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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Democratic Blue Wave Coming?; Trump Examines Border Wall Prototypes in California. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired March 13, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, in fact, they were high-fiving in Moscow when Trump got elected.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CO-AUTHOR, "RUSSIAN ROULETTE": It does.
And one thing about the book, particularly in light of yesterday's news, is, we have stuff in the book that the House Intelligence Committee never got to.
A couple of examples. George Papadopoulos, a key witness who is now cooperating with Mueller's investigators, we talk about -- we disclose for the first time what he's been telling prosecutors, and that he says Trump gave him a green light at a March 31, 2016, meeting to follow up on these contacts he had in London, these Russian contacts, to set up a summit between Trump and Putin.
The House Intelligence Committee never spoke to Papadopoulos. So they don't have the information that was in our book. We also talk about a first Trump Tower meeting between Rob Goldstone and Emin Agalarov at Trump Tower in January 2015 with Donald Trump himself.
This is a precursor to the notorious meeting that comes in June 2016 that we have all heard about, when the Trump campaign was offered derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.
The House Intelligence Committee didn't know about this earlier meeting. We confirmed that just last night. So, this is stuff, this is information, new information in our book that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were unaware of.
TAPPER: David, "The Washington Post" reported today that President Trump's loyal longtime lawyer adviser, Roger Stone, told associates that he directly communicated with WikiLeaks and knew ahead of time about the release of damaging e-mails from the Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and the DNC during the campaign.
Now, Stone is vehemently denying the "Washington Post" report.
But how big a factor do you think Stone might be playing in the Mueller investigation?
DAVID CORN, CO-AUTHOR, "RUSSIAN ROULETTE": Well, I assume Mueller is looking into this quite closely, because beyond what "The Washington Post" reported, as we note in our book, throughout the summer and fall of 2016, Stone was saying, he was telling people publicly that he was in directly in communication with Assange and he had an idea what was going to come, and that he was tweeting about this.
After the election, he came and said, well, no, I wasn't in direct contact. I was working through a back channel, and I was just a very smart reader of Julian Assange's tweets, so could I see what was coming.
Well, his back channel was a fellow named Randy Credico, a New York City radio show host and comic who was a fan, a supporter of Julian Assange a friend of Roger Stone.
And in our book, for the first time, Randy Credico is saying that he was no back channel for Roger Stone, he never talked to Roger Stone about anything with Julian Assange. He wasn't in contact with Julian Assange for most of the summer himself.
So Stone has an alibi problem, conflicting accounts before and after the election. And people wonder to what degree he was remaining in touch with Trump throughout the campaign. So, no doubt, this is something that the House Republicans didn't pay much attention to, but that Mueller is.
TAPPER: And, Michael, one of the juiciest nuggets in the book is that, in 2013, Putin sent Trump a sealed letter in a locked box after the pair were unable to meet during the Miss Universe Pageant, which was being held in Moscow.
Do you have any sense of how keen Putin was to meet Trump one way or the other?.
ISIKOFF: Well, we don't know how Putin was to meet Trump.
We know that Trump was very keen to meet Putin. In fact, this is the opening chapter in the our book. And one thing we have been able to do is recreate that trip he made to Moscow in November 2013.
And we talked to people who were with him at the time. And the one thing that leaps out is how obsessed he was with trying to meet Putin. He kept asking, is Putin coming? Have we heard from Putin yet.
He finally gets a phone call. He is told Putin was going to call. He keeps waiting for the phone call. Finally, the phone call comes, not from Putin, but from Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman.
Peskov apologizes. The president doesn't have time meet him. He has to meet with the king of Holland, but he hopes he can come to the upcoming Olympics in Sochi.
Trump is keenly disappointed. Why? Because, at the same time, what he was doing there was trying to do a business deal. He was trying to do this deal with Aras Agalarov for a Trump Tower in Moscow. He knows he needs Putin's approval for that project to go through.
And meeting Putin was a key part of that. TAPPER: And, David, I know that the final chapters of the story have
not been written, because there's still a whole bunch -- I mean, you guys uncovered a whole bunch, but then there's also who knows what Mueller has.
Do you think that there was collusion? Was there directly coordination about releasing the WikiLeaks and the e-mails, et cetera, from individuals associated with the Trump campaign?
CORN: Well, I think collusion really can be defined in a lot of ways.
Did Donald Trump sit down with Russian agents and decide what DNC e- mails to hack and release? No. That's pretty unlikely.
But throughout the campaign -- and part of the purpose of the book was pulling together the things that you and I, Mike, reported on and lived through and get sort of a bigger picture, a bigger idea of what happened during the campaign.
And you saw again and again during the campaign, particularly when you look back, that the Trump campaign and Trump himself and all the people around him kept denying that anything was going on in terms of Russian meddling and kept sending signals to Moscow while these attacks were under way, and were more or less publicly known, that no harm would come to them if they continued to do this.
So, in that sense, I think Trump, as we say in the book, aided and abetted the Russian attack on American democracy by helping them sort of cover up and confusing the picture about it.
So I think that certainly falls into one category of collusion.
TAPPER: The book is "Russian Roulette," the authors, David Corn and Michael Isikoff.
Good luck with the book, gentlemen. Thanks so much for being here.
CORN: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: How tall will it be? Will it be made of concrete or metal? Will it be transparent? What did Donald Trump like when he browsed his border wall options today?
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the governor of California is doing a terrible job running the state of California.
And if you don't have safety, meaning, if you don't have this kind of wall, the drugs are pouring through in California. Can't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: We're back with the breaking news.
President Trump just moments ago making a case for his big, beautiful border wall, as he views prototypes today in Southern California, his first time to California as president, his first trip to the center of the so-called resistance.
Let's go to CNN's Miguel Marquez, who is in San Diego.
And, Miguel, the wall was arguably his most contentious, perhaps most important campaign promise. Now he says the wall will save more money than it actually costs? How so?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He's basing that on number from FAIR, the Federation of American Immigration Reform.
The president says that it costs about $100 billion for illegal immigration every year. That's based, what they say, is on crime, welfare, education, those sort of things for immigrants, undocumented immigrants, in this country.
That number is roundly disputed. Like many things with the administration, one does have to take it with a grain of salt. Even conservative organizations come in with a much lower number when it comes to how much immigration actually costs.
And even if you did build a 2,500-mile wall across the entire U.S. border, it is not clear that it would stop all those negative effects of immigration. The
Now, president did visit those eight prototypes and had a few thoughts about the old fence that they are next to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Coming up, I noticed -- the first thing I noticed, look how many holes are in that fence?
Now, they fix the holes, but it doesn't look very good. They just patch with it more fence. So the fence is not strong enough. It is not the right idea. But for those people, if you don't have a wall system, you're going to have -- we're not going to have a country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: Now, interestingly, the president said that his preference, the wall that he liked out there is one that had metal slats and that you could actually see through.
That's because agents who work out there are always concerned about what's on the other side of the wall. Obviously, a cement wall, you can't see through very well, so all of this academic at the point, though, because this president still has to get money for all this from Congress.
And that, in an election year, is going to be a tough job -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, people are voting right now in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It's a test for Republicans and for the president in a district that the president won by 20 points in 2016.
Somehow, however, polls show Republicans in trouble, at risk of losing a solid red seat, solid red since 2002.
Let's bring in CNN's Alex Marquardt, who's in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
Alex, how is each camp feeling tonight?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, they're both projecting confidence.
Rick Saccone has been going around telling everybody that everywhere he goes, it's a hundred to one for Saccone. Conor Lamb, the Democrat, was asked about his confidence, his predictions after he voted this morning. He would not make a prediction.
But he did say, we worked really hard for it, and it paid off.
So you can hear the confidence there. And there should be confidence.E You're right. We have been talking about a race that has been neck and neck and down to the wire. But over the last few days, the trend lines have been favoring Lamb.
There was a poll that came out just yesterday, the latest poll, showing Lamb ahead by six points, 51-45, which is extraordinary when you look at the district that we're in, a deep red district that, as you mentioned, Trump one by almost 20 points in 2016.
If you look at the last two congressional races in 2016 and 2014, the Democrats didn't even field a candidate.
So I asked Saccone about that today. He told me that it's neck and neck basically because it's an open election, and Democrats have been pouring everything they have into this race.
What he failed to mention was the massive conservative support that he's been getting, some $10.7 million, Jake, from outside support, outside groups, to prop up his campaign.
You talk to people here on the ground. You talk people in Washington. Most do you see this as a referendum on the president. There's a lot on the line for the president and for Republicans in this special election -- Jake. TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks so much.
So, will Republicans sleep easy tonight, or will they have nightmares of a possible blue wave coming in the midterms?
Stick around. We will talk about it.
[16:45:00] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot on the line for the President and for Republicans in this special election. Jake?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks so much. So will Republicans sleep easy tonight or will they have nightmares at a possible blue wave coming in the midterm? Stick around. We'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SACCONE (R), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, PENNSYLVANIA: I've talked to so many of this on the left and they have a hatred for our President. I'll tell you, many of them have a hatred for our country, and I'll tell you some more, my wife and I saw it again today, they have a hatred for God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back. That's Republican Candidate Rick Saccone who's running in critical House race in Pennsylvania where voters are headed to the polls right now. I'm back with my political panel. And Josh, if Saccone does not win in this deep red district, that's got to be a wake-up call for Republicans about a possible blue wave.
[16:50:06] JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, absolutely. Yes -- no, look, I think that this is clearly a district that's been controlled by Republican since 2002. You know the interesting thing is we're experiencing a $15 million race for the control of the political narrative really because the district won't exist next year.
TAPPER: That's right. There's redistricting.
HOLMES: Redistricting. And so, you know, in terms of its lasting impact, it probably doesn't have much but this is really about control of the narrative of the political season we're about to embark upon it, I think.
TAPPER: And is this about Trump or is this about a young dynamic Democratic candidate who has distanced himself significantly from Nancy Pelosi and a more, less exciting Republican candidate who has not -- who has struggled with fundraising? Is it more about the candidates or is it more about Trump?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think it can be all of the above. I mean, this is -- this is a district that Trump won by 20 points. And let's be clear, he has made an argument that he can deliver these voters for Republicans. One of the reasons why Republicans in the House and Republicans the Senate have been so aligned with Donald Trump is because he's made a compelling argument that voters like him more than them and he can deliver them. That's what it means for them. And so, when you go into a district that so clearly swung to Trump in 2016 and he can't deliver for a Republican who was you know, not the most energized candidate but has been in politics in the district.
TAPPER: Respectable, a veteran, he did serve, yes.
TANDEN: Yes, he's been in politics for a long time. And this -- in that arena, in that area, you know, it should be a -- it should be a sign to Republicans that being lockstep with the President like they did yesterday, with the House Intelligence report, or taking votes with him doesn't help.
HOLMES: Well, we'll see. It's not a monolithic group either. It has some kind of interesting differences. We've seen kind of a suburban Allegheny county area where you've seen --
TAPPER: It's outside Pittsburgh.
HOLMES: Right, outside Pittsburgh. We've seen a lot of Republican losses in those areas in special elections and we saw it in Alabama, we saw it in Canon, Virginia. That is coupled with these more rural counties that have traditionally gone red but have gone really red since Trump. I'm actually looking within the election results to see -- if Democrats win Alleghany county, can they win it by ten plus? Well, that would be on trend but where they've been up in all these special elections up to this point. But if they can do that in concert with also making huge gains in these rural areas that have been commonly defined as Trump voters, I think that says something else.
TAPPER: And Conor Lamb did not nationalize this race. He did not do what they did down in Georgia special election and bring in outside celebrities and outside politicians. But he also did something quite stark. He looked right at the camera and said, I will not vote for Nancy Pelosi to be the Leader of the Democratic Party or the Speaker of the House if he wins. Are Democrats around the country in this marginal district also going to have to do that about?
TANDEN: You know, it really depends. I'd say here is none of the national politicians are super popular. Paul Ryan is not very popular. We've seen a lot of candidates campaign against Mitch McConnell in the Republican side so I think theirs is an anti- Washington program. Conor lamb is an outsider candidate. He's not -- he's not a politician. He's a Prosecutor, Iraq war veteran and I think you'll see a lot more of that outsider status be what people campaigning on.
HOLMES: Yes, there's a huge discrepancy in the two candidates. I mean, you saw it in the lead into this segment. You've got a Republican candidate, as you said, respectable Republican and he's held office before but he is not very talented. Let's just put it that way.
TAPPER: Those words about the left are pretty ugly.
HOLMES: This is -- yes. I mean, if you are -- if you are a candidate for federal office and you come up with that as closing message, you're not doing very good job.
TAPPER: Like Democrats of the district hate God.
HOLMES: Right. And Conor Lamb is actually proven to be versatile. He's been able to basically espouse a conservative Republican platform, somehow navigate a Democratic primary in the process and land here close to election day as a Republican like candidate.
TANDEN: I was just saying --
TAPPER: Is this a wave? Is this a wave, do you think?
TANDEN: You know, we'll see. I think this would be another indication. I mean, if Donald Trump can't deliver Pennsylvania 18, a rural district and it can't Alabama, I mean, I think Republicans should be anxious about that.
TAPPER: There wasn't accused child molester running on the --
TANDEN: There isn't one now.
TAPPER: I mean, I'm saying, it's kind of an important part of that campaign.
TANDEN: This is -- this is one thing that -- one thing about Conor Lamb you know, there's a lot of rewriting of him. He is running a very pro-union campaign.
TAPPER: That's true and that might hurt Rick Saccone. He's not perceived as being -- as pro-union.
TANDEN: He's right to work -- he's in the right to work
HOLMES: Well, if there's an interesting message that's worth looking into after this election, it's the impact of the tariff announcement which in some of these rural counties, in particular, you would think it would have deep resonance. If it doesn't, you know, perhaps that's something to look up too.
TANDEN: And maybe being pro-union matters a lot.
TAPPER: All right, Josh and Neera, thank you so much. I appreciate it. So you've never flown on a private jet? That's odd because you're paying for it. The latest White House officials under fire over such travel coming up next.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: And we're back with the "MONEY LEAD." Two top members of the Trump administration are facing new questions today about taxpayer money and private planes. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Capitol Hill defending taking a $12,000 private charter flight. And then there is, of course, White House Counsellor Kellyanne Conway according to top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee she joined then-HHS Secretary Tom Price on at least four private jet trips last year costing more than $60,000. Price ended up resigning. He's now repaid his portion of the trips according to House Democrats. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD. I'll be back tonight for our special coverage of the special election in Pennsylvania. The coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you in two hours.