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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti; President Trump Targets Amazon Again; Trump Ramps Up Border Rhetoric; Trump: I think I Could Get Along with Putin; GOP Congressman: Pruitt Needs to Resign or Be Fired; Police Confirm Active Shooter At YouTube HQ. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 3, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump taking heat and breathing fire in all directions today.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump today threatening to send troops to the border with Mexico if he doesn't get his wall and calling out everyone from China to Mexico to Amazon.com to CNN, everyone but Vladimir Putin. But don't worry. Trump says nobody has been tougher on Russia than he has.

Breaking news this hour in the Stormy Daniels scandal. After President Trump's legal team makes a move to try to keep this out of court, Stormy Daniels' lawyer is here to tell us exclusively the next card he has up his sleeve. And it involves the Trump administration.

[16:00:02]

Plus, deadly fake weed, a new synthetic drug killing people in tragic, gruesome ways, ways that sound like the Ebola virus, frankly. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here with a serious warning.

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

The Dow ending up just now nearly 400 points after the wild ride yesterday.

But we begin today the politics lead.

President Trump embracing his impulses on Twitter with yet another explosion of tweets attacking Amazon, NBC, ABC, CBS, former President Obama, former campaign rival Hillary Clinton and on and on.

And in person at the White House continuing to argue, despite the advice of his national security team, that he wants U.S. troops out of Syria and calling on the U.S. military and calling on the U.S. military to guard the border with Mexico, catching Pentagon officials off guard for the second time in less than a week, the first time being the Syria declaration.

Also, as the president stood alongside the leaders of the Baltic states this afternoon, Baltic states right on the border with Russia, the president repeatedly claiming that nobody has been tougher on Russia than he has, though He also said he thinks he can have a very good relationship with Putin, this as the Russia investigation here in Washington heats up.

Today, the first sentencing in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, attorney Alex van der Zwaan ordered to 30 days in jail with a $20,000 fine after admitting he lied to the FBI about contacts with a Trump campaign official and a Ukrainian businessman.

And last night, court filings revealed showing that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has instructed special counsel Mueller in a classified August 2, 2017, memo that Mueller should investigate allegations that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was -- quote -- "colluding with Russian government officials" -- unquote -- to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, an investigatory mission that -- quote -- "would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians and Russian oligarchs."

An important revelation showing that Mueller has been fully empowered by the Justice Department in this investigation and is not going rogue.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is at the White House for us right now.

Boris, President Trump didn't answer directly when asked if the head of Russia who, the context being, the U.S. intelligence community says was behind interference in 2016 elections, and who the and U.S. U.K. have said in recent days poisoned a former Russian spy on British soil, he would not say whether Putin in his view is a friend or a foe.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Who knows. We will find out. Only time will tell. Those were the responses from President Trump when he was asked if Vladimir Putin was a friend or an enemy of the United States

The president trying to fight the notion that he is soft on Vladimir Putin by saying no one has been tougher on Russia. That statement at the very least questionable considering some of the remarks we have heard from lawmakers within the president's own party.

Recall that last year, Jake, Congress overwhelmingly in a bipartisan matter passed sanctions against Russia that the White House was accused later of lagging to install. Lawmakers like Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio all calling out President Trump asking him to be more aggressive and assertive when it comes to confronting Vladimir Putin.

And that point bears repeating. Look, we have seen the president attack all kinds of characters on Twitter, whether NFL players, Jay-Z, the cast of "Hamilton." But he's never called out Vladimir Putin that way, someone that continues aggressive actions throughout the world and against the United States -- Jake.

TAPPER: Another headline from today, Boris, President Trump also announcing that he would be sending troops to defend the border with Mexico.

I know a reporter tried to get some clarity about what that meant. Did the president go into that? Does he want National Guard troops? U.S. Army troops? What does he want here?

SANCHEZ: No clear indication from the president.

Jake, today, during these press availabilities, he continued his hard- line stance on immigration, at one point saying he spoke to Mexico yesterday, something that my colleague Kaitlan Collins just heard from the White House on. They tell us that the president in fact did not speak with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Instead, that he meant that his public messages on immigration were received by Mexico. I want to you listen to his specific comments when it comes to this issue of the military, though. Listen to these two sound bites.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been speaking with General Mattis. We're going to be doing things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we are going to be guarding our border with the military. That's a big step.

We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. We have a meeting on it in a little while.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:05:00]

SANCHEZ: We are going to be using our military. We are going to have a meeting on it in a little while.

It is really unclear if the president meant directly that American troops or National Guards will be heading to the border with Mexico, unclear what their mission there would be, or if he simply meant that military resources would be dedicated to the border.

Still, no clarity from the White House -- Jake.

TAPPER: Boris Sanchez at the White House for us, thanks so much.

My political panel is here with me.

Abby, let me start with you. The president saying he wants to send the military to the border to guard the U.S.-Mexico border. The Mexican government has already formally asked the U.S. to clarify the remarks saying that based on what they know, it doesn't sound like something Mexico would welcome.

Is there an actual plan here?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Unlikely. It is very much one of those things President Trump often says off the

cuff and then the rest of the government mobilizes to put that into place.

But two things. One, he's talked about using the military before in the context of the border perhaps to build the border wall. And, two, it wouldn't be the first time that the federal government has used military resources on the border. The National Guard has been used on multiple occasions at moments when necessary to add more manpower down there.

That wouldn't be entirely unusual. But there's also a third problem. We don't exactly know what the problem is the president is trying to identify. He's talked a lot about caravans, these about 1,000 people coming up toward the United States as part of an effort to get asylum.

That's an annual thing that most people say is not out of the ordinary. Is there really a surge of illegal immigrants at the border? We haven't actually seen that yet, although the White House is warning that it could be on the horizon.

So, I think it would be important to know what exactly is the problem that he's trying to solve here? And I don't know that the rest of the government is exactly ready to jump on this, because often this is not the product of some kind of interagency process. It's the product of the president speaking out loud what he wants to see happen.

TAPPER: Mary Katharine, it has been pointed out, George W. Bush and Barack Obama both as president at different times sent thousands of National Guardsmen down to the border. But there was interagency process, there was communication with Mexico. It wasn't done seemingly the way this is being done.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Yes. And there is also a mission.

Any time you're deploying troops in any sort of fashion, that needs to be fairly clear. And we've seen the consequences in the past when it's not. So, to Abby's point, I'm not sure there's a mission there that is clearly defined and it would need to be.

I think this is one of the problems with the Trump administration, that, look, there's plenty you can do with the National Guard at the border to improve a situation if that's what you want to do. But going through the process and making sure that will work and then sort of selling it to the American people, because these are resources we're putting at risk there, is part of the process and should be part of the process.

TAPPER: And there are lots of questions. For instance, will the National Guardsmen, would they theoretically or the Army, if it comes to that, would they be empowered to shoot to kill if they wanted to?

There have been horrific instances decades ago where there were troops down there. I remember an instance, I think in the Clinton years, there was a troop down there. The locals didn't know they were down there. And a National Guardsman I believe killed a young boy. A 13- year-old who had a gun because he was out by himself in the middle of the night.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's exactly right.

And I think as Mary Katharine and Abby have said, this is nontraditional, not because the idea of sending National Guards is unique, that has been done before, but because the policy process precedes a decision like this, in part to make the right decision, but also to prepare.

The military likes to prepare, because they like the account for rules of engagement and how this will be implemented and how it will be announced, so that the wrong steps are not taken by the wrong people.

And that's obviously a case where that is not the process that is under way, similar to what, interestingly, he with Syria, although it hasn't been implemented, but announcing last week that he was going to be pulling troops out of Syria before the military was at that point or a decision had been made.

TAPPER: The military not prepared for that.

In fact, here's what the president said when asked about the Syrian decision this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation. Sometimes it's time to come back home and we're thinking about that very seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Abby, I will ask you the same question I asked you a few minutes ago. Is there a strategy here or is he just saying things and then the rest of the government, as you put it, has to catch up?

PHILLIP: I think This is perhaps even clear than the border issue.

Almost at the same moment the president was making these comments, the head of operations in Syria was saying the exact opposite, that the mission there was not over. In fact, the Pentagon is preparing to propose for a deeper engagement in some ways in Syria at the same time the president is talking about pulling out.

Interestingly, it seems that the president just believes this is a continuation of his rhetoric about disengaging from foreign wars and reinvesting in the United States.

But the problem is, now that he's president, when he says things like this, the government is going to try to act to make it true. And I think the president hasn't fully gone through that process of working it with the Pentagon about what it actually means, not just for U.S. troops, but for the entire stability of that region, if the United States just pulls out. [16:10:13]

TAPPER: Mary Katharine, this means he's President Trump. Everyone listens to him. The Iraqis are expressing concern. Our allies in Syria such as they are expressing concern.

I'm sure the enemy is listening and saying, oh, they're going to leave soon. We can just wait this out.

HAM: Yes. And it is not terribly surprising to hear him say we want a smaller footprint.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Of course not.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: We've had this discussion before.

But the process is very important to figuring out exactly how you want to go about doing that. If you want to disengage and you sell people on that, as he did in many ways, certainly in the primary where many of the Republicans were more hawkish than he was, you sell people on that idea and then you make the military prepared for it.

He always defers to generals sort of rhetorically and talks about them being great leaders. Maybe on the policy front, he should do that as well and have this discussion with them.

TAPPER: Jen, I want to give you an opportunity to respond. The president brought up former President Obama, your former boss. He blamed him for -- quote -- "basically creating no border."

That followed a tweet this morning in which he called with zero context, I didn't even understand what he was talking -- he was talking about his poll numbers in Rasmussen -- "higher than cheatin' Obama at the same time in his administration."

I don't know exactly what he's referring to with the cheatin'. It's an interesting thing to bring up during the Stormy Daniels saga certainly.

What is your response?

PSAKI: Given Trump's history, you can also guess that there might be racial undertones there. He was the founder of the birther movement. Perhaps I'm going to a very evil place with that, but I think history tells us that's a possibility.

Beyond that factually...

TAPPER: What, you think he's saying that, because he's black, he cheats?

I don't even understand what he meant anyway. PSAKI: I don't know. If he cheated, if he shouldn't be president, if he wasn't warranted to be president, there are lots of possibilities.

TAPPER: OK.

PSAKI: I think, without the context of his history, I would never go to that, but I think that is a possibility.

Beyond that factually, I think, one, we know, anyone who has worked in politics that outlier poll tells you nothing. What you're looking at is rolling averages. His rolling average from the first year was 38 percent, which is 10, 11 points below any other president since 1945.

The next was President Clinton. Yes, it is sort of sad actually that he's grabbing this outlier poll. I don't think anyone -- President Obama and anyone who has worked for him is particularly worried about it. What it means, I don't really know. That's just my best guess.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

President Trump says he can have a great relationship with Putin. But is that really a good idea? A man who knows all about Russian spycraft joins us next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATESD: I think I could have a very good relationship with Russia and with President Putin, and if I did, that would be a great thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It was President Trump just moments ago suggesting he could have a positive relationship with Vladimir Putin. The president also insisting no one has been tougher on the Kremlin than he has.

Joining me now to discuss this is the former director of the CIA and NSA, retired four-star General Michael Hayden.

General Hayden, thanks for being here.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER CIA AND NSA DIRECTOR: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: So, obviously, the president's remarks come just days after the Russians allegedly poisoned a former Russian spy on British soil which was condemned by the West, including the U.S., not to mention, of course, coming after the Russian election interference. Did he strike the right note with this point?

HAYDEN: No, no, it's not the right note. It's the wrong question or the wrong answer.

And the president talks about the desire to have a good relationship with Putin. That's not the end point. We can have a good relationship with Putin if we want, we just concede everything that he'd like to have.

What we need is a change in Russian behavior. Russia is acting in a way -- well, inconsistent with international values, but certainly inconsistent with in the interest of the United States. And so, what we want the Russians to do is not act in that way.

Now, if they follow that path, if they change their actions, then a positive relationship with the United States will follow. But it's conditional, and I've never heard the president state conditions.

Jake, you know what I really want to hear the president say? The relationship of my government with the Russian Federation will be governed by the following three principles, two principles, one principle. But we've never heard that from the president.

It's just that why don't I try to get along, which is not the right objective.

TAPPER: And in that vein, last week, the U.S. expelled Russian diplomats in response to that nerve agent attack on the ex-Russian spy on British soil, the State Department officials tell CNN those diplomats can be replaced by others because the Trump administration is not requiring Russia reduce the number of diplomatic staff.

Was this move more about optics or punitive punishment?

HAYDEN: No, there is some punishment. What happened is, on balance, the more normal course of action. You don't reduce the bullets, you kick out the people and then they're replaced over time. But what you've done is that you've disrupted their operations in your country for a certain period of time.

Now, baked into that is they're going to disrupt our operations in their country for a certain period of time. So, I suspect -- I hope certainly -- that that was all part of the calculation with regard to what it was we wanted to do.

But, no, this is punishment.

TAPPER: Gary Kasparov, who's obviously a Putin critic.

HAYDEN: Right.

TAPPER: He tweeted that the Russians were laughing about this on television. Specifically, he said, they were laughing about this on Russian TV two days ago. Putin enjoys showing there's no limit to the humiliation Trump will accept from him.

HAYDEN: Yes, I think the Russians would exploit it, all right? But again, I don't -- I don't think this is that abnormal into -- and how we would handle this. TAPPER: I want you to listen to President Trump about this afternoon talking about U.S. involvement in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our primary mission in terms of that was getting rid of ISIS. We've almost completed that test. I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home.

[16:20:01] I want to start rebuilding our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think?

HAYDEN: It sounds familiar -- al Qaeda is on the run and it's time to do nation-building at home, Barack Obama, right before ISIS comes onto the scene and roars through Iraq and Syria.

Jake, let me give you a way that people like me think about what's going on in Syria, we generally plan our operations in four phases. We deploy, we shape the battle space, we fight -- that's what most people call war -- and then we have a phase we call phase four, stabilization phase. The president is defining success at the end of phase three, and he's not going to phase four.

There's no one who does this for a living who thinks that even winning through three get you where you need to be. What happens is that you don't go to the stabilization phase, you don't change the facts on the ground, you give control the events there to others and in this case, it's the Russians, the Syrians and the Iranians. It almost guarantees that three, four, five years from now, we're going to have to go back there and kill other people who are trying to do us harm.

TAPPER: We're still in phase four in Afghanistan, and obviously, phase four in Iraq.

HAYDEN: Yes.

TAPPER: We're kind of still on that, too.

HAYDEN: We are and that's the attractiveness in -- for a lot of Americans, and I totally understand it, with the president's statement. We don't need to stay there forever. I agree.

But, you know, the commitment in Syria now is fairly capped. It's about 2,000. I don't think you could talk to the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs or the Central Command commander, Joe Votel, who would think it's time to pack up.

TAPPER: All right. General Hayden, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

Will Scott Pruitt survive the week? It may not be the EPA head's controversial $50 apartment that could do him in. What Pruitt reportedly did that might really be something that irks the president. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:02] TAPPER: In our politics lead today, two Republican members of Congress now calling for the resignation or firing of embattled EPA Director Scott Pruitt, Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, both of Florida.

Curbelo tweeting today, quote: Major policy differences aside, Scott Pruitt's corruption scandals are an embarrassment to the administration and his conduct is grossly disrespectful to American taxpayers. It's time for him to resign or for POTUS to dismiss him, unquote.

This call after growing scandals and questionable ethical actions but through a continuing to mount, from renting a room for a paltry 50 bucks a night from an energy lobbyist's wife, to a report first noted by "The Atlantic" that he ignored White House objections and used an obscure provision to bump up the salaries of two of his favorite aides.

Now, Washington is wondering, is Pruitt the next to go?

Let's bring in CNN's Pamela Brown.

And, Pam, let's just put it bluntly -- I mean, should Pruitt be nervous for his job?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, look at the president's ambiguous comment he made today when he was asked if he supports at the EPA administrator and he said, I think he will do a great job. It was sort of ambiguous and wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement.

And all of this is against a backdrop of, Jake, of these sort of ongoing revelations, these growing scandals, paying $50 a night at a condo that was owned by an energy lobbyist and then finding out that reportedly the EPA was doing certain rolling back regulations for companies under the lobbying firm.

You have that and you have these other sort of, these other sort of allegations that are coming out there and so, yes, the speculation is certainly growing, particularly in the White House that Scott Pruitt will be the next high-level administration official to go.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela, thank you so much.

We have some breaking news now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: There are reports of shots fired at the headquarters of YouTube in San Bruno, California, outside San Francisco. There is a large police presence outside the building. People have been seen exiting the building with their hands up. San Bruno police have tweeted that the public should avoid the area.

Let's go right now to CNN's Miguel Marquez.

Miguel, what are you learning? What's going on?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the city manager of San Bruno has said that they've received multiple calls that there is an active shooter at -- at or near the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno. The police there is asking people to stay away. There is a lot of chatter on social media about a possible shooter there.

Clearly, there is a very big police presence that you can see on the ground there from our affiliate KGO: Police going through the area around -- in and around YouTube headquarters, in some cases heavily armed, moving in with shields, guns drawn and moving up into the YouTube headquarters there in San Bruno.

Much of the discussion and much of the chatter from individuals that CNNers have spoken to who were there centers on the cafeteria area. But it is not clear. You can see that there are police out there right now looking for anybody who may be a suspicious there, guns drawn in that area, looking for anything that might be of help.

Many of those employees, a couple thousand employees at that one facility. Police now asking everyone to stay out of the area as they try to figure out if that act shooter is on the grounds and if there is any reason for the public to still be concerned -- Jake.

TAPPER: The police in the area have just tweeted, quote: we are responding to an active shooter. This is obviously a situation that is developing. Police activity at 901 Cherry Avenue, please stay out of the area, tweeted the San Bruno police.

And, Miguel, this area, this is outside San Francisco. There are a lot of tech companies in the area. What more can you tell us about the area where this is taking place?

MARQUEZ: Yes, just south of San Francisco, in the Bay Area, you know, part of Silicon Valley essentially, that long stretch of the South Bay, just south of San Francisco.

TAPPER: And, Miguel, if I could interrupt for just one second. I'm sorry to interrupt. I'll come back to you in one sec. I just want to on the screen right now, we see individuals --