now the only country claiming it will develop an intercontinental ballistic missile to attack the United States. Jake?

TAPPER: And Barbara, tell us more about the two Navy aircraft carriers that are expected to start training in the sea of Japan this week. Is that a message to North Korea?

STARR: Well, you know, technically the Pentagon says no, that it's something that they are just training, but they also will tell you behind the scenes North Korea will be watching all of this and is expected to have something to say about it. Two aircraft carriers will be training in the sea of Japan. They're going to be hundreds of miles at this point off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, but make no mistakes. Two Navy aircraft carriers, all their additional warships traveling with them, two submarines training together, even if it is a hundreds of miles off the coast of the peninsula of North Korea, something Kim Jong-un will be very aware of, and he may see a message in some of this, even if the U.S. military doesn't really want to admit it just yet. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

Turning to our "POP CULTURE LEAD," she promised her fans she would return and almost two weeks to the day since terror struck, she will. Ariana Grande has officially announced the date of her benefit concert in Manchester, England. The pop singer tweeted this picture earlier today announcing One Love Manchester will be held this Sunday, June 4th and will also feature artists such as Katy Perry and Usher, Pharrell and more. All of the proceeds will be donated to families and victims to last Monday's terrorist attack in Manchester, the one that stole the lives of 22 innocent people and injuring dozens more. Ariana Grande said that the victims will be on her mind and in her heart every day.

Brand new information coming in minutes ago about the Tiger Woods DUI arrest. Police now saying he could not even stay awake while he was talking to them. Plus, more details about how they found the golfer and the condition of his car. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: We're back with our regular series "CONFLICT OF INTEREST WATCH." In a new cloud of scrutiny hovering over Jared Kushner's family's business, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is calling for a review of, quote, "potentially fraudulent statements and misrepresentations." In his letter, Grassley does not name the Kushner Companies, but he does mention a Chinese company working to attract investors for a Kushner real estate project in New Jersey. Let's bring in CNN's Cristina Alesci to help figure this out for us. Cristina, how serious are the allegations for the Kushner family?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the optics aren't good. They're straight up bad. The Kushner family business is now associated with a Chinese company that a Republican senator wants investigated for fraud. Here's the background. Kushner Companies worked with this Chinese firm to pitch EB-5 Visas to local investors for an apartment complex in New Jersey. Now, as you and I have discussed, this Visa program gives foreign investors a pathway to U.S. residency if they commit $500,000 to a job-creating project, but Senator Grassley says the Chinese company called Qiaowai may have gone too far in the pitch. In his letter, he cites reports that Qiaowai falsely told investors that the Kushner development is a safer investment versus others just like it because of the Kushner's proximity to the Trump administration.

Now, Qiaowai also reportedly guaranteed green cards in its materials, and Grassley says if the company used that specific language, it's fraudulent. You're not allowed to guarantee green cards under this program. Now he's asking two government agencies to investigate, Homeland Security which oversees EB-5 Visas and the SEC which policies help financial companies market products to investors. Now to be clear, as you said, Grassley never mentions Kushner's companies in the letter to these agencies but Jared Kushner's family took a lot of heat for attending these pitches in China, especially when Jared's sister name-dropped her brother at one of the presentations and this story comes at a time when Jared is under increased scrutiny tied to the Russia investigation. Jake?

[16:55:43] TAPPER: Is the Kushner family still working with this Chinese business partner under this cloud?

ALESCI: That's a great question. It's unclear. I asked the Kushner Companies today, and it declined to comment. Now Jared officially as you know stepped down from the business, and he's in the process of divesting himself from controversial projects like the apartment building in New Jersey, but the problem is that Jared still has stakes in various other family projects and the Kushner family has to be careful because President Trump reportedly does not like the appearance of others profiting off of him. According to the New York Times, after Jared's sister mentioned her brother in China, Trump reportedly made snarky comments about the Kushner's family pitch. Jake?

TAPPER: Cristina Alesci, thank you so much.

Let's turn to our "SPORTS LEAD" now. Brand new details just coming in on the DUI arrest of golf great Tiger Woods early Monday morning in Florida. According to the just-released police report, the responding officer found Woods asleep in the driver's seat of his Mercedes, and he apparently nodded off during the encounter with police. Woods' car was stopped on the side of the road but it was still running apparently and the car's turn signal was blinking, the brake lights were on, and there was notable damage to its body. Let's get right to CNN's Rosa Flores who's live in Jupiter, Florida, for us. And Rosa, what happened when Woods was approached by the police?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, according to these documents, Jake, he was asleep on the wheel, and so police officers had to wake him up, and according to these new documents that we just obtained, like you mentioned, he fell asleep in the middle of the encounter with the police and then he had his head on the hand rest or the head rest of that car. And so that encounter was slow, and according to the police, his speech was very slow and slurred as well, but he did tell them that he was on prescription drugs which jives with the - with the statement that Tiger Woods released. As you know, claiming responsibility for all of this and saying that he was saddened by all of this and took full responsibility, and he knew that he was disappointing his family and his fans because of this, but he did take a breathalyzer test that came back negative. In other words, he passed. There was no alcohol involved according to police, and now, of course, the big - the big question is what happened? Why was he behind the wheel? We do know that he's recovering from fourth - from his fourth back surgery, so he was on medication before, but why now? Jake?

TAPPER: And Rosa, what kind of condition was the car in?

FLORES: You know, we also learned that his car was damaged. The rims on the driver's side were damaged. The tires on the driver's side were flat. There was damage to the front bumper and to the back bumper, the rear right tail light was also out, and that's another big question, Jake, because the obvious question now is how did that happen? We know that he was stopped on the right lane of the southbound lanes very close to his home, but what did he hit to damage these - that damaged his car, so it just raises more questions.

TAPPER: What kind of legal trouble might Tiger Woods find himself in from this encounter?

FLORES: You know, this is considered a criminal traffic offense which if convicted carries up to six months in prison. Now I talked to CNN Legal Analyst Mark O'Mara about this and says Tiger was actually has a pretty good defense that he could see. That he could probably get off the hook if not completely just plead down in this case, and you're probably wondering why and how, and according to Mark O'Mara, he says that Tiger Woods did everything that he could to cooperate with police. He took his breathalyzer and gave a urine sample and he says that that's probably going to help him out. And he told him that he was on prescription drugs which we all know he was because of his surgeries. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Rosa Flores, thanks so much. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. That is it for today, I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, alternate explanations.