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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Stormy Daniels Sues President Trump; Will Trump Pull Out of Iran Nuclear Deal?; Will Iran Deal Impact Nuke Talks with North Korea?; Pence: These People are Victims, They're Being Exploited. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 30, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:03]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A porn star now suing the president of the United States, whom simultaneously some are saying deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: Stormy Daniels suing President Trump for defamation. What did the president say to lead to this latest legal entanglement?

More breaking news. Vice President Pence on the southern border ripping a caravan of mostly women and children seeking asylum in the U.S., saying a nation without borders is not a nation. How long might this showdown last?

And, as President Trump takes the credit for getting North Korea to budge and go to the table, one of his closest advisers is saying, hey, we have been here before with North Korea. Is the president in danger of being played?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

We begin with breaking news in our politics lead.

The porn star continuing to plague the presidency, Stormy Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, going after President Trump personally in a brand-new lawsuit. The defamation claim filed just this afternoon stemming from the president's tweet about the sketch of the man Daniels says threatened her back in 2011.

President Trump writing -- quote -- "A sketch years later about a nonexistent man, a total con job, playing the fake news media for fools, but they know it."

The lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York alleging -- quote -- "By calling the incident a con job, Mr. Trump's statement would be understood to state that Mrs. Clifford" -- that's Stormy Daniels' real name -- "was fabricating the crime and the existence of the assailant, both of which are prohibited under New York law, as well as the law of numerous other states."

CNN's Sara Sidner is covering this breaking news story for us.

And, Sara, this lawsuit asserts that the president used his audience of tens of millions of Twitter followers to make a false statement and defame Stormy Daniels and that she suffered because of it.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That is literally the language in the lawsuit and Michael Avenatti and Stormy Daniels obviously putting this forward in court, saying that they're going to ask for in excess of $75,000, which of course is the standard minimum in cases like this.

Of course, asking for a jury in this case, obviously, that takes a long time. But it is all based on that tweet that you mentioned by President Trump on April 18 after Stormy Daniels had mentioned on "The View" first and then elsewhere that there was this alleged attack, alleged threat to her in 2011 in a Las Vegas parking lot.

She gave this sketch. She went to a sketch artist. Her and Michael Avenatti had a sketch artist. She says she was trying to recall all the details of what the person looked like. She had said in an interview to "60 Minutes" that she would never forget that face.

A man, she said, approached her. This is a picture or a rendition of that man and she said, look, this is what happened. I was too afraid to go to the police. She never went to the police. Donald Trump then reacting and basically calling it all a con job and fake news. And her attorney saying, look, that is defamation and that should be pointed out.

Also, he talks a little bit about the case in here as well of what happened in 2011, the fact that she -- the story ended up in "In Touch" magazine -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Sara, there is new information in this lawsuit about how the alleged Trump affair ended up in "In Touch" magazine, that it was her ex-husband who leaked out the news of this alleged affair without her permission.

SIDNER: Right. That is what it states in this lawsuit.

At the urging of Ms. Clifford's ex-husband, who approached the magazine without her permission. We have learned from two different sources that indeed that is not exactly how it went down. In fact, it was her manager that that was peddling the story to "In Touch" magazine, according to people familiar with the information and the incident.

There you are seeing the cover of the "In Touch" magazine article. Not only did she talk to a reporter who we have also talked to and interviewed, but she took a lie-detector test as well. And the people that we're speaking with who have knowledge of how this all went down told us that indeed it was Ms. Daniels' own manager who was putting this story forth to "In Touch" magazine and Ms. Daniels herself had said that she was going to be paid $15,000 for it when she did her "60 Minutes" interview.

She was never paid that money, though. They did not publish the interview because they were threatened with a lawsuit by Michael Cohen.

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

My panel joins me now.

We have with us CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, former South Carolina House member Bakari Sellers, a Democrat, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," and Amanda Carpenter, former communications director for Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

Carpenter has a new book out tomorrow. It's called "Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us." It has been called riveting. You can get it on Amazon and your local bookstore.

Amanda, congratulations.

Laura, let me start with you.

I want to start with a quote from the lawsuit -- quote -- "Mr. Trump knew that his false disparaging statement would be read by people around the world, as well as widely reported and that Ms. Clifford" -- that is Stormy Daniels' real name -- "would be subjected to threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage as a result."

[16:05:08]

So what do you think of that case? Is that legitimate, and is that credible to you?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The reason they framed it the way they did is they essentially outlined for you what the standard would be to show that this was actually defamation.

But it is still a very uphill battle, Jake. You have to take a lot of different nuances and tie them together and try to build a case. What do I mean by that? Well, number one, you have to assume it was inferred they are talking about her. And we can cross that off the list. They know that is actually about Stephanie Clifford.

The other issue here, however, is whether it is an opinion or whether it is fact. If it is pure opinion, then courts are not inclined to look at this as defamatory. If it can be proven as true or false, they are much more inclined to say this is a stronger case.

But, remember, there is actually a defamation case. You can compare this to, Jake, Summer Zervos, where he called them liars. All women how accused him of sexual impropriety as liars. Here you have a little bit more of a convoluted interpretation, but still it is a strong enough case that I think a court will look at that and combine with New York and Summer Zervos and say we have a problem, Mr. President. TAPPER: And, Laura, sticking with you in the legal matter here, the

other lawsuit involving Stormy Daniels is now on hold. This one was now filed in the Southern District of New York. Is there any significance to that?

COATES: I think the court is showing you here that there is going to be overlap between what happened with Michael Cohen and his case involving the raid of his home, his office and his hotel room and what happened in California in the NDA case, whether it is valid or not.

A court does not want to waste its judicial economy and say, I want to have all of these other matters up for grabs and not be able to actually get a response. The court wants to wait until they know that Cohen will be able to testify, will give productive and fruitful conversations and if you can't do that and if a delay is more appropriate to get that, so be it.

You are going to see that here.

TAPPER: Susan Page, we have a lot to talk about today and later in the show we will be talking about immigration, the border and North Korea and much more.

But we're leading the show because this lawsuit is breaking and it is President Trump once again -- he didn't need to send out that tweet, but once again he sends out that tweet, he has a defamation lawsuit, he's stepping on his own message about the stuff he wants to talk about in his presidency.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Yes, that is absolutely right.

And it seems to me that the president doesn't have so much a legal peril with this lawsuit. For one, they are going to have to meet the standard of actual malice because she's a public figure. That is the same standard that protects journalists sometimes in our reporting against suits like this.

But there is a political peril here. It keeps front and center these allegations about him and a porn star after the other lawsuit, the lawsuit against Michael Cohen had been -- gotten a delay for 90 days. So in that way, it swamps other things the White House would prefer to talk about on an issue that is damaging to the president.

TAPPER: Amanda, the president had remained silent for a long time about Stormy Daniels, but he sent that tweet. Now there is a lawsuit. Isn't this the argument for the president showing more discipline and perhaps having people around him who can tell him to stop tweeting?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. Absolutely.

But the president can't stop himself. The gaslighting continues. All of these situations with the president have to do with the secrets that he has kept and the lies that have been told to keep them. These women have come out and said, this happened to me. In the case, there is payments that were made. The press found out about this first. That is the reason it came out.

And yet the president and his allies expected these women to keep up the lie. And then they went to the public and said, this is what happened, they turned around and say, you are the liar. This is the gaslighting that the president continues to engage in on any number of topics.

He can't stop doing it. That is why I wrote a book all about it because once you understand the method to his madness, you will be able to predict his every move again and again.

TAPPER: And, Bakari, the president seemed to admit last week that Michael Cohen represented him in the Stormy Daniels case. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction.

But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Bakari, yesterday, Michael Avenatti told me on "STATE OF THE UNION" that he thinks they will be able to prove the president knew about that agreement and the $130,000 payment. Once again, the president his own worst enemy sometimes.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the president, what we do know about Donald Trump is that he is a horrible, horrible client. He's very, very difficult to manage if you represent him.

One of the things that we now know about making that statement is that he has some privity with Michael Cohen. He has a relationship with Michael Cohen. We also know that lawyers cannot go out and agree to settlements, let alone pay those settlements out of their own pocket, without their client knowing.

And so there has to be trepidation in the Cohen camp because now Donald Trump has literally just said that, hey, you represented me, and you represented me a small amount, but you did represent me in this matter.

Where it is also dangerous is that in the Southern District of New York, we were having this discussion about whether or not the voluminous material that was accumulated in this search warrant was too much and that they needed to slow down.

[16:10:10]

But he said that he only represented him in a small amount of matters. Therefore, I think the case in the Southern District of New York will go forward as well. The president again is talking way too much.

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

Coming up, he has used props before, and Israel's prime minister just broke out a PowerPoint demonstration for very public arm-twisting on the Iran deal. Will President Trump be convinced by the 100,000 secret files on Iran's nuclear capabilities that Israel says it has?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Our world lead now.

One of the challenges for President Trump right now, as the world tries to get North Korea to the negotiating table, is how to handle the Iran goal.

The big question, will scrapping that agreement, as the president clearly wants to do, undermine any confidence that North Korea might have that the U.S. will keep its word?

Moments ago, President Trump weighed in on both Iran and North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:15:03] CNN's Jeff Zeleny picks up our coverage from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump zeroing in on a pair of nuclear deals today, insisting that pulling out of the Iran agreement would not send conflicting signals for upcoming nuclear talks with North Korea.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it sends the right message.

ZELENY: At a Rose Garden news conference with the visiting president of Nigeria, Mr. Trump did not explicitly say he intends to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, yet he certainly suggested that's how he's leaning.

TRUMP: So, we'll see what happens. I'm not telling you what I'm doing but people think they know. And on or before the 12th, we'll make a decision.

ZELENY: Less than two weeks before the May 12th deadline, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a public case today against Iran.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Iran lied, big-time. After signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran intensified its efforts to hide its secret nuclear files.

ZELENY: In a televised address delivered in English, Netanyahu made a direct appeal to the president. NETANYAHU: And in a few days time, President Trump will decide --

will make his decision on what to do with the nuclear deal. I'm sure he'll do the right thing -- the right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel, and the right thing for the peace of the world.

ZELENY: And only moments later, the president acknowledging he was watching Netanyahu's presentation. He said he's open to signing a new and tougher Iran agreement.

TRUMP: So, that doesn't mean I wouldn't negotiate a new agreement. We'll see what happens. But I think if anything, what's happening today and what's happened over the last little while and what we've learned has really shown that I've been 100 percent right.

ZELENY: The president proposing holding his summit with Kim Jong-un at the DNC, rather than a neutral site many U.S. officials favored.

TRUMP: There is something I like about it, because you're there. You're actually there. Where if things work out, there is a great celebration to be had on the site. Not in a third-party country.

ZELENY: Officials tell CNN he's eager to replicate Kim's recent meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the border where these images could go down in history as helping bring an end to the Korean War. The president was optimistic today that he will meet face-to-face with the North Korean dictator in late May or early June.

TRUMP: I think the summit will happen. And personally, I think it's going to be a success, but we'll see. I will say this: if it's not a success -- if it's not a success say -- you have to get rid of the nuclear weapons. If it's not a success, I will respectfully leave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now as for the site of that meeting, U.S. officials have said that they were leaning toward Singapore or Mongolia, but the president mentioning the DMZ himself in a morning message this morning, Jake, it was just a week or more ago when top U.S. officials told me they did not want it to be at the DMZ. They thought that would raise the stakes even higher. They thought it would look like the president was going too far but he clearly likes the optics of this.

As of now, that meeting is still not scheduled but it's looking more and more like it's going to happen -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us, thank you so much.

My political panel is back with me.

Susan Page, let me start with you. Do you think Netanyahu gave his presentation today because he knows President Trump is going to withdraw from the deal and is trying to set the stage for that?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: I think Prime Minister Netanyahu had an audience of one in mind when he give that presentation and that audience was Donald Trump and he listened to it. I don't know if he's assured that the president is going to pull out of the Iran deal, but the fact is, President Trump has been completely consistent on the Iran deal from his campaign and through his presidency that he thinks its a bad deal so I think there is every expectation that he will pull out by the self imposed May 12th deadline.

TAPPER: And yet, Amanda, I talked to people from the Obama administration who express concerns not even so much about the Iran deal per se, but the idea that if president Trump is trying to encourage North Korea to enter into a deal, simultaneously withdrawing from the Iran deal might have North Korea questioning whether or not they can trust the word of the U.S. Should that be a consideration?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Perhaps. But I don't think that has a lot of bearing on this. There's a lot of people from the Obama administration who are very interested in preserving this deal. But I do think Trump is deliberately keeping everyone in a state of uncertainty while he continues to figure it out.

This tactic of saying we'll see is a deliberate way of gauging the press, trying to figure out what direction he should go and I think for everyone, this is difficult to trust the president that he will see this through in a productive way because it's hard to trust him on so many things. So, when it comes to both Iran and North Korea, I'm praying for him, I'm hoping for the best. I think he has the potential to be a very strong foreign policy president, but because he's so all over the map on so many issues, it's a hard road to plow.

[16:20:02] TAPPER: Bakari, what should Democrats do here if this actually does work out. Isn't this potentially a great achievement by President Trump?

BAKARI SELLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's no doubt that if you are able to denuclearize North Korea, if in fact you are able to strengthen the Iran deal, which I'm not sure how that's necessarily possible -- many people team don't have a problem with the Iran deal as it sits today. We have unprecedented verification processes in Iran today. The problem that many people have is ten years out when there appears to be no parameters set forth, so what would happen then?

The problem with Donald Trump, though, is that he does not have a policy, he does not have a vision, he does not have a strategy for what's next. He seems to be the antithesis of Ronald Reagan when Ronald Reagan said trust but verify. Donald Trump is so, so enamored with himself and he wants adulation so bad that he's willing to actually make a bad deal in the short-term that brings him adulation than what's best for the United States and the world in the long-term. That's very dangerous, Jake.

TAPPER: Susan, I've heard some conservatives discuss the potential for a deal here where President Trump -- and this is all theoretical, we don't know what's going to happen, but we know that Kim Jong-un wants the U.S. off the peninsula. And we know that President Trump has similarly railed against how much money the U.S. spends by being in South Korea. Is it a risk here for people who want the U.S. to stay in South Korea, for geopolitical reasons, that President Trump might withdraw troops from South Korea in order to make this deal?

PAGE: You know, you may remember when President Carter proposed pulling U.S. troops out of the Syrian peninsula and the furor was created by that, a lot of people would see a lot risk with that, and (INAUDIBLE) consistent with the President Trump's general approach to the world, that we are extended in too many places, we are paying for the defense of too many other countries that ought to be able to do it themselves. And I think one of the things that most concerns people, both conservatives and liberals when they look at the lead up to this meeting, is that the president is so excited about the possibility of what really would be a historic achievement that he might accept a deal that wasn't fully thought out or the details hadn't all been worked out. And we know that in negotiations like these, there are always a lot of details and pitfalls and land mines that you need to be careful of.

TAPPER: Amanda, does that concern you, the idea that the president wants this achievement so much that he might actually agree to do something that is not in the long-term best interests of the United States?

CARPENTER: Of course it does. He's been talking for quite sometime about how he could be the one to get this deal and so, I think everyone should be skeptical and engage in the process of trusting but verifying.

But when it comes to potentially pulling troops out from that region, I think there is a broad appetite among Republicans to get troops back home. I think there's broader recognition than there was during the Bush administration now that we are over-extended. Susan Page had it exactly right.

So, if we can -- you know, there is risk involved, but I think there could be support for a deal like that.

TAPPER: Bakari, should the U.S. have a presence in South Korea if North Korea agrees to denuclearize?

SELLERS: No, I think you could begin to bring troops home and I think what you're beginning to see is it is not just -- I mean, this began with an outright war. This isn't anything new. You had many of those individuals on the far right, the Rand Pauls and his wing of the party began to grow and now you have people in the far left in that wing of the party began to grow. So, now the hawks are in the center and they are shrinking in influence.

So, I'm somebody who says if we're able to get North Korea to a point where they denuclearize and then, sure, we need to bring home our brothers and sisters who are not just boots on ground as many politicians like to call them, but they're real people with real families, get them home as soon as possible. The problem is, though, that you have two unpredictable forces negotiating with each other and I can't tell you if Donald Trump is more unpredictable than Kim Jong- un, no one can. And so, this is interesting to see, but we need to take our time and we need to have some experts in the room as well.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about.

Coming up, he's not sorry. What President Trump is refusing to apologize for this time. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:29] TAPPER: We have breaking news right now.

Vice President Mike Pence right now at the U.S.-Mexico border, he called the caravan of migrants who have arrived there victims who are being exploited. He made the statement in front of border agents in Imperial, California, 150 miles away, those migrants are at a port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico, vowing to stay there until each one has been granted asylum by the United States.

Let's go to right now to CNN's Leyla Santiago. She's in Tijuana.

And, Leyla, the migrants often react to the president's tweets about them. Are they aware of the vice president's comments just a few minutes ago?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, they are very much aware that this is something that has become very, very political, I went to talk to a few people. Actually some mothers about what Vice President Pence said.

I want you to first hear what the vice president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These people are victims. They're being exploited by open border political activists and an agenda driven media. Men and women and children like those gathered at our border are exploited by human smugglers and criminal and drug cartels who seize on their hardship and difficulty to undermine our laws and to profit for themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: And you know, they say, Jake, that they are not victims, that this caravan, the organizers, the media has done nothing but give them voice, as far as the media goes and as far as the organizers, they have provided support for them.

I actually spoke with one of the organizers and she said, I invite the vice president to come down here and see this himself. We would love to introduce you to some of those folks.