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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

CNN: Russian Oligarch Met with Michael Cohen During Transition; Weinstein Charged with Rape, Other Sex Crimes in New York; Wash Post: Trump Made Up Hispanic Names In Speech Preps; Border Officials Give Conflicting Accounts of Deadly Shooting; Witnesses, Friends Of Bobby Kennedy Remember Final Moments. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 25, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And one of the things that is so odd about this, Kristen, is the Trump campaign, the Trump people, they could give their explanation as to all of these meetings and all of these Russian contacts and such, but they don't.

[16:30:02] They haven't said anything. It's been the special counsel, or journalists finding these things out and then bringing them to them.

So I guess it just seems like if there is an innocent explanation for all of this, they could have done this a long time ago.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, WASHINGTON EXAMINER COLUMNIST: Well, I think they're attempting a quasi innocent explanation to help relations. But I agree that it doesn't pass the smell test. When you had allegations that Jared Kushner during the transition was talking to Russian foreign minister, was that acceptable or not? You actually do think can plausibly explain.

TAPPER: Sure.

ANDERSON: Yes, you know, he was going to play an important role in his father-in-law's administration. That explanation does not hold up here. It does not explain why over half a million dollars went to Michael Cohen.

What did everybody want out of Michael Cohen for all of this money? I think that is a very important question that needs to get answered.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Or his attempt to sell access or whatever the appearance of access to President Trump has now led -- has now gotten himself and other news a whole mess of trouble. But you're absolutely right about the changing stories. That is a thread through this entire investigation and going back to the first Trump Tower meeting and we were supposed to believe that was about Russian adoption first, and it was not. It was about Hillary Clinton -- dirt on Hillary Clinton potentially.

TAPPER: So, let's also, I want to change the subject. Which is about the meeting yesterday when congressional -- the Gang of Eight, members of Congress, were briefed on this FBI confidential source. And suddenly out of nowhere, the president's attorney defending him from the Russia probe, Emmet Flood, and the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly showed up. Now, we're told the White House said they showed up to say, you know, the president wants transparency and then left.

But a congressional source now tells CNN that they only left the Department of Justice briefing after some lawmakers felt this was inappropriate for them to be there.

What do you make of all of this?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, why do they need to be there to ensure transparency? That doesn't even make sense. I mean, this is -- this is supposed to be oversight of the person that Emmet Flood --

TAPPER: By members of Congress. Yes.

POWERS: So, the people who are being overseen don't get to go to the meeting where there is oversight? So there is no reason for them to be there and it does sound like they wanted to say. It is just completely inappropriate, and I think it's corrupt. I said this before -- earlier this week, I think it's completely corrupt --

TAPPER: Yes.

POWERS: And how thugs kind of behave.

TAPPER: And Giuliani said to "Politico" that their legal defense depended on what they would learn at the meetings, they weren't supposed to learn anything from.

KUCINICH: Well, I'm sure it does. It doesn't mean they were supposed to be there. Yes, I'm sure the president wanted them there. But the president doesn't always get to get what he wants. This is a co-equal branch of government and they do have oversight over the president.

POWERS: Yes.

TAPPER: So, the thing I want to say is President Trump continues to push this false narrative about this confidential FBI source, this idea that the Obama administration infiltrated spies and put spies into his campaign and tweeted, can anyone even imagine having spies placed in a competing campaign by the people and party in absolute power for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain.

This comes after the Justice Department and FBI briefed the Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Here's Mitch McConnell when asked about what he learned of that briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you surprised by what you learned?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Nothing particularly surprising. But again, it was classified, so there is -- there is no real report I can give to you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I mean, none of the Republicans that attended this briefing seemed to think that there was anything outrageous about what they learned.

ANDERSON: Certainly. It sounds like from what we've learned you have a professor that contacted the folks on the came and they had some correspondence, but it's not the same as the FBI paying someone who is a senior level campaign official who was working in Trump Tower. You know, that sort of thing I think would rise to a more eyebrow-raising level.

TAPPER: That would be a spy.

ANDERSON: That would be a spy.

POWERS: And that would be infiltration.

ANDERSON: And for a long time tried to make the case that his campaign was spied on. I remember, this has been -- has it been over a year ago that he tweeted that the Obama folks tapped Trump Tower --

TAPPER: Yes, still waiting for the evidence on that.

ANDERSON: Still waiting for the evidence on that. I mean, I think the reason why the president is branding this as spygate and talking about it is so much is because it -- in his mind gets you one step closer to being able to substantiate that allegation he made so long ago.

POWERS: I mean, has anyone seen someone push back so hard and create so much chaos around something when they were completely innocent. It's just -- why did he have to make up all these stories? Why does he have to make up this infiltration story and spygate story when it's just a perfectly straightforward thing that happened? They have been warned by the FBI that they could be infiltrated. So, why is it surprising that the FBI would be talking to people --

TAPPER: By Russians, yes.

POWERS: Oh, yes, by Russians. Sorry.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. There's been a major Democratic donor who's been a powerful Hollywood producer. And now, he's a defendant facing serious charges in court. Harvey Weinstein's surprising and some might say disturbing defense strategy coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:39:06] TAPPER: In our national lead, the powerful man whose alleged crimes helped propelled the Me-Too movement is getting his day in court after dozens of rape and sexual harassment allegations. The major filmmaker and Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein was in handcuffs as he was escorted to a New York City courthouse, an image many of his accusers thought would never come.

The disgraced movie mogul will plead not guilty. His lawyer added that Weinstein, quote, didn't invent the casting couch, unquote, that his bad behavior is not on trial in this case.

Let's bring in CNN's Brynn Gingras.

And, Brynn, Weinstein's accusers include Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, I could go on and on. But none of the charges against Weinstein have to do with any of them today.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no A-listers, Jake, at least in this initial complaint. Now, I want to tell you, everything we witnessed today was prearranged by Weinstein's attorney, the Manhattan's D.A.'s office and NYPD.

[16:40:00] So, by the time Weinstein actually got in front of a judge, he pretty had an idea of what to expect. Even still, I got to say, he looked pale, even seemed a little dazed as those criminal charges were announced to him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GINGRAS (voice-over): Hollywood mega producer Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs walking into court today facing rape charges. They stem from the accounts of two women, including an aspiring actress who first spoke out in a 2017 "New Yorker" article, alleging he forced her to perform oral sex on him at his office in 2004.

Tonight, Weinstein is out of jail after posting a $1 million cash bail, but not before surrendering his passport and being forced to wear a monitoring device 24/7 and traveling only between New York and Connecticut.

The criminal charges are the first to be filed against Weinstein after dozens of women, including several A-list actresses made various sexual misconduct accusations against the media mogul last year. Among them, Gwyneth Paltrow --

GWYNETH PALTROW, ACCUSED WEINSTEIN OF MISCONDUCT: We had one instance in a hotel room where he tried to -- where he made a pass at me and then I really kind of stood up to him.

GINGRAS: -- Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Lupita Nyong'o, Ashley Judd --

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: I fought with this volley of nos which he ignored.

GINGRAS: And actress Rose McGowan, one of the first women, to publicly accuse Weinstein of rape.

ROSE MCGOWAN, ACCUSED WEINSTEIN OF RAPE: To see him in cuffs on the way out, whether he smiled or not, that is a very good feeling.

GINGRAS: Weinstein denies having nonconsensual sex with any of his accusers and his attorney insisted today his client is innocent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My job is not to defect behavior, my job is to defend something that is criminal behavior. Bad behavior, Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood and to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you stay positive, you have a shot --

GINGRAS: It's a stunning fall for the man behind several major movies like "Silver Linings Playbook", "The Kings Speech" --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart belongs to you, but I will marry Wessex a week from Saturday.

GINGRAS: -- and "Shakespeare in Love", just to name a few, some of which earned Weinstein dozens of awards for his work behind the camera.

But now, he's the focus of investigations for alleged sex crimes not just in New York but also in Los Angeles and London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GINGRAS: And on top of those investigations, a grand jury continues to hear testimony from at least four accusers according to a source. Next week, Ben Brafman, Weinstein's attorney, needs to decide if Weinstein himself is going to testify in front of that grand jury, another legal hurdle for this disgraced media mogul -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Coming up, a murder mystery on the border. A female undocumented immigrant found dead and now investigators are changing their story about what they think might have happened. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] TAPPER: President Trump's hard-line push to secure the U.S.-Mexico border is reaching new levels of tension in the White House. The Washington Post reporting that the President has repeatedly been berating the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Neilson for the increased numbers of illegal crossings. The Post also reports an eye-opening exchange in his preparations for a speech last year joking with aides in the Oval Office about how crowds loved his immigration rhetoric on the campaign trail. Two sources told the paper, "he, the president then read aloud a few made-up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed like rape or murder then he said the crowds would roar when the criminals were thrown out of the country."

That attitude now manifesting itself in policies that the critics seem harsh or even cruel. A new rule that results in undocumented children being separated from their families. The admission by the Trump Administration that it lost track of almost 1,500 migrant children and questions this week about an undocumented immigrant, a woman, we just learned she's 20-year-old Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez from Guatemala. She was killed by a border agent near the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday. CNN's Martin Savidge is live for us in Rio Bravo, Texas where this all went down and Martin I guess the important question here is did this woman who was killed pose any sort of threat to the border agent?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, from the witnesses we've talked to from the first responders who showed up in the aftermath of the shooting, we have not heard anyone described the shooting victim as potentially a threat. She was described as young and small and they just don't see it. We should point out that the shooting took place in that empty lot just behind me here and we're less than a half mile away from Mexico right at the end of this street. But the story has now been changing from officials. We did get a bit more information which is that this is a 15 year veteran of the Border Patrol that did the shooting. But today, just more questions than answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: Searching for answers even as investigators including the FBI showed up to process the scene of Wednesday's fatal shooting. Customs and Border Protection Officials began walking back. Critical details of the reported attack on one of their border agents. The revised statement released Friday now says the border patrol agent was allegedly assaulted. In the original press release, the word allegedly never appears. Instead, it states initial reports described an agent under attack by multiple subjects using blunt objects. The revised statement simply states now the group of suspected undocumented immigrants rushed him.

Wednesday, CPB said the agent fired his weapon fatally wounding one of the assailants. The revised statement now says the agent discharged one round striking one member of the group no longer characterizing the shooting victim as an assailant. Marta Martinez was a witness to what happened. The tragedy happened right next to the home of Marta Martinez. What she says she heard and saw was nothing like either account officials have given.

[16:50:32] So when was the first indication there was a problem here?

MARTHA MARTINEZ, WITNESS: When I heard the gunshots?

SAVIDGE: Martinez says, when she rushed out of her home, she didn't see a border patrol agent being attacked by a group.

MARTINEZ: So I came out and I got my phone and started recording. I didn't thought there was somebody there.

SAVIDGE: Marta livestream the aftermath which has since been viewed thousands of times. Marta Martinez had a front row seat to this tragedy because it happened literally right next door. She found the body of the young woman lying on the ground right there. There's still traces of blood.

And if you come down here and look across her fence into this lot, there are other indications that something happened, a struggle or an altercation. Just look at the grasses all matted down. Juan Gonzalez, the Rio Bravo Fire Chief was among the first responders to treat the woman who was shot. He says, when he got there she looked very young, very petite and barely alive. When she stopped breathing he says, rescuers carried on with CPR.

Did she say anything? Did she move in any way? Did she seem conscious?

JUAN GONZALEZ, RIO BRAVO FIRE CHIEF: No she was not conscious but she was breathing.

SAVIDGE: She did stop breathing just a short time later. The first time responder said that they tried CPR for at least eight minutes but she never did revive. We should point out it's not uncommon for accounts to change but the experts we've spoken to today say the fact that the attackers as they were depicted supposedly use blunt objects, now did not is a very significant walk back, Jake?

TAPPER: Yes, that's quite a difference. Martin Savidge, thanks so much. Alexa, stop spying on me. The shocking story that may have you thinking twice about what you say in the same room is that Amazon device. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Our "TECH LEAD" now. Alexa, stop being creepy. A PSA for all the users of the Amazon, Alexa, you might want to unplug before you start chatting about anything sensitive. An Amazon echo recorded an Oregon family's private conversation and sent the recording to a person in their contact list without the family knowing. Amazon says that the device apparently misheard the couple says the word Alexa and then they misinterpreted a command to send a recording of the conversation to that contact.

By the way, the couple says thankfully they were only talking about hard word -- hardwood floors. Amazon says the recording was sent inadvertently and they're working to fix it. In our "NATIONAL LEAD," next month marks the 50th anniversary of the Assassination of Senator Robert F Kennedy. As we approach this tragic anniversary, we here at THE LEAD remember the sights and sounds of RFK's final moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSEY GRIER, FORMER KENNEDY BODYGUARD: We were at the Ambassador Hotel and singing is in his room in his suite and all the reports are coming in across the country. We all felt that now is our chance to lead America to this better place. We were going downstairs and lean on and I pop them in his stomach. I see we got this one. He's here now home to Chicago.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: My thanks to all of you and now it's on to Chicago, and let's win there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were steps in the back of the stage and they came down right in front of us and the doors closed. And then this noise that sounded to me like it was either balloons popping or firecrackers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were falling down in front of me, either they were hit or they were trying to get out of the line of fire. I knew that people had been injured because you could hear them screaming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The suspect now being held by Los Angeles police in connection with Kennedy shooting is 24-year-old Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.

GRIER: I wrenched the gun out of Sirhan on hand and put it in my pocket. And now I'm looking around I knew people were down on the floor and I realized that one was Bobby.

PAUL SCHRADE, SHOT DURING RFK ASSASSINATION: I was facing Sirhan as was Robert Kennedy. He was shot in the back. It was four shots, three of which wounded him, one went through the shoulder pad of his coat back to front.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went to the hospital, went up to the room where was lying on the bed beside Bobby and he wasn't going to make it and (INAUDIBLE) just in morning in a sense because all of our hopes and our dream was going down because of Bobby had been shot and killed.

JEFF GREENFIELD, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR ROBERT KENNEDY: You had the death of Martin Luther King in early April followed by riots all across the country. And so, for a lot of people, Robert Kennedy's campaign was kind of the last hope if you will. We've got a chance to change the country through the political process. And then suddenly it stops, dead still.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic Party had lost one of its most important compelling voices. And I think that resonated far beyond 1968.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN takes a deeper dive into the Year 1968, the special two- night CNN Original Series Event starts this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. Be sure to tune in to CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" Sunday morning. Rudy Giuliani will join. It's at9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. That's it for THE LEAD, I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a meaningful Memorial Day weekend.