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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Congressional Republicans Lining Up Against Trump on Trade; Trump Calls For Samantha Bee to be Fired Over Ivanka Joke; Police Find 3 Bodies In Home Of Man Accuse Of Kidnapping; State Will Pay You $10,000 To Move There. Aired 4:30-5 ET

Aired June 1, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: But regardless of who's in the White House, it is good news that it's not just the unemployment rate at 3.8 percent but the African-American unemployment rate is lower than -- I'm not sure if it's lowest in history, but it's historically low.

[16:30:09] So that is all good news. But it's among the reasons why I think when Democrats are making arguments against President Trump, you've got to get at -- you know, we should be able to have a good economy and also have a president that is trying to bring people together, that's trying to unite the country, that is not trying to pit us against each other, that respects the rule of law. That you have to, you got to make -- you got to go outside and make broader arguments against them.

You can't expect that the economy is going to not do well and that's going to be the argument against him.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Right. Chris Cillizza, do you hear that argument, as we get closer to the 2018 midterms?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think there is now a window, which I wouldn't have said was open three months ago, that is open to congressional Republicans to say essentially, look, Donald Trump is Donald Trump. We're not really -- I don't really want to talk about him. Yes, he's the head of my party, but look at these results.

You know, yes, do we know what's going to come out this North Korea summit? No, we don't, but it's historic that we think today he's going to sit down. Unemployment is at 3.8 percent.

Jen is absolutely right that the start of that was in the Obama administration certainly, but you can make that case.

Now, Democrats will say, not so fast, you can't just -- you can't have the good parts of Donald Trump without all the other stuff too. And that I think will be what is litigated in the campaign of 2018, and I'm -- for the first time in a while, I'm unsure of how that would turn out. Typically, I would have told you that is almost certainly a Democratic win in the majority in the House and maybe in the Senate. I'm not sure.

SCIUTTO: The numbers indicate that.

So, into this nice economic mix, you have the president throwing this trade war, kind of a bomb, right, and congressional Republicans are not happy about it.

Paul Ryan among them. He had this to say trying to convince Trump to hold back, saying, quote, I disagree with this decision. There are better ways to help American workers and consumers. I intend to keep working with the president on those better options.

Ben Sasse, another Republican, called these moves dumb.

Do they have any influence over this president?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: The idea that we need to be tough on trade is something that Donald Trump has believed long before he was anywhere near the Oval Office. So, persuading him to take a brand-new position on that issue is going to be really hard.

I think the thing that would change his mind is if all of a sudden, he starts throwing all these tariffs up against our friends and allies, and that 3.8 number doesn't stay the same. His job approval on the economy right after the New Year went through the roof. I mean, his job approval has never been great, but economic job approval, there is a huge shift happened between December and January, and there's when tax reform happened.

SCIUTTO: Right.

ANDERSON: And I think you've got a Republican Congress that did a thing that correlates very nicely with the president, all of a sudden, getting a lot of credit for a very good economy. Maybe he should be listening to them a little more in order to make sure he does not destroy the very economic growth he's benefited.

SCIUTTO: And let's remember this, it's not purely an economic thing because the president is imposing these tariffs on U.S. -- America's closest allies on national security grounds, on national security grounds. And it's that in particular, I think that sparked the ire of our closest allies.

Listen to what the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had to say. Actually, this is a full screen, I'll read it for you. Canadians have served -- sorry. Canada has treated -- sorry, this is not the bite I want. I'm talking about what the Canadian prime minister said, which is a sound bite.

Let's have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Canadians have served alongside Americans in two world wars and in Korea, from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, we have fought and died together. That Canada could be considered a national security threat to the United States is inconceivable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: A national security threat. That is what the president had to do love to impose these tariffs.

And I just want to remind people, when the Canadian prime minister says they fought alongside the U.S. during these wars, let's remind how many Canadians lost their lives in those wars alongside America. In Afghanistan, Canada lost 158 members of the armed forces. In Vietnam, 134. In the Korean War, 516; 47,000 in World War II.

How does the president get away with treating a close ally like this?

PALMIERI: It's about Mexico. It's not really about Canada, right? I mean, that is -- I think that is what's in his mind. If he has a strategy behind this, that's on his mind or if this is about his own politics and appealing to a base that doesn't want -- that is very focused on immigration, I think it's about race. I think it's about Mexico. I think that is what is at the root of this. It doesn't make sense otherwise, that kind of political play.

CILLIZA: Yes, I mean, I think -- I do think it's political play without question because the truth of the matter is, we play that clip from Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump is probably saying, play that clip as much as you want, because what he will say is, well, of course, the Canadian prime minister doesn't like it.

[16:35:06] Of course, Enrique Pena Nieto doesn't like it. That's because we made bad deals all these years for us. I'm looking out for us. I'm the president of the United States. It plays right into his wheelhouse.

I mean, the issue is there are real-world consequences not just now but in 10 years, 20 years.

SCIUTTO: America first.

CILLIZZA: Right.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much to my panel.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but the coarse words now being used by our president and other public officials, are they hurting us?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: In our politics lead now, the president calling out a famed comedian's offensive joke. No, not his supporter Roseanne Barr's racist tweet, but Samantha Bee, who called Ivanka Trump a truly vulgar slur. The president said it was a double standard that Bee was not fired for her comments. Bee and TBS, which is owned, we should mention, by the same parent company as CNN, both apologized, but she does still have her job and, of course, Roseanne does not.

I want to bring in CNN's Nick Watts. So, Nick, looking at those two decisions there, is it a double

standard?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESONDENT: Well, Jim, that probably depends, maybe depends on which side of the political fence you sit on. Believe me, it's being vigorously debated on Twitter as we speak.

But, you know, listen, we have long been a nation of frankly potty mouths masquerading as puritans, but it does appear since President Trump took office, the level of our political discourse has degenerated.

[16:40:10] So, you will not be surprised to hear that this report does contain some strong language.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): Samantha Bee calls the first daughter a feckless (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who the hell talks this way?

WATT: Roseanne Barr likens Valerie Jarrett to an ape on Twitter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roseanne should never have had a show to begin with.

WATT: And that's just week. Cussing is nothing new. President Obama once said this of Kanye West before an interview began.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Jackass.

WATT: George W. Bush once calling a reporter this on a hot mike.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Asshole.

WATT: But the incivility is now more blatant. Kathy Griffin posing with an effigy of the president's severed head, and it's more bilious.

White House staffer Kelly Sadler joking Senator McCain's opinion doesn't matter because he's dying anyway.

And there is now even more exaggerated pearl clutching for political point scoring on both sides. As one commentator tweeted early this a.m., good morning, Twitter. What shall we pretend to be outraged at today?

Now, we all have a platform. I mean, without social media, how did anyone vent when Harry Truman called General McArthur a dumb son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

Trump tweeted earlier this a.m., why aren't they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low rating show? A total double standard, but that's OK.

Double standard? Because Roseanne's show is canceled after the Valerie Jarrett tweet?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has pointed to the hypocrisy in the media, saying that the most horrible things about this president and nobody addresses it.

WATT: Yet he's called Mexican immigrants rapists, mocked a disabled reporter, mocked Heidi Cruz's looks, called Chuck Todd --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's the sleeping son of a bitch, I'll tell you that.

WATT: Crickets. Incivility is not an impeachable offense. In fact, Trump supporters spin it into a positive after the president called a bunch of country (EXPLETIVE DELETED) holes. Hang on. I can't say that on TV?

SANDERS: One of the reasons that he won and is sitting in the Oval Office today is because he isn't a scripted robot.

WATT: Economics might not be trickle-down, but instability just might be.

TOM ARNOLD, ROSEANNE'S EX-HUSBAND: They do it because we have a white trash racist president. That's a fact.

WATT: Too strong, Tom. Too strong. I demand you apologize and/or fired.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now, putting all jokes aside for a second, there is a line I think we should draw. On the one side is bad language, which frankly we may all just need to toughen up and get used to and on the other side is racism, misogyny and prejudice, which, Jim, never, never do anyone any good.

SCIUTTO: Nick Watt, thanks very much.

Back to my panel now. Promising to use clean language only.

On this issue, listen, I mean, I shake my head because I can't have my may kids watch TV half the time, you know, with the half stories and half the comments from very public individuals. You've all been around Washington for a fair amount of time. Has it ever been like this?

PALMIERI: Not in public. But I think the problem is that --

SCIUTTO: That's a difference, though, is it not?

PALMIERI: It is a difference, but the problem is starts at both the top and the bottom of this. You have the president of the United States and everyone knows uses this kind of language. We've heard it on the "Access Hollywood" tape. I think like that is what's at the root of this. And until -- and I think that draws attention to other people's

behavior. Everybody should be held accountable for it, but that's -- you know, that's what's at the root of making -- that can drive people to think it's OK to say what they do.

And it's remarkable that when Trump tweeted about Samantha Bee this morning, he didn't defend the integrity of his daughter but just talked about the implication on him. That's what it always goes back to.

SCIUTTO: I will say in my experience, a lot of his language is driven by real animus and anger, and the fact is, is it not, that that's driven by animus and anger on both sides. And I'm not drawing moral equivalencies between statements, but that people feel they have license to speak about the other side in a way that they didn't feel before.

CILLIZZA: Donald Trump, I think this is an objective statement, is a bully who has allowed and promulgated some level of intolerance, racist comments, xenophobia at some level. At the same time, that doesn't mean that he the right answer for us as a country is that you can say and do anything to and about him and his family because, well, he did it. That's -- you talked about your kids. I have kids too. No one teaches your kids that, listen, oh, well, if so-and-so bullied you -- two wrongs don't make a right. An eye for an eye leaves us all blind. There is a reason those things exist in the world.

[16:45:00]

And I just -- there's too much of that. Well, he did it and that's not a good reason. When you start using crude language you lose arguments. That -- don't do that. There's an argument to be made about Ivanka Trump not using her influence but when you just call her names you lose that.

SCIUTTO: Is it not reasonable, Kristen, to hold the President and frankly other public officials to a higher standard for the language they use?

ANDERSON: Sure. I mean, I'm disappointed that we've seen the corrosion of our culture and that it makes its way all the way up to the top. I think the reason why you're seeing folks on the Left generally be a little more accepting of things like Samantha Bee using that horrible language to talk about Ivanka Trump is you had at the Democratic Convention. Michelle Obama gave a speech that was very well received where she said when they go low we go high and I think Democrats after the last election may be going is that the right strategy? Because it didn't seem to matter. And so I think that's why you're seeing now folks on the left going you know, what I am going to take a picture with a severed head of Donald Trump because if that's the rules we're playing by and it just -- it's really discipline.

SCIUTTO: Well, let's start right here. Let's go -- let's go high with our -- with our language. We'll do our best but there's a lot of it out there. Thanks very much to my panel. A real difficult story coming up next. Three dead bodies discovered inside this Massachusetts home. What investigators now believe happened inside and how police discovered this horror really almost by accident. That story is right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] SCIUTTO: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. What started out as a run-of-the-mill traffic stop ended with a man behind bars charged with kidnapping and now, three bodies discovered inside his home as police swarmed Stewart Weldon's house literally digging for answers there. We are learning new details about just how intense this investigation has already become. CNN's Jason Carroll, he joins us now. Jason, how did the police even come to find these bodies there?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well what they're doing is they're using a special type of radar which can detect objects beneath the surface. It can also detect if the soil has been disturbed all in an effort to find out if more bodies have been buried here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Investigators bringing in ground-penetrating radar as they exhaustively search this modest home in Springfield, Massachusetts after a tip led them to the discovery of three bodies.

BRENDA QUINONES, NEIGHBOR OF THE SUSPECT: Oh my God, it's like horror movie. It's been a nightmare. It's like something from the movies.

CARROLL: Authorities say the bodies which have not been identified were found in and around the home, the last known address of this man Stewart Weldon. Weldon was pulled over for a broken taillight Sunday night. He led officers on a brief car chase before they arrested him. Inside that car police found a badly beaten woman who told officers Weldon had kept her prisoner for the last month, telling police he's going to kill me.

According to this police report, the woman suffered a possible fractured jaw, large scrapes, old and new bruises and stab wounds to the abdomen and marks from being hit with a blunt object. She also told authorities Weldon had raped her several times. Stephanie Serrano lived across the street from Weldon. She says she had a friendly encounter with him last year and can hardly believe what he is accused of.

STEPHANIE SERRANO, FORMER NEIGHBOR OF THE SUSPECT: My huskie got loose in his backyard once at one point so he's nice guy. He didn't really do much. He helps me catch him. That was about it. I guess I could say I'm lucky that he returned my dog and nothing else.

CARROLL: Authorities say others also live in this home including a child. Officials telling CNN the Department of Children and Families took emergency custody of a child in the home and is investigating in collaboration with law enforcement. Police charged Weldon with kidnapping, threatening to commit a crime, carrying a dangerous weapon, and resisting arrest in connection to the car chase. Weldon's attorney did not return CNN's request for comment. He has not been charged in connection to the bodies found at the home but the District Attorney's office says more charges could come.

ANTHONY GULLUNI, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, HAMPDEN COUNTY: Our expectation is we're going to be here for days, if not longer than that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And Jim, according to county records, the house here in question is registered to an older woman. That woman has been accounted for. She is safe. And investigators say they have no other suspects other than the one they have in custody. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Just a sickening story, Jason Carroll, thanks very much. There -- if you're looking to move, you might want to consider living in this beautiful state where the governor says they will actually pay you to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. The "TECH LEAD" now. They want telecommuters, not just leaf peepers. The State of Vermont just passed a law to encourage people to move to the state and work remotely from there and they'll pay you $10,000 over two years to cover the cost of relocating. It is one of the state's answers to counter an aging population that's caused a bit of an economic crisis there with fewer tax dollars coming into the state. And if you like beer and cheddar cheese, Ben and Jerry's, the ski slopes, and fresh maple syrup right from your kitchen faucet, this could be the offer for you. But I also have minus 18 reasons you might not want to go as in -18 degrees Fahrenheit in winter.

Be sure to tune in to the "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday where the guests will be Majority -- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. That's at 9:00 and noon Eastern Time only here on CNN on Sunday. That is it for THE LEAD today, I'm Jim Sciutto in for Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer, he is in "THE SITUATION ROOM."