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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

White House Under Fire for Mocking McCain's Brain Cancer; Dozens of Palestinians Killed in Protests as U.S. Opens Jerusalem Embassy; President Trump Seeking to Assist Chinese Company?; This Week Marks One Year Since Mueller's Probe Started; Controversial Pastors Offer Blessings At Embassy Opening. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 14, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:04]

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is blaming Hamas for their deaths.

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We're aware of the reports of continued violence in Gaza today. The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas.

COLLINS: President Trump also making a stunning departure from his promises to put America first and be tough on China.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets, I will use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes.

COLLINS: As he vowed to revive a Chinese company that was penalized by his administration after it sold American technology to Iran and North Korea.

Trump tweeting: "President Xi of China and I are working together to give massive Chinese phone company ZTE a way to get back into business fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done."

That tweet coming after the Department of Commerce imposed a seven- year ban on the company from purchasing anything from U.S. companies. The president's move also undercutting top U.S. intelligence officials.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Raise your hand if you would recommend that private American citizens use Huawei or ZTE products or services. None of you again are raising your hand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, the president is continuing to tweet about ZTE, Jake, saying it is part of a larger ongoing trade negotiation with China, which goes against what his commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, said today, which is that it is not a trade issue.

On the campaign trail, the president promised to bring back jobs. We just didn't realize he meant Chinese jobs. And questions over campaign promise are coming as his other campaign promise, which he fulfilled today, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, has triggered widespread protests -- Jake. .

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us.

CNN's Ian Lee witnessed those deadly clashes near the Israel-Gaza border, where Palestinian officials say at least 55 people were killed and more than 2,700 injured.

Ian, what did you see?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we heard that the White House is blaming Hamas for these deaths. Hamas is blaming the White House, saying the blood is on their hands.

We were out there. This was seven weeks of protests leading to this day. We saw tens of thousands of people out there trying to get across that border into Israel, saying they're returning to lands lost in the 1948 war.

But it was chaotic. We saw tear gas flying over, drones dropping tear gas on to protesters. That was the first means by Israel to push protesters back. But they continued to surge forward. And that is when we heard heavy machine gunfire at times. We also heard tanks being fired.

There were airstrikes in the northern part of Gaza. And, Jake, this is just the first day. We're expecting all of this to happen again tomorrow.

TAPPER: All right, Ian Lee in Gaza for us, thank you so much.

When it comes to saying sorry in the Trump White House, that is in internal matter. Wait, doesn't that miss the whole point?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:15]

TAPPER: A new line from the White House this afternoon, after reporters pressed Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah about that really bad, I guess it was supposed to be a joke that an aide made about Senator John McCain, dismissing his vote because he was -- quote -- "dying anyway."

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Why not just apologize, so America doesn't think that that is an acceptable way of speaking inside this White House? Why hasn't she publicly apologized, as she told Meghan McCain that she would? QUESTION: Do you agree that she is a little bit of a victim here, and why?

QUESTION: Are there any concerns that this White House seems more concerned about the fact that there was a leak than about the content of what was said?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: To all that, the White House said this is an internal matter and would say no more.

The political panel joins me.

So, Bill Kristol, let me start with you.

The response, this is an internal matter and that it's being dealt with internally, it is tacitly an acknowledgment that Kelly Sadler did make the comment.

That's -- I wouldn't call that progress, but at least they are not denying that she made it.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I guess we have to judge the White House by the fact that, A, she made that comment, and, B, that they are not apologizing for it. And that is how it stands and that's the nature of that White House.

It is Donald Trump's White House, which is unembarrassed to say really vulgar and terrible things.

TAPPER: And sources told CNN when scolding staff after this leak, Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, spent more time focusing on the leak rather than what Sadler said.

Here is what Meghan McCain, John McCain's daughter, who works at "The View," said today about all the leaks coming from the Trump White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: If you are working in the White House, you should expect everything you are saying in any context to be leaked.

If someone said something that egregious and intense on this show backstage, I would expect it to be on "The Daily Mail" in eight seconds. We don't live in a time anymore and you really aren't working in a White House that doesn't have a leaking problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I don't really agree with that.

I don't think that -- I don't feel like if somebody said something bad here, that we would -- someone here would automatically leak it. I think people would be reprimanded and it would be dealt with.

What the leaking is about is that this place is a snake pit. And...

TAPPER: The White House?

POWERS: Yes, the White House is a snake pit and these people are all out to get each other.

And, look, all White Houses are a reflection of the person who is on top. And so whatever we're seeing happening among the staff is a reflection on Donald Trump. He sets the tone. And this is what it is like.

And so the -- I think that they are correct that they have a problem with leaking. And they should be very concerned about it. That is a separate issue from this being said. I actually think this is probably as big of a problem, but let's not minimize that the leaking is a problem.

It's a major problem. And they need to ask themselves why is everybody working in the White House want to leak everything that happens here?

TAPPER: And you worked in the executive branch during the Clinton administration.

POWERS: Yes.

TAPPER: You worked in the White House. You worked for Vice President Dan Quayle.

[16:40:03]

What would have happened had somebody said something like this in a meeting, do you think, and it leaked out?

KRISTOL: I hope that someone -- that that person would have been rebuked in the meeting itself.

If it had leaked out, I think there would have been a phone call obviously to Senator John McCain or to Mrs. McCain apologizing and a public statement of maybe a rebuke of the staffer, maybe being fired. I'm not sure about that, but a public statement by a senior person.

I think, as Vice President Quayle's chief of staff, I probably would have said, we really regret that this was said. And we have told the staffer this was inappropriate and we send our apologies, but not just to the particular individual, but to the country, because what kind of tone does this set?

This is the White House. This is not the Republican National Committee or some campaign somewhere. This is a taxpayer-funded individual employee, our employee, saying this. And so they're -- the public is owed an apology.

TAPPER: I guess there are two things I don't understand. One of them is, in what world does making a joke about a war hero

dying of brain cancer make sense? And the other one is, Meghan McCain has said that when Kelly Sadler called her to apologize, Meghan said, you need to say it publicly. And Kelly Sadler said she would. But she hasn't.

Why would you tell somebody that you are going to going to apologize publicly and not? Does Kelly Sadler not realize that she's now making her name synonymous with this horrific remark and this is going to last forever?

POWERS: Right.

So it is possible that she's being blocked from apologizing. But it is also possible that this person is not a trustworthy person. After all, this is somebody who said this in the first place. So I don't know -- I don't know -- I think a lot people are speculating that Trump is not allowing her to apologize, but I don't think we really know the answer.

I think the answer to what kind of place do people talk like this, they talk like this in a place where the person at the top dehumanizes people constantly, and treats people as -- just insults people and says the most horrible things about them possible.

So are we really surprised that people inside the White House are talking like this? Yes.

TAPPER: Right. And one of the things candidate Trump said was to denigrate John McCain's war service.

POWERS: Right.

TAPPER: But it goes beyond this, Bill, because they are actually making the case now that Kelly Sadler is a victim.

KRISTOL: I know.

TAPPER: Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS: She's also a little bit of a victim here.

None of us were in that room. And the people who leaked what she said are clearly people who have an animus against her. It is a perfectly logical thing to say, hey, will there be a McCain replacement, will there be McCain, will he not be able to come to Washington?

She could have meant it very matter-of-factly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTOL: I mean, I was on with Matt Schlapp this morning. He was on remote and I was in New York. Otherwise, I might not have -- I might not be here now.

(LAUGHTER)

KRISTOL: I would have been -- I was so appalled.

I mean, fine, if she wants to explain what she said, she should come on television and explain it. This isn't very hard. Or her boss should explain it. I don't think -- it is not her decision. This got out that she said this. She's an employee at the White House. It is the White House chief of staff or maybe the head of her division of the White House, Sarah Sanders, I guess that would be, who has the responsibility to set -- to this to -- set this right.

And, again, it is not just a matter of being polite to Senator John McCain. This is a matter of, is this -- this is the White House -- again, I come back to that -- and is this a proper representation of a White House employee in terms of what the American people see?

And it has gotten out, so they should fix it.

TAPPER: It's -- it could have been a one-day story. It is now about to enter day five because of the way they're handling it.

Stick around, everyone.

He was Vladimir Putin's number one enemy of the U.S. -- number one American enemy in Russia, and that man joins us next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our "WORLD LEAD," this afternoon a Russian company indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller called the charges of election interference against it a "sham" and a "make- believe crime into justifying his investigation." This week marks one year since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel. Joining me now to talk about this and much more is Michael McFaul, the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia under President Obama. He's out with a new book, it's titled From Cold War To Hot Peace; An American Ambassador in Putin's Russia. Ambassador McFaul, thanks for joining us. Do you think people affiliated with the Trump Campaign conspired with agents of the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, conspired is a strong word. I don't know what that word means, I don't know definitionally what it means in a legal sense, but did they meet with Russians to try to help their campaign, to obtain kompromat from Secretary Clinton as a way to advance their electoral objectives, the answer to that is absolutely yes.

TAPPER: So you are saying they did, but whether or not it's a legal matter is separate but they definitely met. When you hear --

MCFAUL: They wanted to work together with the Russians to win in the election. They were taking help from the Russians. I think that is pretty overwhelming. Whether it's illegal or not, I'll leave to Mueller and the other investigators. TAPPER: When you read about all these developments or see them on

T.V., what raises your antenna the most, the Manafort money laundering, the Trump Tower Meeting, the Papadopoulos, what alarms you the most?

MCFAUL: Well, first of all, this is a familiar gameplan from Putin. These are things I've seen before. Disinformation, fake news, the things we've been talking about now, I was the target of that as Ambassador back -- way back in 2012. So that is nothing new and we need to get a hold of that. We're not dealing with that problem either as a government or the social media companies out here where I live, they need to be more effective in how they diminish that. But the second piece is the money piece, Jake. Another familiar tactic, Putin uses money to create leverage to make people do certain things that he wants to in the future. I don't know if that is what he did here in the United States, but I have seen that tactic both inside Russia and in other countries in Europe.

[16:50:07] TAPPER: U.S. intelligence officials put out a report stating that the Kremlin clearly favored Donald Trump and that they were trying to help his campaign win. Now, you write in the epilogue of your book, "did Putin make trump President? Of course not. American voters did that. Did Putin help Trump win? Maybe." Why maybe, why not yes, why not no, why maybe?

MCFAUL: Well the preferences were clear, right? Donald Trump, Candidate Trump said a lot of things that were in Putin's interest, the way he defined them and Secretary Clinton was the exact opposite. So it was very rational for Putin to want Trump to win. Then he intervened. I mean, he used extraordinary measures that we've never seen before in our history, stealing data and publishing it, running disinformation, using his various social media platforms to help sway voters. But what we don't know and now I want to put my political science professor hat on and take my ambassadorial hat off, to measure the independence causal influence of what the Russians did against the back drop of literally dozens of variables that influence the outcome of that vote, that is a hard social science question and therefore, I can't say definitively that they did something. It's probably in the margins, but of course, as you know, Jake, this election was won in the margins 78,000 votes.

TAPPER: You in the book talking about U.S. and Russia relations, "the hot peace tragically but perhaps necessarily, seems here to stay." There's no way that the hot peace will be broken. You think this is how it's going to be between the U.S. and Russia forever?

MCFAUL: Not forever. As long as Putin is in power because we have a fundamental difference with him that's not just about this foreign policy or that foreign policy, it's about values. It's about democracy. He believes that the United States goes around the world supporting uprisings in Syria, in Libya and Egypt and Russia and Ukraine. That's what he blames me of when I was Ambassador, that I was sent by Obama to foment revolution against him. And no amount of diplomacy, no nice meetings over a nice piece of cake is going to change that fundamental perception that he has of America. TAPPER: All right, Mike McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Everyone go buy his book From Cold War To Hot Peace. It's good stuff. Thanks much. I appreciate it. The White House says it's not embracing the hateful words of two controversial pastors but is it picking those pastors to take part in the embassy opening kind of doing just that? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Mitt Romney described one as a religious bigot, John McCain rejected endorsement in 2008 from the other one, but these two American evangelical pastors delivered blessings today at the opening ceremony to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And they're only adding to the controversy one of these pastors as suggested that Hitler was merely fulfilling God's will to return Jews to Israel. Tom Foreman has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT JEFFRESS, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH: We thank you every day that you have given us a president who boldly stands on the right side of history --

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The prayer by Robert Jeffers drew quick applause from team Trump and fast fire from critics who noted the Baptist pastor's long history after tacking other faiths.

JEFFRESS: It is an evil religion. It is an oppressive religion.

FOREMAN: Jeffress has condemned Islam, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, he said Jews can't be saved and he's gone after Mormon's too.

JEFFRESS: I'm saying it's a theological cult.

FOREMAN: The White House tried to distance itself from the controversy.

RAJ SHAH, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: I haven't seen those remarks but obviously those aren't remarks that the President believes in--

FOREMAN: But former Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney himself a Mormon tweeted such a religious bigot should not be giving a prayer at the embassy opening.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What a good guy. Where is he? Come here. I love this guy.

FOREMAN: For Trump, however, the equation is wildly different. Jeffress strongly supported his presidential bid, he advises the President and he helped push 80 percent of white evangelical voters to Trump's side in the election.

TRUMP: He said he may not be perfect, but he's going to make this country great. He's a leader, that's what we need and I want to thank you, pastor.

FOREMAN: Another pastor taking part in the dedication, John Hagee. He told the ultra-conservative Breitbart Web site Trump will win political immortality for the embassy move.

JOHN HAGEE, PASTOR, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: Jerusalem is and always shall be the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

FOREMAN: The problem is, in the '90s, Hagee suggested Adolf Hitler was fulfilling a prophecy through the Holocaust.

HAGEE: And they the hunters shall hunt them. That will be the Jews. Hitler was a hunter.

FOREMAN: Hagee says his comments were grossly misrepresented. His group says the comments were based on the writings of a Jewish theologian and similarly Jeffress cites context in history in defending his comments.

JEFFRESS: Islam is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Simply put, he tweeted back at Mitt Romney that Christians have for many centuries believed Jesus alone offers salvation and still believing that is, "neither bigoted nor newsworthy." Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thanks so much. I appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Tweeter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Don't forget, you can get a new copy of my new novel the Hellfire Club at your local bookstore or on amazon.com. That's it for THE LEAD today. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, First Lady hospitalized. Melania Trump undergoes a procedure --