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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Republican Primaries; New York Attorney General Resigns. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired May 8, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Which left Trump ordered to pay $25 million to former students.
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: He's a showman, and he doesn't seem to think there is any such thing as a bad headline where he's concerned.
FOREMAN: When Trump became president, Schneiderman's crusade intensified. He led the legal charge against the travel ban, softening of pollution standards, health care reform rollbacks, the DACA immigration dispute and much more.
SCHNEIDERMAN: I have developed a bit of a reputation since January as a guy who sues Donald Trump and the federal government.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FOREMAN: Many Democrats considered Schneiderman the tip of the spear for possible state action against Trump and his cronies if special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe came up empty or the president started handing out federal pardons, a move for which Schneiderman was laying groundwork.
FOREMAN: An interim attorney general has already been named, but the big question is, who will really get the job next fall when it comes up for election again?
No surprise, Democrats are buzzing about several candidates who would almost certainly go after the president with just as much ferocity -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: One hopes that Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are not among them.
FOREMAN: Well, not on the short list.
TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much.
Want to thank Tom Foreman and Brynn Gingras. And let's bring the panel.
Schneiderman was seen as a plan B for the Mueller probe. The big question, does his departure turn up the heat on the special counsel?
I will get your answers right after this quick break.
TAPPER: New York's soon-to-be-ex Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been a thorn in President Trump's side for years.
And now that Schneiderman has announced he is resigning effective close of business over some really disturbing claims of abuse detailed by former girlfriends in "The New Yorker" magazine, the big question, what happens to those efforts?
But before we get there, Amanda Carpenter, let me start with you.
As the drama was unfolding last night, Donald Trump Jr. and Kellyanne Conway and others supportive of the president took some time to gloat on Twitter.
Donald Trump Jr. wrote -- quote -- "Hey, Eric, it is not role play if only one of you is in on it."
It is interesting to see people in President Trump's orbit gloating about this, given that there are plenty of charges against President Trump as well.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think their tweets are great, because we're now on the record saying that the personal conduct of elected officials and people in power matters.
And so I would hope that now members of the Trump administration will not go to the cameras and continue to lie for the president regarding his hush payments with women.
I would expect a person like Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to perhaps resign her position, considering the fact that President Trump knowingly fed her lies, wound her up, spun her to the White House podium, and made her lie for him, because if there is any line for a staffer, you cannot work for people who make you lie for them, unless you are willingly complicit in it.
So, which one is it?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and I think this is an important point.
Look, I think -- people that live in glass houses should not throw stones. And the people that work for Donald Trump definitely live in a glass house. The president has been credibly accused by 12 women. I'm glad that Schneiderman is stepping down. I'm glad that the
backlash was swift. And we should continue to expose folks for the truth.
I'm so glad that the women had the courage to come forward. But the fact of the matter is, Sarah Huckabee Sanders or anybody else that pops out there on behalf of Donald Trump is doing so of their own volition. These are grown people that go to the White House press podium on this network and other networks every single day and lie.
And, as a press person, I have no respect for that. But I'm also not giving anybody an out. You make a decision to be where you are. And they have chosen to be there.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Let me step back for just a moment here.
We're portraying this in this dog-eat-dog town as a political issue, because the president has his own questions. There is a bigger issue here. That is, this is not about some gentle MeToo movement. This is about physical assault.
MUDD: It's a violation of law.
I don't care whether you are the president or the dogcatcher. You do not gloat when you have exposure of information that indicates somebody was physically assaulted.
So I know there is going to be a lot of commentary about what Donald Trump did or didn't do. I think it is relevant, but I think there is a higher-order question. Why are we gloating about an issue that resulted in the assault of a woman? I don't get it.
TAPPER: There should be no one rejoicing. Yes.
CARPENTER: ... about the assault of women on "Access Hollywood" tapes, because they think this is a joke. You don't. You don't. I don't. You don't.
But this is what they continue to do. And it is disgraceful.
TAPPER: I want to also fit in some discussion about Rudy Giuliani.
Symone, sources are telling CNN that President Trump is growing increasingly frustrated with his new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
SANDERS: Welcome. Welcome, President Trump. We have been frustrated with Rudy and his lack of facts. TAPPER: Do you think he might next for the chopping block?
Look, it is just hard to tell. I think because Donald Trump is floating out there that he's upset or frustrated with Rudy Giuliani, he might be on his way out.
But the fact of the matter is that Donald Trump emboldened the former mayor to be in this position and tra-la-la-ed him out there without the facts.
So I'm just confused why Donald Trump is now upset, because he did this to himself.
TAPPER: Because he's the one that did it.
CARPENTER: No, I subscribe to the Giuliani legal madman theory.
I think that, truly, they are so worried about the Cohen raid, they're desperate to do anything to convince someone, anyone that it is not related to the Mueller investigation. And so you do this by copping to all the hush payments.
You say it was within the realm of campaign finance violations. You cop to that, because you don't usually go to jail for campaign finance violations. But financial laundering, money fraud, those are things you go to jail for.
TAPPER: Phil, listen to this.
This is from "The Wall Street Journal." The president's legal team has set a May 17 deadline to decide whether the president will sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller.
"The Journal" has this little anecdote that I thought you would like -- quote -- "In a informal four-hour practice session, Mr. Trump's lawyers were only able to walk him through two questions."
Just, by the way, just -- that is four hours, four hours, practice session, two questions.
"Given the frequent interruptions on national security matters, along with President Trump's loquaciousness, one person familiar with the matter said."
MUDD: I can't escape the humor.
I know he is the president, but can you imagine in the midst of a federal investigation of, let's say, Jake Tapper, you saying, well, I kind of don't like the rules that we're setting for when you are investigating me. So I have decided I can only speak for two hours, which is what Giuliani said.
He said this ain't going to be all day. It's going to be a couple hours.
You just got the example of why the Mueller team doesn't want to agree to a short interview, because you are going to get two answers that are hummina hummina, and you walk out with no solutions. And the president then says, I cooperated.
TAPPER: Do you think, Symone, that Rudy Giuliani, do you subscribe to the madman theory, that he was doing this just to get out as much information as possible and distract from the raid on Michael Cohen, or do you think that this is more, shall we say, ad hoc?
SANDERS: I think it is a little word vomit.
I really believe Rudy Giuliani got up there in that interview with "FOX & Friends" and he just started going. And then, once it was out there, he did a whole tour to either double down or correct.
And so I don't think that there was some elaborate strategy here. I really think these -- this was amateur hour at the White House, per usual.
TAPPER: That's right.
Everyone, stick around.
Will Trump's Republican Party get a glimpse tonight of what November might have in store for them? Will it be a victory or a shellacking?
Stay with us.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with the "POLITICS LEAD. President Trump's persona, politics, and policies are without question a major factor in today's primaries. Right now, voters in Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia are making decisions that will set up the party of Trump for a high stakes battle for the Senate in November. CNN's Ryan Nobles offers this report.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Tonight in GOP primary races in two states that could determine who controls the Senate after the 2018 midterms, Donald Trump's anti-establishment politics will be on full display. In West Virginia, former coal baron Don Blankenship is running for the Senate after spending a year in prison for conspiracy to violate mine safety standards in the aftermath of a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 workers. He's using his legal woes to bolster his outsider credentials.
DON BLANKENSHIP (R), WEST VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, I've had a little personal experience with the Department of Justice. I can -- they lie a lot too. NOBLES: But President Trump isn't supporting him. Instead, he
compared Blankenship to failed Alabama Candidate Roy Moore. Washington Republicans are increasingly worried that Blankenship could squeak out a victory in a three-way primary, hurting their chances to unseat vulnerable Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin.
BLANKENSHIP: They don't want to me to be there because they know I'm an extreme Trump supporter and that we have to make a change and that they don't want that change to be made because they're personally benefiting from it.
NOBLES: But while the White House has rejected Blankenship, his campaign is filled with echoes of 2016 Donald Trump. He has touted his lack of political experience, bragged about his business background and is not been afraid to delve into conspiracy theories and racially charged rhetoric.
BLANKENSHIP: Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. By doing so, Mitch has gotten rich.
NOBLES: Trump rated politics is driving Indiana's GOP Senate primary as well. Former State Representative Mike Braun continually compares his business experience to the President's.
MIKE BRAUN (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: I am a lifelong businessman and surrogate --
NOBLES: And his two opponents both members of Congress have gone out of their way to tie themselves to Trump.
LUKE MESSER (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: President Trump should get the Nobel Peace Prize.
NOBLES: Luke Messer is spearheading a campaign to nominate Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize --
TODD ROKITA (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm Todd Rokita.
NOBLES: While Congressman Todd Rokita cut a campaign ad sporting a make America great again hat. But the rush to jump on the Trump train comes at a cost. While the President's approval ratings remain sky- high with Republican primary voters, the picture is different in the general election. Even in states, Mr. Trump won in 2016, there is little evidence that the President's popularity transfers and the success of these candidates may ultimately depend on their own connection with voters.
NOBLES: There's, of course, the Senate primary in Ohio tonight. Congressional primaries in North Carolina as well, but much of the focus will be here in West Virginia and it could be a good night for Don Blankenship regardless of what happens with the vote. Blankenship still serving a probation sentence because of the federal misdemeanor charge. His aides tell us that that probation is scheduled to end at midnight tonight. Jake? TAPPER: All right, Ryan Nobles in West Virginia, thanks so much. Joining our panel right now is Washington Examiner's National Politics Reporter and CNN Contributor Salena Zito. She's got a great new book. It's called The Great Revolt: Inside the Populous Coalition Reshaping American Politics. It just came out today. Be sure to check it out. Selena, let me start with you. So Blankenship who has done time said yesterday that he is Trumpier than Trump but President Trump actually has told voters in West Virginia don't for him because he won't be able to win the general election was his suggestion. How do you think that plays out? Do you think West Virginia Republicans are inclined to take a listen to President Trump or go with the guy who is actually Trumpier than trump?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I love primary day, right?
[16:50:03] TAPPER: It's a great day.
ZITO: It's so exciting. Like, this is the closest we get to super Tuesday for another -- for a couple of years. You know, I think Blankenship -- I mean, I could be completely wrong, but I'm not quite sure that he's going to win. Everyone is running as the heir to the Trump coalition and one of the things I think they're getting a little bit wrong is that they don't understand that Trump was the cause of this populism or he was the result of it, not the cause. And I think that if these guys don't learn to focus more on local issues, then they're going to have a problem in the general election.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I completely agree with you 100 percent. Biggest thing that happened in West Virginia in the last year was the nine-day teacher strike the schools shut down and they are not talking about that. Everyone is focused on being Trumpier than Trump. And you also see that dynamic play out in Indiana where everyone is trying to out-trump Trump and the politics are getting lost somewhere in the middle and you can't just run on his coattails because it looks like they want to go to a Trump rally more than they want to go to Congress and achieve anything for the constituents in their state.
TAPPER: And we should point out, you're actually a West Virginian so --
CARPENTER: I do. I keep that little on the down low case but yes, I do have a stake in this race.
TAPPER: -- you actually know what you're -- you know what you are talking about. Symone?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and I think that point that Amanda just made plays into why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have disbanded on the number of races that they're playing in. The (INAUDIBLE) usually only had maybe about 15 or 20 states in their red to blue category and they've expanded to well over I think 35 at this point. I want to go back to the point about populism. I think what most of these folks don't understand is that Donald Trump's populism was yet mixed with some racism, a little ethnocentrism but he was also economic populous. And if you are not speaking about the issues that are directly affecting the folks in the states, particularly health care and the economy, you are not going to win. Now it also don't help Don Blankenship but he's a racist, OK, I just want to be really clear. He's racist --
CARPENTER: Well, he's a guy who thinks he can buy a seat --
SANDERS: He is a racist. He is out there. He came for Mitch McConnell's whole family in a very, very, very racist ad and I didn't -- I didn't like how folks in -- in my opinion the Republican Party didn't rebuff it as largely and swiftly as they should have so I hope he doesn't win. But I think Joe Manchin, he's a little vulnerable but I think he'll be safe come this November.
CARPENTER: There are two other big candidates, but the Trump tweet saying just don't vote for him (INAUDIBLE) in the general election may just split the ballot for --
ZITO: It is a really important keyword because they associate win with Donald Trump and he wants to be a winner. It's something he said over and over again. And so, that -- I think that actually helps the other two candidates. And also -- I mean, most of like 40 percent of the vote total comes in the -- in the areas closest to the Pennsylvania and Maryland line in West Virginia. That's where the heavier population is and they're going to be less inclined to be supportive of Blankenship. And they have a stark memory of all of those people dying. And you know, people love coal --
TAPPER: In the mine incident, the coal mine incident that Blankenship went to prison for. Yes.
ZITO: Right, exactly. So I mean, you know, people dying, that sticks with you.
TAPPER: So let me ask you. The Great Revolt: Inside the Populous Coalition Reshaping American Politics, your new book out today, Salena Zito, when you go out there and you talk to these voters, I know a lot of them are still with President Trump, but do you sense a demoralization in any way because there's a lot of talk about the blue wave coming, and we have seen just empirically Democrats have enthusiasm in all these special elections, the one for instance with Conor Lamb in Western Pennsylvania etcetera. Why are these Trump supporters not turning out to vote with the same enthusiasm that they turned out? I it because Trump is not actually on the ballot?
ZITO: You know, first of all, I think they're a little exhausted. It is -- when you win, you kind of get a little lazy. You kind of step back a little bit. You saw that in 2010 with the Democrats, you saw that in 2006 with the Republicans. They're like, we'll be fine. Oh no, we're not. Conor Lamb did a great job in terms of and you were talking about expanding the universe because he ran on local issues.
TAPPER: Yes, you were calling -- you were talking about Conor Lamb months before anybody else -- ZITO: Yes. And he ran a solidly good race and a very apolitical race
and I think the key this year is for people to run in their district and what suits their district. You know, Trump's coalition, this coalition hasn't left him yet but that doesn't mean they're going to try a thing, not going to try something out different because they're not very ideological.
TAPPER: All right, Salena Zito, Symone Sanders, Amanda Carpenter, thank you so much. Having trouble finding your Uber? Try looking up. Could flying cars be given you a ride in the near future? Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: From good old Doc Brown to George Jetson, our dreams of the future always seem to include flying cars. Ride-sharing company Uber now says that dream could become a reality in just a few years and that is our "TECH LEAD" today. Uber unveiled the first concept and announced research agreement with NASA and the U.S. Army today and Uber's vision you could order the taxi from the app and then pick it up from a special sky port. The company hopes to be able to demonstrate technology in 2020. I will be driving my car. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you could you tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Don't forget, if you are so inclined to pick up your copy of my new novel the Hellfire Club at your local bookstore or amazon.com. That's it for THE LEAD, I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks so much for watching.