Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Where Will Trump and Kim Jong-un Meet?; Vice President Pence Speaks Out on Migrants. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 30, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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.
Now, of course, as media, we have introduced you to many of those people. As I spoke to the mothers today, they said that if they were not a part of this caravan, if they did not have this support, that that is when they could become a victim of cartel violence or become vulnerable to some of those things that the vice president mentions.
But being a part of this caravan, an annual march with religious roots is what they say protects them.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Earlier, Leyla, U.S. border agents said that, the port there was at capacity, they could not process any new migrants. Has that situation changed at all?
SANTIAGO: That has not changed.
And I will kind of show you being hem. You can see that there are some folks that are here. They've been camping out for -- well, all night. We were with them as they did that, as it rained, as it was cold. I saw children sort of shivering with blankets.
And then you have some folks that are actually down closer to the door. And when they went down there, they were told by U.S. officials that that is where they had to stop, that they did not have capacity to process those asylum claims.
I have asked Homeland Security as well as Border Patrol what that number is. How many people do they have detained and when will that change? And they have not responded to my questions, simply saying that they are at capacity.
TAPPER: All right, Leyla Santiago in Tijuana, you so much.
Let's bring back my political panel.
Susan Page, let me start with you.
Vice President Pence said that these migrants are being exploited by open border political activists and the agenda-driven media. The only agenda I can discern here with what Leyla is on our show is that she's reporting on what is going on and telling the American people what is going on.
The caravan is an annual event and just in point of fact, wasn't it President Trump who really brought national attention to this first in a tweet?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Yes. that is right.
And, of course, it is not illegal, it's not a violation of U.S. law to seek asylum. In fact, we are party to an international agreement that says refugees who feel a credible fear of persecution in their home countries are allowed to present themselves and go through a process in our country to see if we agree they have a credible fear of persecution, and then to be accepted and welcomed into our country.
That is part of an American tradition, and which we're seeing play out here. And I could say, the vice president's language was pretty tough. And I think that reflects some concern by the administration that it is pretty sympathetic to look at pregnant women and little children waiting on our border and asking for asylum.
TAPPER: Yes. They are not sneaking across the border. They're going right up to the door and saying, we're in threat for our lives and we would like to come in.
Amanda Carpenter, earlier today, President Trump was asked about Muslim immigration. A reporter noted that the travel ban case before the Supreme Court, lawyers are arguing against the ban say that the case might simply go away if President Trump apologized for his rhetoric during the campaign.
Here is what President Trump had to say:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no reason to apologize. Our immigration laws in this country are a total disaster. They're laughed at all over the world. They're laughed at for their stupidity.
I think, if I apologized, it wouldn't make 10 cents' worth of difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: During the 2016 campaign, of course, candidate Trump called for a complete and total shutdown of all Muslims entering the U.S.
Is today's refusal to apologize the type of attitude that keeps people outraged?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Trump will never apologize. But here is the thing I think he is right on, our immigration laws are a mess. And I think court is trying to pass the buck on making a decision by saying, well, if he kind of clarified this, we won't have to do anything. Immigration laws are a mess. And those people at the border now may not believe they are victims, but certainly a number of institutions have failed them along the way, so they're in the position they are in today.
And that includes the U.S. immigration system. And so what are we going to do? President Trump, you're in charge now. I don't care about apologies. I want to know how this gets fixed, because year after year we see these horrible pictures where people are in pain, waiting for food, waiting for water, dying at the border.
And that is not what America should look like and so how are we going to fix it? Do we need to pause our immigration system so we can get it under control and chase down these backlogs so we can service the people who legitimately seek asylum? OK. Let's figure it out.
But, Donald Trump, I don't care if you apologize or not. Get with Congress and fix it.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about.
I have some breaking news just in.
I have just been told that Afghan Captain Niloofar Rahmani -- you might remember we told you her story at the end of 2016. She's the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan air force. She's been granted asylum in the U.S. by the Trump administration.
Captain Rahmani was the first woman to earn her wings in Afghanistan's air force. She said it was no longer safe for her to live in Afghanistan. Her attorney said she received numerous threats from insurgents and condemnation from government officials.
Thankfully, she is now safe and has been granted asylum by President Trump.
Is President Trump about to follow in President Obama's footsteps on some other issues? It all hinges on one meeting. What am I talking about? Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are also talking about the possibility of the DMZ, Peace House, Freedom House.
And there's something that I thought was intriguing. If things work out, there is a great celebration to be had on the site. Not in a third-party country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: President Trump discussing the possibility of holding the upcoming landmark summit with North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un in the DMZ, the demilitarized zone on the border between North and South Korea.
This comes as the president of South Korea suggested today that President Trump might deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in easing tensions between the two enemy countries.
CNN's Will Ripley is in Seoul, South Korea.
Will, what are your sources you about the possibility of the summit being held at the DMZ?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, just minutes ago, I spoke with an official with deep knowledge of North Korea's thinking on this.
And the source tells me that South Korea's President Moon Jae-in has convinced the North Korea leader, Kim Jong-un, that Panmunjom, that peace village along the demilitarized zone, is the best place to hold that upcoming summit with President Trump for a few reason reasons.
One, it makes the most sense logistically for Kim Jong-un. He can drive there, as opposed to having to fly there with his security detail and his delegation. Also, media broadcasting equipment is already in place. There's a press center set up.
The source also saying that there is a strong possibility if the summit is held there, that North Korea could offer to hold some of the events on the north side of the DMZ. President Trump could actually cross the military demarcation line and go into the building on the north side of the demilitarized zone, which would provide a potentially historic opportunity for him.
So, this source saying that at least from the North Korean perspective they would like to see the summit happen on the Korean demilitarized zone.
TAPPER: All right, and, Will, North Korea is vowing to shut down its nuclear test site, but the U.S. and South Korea, they are demanding verifiable proof.
RIPLEY: They are.
And in fact North Korea is saying they are going to offer that up in just a matter of weeks when international journalists and experts are going to be invited to Pyongyang and then they are supposedly going to travel to the nuclear site at Punggye-ri to witness the demolition of what Kim Jong-un claims are two viable tunnels, two tunnels that still could be used to conduct nuclear tests.
The journalists will be allowed to inspect, along with those experts and then watch the destruction and dismantling of that site. President Trump saying that he thinks Kim Jong-un is sincere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Kim Jong-un, who has been very open and very straightforward so far, I can only say again so far, but he's talking about getting rid of the site, which was their big site.
He's talking about no research, no launching of ballistic missiles. No nuclear testing. And he has lived up to that for a long period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Here in Seoul, President Moon raised some eyebrows when he said that President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in bringing about these talks and this thaw in tensions, although, Jake, a lot of people here on the ground say it is actually President Moon who should deserve that prize.
But he continues to praise and flatter the president. You know the president responds well to that and stays engaged. That has been his strategy all along here.
TAPPER: All right, Will Ripley in Seoul, South Korea, thank you so much.
Meet the ex-con and accused racist who could help Republicans flip a Senate seat. Stay with us.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our "POLITICS LEAD" today, he's an ex-convict who makes racially charged if not downright racist remarks and the Republican establishment is terrified he could be their nominee for the West Virginia Senate race. CNN's Dana Bash filed this report.
DON BLANKENSHIP (R), SENATE CANDIDATE, WEST VIRGINIA: Jobs, jobs, jobs, will solve a lot of our problems.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Soft-spoken and lacking in charisma. Republican Don Blankenship is not immediately come across as a candidate his party leader would be concerned about, but they are. Republicans trying to hold on to their Senate majority are terrified of Blankenship winning a May 8th GOP primary in West Virginia and losing the opportunity to beat one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrat, Joe Manchin.
They think that Joe Manchin will beat you easily.
BLANKENSHIP: They don't really believe that that's what they're telling you so you'll tell the public that what they believe is I'm going to win. BASH: It's a Trump 2016 message on steroids. All of the GOP
candidates are tripping over themselves to align with the President who won West Virginia big and is still very popular here. But Blankenship is most like the President, a hard-liner on immigration and trade, a businessman openly disdainful of fellow Republicans in Washington, even throwing a racially charged accusation at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him soft on China because his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, has family business ties there.
BLANKENSHIP: I have an issue when the father-in-law is you know, is a wealthy China person and there's a lot of connections to some of the brass if you will in China.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: My father-in-law is an American and who lives in New York, works in New York and I don't have any comment about ridiculous observations like that.
BASH: You said some pretty harsh things about Mitch McConnell.
BLANKENSHIP: I haven't said anything harsh to other people that's not said more harshly about me.
BASH: Senate Republicans biggest concern with Blankenship, he recently got out of prison. The former Massey Energy CEO was convicted of conspiracy to violate mine health and safety standards after a mining explosion killed 29 people in 2010.
What do you say to West Virginia voters who think you have blood on your hand and you shouldn't represent West Virginia in the Senate because of your role in a very deadly mining explosion.
BLANKENSHIP: The thing I would say to them is upper big branch daily explosion is one of the biggest reasons they should vote for me if they're -- have family members are involved in the coal industry. Unlike any other person that I know of, I stood up against the establishment when they falsely claimed that the explosion was caused by the coal miners.
[16:50:02] BASH: He insists he was set up by Manchin and other politicians. Manchin's wife calls that laughable.
GAYLE CONELLY MANCHIN, WIFE OF JOE MANCHIN: Don Blankenship is not a victim.
BASH: Do you think he could be a tough opponent politically?
BASH: But some National Republicans are taking unusual steps to make sure that doesn't happen, running this ad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Convicted criminal Don Blankenship. His company got caught pumping 1.4 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry, contaminating water supplies.
REP. EVEN JENKINS (R), WEST VIRGINIA: My name is Evan --
BASH: And Democrats are even jumping in to tear down Evan Jenkins and Patrick Morrisey, two leading GOP candidates they consider bigger threats to Manchin. It's the first time Blankenship is on the ballot but he spent years using his considerable wealth to build the West Virginia Republican Party.
BLANKENSHIP: I don't see any doubt we're going to win this one.
BASH: Which he says gives him goodwill with GOP voters.
BASH: Republicans here in Washington, they are desperate though, to keep West Virginia's race from being a repeat of their embarrassing defeat in Alabama where of course, the GOP put up the controversial Roy Moore who lost to a Democrat. It looks like the GOP establishment attacks on Blankenship could be working. A recent poll out shows that Blankenship is now trailing in third place. But, Jake, he has something that others don't. He has money, a lot of money. He's really rich and he told me he's not even keeping track right now of what he's spending. He said joking that if he did, he would probably stop.
TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash on that fascinating West Virginia Senate Primary, thank you so much. I want to bring back my panel. Bakari Sellers, let me start with you. I guess the question is, is Don Blankenship the next Roy Moore, in other words, a Senate candidate that will help the Democrats win a seat or keep a seat, or is he the next Donald Trump, the establishment hates him but he actually could win?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What if I told you Roy Moore and Donald Trump were cut from the same cloth along with you know, a lot of these other candidates who are running as far right as possible. I think that someone with the record of Blankenship fits right in with Scott Pruitt's EPA. I think that his words, I mean, I understand the connections made between Mitch McConnell and somehow being having a relationship with some Chinese brass but the fact that he actually in 2018 said China person speaks to the vocabulary a new Republican Party. Joe Manchin is going to be fine in West Virginia. And the reason why Joe Manchin is going to be fine in West Virginia is because Joe Manchin represents West Virginia values. He's not a D.C. Senator, he's a West Virginia Senator. And so, it is going to be really, really difficult to beat him. I just hold up Blankenship as what is a part of the new Republican Party, because there are many Blankenships around the country just like him running in primaries right now.
TAPPER: Susan, how do you look at the race?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Well, you know, it's not as though the other Republican candidates are running against Donald Trump, they're all running as Trump Republicans and you would think Joe Manchin would be the most vulnerable Democratic Senator in the Senate given that Trump won West Virginia by 42 percentage points last time around. That's a pretty big lead. But I think the Republicans are very nervous that one of the few opportunities they have, that they are having a harder than expected time against Joe Manchin in a year when they're at real risk in other cases, in other -- with other Republicans Senators in an open seat and against some Democrats that they thought would be vulnerable in a year that looks like Democrats just might be able to win control of the Senate.
TAPPER: Amanda Carpenter, you're not really a Republican establishment figure. You're more of an outsider Republican but would you like Joe Manchin to not have the Senate seat anymore. What do you think of Don Blankenship? Is he a good bet to take the seat for the Republican Party or is he the only one that Joe Manchin could definitely defeat?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think the Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is a far better candidate with experience and name I.D. in the state. But there is Trump-fication of the Republican party going on right now. You see similar echoes in the Senate Primary in Indiana where Republicans are running up to Trump, showing as -- wearing the hat, hugging him and so you will see Republicans nationally running closer to Trump where people who are skeptical are just leaving. Witness Paul Ryan announcing his resignation, witness Richard Painter, the former Bush Administration ethics guru who is now running as a Democrat for the Senate in Minnesota.
TAPPER: All right, everyone stay right there. We got a lot more to talk about. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: We have some breaking news. Just in, Chief of Staff of the White House John Kelly is planning to deny claims that he called President Trump an idiot as reported by NBC News, a senior administration official tells CNN. The official said that while Trump and his Chief of Staff have had disagreements, Kelly has never used that kind of language to criticize the President and that President Trump and Kelly were meeting late this afternoon in the Oval Office. NBC also reporting that some officials expect Kelly to leave the White House by July. We've got a minute left about with my panel. Let's have a quick go-around on reaction. Susan page, President Trump no doubt will hate this news story, whether or not it's true.
PAGE: I don't think this is good for your job security. And since NBC is recording eight current and former officials, I'm not sure a denial is going to be enough to save it.
TAPPER: Amanda Carpenter?
CARPENTER: This is just the never-ending drama of the Trump White House and I have a hard time picturing the number of people in that White House who deliberately tried to smear John Kelly because he seems to be one of the best things going on there.
TAPPER: Bakari Sellers?
SELLERS: NBC was also the first news agency to report that Tillerson I believe called Donald Trump an idiot as well.--
TAPPER: Moron just for the record.
SELLERS: I just remember the days of no drama Obama. Moron, excuse me.
TAPPER: No drama. Yes, a moron. And Tillerson said moron and Kelly allegedly said an idiot. That's a little different I suppose in the -- although thematically it's a consistency. That's it for THE LEAD right now. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.