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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Cambridge Analytica CEO Suspended; Stormy Daniels' Polygraph; Trump Congratulates Putin for Election Victory; McCain Slams Trump for Congratulating Putin on Reelection. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 20, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:15]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We might soon hear from all the president's women.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking today, major news involving three women who have an alleged history with President Trump, two of the three consensual, all involving litigation. Will President Trump be able to avoid all three legal quagmires?

Also breaking minutes ago, an explosive report on Channel 4 in the U.K. on the shady data firm that worked for the Trump campaign and a stunning new undercover look at political operatives bragging about just how they got President Trump elected.

Plus, just minutes ago, the White House refusing to say whether a sham Russian election was free and fair or not, as President Trump congratulates Vladimir Putin for a win that was frankly never in doubt.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Late news this afternoon on two different stories that are causing major headaches in the West wing. We are learning more details about the data mining of some 50 million Facebook users by a firm hired by the Trump campaign.

The latest on that story is coming up.

Also this afternoon, the White House facing stormy weather and legal battles waged by three different women with allegations about the president's behavior before taking office.

News broke this afternoon that adult film actress Stormy Daniels' claim that she had an affair with President Trump in 2006 was apparently verified by a lie detector test back in 2011.

The president and Daniels are locked in a legal battle about whether or not she can tell her story, of course.

And yet there's another lawsuit from another alleged former paramour filed today by former Playboy model Karen McDougal. She is suing a company owned by a Trump ally, American Media, a parent company of "The National Enquirer."

McDougal is demanding that she be released from a nondisclosure agreement regarding her claims of an affair with President Trump.

And as if that were not enough, a court today also has decided a defamation case brought against the president by a third woman, Summer Zervos, can go forward. Zervos accuses the president of sexual assault and she is suing him for calling her accusations lies.

CNN's Sara Sidner joins me now.

And, Sara, for the White House, Stormy Daniels' accusations are just not going away.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are not going to go away for a very long time, according to her attorney.

Let's talk about what we have now learned. Stormy Daniels did take a lie detector test. We knew that. That is something that had been reporting and that we have confirmed. What we had not seen was the actual declaration from the person who took that test, nor had we seen this picture of her actually taking that lie detector test.

Now, she took this test back in 2011 after she gave an interview to "In Touch" magazine and she gave the interview to a woman named Jordi Lippe-McGraw, who was then working for "In Touch" magazine and asking Stormy Daniels about her 2006 alleged affair with Donald Trump.

Here's what Jordi Lippe told us about that interview and about the lie detector test.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JORDI LIPPE-MCGRAW, REPORTER: When it came to the lie detector test with Stormy Daniels, we obviously had her take it after I did the interview, because we had all this information. We wanted to make sure she was telling the truth.

So I believe she took a lie detector test in Las Vegas, where she lived at the time. I was not present for it, but we did have a third party administer the test. And the results came back that she was in fact telling the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: Now, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has also given us paperwork he says is the declaration by the person who performed the test on Stormy Daniels, that lie detector test, and there were three questions asked.

One was whether or not she had sexual intercourse with Donald Trump. Two, whether or not it was unprotected intercourse. And, three, if Mr. Trump did say that he was going to put Stormy Daniels on "The Apprentice."

Well, the answer came back and the answer, according to the examiner was the first two questions, whether or not there was sexual intercourse, came back as true, in his opinion. The last question was not determined by the test -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Sara, Stormy Daniels obviously not the only woman who is making claims about President Trump's behavior during this period, 2006-2007, and not the only one whose claims have potential legal ramifications.

SIDNER: Absolutely.

There are now two other cases before the court. You mentioned one of them, Summer Zervos. But there is also this young lady, Karen McDougal, you see there on your left, a 1998 Playboy Playmate of the year.

She sold her story to AMI, the parent company of "The National Enquirer." And she was paid, it says in her lawsuit, $150,000 to sell her story.

[16:05:04]

In other words, they own her story. But that story never appeared in "The Enquirer," it never appeared anywhere, and she says that is because there was collusion between Donald Trump and AMI to try to squash the story.

So, that case has just been filed in a Los Angeles court. And Summer Zervos' case, as you mentioned, was filed. She said that she was defamed. She said that there was inappropriate sexual contact by Donald Trump back in 2007 when she was on "The Apprentice."

You see her there with her attorney, Gloria Allred. She said because Donald Trump said that she was a liar and said that it wasn't true, that she was defamed. That case is now going forward as well -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Sidner, thank you so much.

My panel is here with me.

Let's start just with Stormy Daniels, Laura.

This polygraph, does this change anything legally in this case?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It doesn't really move the needle or persuade the court, because the issue here is not whether or not the underlying allegations are true.

The issue is whether or not she is able to talk about the underlying allegations. You have two separate buckets. One is what the public would want to know about an alleged affair between citizen Trump and Stormy Daniels and, two, what she's allowed to talk about under the NDA, the nondisclosure agreement.

If it's in fact valid, then the issue is not whether or not anything about the underlying facts are true, whether she can actually speak about it. It is almost a foregone conclusion, it appears, in the court of public opinion as the number of people are coming forward to allege different accusations against the president and about alleged affairs.

But when it comes to the court, that foregone conclusion is not persuasive about whether she can actually talk about anything.

TAPPER: And, Abby, Stormy Daniels' interview with Anderson Cooper which will be on "60 Minutes" I believe Sunday, is the White House worried? Do you sense when you talk to your sources there that they understand that this is really starting to get a lot of national attention?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

Well, clearly, the president is worried. He has directed his attorneys to both put him squarely in the middle of this case and also engage with Stormy pretty directly.

And I think that is the clearest sign the President Trump wants this to stop as quickly as possible. They're trying to stop Stormy from being able to have that interview air.

From the White House's perspective, all of is part of a storm of legal trouble brewing for President Trump. And there's a perception among president's friends that it is not even so much the Russia investigation and all of that that could potentially endanger him as president right at this moment.

But when it comes to sex scandals, the precedent is there with President Bill Clinton in the past that these things can snowball and create huge problems for him down the road. Now we have three women all involved in litigation of different varieties involving President Trump.

It is a real problem. And, clearly, President Trump thinks it is. He has dispatched one of the more aggressive attorneys he has in his stable of lawyers to deal with Stormy, because she has figured out the media part of this, which is essentially keep putting things out there that keep the story going every single day.

It is an effort to kind of beat Donald Trump at his own game.

TAPPER: It sure is.

Let's talk about Karen McDougal. Is that her name? Karen. Yes. Karen McDougal. She has filed a lawsuit today against American Media International. That is David Pecker's firm. That is the firm that owns "The National Enquirer."

She is saying that she wants to get out of that NDA, that she was paid to tell her story to these companies. They never published anything. Does she have any sort of a case?

COATES: Now, it is different than the Stormy Daniels nondisclosure agreement. What you have here is called kind of the old tabloid catch and kill,

meaning I'm going to buy your story, I want exclusive rights to it. I am not actually required to ever publish anything, but you're required to never tell anybody else about it.

It is not a contract between a David Dennison, for example, and Michael Cohen you have in Stormy Daniels.

TAPPER: David Dennison being the president's fake name.

(CROSSTALK)

COATES: The AKA, he said. And now he's joined a lawsuit confirming that, in fact, point, Jake.

You have this issue of Stormy Daniels, not the same thing here. And this is an issue of again a contractual obligation that she may have to fulfill, unless the court would find that she was duped, that she entered into it thinking it was for one thing and that she was fraudulently persuaded to say that actually we had never had any intention of ever publishing it.

You were allured and enticed under false pretenses. And the court looks at that sort of thing and says, you know what, fraud-based contracts, we're not going to accept.

But it is not is going to be an automatic and a downhill issue. It is going to be an uphill battle to prove just that, because the court does not want to be engaged in figuring out who has got the better contract, whether you can get out of it, if it is a raw deal for you, if it's not.

Imagine how much you would clog the courts if every time someone didn't like their contract, the courts would be able to plan the whole thing for you. It would never happen.

TAPPER: And, Abbe, a court today decided, ruled that Summer Zervos' defamation suit against President Trump for calling her a liar, her and all the other women who had allegations against the president in 2016, that that case can go forward.

Lawyers for the president now have 10 days to respond. Are they concerned about this?

[16:10:00]

PHILLIP: It seems, in the past, the lawyers for the president have asserted that these types of cases don't really apply to him. Clearly, the court has ruled in this case otherwise.

But I don't expect that they're going to change their underlying argument, because theory here, from the president's perspective, is that if you have the precedent that people out there, random people perhaps, can then sue the president for defamation, it really opens him up to kind of a potential unlimited universe of litigation. You can see why they're concerned about this and why they're not going

to just lay down and let this lie. The question then also becomes, what does all of this even matter for President Trump?

And I think that's the part that people are not sure whether it will have direct implications. But, clearly, at a time when President Trump is at a very level in terms of approval, these sorts of things don't help him electorally and they also don't help Republicans more broadly going into a midterm.

TAPPER: Both of you, stick around. Thank you both so much. Appreciate you for being here.

President Trump took everyone by surprise when he announced that he would meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Now he is also planning another shocking meeting. With who? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're back with our world lead.

[16:15:00] Republican Senator John McCain today forcefully pushing back against President Trump's phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which President Trump congratulated Putin on his electoral, quote, victory. Air quotes are necessary here because it's an election as if Putin was ever going to lose, with mob tactics and electoral corruption and no real opposition allowed, according to all the outside experts who monitored the election.

President Trump also said he would be meeting with Putin in the not- too-distant future.

Let's go now to CNN's Ryan Nobles at the White House.

And, Ryan, the White House press secretary this afternoon, Sarah Sanders, repeatedly dodging the question about if Russia's election was free and fair.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake, and the reason she gave was because the United States does not dictate to other countries how they should operate. But in the past, this White House has not been afraid to call out sham elections. They did so just recently with Venezuela.

But it appears that in this case, the standards for Russia have changed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES (voice-over): Five days after imposing sanctions on Russia for its role in election meddling, President Trump spoke one-on-one with the country's leader, Vladimir Putin.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory. NOBLES: Mr. Putin predictably scored a landslide victory over nominal opposition.

His win comes as congressional leaders announce suggestions to protect the 2018 election and specifically called out Russia's role in meddling in 2016.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Russia was trying to undermine the confidence of our election system.

NOBLES: Yet election meddling didn't even come up in the call with Putin, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

And Republican Senator John McCain leveled heavy criticism of Mr. Trump for congratulating Putin on his win.

An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections, wrote McCain in a statement. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who has denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country's future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin's regime.

One person Mr. Trump has become more confrontational toward is special counsel Robert Mueller, specifically calling him out by name on Twitter and once again labeling the investigation a witch hunt.

Sanders acknowledged the White House is frustrated by the probe.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We would like it to end quickly and soon, and the president has contended since day one and will continue to do so that there was absolutely no collusion between his campaign in any outside force or country.

NOBLES: But promised there are no plans to fire the special counsel.

SANDERS: As White House counsel Ty Cobb said earlier this week, the White House yet again confirms that the president is not considering or discussing the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller.

NOBLES: A promise Republican leaders on Capitol Hill feel comfortable with.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I've received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration.

NOBLES: Still, the president is tinkering his legal team in a way that shows he is preparing for a fight, adding Joseph diGenova to his legal team, a well known D.C. attorney known for spreading conspiracy theories on cable news.

JOSEPH DIGENOVA, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Make no mistake about it, a group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: And while Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell said today they don't believe legislation is necessary to protect Robert Mueller, they both said that his investigation should be allowed to finish unimpeded -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles at the White House for us.

My political panel is here with me now.

Abby, it is pretty stunning that the White House wouldn't say that they have concerns about the Russian elections given how overwhelmingly all our allies have had said things. They shouldn't -- said things.

Should this be an easy one?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It should be, and but it's stunning but not surprising. I mean, this is a White House that has purposely ignored these types of issues when it comes to other world leaders that maybe the president wants to work with on other issues, whether it's China or the Philippines, or in this case, Russia or even in Saudi Arabia, he had a meeting with the Saudis today, and mentions none of the concerns that some folks have about how that country is run.

This president has been very clear he wants to work in areas where he thinks they can be helpful to the United States and vice versa. He doesn't want to discuss the circumstances under which people might gain power or even hold onto power potentially indefinitely. At one point, President Trump even said that he admired President Xi's ability to potentially have an unlimited reign in China. He thought that was something that the United States could emulate.

So, the pattern here is pretty clear, stunning though it is.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I guess he definitely seems to like on a crash, but I think at this particular moment, what should be deeply alarming is that Russia was just accused by our closest ally of poisoning and attempted poisoning but poisoning hundreds of British citizens and the idea, that just days after that the United States would not even mention it not say a word.

[16:20:04] it's like -- it's like basically we are taking the side of Vladimir Putin and not talking about this basic attack on human rights and people in Britain and also, of course, let's not forget that the special prosecutor just indicted 13 Russian nationals for actually trying to undermine our elections and not a single mention.

TAPPER: But listen to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who was asked about this phone call to Putin from President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The president can call who and whomever he chooses. When I look at a Russian election, what I see is the lack of credibility and tallying the results. I'm always reminded of the elections they used to have in almost every communist country, where the --whoever the dictator was at the moment always got a huge percentage of the vote. So, calling him wouldn't have been high on my list.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Ronald Reagan invoked the United States being a shining city on a hill, standing up for freedom, democracy. I guess the Republican Party is now, it's different.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, if you listen to McCain and McConnell, they don't sound different, right? the leader of the party is different.

TAPPER: Fair enough, fair enough.

HAM: I actually am with McCain and McConnell on this. It is important for America to speak clearly about when these things are done wrong and about who dictators are.

I don't think that Trump has a real like moral compass on this or, you know, I think he does have a little bit of soft spot for autocrats, and particularly is very kind to Putin. That does not help with our messaging.

On the other hand, this is one of these glorious moments in Washington where we get to watch everybody very acrobatically switch positions based on the party. David Axelrod today is just appalled that a president would call Putin to congratulate him, when on -- in March of 2012, one President Obama called Putin to congratulate him because reset.

Things were different then, except that Putin was still a dictator and he was still poisoning his enemies.

So, I don't want to be --

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: Poisoned fewer enemies frankly a few years ago, I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: That's a super good moral line, speaking of which.

TANDEN: I hear your point. I totally hear your point. I guess I would say, there is a big difference between the number of murders that taking place in the last couple of years, the prisoning -- the imprisoning of political opponents and LGBT folks.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: I just don't have any gymnastic ability for that.

PHILLIP: Neera's point is important though. At this particular moment, what the president did, what Sarah Sanders did by not speaking out more forcefully is undermined themselves. Just a week ago, the White House put out a statement condemning Putin for the attack in the U.K.

This administration is speaking with two voices on Russia and it undermines the overall policy here. They put out paper statements being tough on Russia but when the words are asked to come out of their mouths, it's -- they're not able to do it. That's why this kind of move doesn't really have credibility at this particular moment.

TAPPER: All right. Everybody, stick around, we got a lot more to talk about.

The wild claim from a group of political operatives, they say they were behind Trump's 2016 election when there's undercover video just breaking in the last hour or so. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:31] TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news.

New explosive undercover video with huge potential consequences for President Trump, executives with the shady data firm already under fire for improperly using the Facebook data of million users caught on tape, claiming that they won the 2016 election for Donald Trump. In the last hour, London's Channel 4 News ran secretly recorded conversation between its reporters and top officials of the company Cambridge Analytica, the data firm hired by the Trump campaign in 2016 to collect and analyzed voter data to try to determine voter behavior.

Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix is recorded lauding how instrumental he and the company were to the Trump campaign. He's asked at one point, has he ever met Mr. Trump?

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER NIX, CEO, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: Many times. We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: In another exchange, the company's chief data scientist Dr. Alex Tayler says, quote: When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes but won the Electoral College vote, that's down to the data and the research. You did your rallies in the right locations, you moved more people out in those key swing states on election day, that's how he won the election.

Managing director Mark Turnbull then says: He won by 40,000 votes in three states, the margins were tiny.

Turnbull also talks about how the group wins elections by spreading information, using third party groups, such as charities, saying, quote: We use them, we feed them the material and they do the work. We just put information into the bloodstream to the Internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and then and again over time to watch it take shape.

And so, this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding -- so it's unattributable, untrackable, unquote.

What kind of information? Turnbull describes: The brand was defeat crooked Hillary. You'll remember this, of course, Crooked Hillary and the zeroes, the OO of crooked were a pair of handcuffs and it was all about she belongs behind bars.

The undercover reporter asks: And you have created this?

The exact response affirmatively: Defeat crooked Hillary. And then, we made creative hundreds of different kinds of creative, and we put it online.

Also in these decisions -- on these new recordings, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix insults the members of the House Intelligence Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIX: I went to speak to them and the Republicans asked three questions. Five minutes, done. Democrats asked two hours of questions.

REPORTER: And you had to answer everything?

NIX: No, it's voluntary, but I did because I'm trying to help them.

REPORTER: Right.

NIX: We have no secrets. They're politicians, they're not technical. They don't understand how it works. They don't understand because the candidate never, is never involved.