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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump's Parade?; Will Trump Talk to Robert Mueller?. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired February 7, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Pentagon and the White House have been talking about a parade for the last couple of months.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: As far as the parade goes, again, the president's respect, his -- his fondness for the military, I think, is reflected in him asking for these options.
STARR: Ideas will be forwarded to Mr. Trump for a decision. An initial plan? A November Veterans Day parade commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I. At least one veterans group is already worried.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: So far, it is going over in the military veterans community like lead balloon. We did a quick snapshot on our Twitter account -- and it is by no means scientific -- but last I checked, 88 percent of people didn't support this idea.
STARR: American parades of military might are rare, the last one, 1991, as the Gulf War was ending. That cost a reported $12 million. The military tab for President Obama's inaugurations were approximately $20 million to $25 million.
France's parade commemorated its National Day, but in recent years, military parades in not-so-friendly countries like China have showcased their military might on the world stage. Russia has a decades-long love affair showing its latest weapons in Moscow. Pyongyang's parades a direct symbol of Kim Jong-un's rhetoric about striking American.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm not looking for a Soviet-style hardware display.
STARR: What type of parade Mr. Trump orders up has quickly become controversial on both sides of the aisle.
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: We need to honor our men and we will in uniform, but I think we ought to do so in a way that does not necessarily appear bellicose or threatening.
STARR: And fundamental questions if this parade is simply for and about Donald Trump. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It is really about
feeding his ego and his love of pomp and circumstance and being honored.
Now, the other thing bothers me about it is that it is just antithetical to American military culture. Look, we're not against parades. Troops march in parades. It is about going down Pennsylvania Avenue, allegedly, with tanks and missiles.
STARR: Now, a group of Democratic lawmakers have moved very quickly, telling Defense Secretary Mattis, they want to see, how much is this going to cost,and they want the Pentagon to tell them, how many troops, how many manhours it's going to take to pull this all off -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Barbara Starr, thanks so much.
While the president weighs one of the biggest decisions of his presidency, whether to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller, two people once very close to him are now refusing to talk more to Congress.
But are these legal strategies effective?
We will get into that next. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back.
Lots breaking in the Russia investigation today.
Today, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said it is time on subpoena former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and to enforce the subpoena former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Both have refused to answer more questions.
President Trump, however, seems more eager to chat, at least potentially, with special counsel Robert Mueller.
CNN's Jessica Schneider joins me now.
Jessica, this seems to go against the advice he's hearing from friends and even from his own attorneys.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
Jake, his lawyers are advising that he should steer clear of any face- to-face with the special counsel. But the president is still indicating he is eager to talk to Mueller's team. In fact, our Sara Murray talked to someone familiar with the president's thinking, who put it this way. The president thinks he can work through this, but doesn't realize how high the stakes really are.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, a battle over legal strategy inside the White House. President Trump is resisting the advice of his attorneys who say he should not sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a source familiar with the president's thinking.
In fact, Trump's allies say that he is eager to speak with Mueller, not only because he believes he is entirely innocent, but also because the president notes he has experience with lawsuits and testifying under oath during his time in his real estate business.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: He is basically saying that I'm wide open as a book. I have done absolutely nothing wrong and I'm willing to say so under oath.
So, again, I still think that that's on the table.
SCHNEIDER: A source tells CNN the president thinks he can work through this, but warns that Trump doesn't realize how high the stakes are.
CNN has learned that White House officials expect the president to authorize the release of a 10-page Democratic memo by Friday unless there is a grave threat to national security. The memo is expected to counter Republican claims of FBI abuse in last week's three-and-a-half page memo.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to make speculations at this point. We're still going through the process that we went through with the Republican memo. We are going to continue to do that. And once that's completed, we will have something further to add. But as of this point, we don't.
SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, the Republican who spearheaded the initial memo, Devin Nunes, says he is moving into a new phase of his investigation. Nunes says his probe involves the State Department, but wouldn't elaborate further.
At issue, notes written by a colleague of longtime Hillary Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal. In those notes, uncorroborated claims about Trump and Russia based on conversations with other reporters and sources that colleague of Blumenthal's claimed were in Russian intelligence and elsewhere. According to source familiar with the matter, it was passed on to Christopher Steele by an official at the State Department.
GRAHAM: Mr. Steele was more of a political operative than he was a reliable informant. Even though he had been used in the past and was reliable, in this case, he had a political bias. He was being paid by the Democratic National Committee and he was out to get Trump. And I think using his work product was a mistake.
SCHNEIDER: And, tonight, there could be another internal battle brewing for the House Intelligence Committee.
Even though Adam Schiff wants to subpoena Corey Lewandowski and enforce the subpoena on Steve Bannon, the Republican leading the Russia investigation, Mike Conaway, he won't say if he will back the subpoena push from Schiff.
And Republican Pete King even flat out said tonight that he won't support the Lewandowski subpoena. And, Jake, that's because Pete King said that Lewandowski has already answered 90 percent of the committee's questions.
TAPPER: Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.
With Lewandowski and Bannon both refusing to answer more questions from Congress, I'm going to talk to the panel. Why might they be reluctant? Why might they be stonewalled?
Plus, first in the family to cross the border, North Korea's Kim Jong- un sending his sister to the Olympics. But that isn't stopping the Trump administration from making another tough move.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we're back with the politics lead. Let's dive back in with my panel. So, Kristen, let me start with you.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And we're back with the "POLITICS LEAD." Let's dive back here with my panel. So Kris, let me start with you. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, says that Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump Campaign Manager and Steve Bannon, former Trump Campaign CEO I think he was called refusing to appear again before the committee. He wants to enforce subpoenas against them. Can this be interpreted as stonewalling do you think, even though Lewandowski and Bannon are no longer employed by President Trump?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I feel like this comment that we talked about earlier in the break -- before the break, he's answered 90 percent of the things we asked him. If Hillary Clinton answered 90 percent of the things that an investigation on the Hill wanted and didn't do 10 percent, Conservatives wouldn't be quiet about that 10 percent. So I don't think 10 percent is acceptable here. And it astonishes me why would Conservatives especially in the case of Steve Bannon be so interested in defending him and saying no he doesn't need to come and testify. This is guy mind you who has been cast out of Trump world with prejudice because of the things that he said regarding the administration for the Fire and Fury book. So I don't understand what the impulse is to try to defend Steve Bannon unless folks are genuinely concerned that what he has to say may not be good news for the Trump administration.
TAPPER: And Karine, Republicans including Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley issued their own report which is similar to the new report. They called Steele -- Christopher Steele the former British intelligence officer who wrote that dossier, he called him a political operative. They sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department on him. I want to you to take a listen to Lindsey Graham talking about Christopher Steele.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. Steele was more of a political operative than he was a reliable informant. Even though he had been used in the past and was reliable in this case, he had a political bias. He's being paid by the Democratic National Committee and he was out to get Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What do you think?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISER AND NATIONAL SPOKESWOMAN, MOVEON.ORG: It's just not true. I mean, there's this whole thing about out getting -- out to get Trump when all of this, I mean, didn't even start with Democrats. It started with the Republicans actually paying for the dossier first. Look, I think there is this -- there is this thing of people wanting on the Republican side, wanting to do this defense, a cover-up for Donald Trump. And it's just once again, it just shows us when you hear Graham, when you hear Lewandowski, and Steve Bannon not wanting to talk about, or to go in front of the committee and answer more questions, it's incredibly problematic because we are trying to get to the truth and that is not happening. It is a continuing cover-up.
TAPPER: What do you think, Susan?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: We'll eventually know if the dossier was true. There'll come to a point when the investigations are done and the American people can look at what was discovered and explored in a serious investigative way. And if what turned out to be true turned out to be untrue, then they can make their own decisions about the significance of what we found.
TAPPER: And one of the things that's come out just in the last day or so, Trey Gowdy, the Chairman of the Republican House Oversight Committee said that some of the information about Trump that ended up in the Steele dossier may have originally, or at least also come from Clinton aides, allies, confidants, henchman, whatever you want to call them. Cody Shearer and Sidney Blumenthal, names familiar to those who have been following the Clintons since the 90s, I guess some of the information went from Shearer to Blumenthal, to a State Department employee and eventually went -- made its way to Steele who was already working for Hillary Clinton and the DNC. What do you make of all that?
PAGE: Well, it's -- you know, it is one of the ways politics works. It's what fuels a million conspiracy theories. But at the end of the day, what matters is not the route it took but whether it was true.
TAPPER: Do you agree with that?
ANDERSON: Well, I think certainly. But I think when it comes to something like, am I going to be able to get a FISA warrant, am I going to be able to do surveillance on an American citizen, I do think the standard for what we should use to make those decisions should be a little higher than what a political operative has heard in the course of their research. But I think it is a positive thing that you had a unanimous vote in this committee to release the Democratic memo. This was not a party-line vote of Democrats saying, well, let's release the memo and the Republican saying no. Even the Republicans are saying sure, as long as there's nothing in this memo that would violate national security, let's put it out there. I'm glad that they took vote they did.
TAPPER: Do you think President Trump is going to allow it? Because ultimately, it's up to him.
ANDERSON: I hope so. I hope that the redactions are not political. I hope that any redactions that are made are purely in the interests of national security and I hope that we do get on find out really what was what caused this FISA court to say yes, go ahead and surveil --
PAGE: Actually the House has recourse if the President decides not to release it.
ANDERSON: Yes, exactly. They could --
PAGE: The House could vote again to release it and they could override the President.
ANDERSON: Yes, overrule the President.
TAPPER: And this is something I know you've talked about a lot which is ultimately one of the big issues that we're missing in all of this is the conclusion by the U.S. Intelligence Community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
JEAN-PIERRE: That's exactly right.
TAPPER: Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, was on Fox last night saying the Russians are up to it again. They've already begun trying to involve themselves in the 2018 election. He didn't go into detail. It could be through disinformation campaigns, information campaigns, hacking for all we know. But I really haven't seen any evidence that the U.S. government, the Trump administration, has done anything to take measures to stop it from happening again.
[16:50:05] JEAN-PIERRE: And that's exactly the fear. The CIA Director I think like ten days ago said the same thing, like Russia, is probably going to meddle in the midterms in 2018 and it is incredibly problematic because we haven't gotten to the bottom of all of this. We know it happened. Why did it happen? And let's get to the truth but what we're seeing is Republicans are constantly defending Trump, covering up for Trump and the White House doesn't seem like they care.
TAPPER: One last question for you. I'm interested to know what you think Kristen about whether or not President Trump should sit down with Mueller. Do you think he should?
ANDERSON: I think that there's a reason why we're hearing the story that President Trump says, oh, I want to sit down with Mueller but my mean old lawyers they won't let me. I think that there is a likelihood that this could get very troublesome for him if only because he's known to exaggerate. I think even in the absence of him actually done anything wrong, I think there's a reason why his lawyers don't want him to sit down with Mueller. And I don't think it is because he's necessarily -- they've got -- they're going to walk away with some smoking gun, but even the slightest exaggeration or the slightest thing that turns out to be untrue, that's what gets you. The cover-up is almost always the thing that gets you, not the crime.
TAPPER: That's right. Everyone, thank so much. I appreciate it. North Korea's power move. Kim Jong-un sending his sister to the Olympics. What message that may send to the world as the U.S. keeps up the pressure on North Korea's nuclear program. Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: And the "MONEY LEAD" now. Don't expect to see a huge American of force in the bleachers when the Olympics start. It's not just concern over tensions with North Korea but travels specialist say, a trip to South Korea is just too expensive. A round-trip ticket to Seoul from New York or L.A. is almost $1,000 and you have to add on train tickets and hotel prices, food, more. The folks at Wallet Hub estimate the average person will spend more than $4,600 for a week in Pyeongchang for the Olympics. Overall, American travel to South Korea is up 24 percent but experts say it's typically much higher for a major sporting event.
In our "WORLD LEAD" now, for the first time ever, a member of Kim Jong-un's family will visit South Korea. Kim Jong-un's sister will be in Pyeongchang to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. The announcement coming just hours after Vice President Pence pledged the U.S. would unleash the toughest round of sanctions yet against North Korea. I want to bring in CNN's Will Ripley who's in Seoul. Will, Friday night, all eyes will be on the North Korea's delegation in South Korea. I understand you have some breaking news on North Korea's diplomatic situation.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I'm speaking with diplomatic sources, Jake, who say don't be fooled by the fact that Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong will be attending the first time an Olympics in South Korea. It's actually the first time a member of the ruling Kim family has come to this country. However, noticeably absent from the delegation is North Korea's top diplomat, their Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho. Instead, they're sending their Ceremonial Head of State Kim Yong-nam.
My sources tell me this indicates that Pyongyang is not serious about actual diplomacy here, that this is all what the United States has called a charm offensive designed to make it look like North Korea is making a diplomatic effort when in fact while all eyes are focused on South Korea, North Korea is preparing its next military moves to respond to the joint military drills due to kick off after the Olympics. I'm even being told that a missile launch possibly during the Olympics or just after is a definite possibility.
TAPPER: Wow. Vice President Pence, of course, will also attend the opening ceremonies. He's sending some strong messages to South Korea.
RIPLEY: He is and it's also a message that's being reiterated by Secretary of State Tillerson saying the United States is not certainly not going to be lulled by what they call the North Korean charm offensive. And so, as a result, they are renouncing some of the strongest sanctions ever against the country to be unveiled in the coming weeks. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: To that end, I'm announcing today that the United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever. And we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile program once and for all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Perhaps in a show of force in the coming hours we're expecting a massive military parade in Pyongyang. My sources just a couple of weeks ago told me we could see hundreds of North Korean missiles rolling through Kim Il-sung's Square including up to 100 Hwasong 15, the intercontinental ballistic missile that Kim Jong-un has promised to mass produce. All of this, the show of force on the eve of opening ceremonies here in South Korea.
TAPPER: Will, in addition to these very significant tensions with North Korea, there are some lower level tensions but still significant between Vice President Pence and one of the U.S. Olympians. Tell us more about that.
RIPLEY: Yes. We're talking about Adam Rippon, the men's figure skater who's had a pretty public spat with Vice President Pence. He spoke with USA Today about a month ago saying that he did not feel that the Vice President should be leading the American delegation given his treatment of the LGBT community and alleged support of gay conversion therapy, something that the Vice President has denied, despite some vaguely worded statements from a number of years ago. USA Today reporting that the Vice President wanted a meeting with Rippon and Rippon declined saying he's not interested in talking at least until after he competes in the games.
TAPPER: Will, very quickly, I'm just wondering, have you heard anything from your North Korean or South Korean sources reacting to President Trump's desire for a military parade?
RIPLEY: Nothing specifically but I will tell you, military parades are often staged by authoritarian governments. China has held massive military parades. President Trump apparently wanting one similar to the military parade that he saw in France, but a lot of -- a lot of people are saying this is beneath the United States and there's concerns that this will only escalate the situation on the peninsula, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Will Ripley in Seoul, thank you so much. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD" today, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.