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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Criticizes New Attorney Rudy Giuliani; Trump Denies He Changed His Story on Stormy Daniels. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 4, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:10]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Well President Trump says people should think before they speak.

I agree.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Donald Trump coming out and putting his credibility deeper in a hole, saying that Rudy Giuliani needs to get his facts straight. Does that really mean that they need to get their alternative facts straight?

And, hey, look over there. The story of EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, if you can believe it, it just got more absurd. The wild story of how a Pruitt staffer tried to divert the heat off his boss by throwing shade at a different top Trump official.

Plus, River of Fire -- the incredible, scary images as lava explodes from the earth and carves a path towards homes in Hawaii.

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

Minutes ago, speaking at the NRA Convention in Dallas, Texas, President Trump continued his attacks on the special counsel investigation into whether members of his team conspired with Russia to impact the 2016 election, the president informing the crowd of a judge's statement about the money laundering trial of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But, on CNN, they have a headline. Judge in Manafort case says Mueller's aim is to hurt Trump. You believe that? This is what we're up -- it's called a witch-hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That is the latest ammunition being used by the president as he tries to battle various investigations at the end of a week where a presidential credibility gap seemed to become a credibility chasm, after the president's own attorney Rudy Giuliani undermined the president's previous insistence that he knew nothing about fixer Michael Cohen's hush payment to a porn star with whom Mr. Trump allegedly had an affair, a revelation so stunning, it aroused the ire of even those who have tried to support the president's agenda, with both "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board and FOX News anchors criticizing the president.

Today, it got even more difficult to discern the truth. Giuliani had said he was disclosing that the president reimbursed Cohen for the hush money to get ahead of any leaks from law enforcement. But President Trump told "The Nation" today that Giuliani just doesn't know what he's talking about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago. But he really has his heart into it. He's working hard. He's learning the subject matter. And he's going to be issuing a statement, too.

He started yesterday. He will get his facts straight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: All right, Giuliani's been working for the president for more than a week. He didn't just start yesterday.

But that lie is relatively inconsequential.

What is important here is the larger issue of truth and whether you can expect your leaders to tell you the truth, and whether they instead display a disregard for it.

Giuliani had said that his admission that the president did indeed pay the $130,000 to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels quiet, that was -- quote -- "carefully coordinated" with President Trump -- quote -- "You won't see daylight between me and the president" -- unquote.

But that daylight cracked wide open today, though very little was illuminated.

Just minutes ago, Giuliani issued the statement the president referred to, a statement on the Stormy Daniels hush money and repayment -- quote -- "There is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the president's family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not."

So, according to Friday Giuliani, the Cohen payment had nothing to do with the campaign. Is that right, Thursday Giuliani?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.

QUESTION: So, to make it go away, they made this payment.

(CROSSTALK)

GIULIANI: Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen didn't -- Cohen made it go away. He did his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: In the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton seems pretty specifically related to the Trump candidacy.

Giuliani also stated today -- quote -- "My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge, but instead my" -- sorry -- "were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge, but instead my understanding of these matters."

OK, let me ask Thursday Giuliani, are you talking about the timing of what you know or the timing of what he knows?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: He didn't know the details of this until we knew the details of it, which is a couple of weeks ago, maybe not even a couple, maybe 10 days ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Similar lies and confusion today over special counsel Mueller, with the president saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In all fairness, Bob Mueller worked for Obama for eight years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: "In all fairness, Bob Mueller worked for Obama for eight years," the president said.

Here are the facts. Robert Mueller is a Republican. Robert Mueller was appointed to head the FBI by Republican President George W. Bush. And then he continued to serve under President Obama for five years.

These are lies about his scandals. But as we have seen, the president is willing to lie about all sorts of things. He even lies about his potential triumphs.

[16:05:01]

This week, the president tweeted: "As everybody is aware, the past administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean labor camp, but to no avail."

That would be a neat trick for the Obama administration, since two out of three of these Americans were detained during the Trump presidency.

Tony Kim was detained on April 20, 2017. Kim Hak-song was detained May 6, 2017. That tweet, by the way, remains up, a monument to how much President Trump just doesn't seem to care about the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There has been a lot of misinformation, really, people wanting to say -- and I say, you know what? Learn before you speak. It's a lot easier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Well, on that, we agree.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny now has more on the president's day from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: Mr. President, how is Rudy doing? How is Rudy doing, Mr. President?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump shrugging his shoulders before throwing his longtime friend and new lawyer Rudy Giuliani under the bus.

TRUMP: So, Rudy knows it's a witch-hunt. He started yesterday. He will get his facts straight.

ZELENY: Damning words from the president after Giuliani created a firestorm this week by saying the president knew about and repaid hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

TRUMP: It is actually very simple. But there has been a lot of misinformation, really, people wanting to say -- and I say, you know what? Learn before you speak. It is a lot easier.

ZELENY: Yet, he never said what Giuliani got wrong, sparking even more confusion.

TRUMP: Rudy is a great guy, but Rudy had just started. And he wasn't totally familiar with everything.

ZELENY: Traveling to Dallas to address the NRA Convention today, the president fueling the White House credibility crisis. He insisted he hadn't changed his story on Stormy Daniels, even though he had.

TRUMP: We're not changing any stories. All I'm telling you is that this country is right now running so smooth, and to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch-hunt all the time, that is all you want to talk about, you're going to see -- excuse me. Excuse me.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: No, you said on Air Force One that you didn't know anything about the payment. TRUMP: Excuse me. You take a look at what I said. You go back and

take a look. You will see what I said.

QUESTION: You said no...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. You go take a look at what we said.

ZELENY: Here is exactly what he said a month ago aboard Air Force One.

QUESTION: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. No. What else?

QUESTION: Then why did Michael -- do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.

ZELENY: In a statement, Giuliani sought to clean up the confusion, saying his comments about the payment were "not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge, but instead my understanding of these matters."

Meanwhile, today, the president all but closing the door to an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he wouldn't be treated fairly.

TRUMP: Nobody wants to speak more than me, in fact, against my lawyers, because most lawyers say, never speak on anything. I would love to speak, because we have done nothing wrong. If I thought it was fair, I would override my lawyers.

ZELENY: The president also offering a rare embrace of embattled White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

TRUMP: General Kelly is doing a fantastic job. There has been such false reporting about our relationship. We have a great relationship.

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I would just say it is an absolute privilege to work for a president that has gotten the economy going. We're about to have a breakthrough, I believe, on North Korea.

ZELENY: As for North Korea, the president saying today that details for his historic meeting with Kim Jong-un had been set.

TRUMP: We now have a date and we have a location. We will be announcing it soon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So the president said repeatedly there is a time and place that is set for that meeting. He will disclose that at a time in the future. The White House is not putting a time frame on that. But, Jake, I

think the most striking thing, after a striking very week here, is John Kelly. The president wanted to appear with him to show that he is up, in his view.

Rudy Giuliani, of course, longtime friend of the president, is down, in his view. We know things go up and down all of the time here. But as the president flies back to the White House from Dallas, we will see if he has more to say once he gets back here -- Jake.

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

Let's bring in the panel.

Ryan Lizza, let me start with you.

Do you have any idea what the actual facts are about -- let's just stick with the Stormy Daniels hush payment.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

TAPPER: What is the official story now? Because I really honestly don't know.

LIZZA: We don't know. We honestly don't.

And for everyone who -- in the last 48 hours, there has been this debate about whether Rudy Giuliani was just out there shooting his mouth off, or it was some kind of strategy behind it all.

We have that debate all the time with Trump.

TAPPER: Right.

LIZZA: Is there a strategy or is it just completely make it up as you go along?

I think it is pretty clear today that it was make it up as you go along, and that Giuliani -- I mean, the only thing he said today was, I didn't really speak for the president. I was just speaking off the cuff, essentially, based on what I thought the facts were.

TAPPER: Yes.

LIZZA: So, he sort of -- it was a quasi-retreat from the Hannity interview, but no clarity on the underlying facts.

[16:10:05]

We don't know when the payments were made, whether the president still is sticking by the fact that he in fact reimbursed Cohen. So we're more in the dark now than we were before.

TAPPER: And there were those three tweets yesterday that the president put out or somebody put out under his account that seemed to suggest that he did know about the payments and it is nothing abnormal and everything is fine here.

LIZZA: Yes.

TAPPER: And now that is taken back too? Do you have any clarity of what is...

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is very unclear, unless the strategy was to confuse all of us.

TAPPER: Maybe it was.

HAM: Which is a possibility.

TAPPER: Yes.

HAM: I think there actually is a plausible story where you have a fixer who fixes things and he's on retainer and you don't know exactly what those things are or when they happen, and then you find out about them later.

That is a thing that could happen.

TAPPER: Right.

HAM: That is not the story that has been told.

TAPPER: Right.

HAM: So, if you would like to tell that story, tell that story, but that is not the story that -- they keep shifting and shifting and shifting, which means you cannot be sure what is going on.

TAPPER: And I want to play this again, just because it is so stark. The president told a reporter today, specifically the same reporter from AP who had asked the question a month before on Air Force One, that he didn't say that he no idea about the payment to Stormy Daniels.

Here is the president today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: You said on Air Force One that you didn't know anything about the payment.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Excuse me. You take a look at what I said. You go back and take a look. You will see what I said.

QUESTION: You said no...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. You go take a look at what we said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: OK. Let's go back and take a look at what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. No. What else?

QUESTION: Then why did Michael -- do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So is he now lying about whether he was lying before?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, that is what he does.

It is lies upon lies upon lies. This is what Donald Trump does every day.

I actually think that there is no -- there is no strategy. But what he's trying to do is just survive every day. And however he thinks works for him, he will do that.

And, unfortunately, you tell a lie, then you have to keep up with your lies, which they can't do, and so they continue to lie. But the problem here is, is that it worked -- it probably worked when was like a B-level celebrity talking to...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: It was the number one show for a while. Let's give him his due.

(CROSSTALK)

JEAN-PIERRE: OK, A-minus, B-plus, when he was talking to gossip -- remember, he used to talk to gossip rags in New York.

TAPPER: Yes.

JEAN-PIERRE: And it worked then.

The problem is now that he is actually the commander in chief, right, we were entrusting him to protect this country and to tell the truth, which is like the basic thing, I believe, for a president.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And there is like a tipping we seemed to have reached now, Ryan, also because it's not just a panel of honest conservatives and reporters and progressives talking about this.

LIZZA: Yes.

TAPPER: You have "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board, which is very supportive of President Trump in general -- they disagree with his trade policy.

LIZZA: Yes.

TAPPER: And they warned the president that Americans might stop believing anything he said -- quote -- "Mr. Trump is compiling a record that increases the likelihood that few will believe him during a genuine crisis, say, a dispute over speaking with special counsel Robert Mueller or a nuclear showdown with Kim Jong-un."

That's pretty significant for...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: ... and the crew up in New York to say that.

LIZZA: To say that.

I mean, let's point out the fact that, say, "The New York Times" editorial board and other left-leaning places have been saying exactly that for a long, long time.

TAPPER: Right. Right.

LIZZA: And one of the most stable polls in American politics is the percentage of people who don't think the president tells the truth.

And it's been very high since he's then president. But that's significant. You're right. It's a tipping point, because what keeps Trump's lies -- what keeps him able to get away with it is, he has a good chunk, 30 to 40 percent, of the country that supports no matter what.

And he has, more importantly, Republicans in Congress who support him no matter what, right?

TAPPER: Yes.

LIZZA: So, what -- when significant supporters like this start to see things the way I think everyone else sees it, that's bad for him.

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: Can I just make one point on whether he lied in that Air Force One moment?

TAPPER: Yes.

LIZZA: Just to be completely generous to him, if you want to take -- be as generous as possible, not to deny that the president lies all the time, he might have been saying that he didn't know about the payment at the time. In other words, his fixer took care of it, and he didn't know where his fixer got the money from. In other words, that would mean that he learned about it later and then he paid it back.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You're feeling very charitable.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: How do you interpret what happened today with Rudy Giuliani?

The president rebukes him in front of everybody and says he's going to issue a statement. And then Rudy puts out this statement in which he tries to correct the record and basically contradicts statements that he had seemed to make just a day ago.

HAM: Right.

I was actually -- I'm not usually surprised when Trump undercuts someone that he has put out there. I was a little surprised about Giuliani, because it seemed so very clear that this was like a gut level, we're on the same page, this is a witch-hunt, I'm going to go on offense, and I'm sending Mueller a message by doing these interviews.

But because he got this -- because he stepped in it on the Stormy Daniels stuff, clearly, he was -- he heard it this morning. He heard it twice. And the president came out on purpose to say it twice to reporters.

TAPPER: Yes.

HAM: And I was a little surprised, because I would think that the Russia part of this -- and, granted, they may be connected in some way.

TAPPER: Yes.

HAM: That the Russia part of this would be more important to him and that the Mueller part, he was really backing him up on. But --

[16:15:09] TAPPER: Do you think that Rudy actually was going rogue or do you think he and the president concocted this and then it failed spectacularly and then the president said, well, that didn't work out at all and you need to clean this up.

JEAN-PIERRE: I actually believe that was the one thing that Rudy was saying that was true, which is -- and that had been confirmed by the White House and others that he was -- he talked to the president before and after his interviews at 48 hour kind of interviews on Fox and others, and that Donald Trump saw the reviews of Rudy and didn't like what he was hearing and so stepped in.

But this is just a lesson that all of surrogates kind of learn, is that if you fly too close to the sun and in Donald Trump's orbit, you will get burned.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: And the surrogate supporters and people who are watching and listening to him is that he will let you get on that limb and then he will saw it off. And it happens many times.

TAPPER: It happened to Anthony Scaramucci in an interview with our friend Ryan Lizza.

LIZZA: And that is a great example of what you are talking about, is because originally after that interview, Trump was telling people, oh, I loved that what he said about that. When everyone else is like, this guy is a lunatic. And then when the blow-back came and everyone was condemning Scaramucci, then Trump was like maybe this isn't the best person for the communications director role.

So, it's something so much happening with Giuliani.

TAPPER: So, it today just Giuliani's day in the barrel or is his future at risk?

I'll get you thoughts on that right after this quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:20:51] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, you have all of these investigators, they're Democrats and in all fairness, Bob Mueller worked for Obama for eight years. I would love to go -- I would love to speak but I have to find that we're going to be treated fairly.

Why don't we have Republicans looking also? Why aren't we having Republicans people doing what all of these Democrats are doing? It is a very unfair thing. If I thought it was fair, I would override my lawyers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That is like -- that is 24 seconds and like eight hours worth of fact-checking necessary to just unravel everything he said. The president saying things that aren't true.

Let's start, Mary Katharine, with the idea that Bob Mueller -- the idea that he's being painted as a partisan Democrat, absolutely some of the people on his team are Democrats, there's no question about that. Jeff Sessions is a Republican, Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, is a Republican, and Rod Rosenstein is a Republican and Bob Mueller is a Republican.

He keeps trying to paint this is as a Democrat investigation of him and it's unfair and I don't know. I mean, I think maybe he's base is buying it. HAM: Yes, I think part of is because it works, framing it this way.

And some people believe it. You've seen in polling that people do have more negative views in the past. I think part of that is just the length of it. And he wants to say shut it down. Like finish it up.

And this is the way that he's going after them. And he would behoove himself while making the political argument and getting the facts right. I don't actually begrudge anybody of political argument in politics, but just get it right. But that's not what they do.

TAPPER: I mean, Bob Mueller's reputation, what was Bob Mueller's reputation before he took this job?

LIZZA: You know, like hard assed Republican, you know, FBI agent, like Joe Friday, right? You know, a law and order guy, right? Also added to the list, I don't know if you mentioned, the Southern District of New York, the people running that are already Republicans, the ones who raided Cohen's office.

But, you know, there is a germ of truth in what he is saying in that the world thing about our politics right now is what defines being a Republican in some ways is being pro-Trump. I mean, the anti- Republican Trumps don't have a home right now -- they are being pushed out of the Republican Party and this is this very tribal way in which Donald Trump is defining people who oppose him as sort of not part of the party. So, you know, I don't know that he thinks of it that way but I think his supporters do think of it that way.

JEAN-PIERRE: But could I just add, the thing to that is that Mueller was also appointed by his own -- by Donald Trump's own Department of Justice, right?

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: Yes, Rosenstein is a Republican.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right, Trump appointed political appointee, so it is insane, and the argument doesn't make sense. But to what you were saying is that it works. It is red meat to his base and they love it and they want to believe it, right, because they want to continue to support him. So why not say, it is a partisan issue so that they could continue to back their guy.

TAPPER: So, Mary Katharine --

LIZZA: It is dangerous for justice to be viewed that way --

TAPPER: Yes.

JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.

LIZZA: -- and for the president viewing people as the Justice Department if investigating things if the target are him or his friends then they are not legitimate. TAPPER: So, Mary Katherine, we talked about this before and all of

the times that President Trump steps on his own message and he seems to like it. He seems to be trolling specifically you and me about this -- on this issue. He does all of this stuff today and the unemployment rate -- it fell to a 20-year low today. He tweeted this -- just out, 3.9 percent unemployment, 4 percent is broken. In the meantime, witch hunt. All caps.

I mean -- wouldn't it be wiser just to focus on the great economic news, take credit for it, and not with the all caps and the witch hunt.

HAM: That is genuinely very good news. He could have gone out to reporters and just said that and walked away.

On the Stormy Daniels stuff, look, I just want to be clearly, morally, just gutter town, right, all the way through -- the lying, the original thing, all of it. But then politically, it turns out people don't care that much because they knew Trump was this guy or at least in his base which he's going to be worried about in the midterms.

[16:25:02] And then legally what we know of so far because we don't know the underlying warrant is $130,000 possible FEC violation which is not the biggest hurdle in the world, fines for FEC violations have been twice and three times that. But my point being, it is needless to mouth off about it.

TAPPER: Why even talk about it?

HAM: It could be -- it could just be there.

TAPPER: You seem to be suggesting sometimes he does things that are politically unwise.

HAM: Exactly.

TAPPER: Am I reading you right?

(CROSSTALK)

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

How did Rudy Giuliani go from Mr. Law and Order to attacking the FBI and calling them stormtroopers? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back.

Rudy Giuliani as an outspoken, very visible member of the Trump legal team, it's not a surprise. But those who knew him way back when, well, some of them may be cringing at his recent attacks, particularly on the Justice Department, the very place where Giuliani rose through the ranks as a federal prosecutor, the man who hired James Comey but now says he wants to punch in the nose.