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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Russian War Games; Spicer at Emmy Awards. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 18, 2017 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Which could essentially give Mueller's team a very broad look at how Russian interference unfolded and even more details to determine if there was any collusion possibly with the Trump campaign based on these ads and the accounts that bought them.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And also know tomorrow Michael Cohen, who President Trump's longtime is attorney for his corporate interests, he's going to meet with staffers with the Senate Intelligence Committee. They're going to talk presumably about Cohen being part of this team working on a deal for a Trump hotel in Moscow.

This was being worked on during the president's campaign. What are you expecting?

SCHNEIDER: Well, this will all unfold during closed doors. This is voluntary, a voluntary interview. It is not under oath, though of course witnesses going before congressional committees, they are bound to tell the truth or face criminal charges.

And really the big question, it will center around the deal that Cohen admitted he pursued at the height of the campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. And Cohen, he has said he had three conversations with then candidate Donald Trump and those were conversations before they did eventually scrap plans for a deal. But, of course, those conversations and those potential plans will be front and center tomorrow.

TAPPER: All right, lots to chew over. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

So while the Russia investigation is intensifying here at home, in our leader today, Moscow is once again alarming U.S. allies. As you recall, Article V of the NATO treaty says an attack on one NATO ally is an attack on all of them.

And right now Russia is staging large-scale military exercises with Belarus along the borders of three NATO allies, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen got rare access to the drills. He joins me now from St. Petersburg, Russia.

Fred, this exercise apparently so important, Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw the show of force personally.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he certainly did.

There are some, Jake, who say that these exercises are probably the largest since the end of the Cold War. And you are right. They happened along hundreds of miles of the border between Russia and several NATO countries.

And Vladimir Putin did indeed say that he would be there and he certainly was. Here's the show that the Russian military put on for him and for the world to see. Let's have a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russia unleashing massive firepower right on NATO's border. Under the watchful eye of President Vladimir Putin, tanks, rockets and aircraft showed their capabilities in choreographed war games named Zapad, Russian for the West.

LT. GEN. ALEKSANDER DUPLINSKY, RUSSIAN ARMY (through translator): In action, different types of aircraft, tactical army, long-range and transport planes operating under the protection of fighter jets. About 50 planes and more than 30 helicopters also participated.

PLEITGEN: Russia is conducting the drills together with Belarus. The Russians say the exercise simulates an attack by a fictitious country against Russia and Belarus and their response.

(on camera): Russia and Belarus are putting on a massive display of firepower at these drills. They say there is at least 250 tanks involved, about 70 combat aircraft. But they still say that these drills are defensive in nature.

(voice-over): But the U.S. and its NATO allies are concerned. Some officials saying they believe as many as 100,000 troops might be amassed here. The Russians say that's not true, and claim that less than 13,000 troops are taking part.

NATO also fears Russia might leave troops behind in the border area after the exercise is finished to gain a competitive advantage. Moscow rejects those claims as well.

NATO recently conducted its own air defense drills in Eastern Europe with U.S. involvement.

"This is the first exercise of this type. And they are necessary because the air defense of the eastern NATO flank is the weakest spot for our defense. It needs more reinforcement, "the president of Lithuania say.

The Russian military did allow observers from NATO countries to watch the drills, calling that a display of transparency. And Russia made sure to show the world that its military appears better equipped than at any time since the Cold War.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PLEITGEN: And, Jake, it certainly was remarkable to see how much firepower the Russian military unleashed there and also how well- choreographed those drills were as well.

Certainly very easy to see why some Eastern European U.S. allies might be uneasy about that kind of force right on their border. And I can tell you these drills are supposed to end in two days. It's going to be very interesting to see whether Russia really does withdraw of those troops back from those forward operating areas -- Jake.

TAPPER: In St. Petersburg, Russia, Fred, thanks so much.

It got some laughs, a lot of gasps, and now it's getting a big social media backlash. Is the criticism for Sean Spicer's Emmy debut justified, or do we all need to just lighten up?

That's next.

Then, a little girl waiting to find out if her opioid-addicted father will be released from jail. We are going to take an up-close and personal look at how the opioid crisis is tearing apart families across America.

[16:35:05]

TAPPER: Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We encourage all member states to look at ways to take bold stands at the United Nations with an eye toward changing business as usual, and not being beholden to ways of the past, which were not working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump today speaking in a somewhat more measured tone about his continued criticism for the United Nations, which is meeting in New York for the General Assembly this week.

My panel joins me now for our politics lead.

[16:40:02]

Kevin, I have to say, this is generally speaking kind of what you would hear from Republican president, whoever the Republican president is.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, he was -- I think he recognizes his challenges here are much more straightforward.

His goal is to rally support amongst allies for some of the work that he has to do when it comes to national security and foreign diplomacy. And I think that he recognizes that. It's sort of balancing this challenge between having a unilateral message, right, like America is first, amongst an audience that has a great deal of respect and admiration for multilateralism.

And I think, for the large part, his measured approach and his discipline actually probably helped him navigate the day pretty well.

TAPPER: It is very different though than President Obama, who was of course a huge believer in international bodies of government.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's true.

And it's different because President Obama came in with a lot of support in the world. And when he gave his first speech at UNGA, he talked about climate change and he got a standing ovation. President Trump is coming into a more difficult environment, largely because of his positions on multilateral institutions.

But the other challenge that he is going to have in a lot of these multilateral meetings and publicly is that the two issues that they will focus on, probably North Korea and Iran, are issues where his rhetoric and language has put a lot of these countries and their leaders in difficult positions because they don't know what he's going to do or what the strategy is.

So I expect that's going to be dominant issue as well.

MADDEN: Also, just one other point too.

It's balancing the two constituencies he needs and the one he cares most about. The domestic constituency, which is his base, they want to see a confrontational message when he goes to the United Nations. But that runs counterproductive to some of the goals he's going to have to deal with there when it comes to rallying support with our allies.

TAPPER: Such as, for instance, getting China to be more aggressive with North Korea, et cetera.

MADDEN: Right. Right.

TAPPER: Let's turn to slightly a less momentous, but still rather buzzy event, which was last night at the Emmy Awards, when Stephen Colbert, who was the host, brought in Sean Spicer, the former press secretary of the Trump White House. And this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This will it be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Sean Spicer making fun of the fact that his very first press conference at the White House, he went out there and said something completely preposterous and nonsensical and demonstrably false about the crowd sizes at the Obama inaugural vs. the Trump inaugural.

Some people offended? Do they need to lighten up? Or what do you think?

PSAKI: Look, I think, as a communications and government official professional, I saw that was and I was pretty offended, because I feel like most of us, Democrats or Republicans, are truthful. And that's important to us.

And I think it misrepresented what we all do as professionals. But for Sean, I think he has a decision to make here, whether he wants to continue to be sort of the 15-minute -- unfortunately, last night, he was the butt of a joke, or whether he wants to rebuild a career that was many years in the making before he was sucked into the vortex of the Trump White House.

And I think he's more than that.

TAPPER: What do you think?

MADDEN: I agree with a lot of that.

I think when I talk to a lot of young professionals about why you should go into what we do, and also how you approach what we do, is that credibility is one of the most important assets you can have and that people all have long memories.

And I think judging by the initial reaction last night, I sort of worried about that, right, which is here they are sort of applauding somebody for a lack of credibility. And that's worrisome as a political professional.

But I think one of the things that we have to remember too is Sean is trying to turn the page and he's trying to move on, and that this is one of the ways that he's hoping to do it. But I would be wary about equating notoriety with respect.

I think you always want to have that professional respect. And what he has right now definitely is notoriety.

TAPPER: Yes.

I want to turn to something that Hillary Clinton said in an interview with National Public Radio about what would be her position if we find out that there actually was, concretely, Russian interference in the election that might have swayed the outcome. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

QUESTION: Would you completely rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election if we learn that the Russian interference in the election is even deeper than we know now?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: No, I would not. I would say...

QUESTION: You are not going to rule it out?

CLINTON: No, I wouldn't rule it out.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, the question, of course, is what that means by questioning the legitimacy? Does that just mean giving a speech or making a tweet saying I question the legitimacy, or does it mean actually taking concrete steps to challenge the outcome?

PSAKI: That's right. We don't know.

She was asked whether she could rule it out. And I think it's fair she didn't rule it out. And the fact is, this hasn't been a stagnant story. We continue to learn more and more and more and pieces unravel.

I think there's a bigger challenge for Democrats here, because she's going to be out there a lot for this book tour. She has every right to write the book, every right to be out there.

TAPPER: Right. Sure.

PSAKI: But it really distracts from Democrats trying to rebuild the party, trying to be out there with a message, trying to talk about the economy economy and health care because people are going to be talking about whether we should re-litigate the election. That's not a good place for us to be.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Let me just also say, and I'm not saying they are similar situations, OK. Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton are in different boats. But I remember interviewing Mitt Romney after it became clear that Russia was the U.S.'s number one geopolitical foe as President Obama had mocked him for saying in 2012. And he wouldn't bite. I interviewed him and he wouldn't do that. He wouldn't even -- he wouldn't even say yes, I was right. You know, he had -- he thought it was important to not even go there.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And I think it's for all the same reasons that Jen just pointed out which is that he did not want anything he said to become a burden that the party then had to re- litigate over and over and over. And he also -- he didn't want to take away a lot of the attention that needs -- is needed to repairing the party and elevating other individuals as leader within the party. If the story was constantly in 2012 beyond the Mitt Romney comeback story, the party was never going to be able to move on and evolve. And so, that's one of the reasons why he did it. And I think Jen rightly points out the danger that I said -- I've been saying over the last two weeks that every time Hillary Clinton is out there talking out there talking about this and she has the right to, but you have to recognize there are consequences that --when it comes to the party being able to move on.

TAPPER: I want to say again for everybody at home, getting their pointer fingers out. I'm not saying that Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton -- I understand that they're very different situations but there is a question about letting the next generation of leaders speak. And I know Jen you've been concerned about that also because, look, she's a very powerful woman and she has a message, she has a lot to say and doing a lot of interviews. And again no one questions her right to do any of that but it does mean less attention for the Kamala Harris and Al Frankens and Corry Bookers of the world.

PSAKI: Right, that's exactly right. And again, we've all said she has every right to do it but I think, does it further her objectives?

TAPPER: We all get a lot of angry tweets. That's what I hear.

PSAKI: Does it further her objectives as somebody who's in public service for decades? Does it further pieces of her gender issues she cares about? No on both. Does it help the Democratic Party? No. So you know, are those things she has to factor in? Probably not but it does become a challenge.

MADDEN: None of those angry tweets has convinced me I'm wrong.

TAPPER: All right. Kevin and Jen, thank you so much.

Coming up, she's only 8 years old but she already knows all too well the impact of drug addiction on a family. We're going to take a look at some of the youngest victims of the nation's opioid crisis next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: And we're back with the "BURIED LEAD." That's what we call stories we feel are not getting enough attention. President Trump has declared that this week is prescription opioid and heroin epidemic awareness week. And just hours ago, his opioid commission announce the plan to reduce the number of opioids that hit the streets. The commission says it met with 17 pharmaceutical companies which all agreed to share research to make pain killers that are opioid-free. That would be just one step in battling a nationwide epidemic that continues full bore. The Trump administration estimates that some 64,000 people died of drug overdoses just last year alone in this country. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Chairs the Commission. He compared that staggering statistics to the 9/11 attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We have 9/11 loss of death every three weeks. Every three weeks. That means we have 17 9/11's a year in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But overdose are by far not the only way this crisis is affecting families and tearing them apart. We recently traveled to Columbus, Ohio, where we met an eight-year-old girl named Ava. She's now dealing with this very adult crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you daddy. You're my best friend and actually, you are my BFF and best dad ever.

TAPPER: Eight-year-old Ava has not seen her father since April. Today she's ready to welcome him home with a handwritten card and gifts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got this at the thrift store.

TAPPER: Ava's grandmother Carlene is excited too but also a little nervous. Today the day is her son Drake comes home from jail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is correctional facility?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Correctional Facility? Like for example, right now --

TAPPER: Drake has struggled with opioid abuse for more than a decade. His mother says it all started with painkillers after a dentist appointment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About five years ago my son escalated on up to heroin. I just was in disbelief and thought never my son would be a heroin addict.

TAPPER: Ava's mother is regrettably out of the picture with a long arrest record herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you too.

TAPPER: Eventually Carlene took custody of her granddaughter to help give her a better future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew she needed a stable environment that going into a foster care system would be difficult to be able to see her parents, you know, as I've allowed her to see them.

TAPPER: Now, like millions of children caught up in America's opioid crisis, Ava is trying to cope with her dad's addiction as best she can, even appealing directly to him for answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So first I asked why do you take the drugs. And he says just, I take them when I'm mad about something and I'm like what are you mad about? And he just doesn't tell me.

TAPPER: President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency on August 10th but he is yet to formally sign or send that decoration to Congress. No signature means no financial aid. On the local level, city councilmen and sheriffs here in Ohio have offered cost-cutting scare tactics hoping to rid their towns of trouble.

Ava has love of her grandmother, frequent father-daughter phone calls, and a counselor to help her better understand her circumstances. Still, she hopes today will be a turning point for her and her family. [16:55:13] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It keeps on not stopping. So this is

really, really beginning to be a huge problem in my life because, like it's really, really, like, you know, weird of not -- like to live with your grandma, and not to live with your mom and dad, the people who made you.

TAPPER: Grandparents across the country such as Carlene continued to hold their families together, seeking out treatment programs and raising grandchildren as their own. But not everyone has that option. Data shows the opioid epidemic has led to 11 percent increase in the number of children and teens forced into Ohio foster care since 2010. And those kids are lingering in the system. Nearly 20 percent longer.

MIKE DEWINE, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: We now have a widespread shortage of foster families in Ohio for these children. This is a tragedy and certainly is an emergency.

TAPPER: At this family visitation center near Cincinnati, opioid addicts only see their children during brief supervised visits often by the order of a judge.

DEB MILLER, SUPERVISOR, FAMILY HEALING CENTER: The parents come in here, the foster parents come in the back with the children.

TAPPER: Supervisor Deborah Miller has made it her duty to make ensure this is a safe place.

MILLER: Imagine somebody coming in and taking away from your family. Imagine showing up at the foster parent's door and you're going to be living with these people that you have no idea who they are. And we need to always put ourselves in that child's shoes and see how they are feeling.

TAPPER: Some children come here straight from the hospital as newborns, others are old enough to be curious about drugs themselves, a risk the counselors take seriously.

MILLER: We want to be able to give the parents and these kids good trauma based services so that we teach these children how to deal with these feelings without having to (INAUDIBLE) their feelings by shooting up.

TAPPER: In the state with the most opioid overdoses in the country, the temptation is ever present. As our CNN crew was leaving the family center, this woman made her way to the bench outside. Convulsing and out of control, she appears to be on drugs. Staff from the center come out to help. First responders tell us they know the woman well. It is a tragic scene playing out all too often in this state and across the country. It's one Carlene has worked hard to protect Ava from seeing. Back in Columbus, it's time to pick up Ava's dad from jail. But 45 minutes Drake's expected release time, he's still inside. He calls his mother to check in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went in and checked. You have a hold from the State of Pennsylvania for theft, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they said you wouldn't be getting out today. That if Pennsylvania doesn't want to come and get you, that it would be a couple days before you would get released.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it, a felony?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just said it was a theft.

TAPPER: Carlene says drugs have led her son to do a lot of uncharacteristic things. Now a theft to cross stateliness leaves his future uncertain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, I don't know what to do. I guess just wait.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, just wait and see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll call you later, all right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I love you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't be too sad. We love you too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Bye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy is not going to be getting out today, OK? But that's part of --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many days will be he in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know, honey. But that's just part of, you know when daddy was using drugs what happened. See what happens when you are on drugs and you don't make good choices? It's OK. It's OK to cry. I know. I know. We were all excited.

TAPPER: For families such as these addicts are more than a statistics in a national crisis or an item in the state budget. They're loved ones in need of long-term solutions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very sorry, baby, OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: We do have some encouraging news to share. Ava's father is now home with his family and hoping to start a new life. President Trump says he will create an emergency response plan to the opioid crisis after his commission releases its final recommendations this fall. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @JAKETAPPER or the show @THELEADCNN. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the world stage. President Trump makes his debut at the United Nations calling for reform of the world body as he looks to step up pressure on North Korea and step down for the U.S. commitments in the other areas. Rocketman.