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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Ivanka Trump Bristles Over Sexual Harassment Questions; Interview With California Congressman Eric Swalwell; Gun Control Debate; Jared Kushner's Security Clearance Status?. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: How is that department, that county, and those parents and children going to move forward when the sheriff is saying, this went pretty well?

The answer is, there's dead children, it didn't go well, and we have got to figure out how to do it better. It's not that complicated.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Peterson's attorney says the sheriff oversimplified his client's actions, omitted facts.

Either way, it is just a fact that Peterson was there to protect the students, and he didn't go into the building.

MUDD: I think, in these situations, in the fog of these situations, you have got to step back and ask simple questions.

He is going to say they're firecrackers. I thought there was an exterior shooter. I had training to do X, Y and Z.

The fact is that nobody went in building, it appears, during the time of the incident.

I would say one more thing. This is why state and federal leadership, including the president, is so important. You have three questions here.

Guns, the security of a facility, and what to do when you have a mental situation with a young person or an older person and whether you can remove a gun. That's why I think the presidential leadership, or lack thereof -- he's saying today, I would have stormed the building -- not the right question.

The right question is, should we put some people together, teachers, students, mental health professionals, law enforcement professionals, to say, how do we do better on these questions? Instead, we have got everybody saying, I didn't do anything wrong. My leadership is amazing.

And the lawyers is saying, hey, I had training that kept me out of building. Not the right answer, Jake, not the right answer.

TAPPER: Just when you look at the list of red flags, whether it's warnings to the FBI, whether it's multiple calls from the shooter's house, multiple calls and warnings about the shooter to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, the call to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office by a woman who had taken him in and he had put a gun to somebody's head.

And the deputy came out and they said, oh, no, it's no big deal. We have resolved it all. And then he leaves.

Isn't at just the obligation of the police officer, the law enforcement officer to say, I'm sorry, that's a felony, I'm going to have to charge you with the felony, you're not allowed to put a gun to somebody's head?

If that had happened, maybe he wouldn't been able to buy the gun.

MUDD: Maybe, but I think we keep looking at tactical responses, what the lawyer for the individual on scene, the officer on scene, says, what the sheriff says.

You got to step back. There's a simple question Americans to have face. They will give you different answers depending on the day. If you show signs of mental illness, what is the right responsibility of a mental health professional to flag it? That's a privacy issue.

If you have got some sort of mental disease that a mental health professional believes should keep you from having a weapon, when do they violate your privacy and tell the feds or the state and locals that he shouldn't have a weapon?

That's the debate we should have, not some lawyer for an officer on scene saying, hey, he thought it was firecrackers. Wrong debate.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mudd, thank you so much.

Did Chief of Staff John Kelly revoke the security clearance for the president's son-in-law? What's the status there? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:36:54]

TAPPER: We're back with our politics leads now

Top Republicans on Capitol Hill drawing a line in the sand today when it comes to the Russia investigation. Many have speculated that the president's unreleased tax returns might shed some light his or his family's prior relationships with various Russian power brokers.

But, today, the Republican leaders of key committee told CNN that their committees have no reason to look into the finances of President Trump or his family members.

The one exception to our inquiry, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has no plans to, but will not rule it out.

Joining me now to discuss this and much more is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, who is the House Intelligence Committee, which, of course, is investigating Russian interference in the election, as well as possible collusion.

Congressman, good to see you.

Democrats on your committee have asked for subpoenas to Deutsche Bank, which has been a major lender to the Trump Organization, as well as to Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser.

Is looking at the president's finances a legitimate line of inquiry for members of Congress? And if so, why?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good afternoon, Jake. Thanks for having me back.

Certainly, knowing that the president and his family have had longstanding personal, political and financial contacts with Russians and that Russians have used contacts like these in the past to exert influence and recruit individuals, and that Russia interfered in our election, I do think we have met the standard to look at these contacts, especially knowing that the tumultuous financial situation that Donald Trump through the decades has been in.

And to know that Deutsche Bank, which has been fined before for laundering Russian money, is a lender of Donald Trump's, I think it is worth at least looking into and saying that we took a look. And if it is not there, it is in his interests to be cleared.

But, Jake, the larger issue here is that we're not using any subpoenas for anything. This is a take them at their word investigation. Witnesses come in, they will make declaration, and we have not shown the willingness to corroborate it or to contradict it.

TAPPER: What do you say to Republicans who are pushing back and saying, hey, President Trump is an international businessman, very successful, big-time real estate developer, of course he would have relationships with Russia and with banks all over the world?

SWALWELL: He may be all those things, but one thing he has not been has been a straight shooter.

He and his family routinely have failed to disclose prior relationships with Russia. And so it makes you ask, why have they not wanted to be forthcoming with that?

And if that's the case, I think we must assume that it may be for a good reason, and we should find out ourselves.

TAPPER: The White House today would not answer questions about whether interim security clearances, like the one Jared Kushner had, have been revoked, as the chief of staff, John Kelly, said he would do in the wake of that whole controversy with Rob Porter.

There's the whole question right now about whether Kushner might receive a waiver from his father-in-law which would allow him to continue to review classified information. What would your response be if the president does decide to grant his son-in-law the waiver? Is there anything you would do? Is there anything Congress would do?

SWALWELL: Jake, Congress shouldn't have to govern by each grievance that occurs at the White House or each incident that occurs.

[16:40:08]

But they're putting us in a position where we may have to try and seek action to prevent a family member from clearing another family member in a situation like this.

Jared Kushner should be sidelined until his issues are resolved, just as a non-family member should be sidelined if they have outstanding issues.

TAPPER: So you think he should be refused access to classified information, if that hasn't already happened?

SWALWELL: I don't know if it's already happened.

If it hasn't, until his issues are resolved, it should be -- he should be on the sidelines have handling classified information.

TAPPER: You know a lot more about this investigation than I do or than our viewers do.

How do you read the tea leaves when it comes to the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who supervises the investigation, reaching out to the White House to talk to them about Jared Kushner's interim security clearance?

SWALWELL: He needs to have independence. And he needs to oversee Bob Mueller's investigation in a way that it is not impeded.

And I do have an issue, though, if any information would be given to the Trump campaign or the Trump White House about facts that are only known to the investigation.

We already did that with the Republicans sending over a memo that included FISA application evidence. You allowed witnesses who have not been interviewed yet to see some parts of the evidence that may be used against them.

I think it is a problem when any investigator shows a witness close- hold evidence.

TAPPER: Sources are telling CNN the discussions remain ongoing between the president's legal team and special counsel Robert Mueller for a possible interview of the president of some sort.

According to "The Wall Street Journal," the president's lawyers want to limit the scope of the inquiry to prevent the president from recalling minor details which might result in perjury charges.

If you were advising the special counsel, would those be acceptable terms some?

SWALWELL: This is not "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," Jake.

You don't get to phone a friend. You don't get multiple choice on the questions and answers. Just shoot straight with the American people. Come clean, and let's get this over with. And that's what I think most Americans expect from any president.

TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, thanks so much, sir. Appreciate it.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

TAPPER: Coming up, the question Ivanka Trump got while representing the U.S. in South Korea that she considered inappropriate.

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Sticking with our politics today -- "POLITICS LEAD" today. Ivanka Trump, she's a Senior Adviser to the President, her father. She has traveled around the world on official business representing the United States of America. Most recently in South Korea this weekend, celebrating the Olympics and American athletes and even meeting with South Korean President Moon. Ivanka Trump calls herself a woman's right advocate. She promotes equal pay for workers. She's voiced support for various women accusing various men of foul deeds. So keeping all that in mind, I want you to you listen to her response when asked by a White House Correspondent about the Myriad women alleging sexual harassment and assault against them by her father.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe your father's accusers?

IVANKA TRUMP, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: I think it is a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter if she believes the accusers of her father when he is affirmatively stated that there's no truth to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So I'll bring back my panel. Well, can I ask her that question or could Peter Alexander ask her that question as a Senior Adviser to the President if not as a daughter?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right, I see how it's uncomfortable as a daughter to be asked about allegations made against your father ranging from sexual misconduct to sexual assault, but I can't fathom how someone who does not take a paycheck but flies around the country in the world on a taxpayer-funded airplane. She represents the United States at the Olympics in South Korea. She's supposed to be a champion of women's rights in this west wing. And she ends joys all this but she thinks she should be spared from tough questions from a reporter that would be asked any other White House official those questions because Sarah Sanders has certainly faced them at the briefings. So I don't fathom how someone who holds a title of Senior Adviser and special assistant to the President, a role that many other people would love to fill can say that she should not be asked about these allegations made against her father.

TAPPER: Kind of have it both ways. We should point out, Angela, she did ultimately answer the questions. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

I. TRUMP: I believe my father. I know my father so I think I have that right as a daughter to believe my father.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So she believes that all the women are lying.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I think what's interesting about this is also like the response on social media which is, no other daughter would face these types of questions. You've already raised that -- well, both of you already raised the point that she serves in a role that is taxpayer funded. I think the other things that's very interesting is we can't consent you to normalize this situation or this president. No other president has been recorded saying things like I just kiss them, you know, I can't help it. I'm not going to go there --

TAPPER: We remember. Yes, we get it, we get it.

RYE: But the reality of it is you can't treat this as a normal presidency for the reasons that Bill said at the top of the show. This is different. And so it requires a different response. You're on record saying these things so perhaps you forgot that your dad says he has this compulsive reaction on the recording to do these things to women. So I'm not sure what she believes or why but there's definitely evidence that supports something very different.

TAPPER: In 2008, Bill, Chelsea Clinton was asked by somebody at an Indiana town hall a similar question. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER, BILL CLINTON: Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the -- I don't know, maybe 70 college campuses that I've now been to and I do not think that's any of your business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:50:12] TAPPER: The specific question was whether or not her mother undermined her own feminist credentials during the Lewinsky scandal. I should point out, I don't think that's inappropriate either, that question.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes -- no, neither do i. But I think what's also amazing, we're talking about what's normal or not normal. It is not normal to have your daughter and son-in-law as senior White House staff members. It is normal to use family members for ceremonial occasions and send them abroad sometimes and then they have to sometimes quasi-government status for you know, the three days that they're representing you at the Olympics or something. But it's a big problem -- there's a reason we have anti-nepotism laws.

I'm still little unclear why somehow those didn't apply. Maybe they don't apply to White House staff and they were passed after Bobby Kennedy was his brother's Attorney General and everyone realized that is not really a tolerable situation. But it's a big problem that Trump business tag along, Ivanka's two brothers brought it. She has a stake in it like -- I believe. Jared Kushner has huge business interests and debts and he is dealing with people who as a government official that he has business, has had and they still be having.

TAPPER: Yes, there's a lot of conflicts.

KRISTOL: I just think the degree to which that sort of all been stuffed over, partly, honestly because a lot of people in the media think maybe correctly, that the two of them are kind of (INAUDIBLE) for sanity in the White House compared to some of the people who have been there, Mike Flynn, Seb Gorka, you know, and others and they've kind of got a little bit actually of I think --

TAPPER: A little bit of a past.

KRISTOL: Past, yes.

TAPPER: Kaitlan, I want to ask you about Ivanka's husband, Jared Kushner. What is his status right now? Well, we were told that John Kelly was -- the Chief of Staff was eliminating all interim security clearances, that if you haven't gotten the security clearance by last Friday, I think it was, that was it. It's Monday today. Has anybody even seen Jared Kushner at the White House today?

COLLINS: Not so far that I've spoken to. But he's kind of left twisting in the wind here. He wasn't actually at the governor's meeting earlier today. There was a chair for him but it was left empty. But you're right, he's kind of at an impasse right now because this went into effect on Friday that if you had -- were operating on an interim security clearance as of June one or earlier, which he is, that you would no longer have access to that highly classified information which did. He was actually one of the top White House officials who requested the most access to classified information over the last 13 months or so they've been office. And a lot of people who have been in the intelligence agencies before say they don't see how it's possible for him to move forward with this foreign policy portfolio that he has without a security clearance.

TAPPER: I mean, seriously, when you think about it, Angela, dealing with Mexico and who knows what law enforcement situation is going on behind, you know, behind the scenes in Mexico, dealing with the Israel and the Palestinians, how can you do that job without a high-level security clearance? RYE: You shouldn't. And Bill, you were just mentioning this about just an anti-nepotism laws, Congress has ethics rules in place for nepotism this. Congress has rules in place for people handling classified information. When I needed to see classified briefing documents, I had to go into a skiff as a committee on homeland security --

TAPPER: That's a secure facility.

RYE: I love Jake --

TAPPER: I have to translate Washington -- I have to translate Washington-ese for our viewers.

RYE: And I -- and I have a security clearance. There's no -- and you have to file an application. So I don't understand why they get to go around these things but I'm glad the interim -- I don't even -- I didn't even have one of those while I waited for my clearance.

TAPPER: There does seem to be a showdown going on here between Kelly and Kushner.

KRISTOL: Yes. And I do think you -- the fact Rosenstein called over, I guess placed the call for Kelly is that then talked to the White House Counsel saying we have a problem here with -- we're not going to be able to complete Kushner's.

TAPPER: Because the FBI is in charge of doing the investigation for security clearance.

KRISTOL: Yes, normally the FBI would call and would say hey, we just need another month to look at some of the back -- you know, financial transactions. The fact Rosenstein calls does suggest to me that this speculation that is because of the Mueller investigation and the material that has been turned up there that they don't feel they can clear Kushner. So I think that's an interesting -- that means he's not going to get a clearance until that investigation concludes.

TAPPER: So what does he do then?

RYE: That's a great question. What does he do?

TAPPER: Will he leave? I mean, it has been reported that Kelly has told associates he wouldn't mind in Ivanka and Jared went back to New York.

COLLINS: He certainly wouldn't. The tension is very high between those three because even though they originally pushed for Kelly to become the Chief of Staff and take over for Reince, they thought that this restraint that he was going to impose on the West Wing wouldn't necessarily apply to them in the manner that it has. And they have certainly have soured on John Kelly. So I'm sure he would not blink twice if Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner left the White House.

TAPPER: Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for Kushner. Angela, Kaitlan, Bill, thanks one and all for being here. Several companies are dropping their affiliation and deals with the NRA. Now, one state's lieutenant governor is threatening one of those companies for activism. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: And in our "MONEY LEAD" today. Conservatives are fighting back against the companies cutting relationships with the NRA in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school massacre. Today the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia tweeted, "I will kill any tax legislation that benefits Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with the NRA. Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back." Delta joins more than a dozen companies who have severed ties with the NRA including United Airlines, Alamo Rent-a-Car and Best Western which decided to drop the discounts for NRA members. The NRA calling those decisions "a shameful display of political and civic cowardice. In time, these brands will be replaced by others who recognize the patriotism and determined commitment to the Constitutional freedoms are characteristics of a marketplace they very much want to serve."

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD today. I turn you over now to my friend and my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.