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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Otto Warmbier Dies; Heated Congressional Race. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 19, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get right to CNN's Fred Pleitgen in London.

And, Fred, was Osborne, this white male who launched this terrorist attack on these Muslims, innocent Muslims, was he on anybody's radar screen?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly doesn't appear as though he was, Jake, but this certainly, the police says, really seems as though it's anti-Muslim terrorism that took place here.

The authorities are saying they are not aware of this man having been on any sort of security radar. And what they're trying to find out right now is whether or not he acted alone or whether he might have had someone who at least helped him logistically. Here's how the attack unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Just after midnight, as worshipers from one of London's mosques filled the street after prayers, a van mounted the pavement driving through the crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) is something we should not see in the 21st century, something we should not see in the last 10 days of Ramadan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A man was coming, driving very speed -- high speed. And he just drove over people. (INAUDIBLE) he took -- he (INAUDIBLE)

PLEITGEN: One man died, but it's unclear if this was as a result of the attack.

When police arrived, the suspect, a 47-year-old man, had been detained by shocked members of the Muslim community. In an extraordinary intervention, the local imam protected him until he was handed over to the authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was shouting, "I did my bit, and you deserve it," and stuff like this. And thanks to our imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, who went quickly and grabbed the guy, because they -- the people there was trying to hit and kick the guy, but he saved him and kept him safe until the police arrived.

PLEITGEN: Described by eyewitnesses as deliberate, police are treating this as a terror attack, but caution that the investigation is still in its early stages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears at this time that this attacker attacked alone. That is not to say that we are not investigating the full circumstances of how he came to be where he was.

PLEITGEN: Prime Minister Theresa May described the act of violence as sickening.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship. And, like all terrorism, in whatever form, it shares the same fundamental goal. It seeks to drive us apart and to break the precious bonds of solidarity and citizenship that we share in this country. We will not let this happen.

PLEITGEN: London's mayor also condemning the incident.

SADIQ KHAN, MAYOR OF LONDON: This attack behind me in Seven Sisters, the attack in Manchester, the attack on London Bridge, the attack on Westminster Bridge are all an attack on our shared values, our shared values of tolerance and freedom and respect, and we will not allow these terrorists to succeed.

PLEITGEN: For the third time in three months, authorities here are investigating the deadly consequences of a vehicle being driven into people.

But local leaders here say that, while extremists try to divide this community, they will stand united.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: So, Jake, as you can see, it's really been a tough couple of weeks here in the United Kingdom, of course, especially in London.

If you look at the Muslim community here in Finsbury Park and other parks of the United Kingdom as well, they're saying that Islamophobia, they say, has really been on the rise.

But I do have to say there has been really an outpouring of support from the local community here. One of the things many people don't know is that area of London here, it has a sizable Muslim community. It also has a sizable Jewish community.

And the Jewish community has really stepped up today. You could see a lot of folks from the community coming in, laying flowers and just pledging their support publicly to their Muslim neighbors. And I think that is something that was very, very important for a lot of the Muslims here, but generally for the public to see as well, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Frederik Pleitgen in London, thanks so much.

It's the most expensive U.S. House race ever. Will it help Democrats pull off an upset in a Republican stronghold? What does it mean for 2018?

Then, his nickname is the secretary of everything, but is Jared Kushner's family business a conflict of interests for his role in the White House? A CNN investigation follows the money.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:26]

TAPPER: We're back with more on our politics lead today.

Election Day is tomorrow in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, an election with high stakes for both parties. A tight race to fill the suburban Atlanta seat which has been reliably red for many years is now the most expensive House race in American history, and widely perceived as a referendum on President Trump, who tweeted this morning and just moments ago his support of the Republican candidate: "Karen Handel in Georgia 6, he can't even vote in the district he wants to represent because he doesn't live there. He wants to raise taxes and kill health care. On Tuesday, vote Karen Handel."

But the president, we should point out, did not campaign physically for Handel over the weekend, prompting some to wonder if that says something about the president's popularity in this district.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Tucker, Georgia.

And, Kaylee, early voting ended on Friday. Is either candidate feeling comfortable?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, comfortable isn't a word I would use to describe how either camp is feeling, in a race where it could be decided by a couple thousand voters tomorrow in these northern suburbs of Atlanta.

That early voting that you talk about, north of 140,000 votes have already been cast here. That's more than double the early voting that they saw back in the first run of this race back April, and that includes 36,000 voters who didn't even vote in that race.

Now, we know historically it's Democrats who are known to vote early, Republicans who show up at the polls, all the more reason for the anticipation to be high for the results we will see in a district that's been held by a Republican for more than 40 years.

[16:40:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Now the unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans. When will it stop? It won't if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARTUNG: Now ugly attack ads coming up in this race just in the recent days, and both candidates have denounced the ad that you just saw that links the left to the shooting in Washington last week during that Republican baseball game.

And it's not just the attacks on the airwaves that we're seeing. Jon Ossoff is now traveling with a security detail. Karen Handel and her neighbors receiving envelopes in the mail with threatening letters and a white powder that turned out to just be baking soda.

Jake, but Karen Handel told me last Thursday night she couldn't sleep Wednesday night with the images of hazmat suits in her home.

TAPPER: All right, Kaylee, thank you so much.

We have some breaking news just into CNN.

The family of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old American who had been detained in North Korea, tells us that he has died. He returned from North Korea last week, mysteriously in a coma after a year-and-a-half in prison in North Korea.

And CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us now with more -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the family announcing that he has passed on. At 2:20 this afternoon, they said that Otto Warmbier had died. They don't go into details about how this happened.

Obviously, he had been, according to the North Koreans, in a coma or some type of comatic state for the last year-and-a-half. The family, though, clearly was distressed when they saw him on the plane, the father saying that he had dropped to his knees, spoke to him. He was not conscious, though.

The doctors at University of Cincinnati Medical Center saying that he had suffered extensive brain damage. It appeared to be in April of 2016 that the brain damage occurred. He was -- clearly had had a feeding tube when he was taken off the plane and had to have some sort of life support in order to survive.

The family announcing today that, after some beautiful days with him, they had to let him go.

There's one piece of this statement that I would like to read to you about what they have said.

"He returned on late June 13. He was unable to speak, unable to see, unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable, almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day, the countenance of his face changed. He was at peace, he was home, and we believe he could sense that" -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Miguel Marquez, horrible news.

Lots to talk about with the panel.

And I'm joined by David Urban and Jen Psaki.

But I want to turn to the Georgia 6 race in a second.

But, Jennifer, you used to be a spokesperson for the State Department under the Obama years. How does the U.S. respond to this? A young student is taken prisoner in North Korea and returned in a coma and he dies.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's absolutely horrific.

And I think watching this and just thinking of the family, this is really going to bring it home for the American people. What happens with places like North Korea is, it feels like far away. They have been terrible human rights abusers for many, many years.

They are perhaps the biggest threat that is facing the world, the United States. This may make people tune in to what's happening, what's the United States doing and what's the government doing.

In terms of what steps the government takes, obviously, there will be significant reprimands. We will go back to China, I'm certain, and redouble our efforts. But there are lots of problems in the staffing in the government right now that make it impossible to put the necessary pressure on North Korea that is needed, because of the lack of assistant secretaries and people in the State Department.

Maybe there will be a redoubling of efforts to get that done by Congress. But this is horrific. I think it's going to be all over news channels and people will think of their sons and their families when they see news of this today.

TAPPER: And, David, the family of Otto Warmbier last week was very strong -- we covered this at the time -- in terms of praising President Trump and the Trump administration in getting their son out of the country, only, of course, to have this tragedy unfold.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The president obviously worked and the administration worked very hard to have him released.

Obviously, everyone's prayers are with the family. It's a horrific thing, as Jen said, to have your son returned in such a manner and then to pass in such a way. But, at the end of the day, Jen's point is well taken, in that the focus now will go back strongly on North Korea.

It's an existential threat to the United States, to the world, the leader there, and President Trump, this administration is going to have to do something about it. It's going to have to deal with China and the Chinese are going to have to step up and take a stronger role.

And it is a huge, huge crisis that faces America, and this brings it home.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the Georgia race, obviously a huge race in that congressional race tomorrow.

Unprecedented early voting is being reported in the district.

Jen, who might that help?

PSAKI: Typically, it helps the Democrat. There is a lot of energy in this race.

Jon Ossoff is a young guy. I think he's raised more money than anybody thought possible. And, all of a sudden, this race got on the radar. So, it helps. You can bank those votes, and what it means is that on Election Day, you only have to focus on turning out your voters who haven't already voted. And typically that helps Democrats. We'll see in this race.

JAKE TAPPER, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" HOST: David?

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I think, look, special elections, I think really you can't look at because, you know, Dr. Price had been in that seat for so long. You don't really get credible, you know, credible opponents in those kind of races. So, specials are one-off. I will say that, you know, this specials gotten a lot of attention, obviously, a lot of money.

Obviously you pointed out that the most expensive race because both sides just thrown a lot at it. I wouldn't -- if, you know, win, lose, or draw, I don't put a lot of anything in this. It's a one-off. You know, people across the United States in their special elections, they don't really tip foretell a whole lot what's going on in -- with this president or any president in Congress. It really it's really about that district at that point in time.

PSAKI: Well look, I think what it can do. I don't think it determines the Democrats win back the House next year, but there are 47 districts that more Democrat leaning in this district in the country. Tom Price did win by 23 points in the 2016.

So what it will do is if Jon Ossoff wins, it will energize the party, and more people will get into races, money will flow in. That's something the Democratic Party needs right now. Does it determine the outcome in 2018? No. But it can have a huge energizing and empowering effect of the Democratic Party who just win.

URBAN: Democrats will need it. I mean, not too much as you both know, incumbent presidents rarely win seats in their midterms. Only two instances, and after 9/11 the depression if is the president empower kept a seat. So, most of the time we're loss seats, Republicans all loss seats coming up, so the Democrats need this victory very, very badly to kind of hold the line and that they raise money, as Jen said, to get people -- get better people out there, because I think this will be the third time.

PSAKI: Well --

URBAN: But not two times (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK) PSAKI: I don't think we need it, but there are -- there's more people who want to run for office than ever in recent memory. That is such a positive sign, that's what only add to that.

TAPPER: Let's see what happens. Jen Psaki, David Urban thanks so much, appreciate it.

He's one of the president's most trusted advisors. But did Jared Kushner business ties pose the conflict of interest to deeper dive on those. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:51:35] TAPPER: We're back with more on our world lead. We now know the identities of the seven sailors found dead on the USS Fitzgerald after a merchant vessel struck the warship last week off the coast of Japan. The seven came from all across the U.S. from Maryland to California with the youngest just 19 years old. Their names were Dakota Kyle Rigsby, Shingo Alexander Douglass, Ngoc Truong Huynh, Noe Hernandez, Carlos Sibayan, and Xavier Alec Martin and Gary Leo Rehm, Jr.

Moments ago, President Trump tweeted, "My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the seven U.S. Navy sailors of the USS Fitzgerald and their families." CNN Tom Foreman joins me now. And Tom any service comes with risk, of course, but one wonders if their deaths could have been prevented. What is the latest on the investigation?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the investigation really has just started so we don't know whether this crash could have been avoided. It happened in an extremely busy stretch of water during a routine patrol of the USS Fitzgerald, and yet in an instant, a quiet night turned chaotic and found hundreds of sailors fighting to keep their ship from sinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN (voice over): The massive merchant ship made a sharp turn around the time of the fatal collision with the American warship, according to a maritime tracking system. It's not clear what, if anything, that had to do with the accident. We do know the crash was catastrophic.

VICE ADMIRAL JOSEPH AUCOIN, COMMANDER U.S. 7TH FLEET: The damage was significant. This was not a small collision.

FOREMAN (voice over): The freighter, the ACX Crystal registered in the Philippines, is almost 50 percent longer than the warship and three times as heavy. It was not badly damaged. But the crystal has a large protruding section just below the water, and the impact immediately breached the destroyer's radio room, a machinery space, and most importantly, two spaces where crewmen were sleeping in the early morning hours.

AUCOIN: The water flow was tremendous, and so there wasn't a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea. And as you can see now the ship is still listing, and so they had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface, and -- so it was traumatic.

FOREMAN (voice over): The ship was saved but seven crew members could not be. The dreadful news coming back to the states on Father's Day weekend, and Xavier Alec Martin of Maryland was 24 years old.

DARROLD MARTIN, FATHER: It's very hard. He's my only child. He's all I have.

FOREMAN (voice over): Dakota Kyle Rigsby was 19, a fireman back in Virginia.

JEAN CAMPBELL, LAKE MONTICELLO ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF: He was a good guy. Just -- bottom line, just a straight up good guy.

FOREMAN (voice over): Also injured, the Fitzgerald's Commander, Bryce Benson.

AUCOIN: He was -- a matter of fact, his cabin was destroyed. He is lucky to be alive and he is at the hospital right now. He's undergoing treatment.

FOREMAN (voice over): Both ships had radar systems to warn against collisions, the Fitzgerald extremely advanced. The Navy says watch teams are on duty throughout the night, so the primary question now for American, Japanese and Philippine investigators, how did it happen?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: And there are lot of questions within that including it appears now that this merchant ship took an hour before it reported the collusion.

[16:55:03] Even though the military ships communications have been disabled by the crash, people will define out If that was some anomaly or if that's exactly what happened and if so, why?

TAPPER: Many mysteries left. Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

Now it's time for our Conflict of Interest Watch series. Has the Russian investigation winds? The "Washington Post" reports the finances of presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner for being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. However, sources have stressed to CNN that there's no indication that Kushner is currently a target of the probe and no allegations that he committed any wrongdoing.

Special counsel is looking into what happened at the meeting between Kushner and the Russian state banker in December a source tells CNN. Kushner's attorney says this is standard practice in a case like this for investigators to check into Kushner's finances for any sign of Russian connections. But what if anything, is there to find? CNN's Drew Griffin took a deeper dive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): His unofficial nickname at the White House is "secretary of everything" but another nickname for Jared Kushner could just be the landlord of everyone. His family's real estate empire includes 20,000 apartments, 13 million square feet of other real estate across six states. The Kushner Company has a stake in everything, from luxury penthouses in Manhattan to modest apartments in Ohio and New Jersey. Jared Kushner even disclosed a small financial stake in this mobile home park in Union, New Jersey. No kidding.

(on camera): It's right here on page 32 of his 54-page financial disclosure form, the Park Lane Mobile Home Park. You would like to walk around the park with him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and show more of the stuff that needs to be taken care of.

GRIFFIN (voice over): His financial disclosure does show the President's son-in-law resigned or divested himself from several of his holding including a somewhat controversial building at 666 5th Avenue. He's also resigned from his position in the family business this January. But as a whole, Jared Kushner remains invested in nearly 90 percent of his pre-White House real estate holdings, 124 properties, most now held in trust.

(on camera) Is he still involved in these projects?

HITEN SAMTANI, THE REAL DEAL: I think he's got too much on his plate at the moment. I mean, you can't try to solve Middle East peace and be the liaison with the Pentagon and also look at properties. But he has a financial stake in these properties. He is not divested from everything.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The Kushners continue to make big deals, just without Jared. In May, Kushner's sister was widely criticized for mentioning her brother's role in the White House while pitching Chinese business owners to invest in the company's billion-dollar investment in New Jersey. That role in the White House also raised concerns when the Kushners were trying to attract a Chinese bank to redevelop a potential real-state flap. That building at 666 5th Avenue that's $1.4 billion in debt.

The Chinese deal fell through, the family still needs to refinance, but Jared is no longer involved. He sold his stake when he went to the White House.

(on camera) So just what does these all have to do with Russia? After all, none of Jared Kushner's 54 pages of financial disclosures disclose anything about Russia. CNN has been told by a source that the Special Counsel is focusing in on an odd meeting. Jared Kushner had here in December at Trump Tower with the head of Russia's State Bank.

(voice over) It wasn't just any Russian state banker. It was a Putin friend who attended Russian spy school, a mega rich banker named Sergey Gorkov. Gorkov heads one of the Russian banks facing stiff sanctions from the United States. And to add a little intrigue, Mr. Gorkov isn't talking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you really speak to Jared Kushner (INAUDIBLE) when you met with him in December?

SERGEY GORKOV, CHAIRMAN OF VNESHECONOMBANK: No comments.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The Russian Bank and the White House have two very different versions of what that meeting was about. The Russian Bank said they talked business. The White House says they talked future U.S.-Russia relations. And both versions have fueled speculation. If the bank's version about a business meeting is true, Congressional Democrats want to know whether Kushner might have brought up his family's troubled 666 building and the need for a new loan, which could cross ethical lines between his company and his role as Adviser to the President. If Kushner's version about it being a diplomatic meeting is true, it raises questions about whether the bank brought up U.S. sanctions and appealed to Kushner to drop them.

But so far all of that is speculation. Kushner's attorney said Jared volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings, and a White House official tells CNN Jared takes the ethics rules very seriously and would never compromise himself or the administration. He is fully complying with the federal ethics rules and will recuse as necessary. Drew Griffin, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Our Conflict of Interest Watch for the day. Our thanks to Drew Griffin for that report.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. That's it for today, I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer who is in the Situation Room. Have a great day.

WOLF BLITZER, "THE SITUATION ROOM" HOST: Happening now, breaking news.