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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Lawyer Now Arguing Russian Collusion No Big Deal?; Trump Threatens Shutdown Over Border Wall. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 30, 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]

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We checked with their lawyers, the ones we could check with, which was four of the six. That meeting never, ever took place. It didn't happen. It's a figment of his imagination or his lying.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Giuliani has been all over the airwaves in recent days on the offensive. The discourse has been a complete 180 from his previous glowing reviews of the president's former fixer attorney.

GIULIANI: The man is an honest, honorable lawyer. I do not expect that Michael Cohen is going to lie.

SCHNEIDER: Giuliani now saying his opinion has changed with the revelation Cohen recorded at least one conversation with the president.

GIULIANI: How did I know that he was lawyer taping his client? You tell me a lawyer is taping his client, I got to say, sorry, I made a mistake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And when asked if the president would ever pardon Michael Cohen if he was eventually charged with a crime, Rudy Giuliani repeatedly said that was the president's prerogative, but that obviously the president would never pardon anyone during an ongoing investigation, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Jessica.

And we have just received a brand-new statement from Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer about Michael Cohen's claims that there was a meeting and that President Trump knew about that Trump Tower meeting ahead of time -- quote -- "We have investigated this matter for over a year and are in command of the facts. We are fully confident of the accuracy and the reliability of the information that has been provided by Donald Trump Jr. in the various investigations" -- unquote.

There does seem to be some concerns, Jen Psaki, here about Donald Trump Jr. and whether he has any exposure on Capitol Hill, whether or not he told the committee's investigating this, Senate Judiciary, House Intelligence, the truth, because Michael Cohen, whatever you think about his credibility, he is saying something completely different.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course.

And I have been a part of writing a lot of statements with lawyers. This is a very lawyered statement. It doesn't actually say anything or reconfirm anything and it's not in clear English. So what it doesn't say is the meeting never happened. It doesn't say there was no meeting ever. It doesn't say we never met with Russians.

This leaves a lot of questions, I think out there. And certainly I think Trump Jr.'s vulnerability is what we keep coming back to or Jared Kushner's vulnerability. Where does this all lead to? And Michael Cohen's statements raise more questions about.

TAPPER: And, David, Donald Trump Jr. says he has told the truth the whole time, he did not tell his father before the meeting, his dad was not at the meeting, and he did not tell his dad about the meeting afterwards.

And President Trump has said he didn't find out about that meeting until right before it broke last summer. And this information you believe? You think it's all true?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I believe to be true.

And this statement is saying I told the truth on Capitol Hill. Look, you have all worked in this town long enough. If something is told to somebody on Capitol Hill that deviated even a bit from this, it'd be leaked out by now. We would it. We would know it five minutes after it happened.

So, yes, I believe it actually happened the way Don Jr. is saying it happened.

TAPPER: So, there is something that I have noticed just in the last week. We talked about the moving the goalposts with Republicans now saying if they did get happen from the Russians, no big deal.

There's also this thing that's emerged now about whether or not President Trump was told after the fact. People close to President Trump and team Trump are now seeming to acknowledge that maybe he was told after the fact, despite the fact President Trump said the opposite.

I want you to listen to sound from Anthony Scaramucci, and from Sam Nunberg, both of whom are allies of President Trump and believe in President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Could he have known after the fact? I think that's possible.

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I would be surprised if when you have Paul Manafort, you have Jared Kushner and you have Don Jr. in this meeting, if the president wasn't made aware about -- made aware about it some time after the fact, if not before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Do you think that they are also kind of moving the goalposts and preparing people for the revelation that maybe President Trump was told before the story was about to break in 2017?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think they're hedging.

Look, I'm wearing the color mustard. Reasonable doubt is a mustard seed side of reasonable doubt, OK? The idea they're trying to plan it, they're all Johnny Appleseeds at this point in time to say, well, in case this comes out against our favor, let me plant the seeds that we were being truthful or trying to be forthcoming.

We avoid things like perjury traps, as they call it, that they put on themselves, or we could avoid things like being called liars or after- the-fact conspirators or everything else. And just trying to get ahead of it.

And this statement to me, along with statements you just heard from the sound bites, elude to me that they're simply trying not to -- they have learned a lesson about being held accountable by their own words, and that they matter, and will be used before them and against them in a court of public opinion.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Let me just raise one quick thing. June of 2016 is was this meeting happening.

TAPPER: The Trump Tower meeting, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Contextually, no one even mentioned the word Russia on the campaign in June of 2016.

TAPPER: You were in Pennsylvania, right?

URBAN: I wasn't working in Trump Tower, absolutely.

But I can tell you during the campaign, on the campaign at that time, the great concern was the upcoming convention and delegate counts and what was going to happen, right? So, contextually, Russia was nowhere on the horizon.

(CROSSTALK)

[16:35:05]

TAPPER: David, we know that they met with Russians.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: No, no, but I'm saying like the point, well, how did the president? It's implausible he didn't take -- this wasn't anywhere.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: It was a meeting that might have kind of come and gone.

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: ... conference call with all the state directors saying, hey, we're going to collude with Russia. I mean, that obviously wasn't happening.

TAPPER: Phil, I just want to ask you quickly. Rudy Giuliani introduced this morning the idea of this pre-meeting two days before the Trump Tower meeting. Now he says it didn't happen. He was just trying to get ahead of a story that Michael Cohen is shopping around, one that I have never heard of.

What do you make of Rudy's advocacy for President Trump?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This is pretty simple. This is a Stormy Daniels moment.

This man, Rudy Giuliani...

TAPPER: You're going to have to explain what that means.

(LAUGHTER)

MUDD: The mouthpiece of Mar-a-Lago is out there saying, if the president ever speaks or if there are ever further indictments from Mueller, I want to get all the dirt out.

On Stormy Daniels, he gets out and said, yes, the president denied it on Air Force One, and he sort of paid for this. On this one, I think this is a -- you could drive a truck through this statement. I think he's getting out there saying, yes, maybe there's an e-mail, maybe somebody was in an interview with Mueller. Maybe the president knew about it before or afterwards.

I think he's trying to lay out all the dirt, so if the president ever does get questioned or if Mueller ever does make a statement about Donald Trump's knowledge, Giuliani could say, well, we acknowledged this already, what's the big deal?

COATES: Same thing they did with actual waiving the privilege, to say I will put it out there, it's going to come out anyway with this last phone, the secret call.

They're just trying to get ahead of it and hedge.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

President Trump making a threat that could have an impact on thousands of American lives. That's next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:00]

TAPPER: And breaking this afternoon, President Trump is ramping up his threat of a government shutdown, demanding action on border security and funding for the border wall, which he repeatedly on the campaign trail promised Mexico would pay for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I would have no problem doing a shutdown. It's time we had proper border security. We're the laughingstock of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Let's go to CNN's Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.

Phil, the president clearly not on the same page as Republican leaders who found they have -- sound like they have they had a plan to avoid shutdown.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, had a plan, one that was agreed upon and one that's essentially the exact opposite of what the president was outlining today.

When I say it was agreed upon, I don't just mean by Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The president was also a party to that agreement. That agreement was, move through as many spending bills as possible and leave the wall and leave the appropriations bill that deals with that wall until after the election.

Don't believe me? Well, take a listen to those leaders after their meeting with the president last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: As far as the wall is concerned, we have gotten some walls funding already under way and the president's willing to be patient to make sure that we get what we need, so that we can get that done.

QUESTION: Is the funding of the border wall going to wait until after the midterm elections?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Probably.

QUESTION: So you're not worried about a government shutdown?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCONNELL: No, that's not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And, Jake, when I talked to Republican aides after the president's press conference, they say their strategy has not changed. They still plan on moving through as many appropriations bills as possible and dealing with the wall after the election.

Obviously, their main concern is the election itself. A shutdown leading into the election when you control pretty much every lever of government certainly not something any leader wants.

I think the big question right now is, would the president sign this? Does he mean this? What I was told behind the scenes, Jake, is during that meeting between the leaders and the president, he agreed with Mitch McConnell's characterization that stepping on, say, the Kavanaugh nomination, stepping on the election is a bad idea at this point.

What has changed with the president? Nobody's really sure, but one thing they are sure of, at least when it comes to the Senate and the House, they're still moving forward and they hope the president just joins them at the end of September.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill for us, thanks so much.

My experts are here. We're joined by Perry Bacon.

What's going on? Explain this to me.

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: He's made a bunch of threats about this.

Remember, last March, he talked about this. He's talked about not signing an approps bill a few times now.

And the leaders kind of tap him on the head and sort of ignore him. And I think that's they're going to do here too as well. He is sort of -- on some level he's the president and we cover him, but in terms of legislation, he signs stuff. And I think that's what will happen, end up happening here as well.

TAPPER: So one of the things that President Trump talked about today, David, seemed very much mindful of the fact that in 99 days are the midterm elections. He talked about the border wall and immigration security in terms of why he was elected.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It was a big factor in my win.

We need border security. Border security includes the wall. But it includes many others things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, this is not a strong topic for President Trump. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows on 39 percent of people approve his handling of immigration; 58 percent disapprove.

So why push it? Just to get the base out?

URBAN: So, look, I think some of those numbers depend on what poll you look at.

Gallup I think has some different numbers, right? So border security is pretty high. I think I agree with everybody. It's a bad time for the president and do this. Steps on the Kavanaugh nomination, steps on lots of things. I think -- I don't think it's a winner. I think anytime you shut down the government the Republicans seem to get blamed regardless of whose fault it is.

TAPPER: But the Democrats actually threatened a shutdown and they actually took some heat. It was like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

They'd won and gotten concessions on the CHIP bill, right, but then they were pushing for DACA, and they didn't get it, and Democrats blinked.

PSAKI: Right, they blamed, so they got criticized from all sides.

Government shutdowns are not good politics. I think everybody at the table probably agrees on that front.

This is classic Trump, though. He's got a tough week. Manafort has his trial starting tomorrow. There's a lot of Russia talk. He wants to change the subject. Border security, the wall, that's all a comfortable place for him.

As we have all talked about, though, for Republicans who are vulnerable, this is a terrible topic.

URBAN: Look, I think 4.1 GDP, right, that's what the President should be talking about.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: He did mention that today.

URBAN: Listen, I think that the President is doing a magnificent job in the economy. People vote their pocketbook. It's the economy stupid. I'd be talking about that until you're blue in the face.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, but the President is -- let's be clear, he's not talking about a government shutdown. What he's doing is saying, when I was on the campaign trail, I talked about a Muslim ban. One of my first acts in office was to sign an executive war on immigration. I was part of the family separations in ICE, and there's 40 percent of the population that says I'm in. I agree with David, I don't think there's going to be any government shutdown. This is not about the Congress, this is about talking to people who like to hear him say, I want these people out, and I'm the person who represents you. He's mobilizing people, I don't think he intends to shut down.

PSAKI: And the wall was his biggest crowd-pleasing line at all of his speeches. So, this is like going back to his comfort place of where he knows he can get support, and his people will be excited.

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Big problem with the wall after the -- after the election is Nancy Pelosi may be the speaker then, they may have a smaller number in the House. So, it's not exactly -- I think this wall funding the (INAUDIBLE) this two years where they have lots of control of Congress. It's not clear to me how the wall will be funded next year. And my guess is the President probably knows that. It is not likely to be more funded --

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: It's not about it actually getting passed. It's about him giving a shout to his people.

URBAN: I think Nancy Pelosi is happy to hear Perry say she's going to be speaker.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I've heard -- I've heard -- I've heard Republicans on the Hill anticipate the Democrats have a decent chance. But let me ask you, the wall is good for him, for President Trump, and it's good for his base. Forget the policy. Let's just talk about the politics for a second. It's good for his base, but it's not good for every Republican. You have Dean Heller running for re-election in Nevada. There are bunch -- there are a bunch to hold on to the majority in the House and the Senate, there are a bunch of moderate or at least squishy Republicans so they don't want to talk about the wall.

URBAN: I'd like -- I'd talk about it in different terms, I talk about border security, incredibly important, it's part of our national security. If I was the President, I'd be -- I'd be framing this campaign on all the things he's done economically. He's cut, you know, regulations and tax has gone down, huge GDP increase, you know, tons of money to -- back in taxpayers' pockets. I'd be focusing on the economic issues, things that people -- that people care about. If you go to the -- if you go the shore, people aren't talking about the wall, they're talking about the money they have to go on vacation.

TAPPER: And the Eagles. Yes?

PSAKI: Candidates who are vulnerable like Dean Heller are not running on a Trump platform. They're running on their own platform. They're not considering themselves Trump Republicans, just like vulnerable Democrats are running as Pelosi Democrats, right? So, none of them are --

URBAN: Joe Manchin is barely --

PSAKI: None of them are going to be out there saying, look, what Trump's done. They're going to say look what I'm going to do in Washington.

TAPPER: Jen, (INAUDIBLE) economy, though, but -- no, no, go ahead.

(CROSSTALK) BACON: I would say a lot of the -- if you look at the ads in states

like Dean Heller, you will see them talk about I wrote this tax cut and now the economy is booming, so the candidates are running the economy. The President, I would agree, should be targeting the economy. I'm sort of mystified why he's not to be honest with you.

PSAKI: Sure, that's true. He should be.

TAPPER: Jen, I just want to note since I covered Obama back in 2007 and 2008 when you were working on the campaign, the President today said he would meet with the Iranians without preconditions and I just wondered what thoughts you might have on that very briefly.

PSAKI: Oh, I have many thoughts, Jake. Look, back in 2007 when Obama said this, everyone attacked him including Hillary Clinton for being naive, but that's not the most important thing. Right now, Trump has pulled out of the Iran deal. There's no alternative. He's not familiar with the facts, the details or the fact that multiple countries are part of the Iran deal. That should be the bigger concern. But, yes, it was pretty significant. He said he would meet with them without preconditions today, that's a huge policy shift from a week ago when he was threatening war with them.

TAPPER: And it's -- he's taken on the Obama position which is something that he never does on anything.

PSAKI: Perhaps he will say we should get back into the deal and people will --

TAPPER: No, that will not happen.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: That's not going to happen. That's not going to happen.

TAPPER: All right. Download, and you hit print, and you could make your own 3D-printed gun, but is it really going to be that easy? Plus, a raging inferno, so big and so strong it's creating its own weather system. We're going to go live to California where entire neighborhoods have been reduced to ashes. Stay with us.

[17:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Breaking news in the "NATIONAL LEAD" resources stretched thin in California, as firefighters are trying to get the upper hand on at least 20 wildfires burning in that state, one of the most intense, the Carr Fire, blamed for six deaths including those of two firefighters and it's damaged or destroyed more than 900 buildings. Tens of thousands of people are under orders to evacuate. I want to go right to CNN's Nick Watt, he's live for us in Redding, California. And Nick, some heartbreaking stories as a result of this fire.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Listen, Jake, sadly, the conditions here right now are near perfect for a wildfire. It's hot. My phone just told me it's 96 degrees, the humidity is low, and there is still a lot of vegetation, dead vegetation left from California's drought and that is perfect fuel. We are in Redding, just outside Redding. This just one of 700 homes, 700 plus homes destroyed in this area. And behind each destroyed home, Jake, there is a tale of loss and heartbreak.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: One of the most destructive fires to ever burn in California. 150 square miles, an area the size of Denver, scorched. Almost a thousand buildings destroyed, 38,000 people forced to flee their homes and six lives lost. So far, among them, two firefighters, one person who refused to evacuate, and three members of a family who were getting ready to flee the flames. Ed Bledsoe spoke to his wife, Melody, and their great grandchildren, Emily and James, moments before the fire reached them.

[16:55:09] ED BLEDSOE, LOST THREE FAMILY MEMBERS IN WILDFIRES: It's going to get me. The fire is coming in the back door, come on, grandpa. I said, I'm down the road. He said, come and get us. Emily said, I love you, grandpa. And Junior says, I love you, come and get us. Come and get us. I said, I'm on my way.

WATT: The fire is so large and temperatures so hot, it is creating its own weather system that can be seen from space. Gail force winds whipped towering flames into what firefighters describe as fire tornados, and the fire actually doubled in size overnight at the weekend. This isn't just a back country blaze, the fire threatening and burning parts of Redding, California, a population more than 90,000.

ROGER MOORE, CHIEF, REDDING POLICE: This fire is scary to us. This is something we haven't seen before in the city.

WATT: Some were given only 30 minutes to evacuate, not knowing if they would ever see their homes again.

JOSH LISTER, FAMILY LOST IN WILDFIRES: It looked like an atomic bomb went off. After the fact, we got a few pictures from friends, but it was a firestorm when we left.

WATT: For the Lister family, their worst fears realized, they lost everything. There are now scattered reports of looting in those abandoned areas, and on the fire lines, 17 helicopters, 300 engines and over 3,000 personnel continue to fight for control of this inferno.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And today, we did get our first sliver of good news. This fire is now 20 percent contained. They've been concentrating along the line where the fire meets these houses, but Jake, the temperature is set to go up, above 100 again in the next few hours and we have some gusty winds forecast for here in Central California. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Nick Watt for us. Thank you so much. In our "BURIED LEAD" today, these are stories we feel are not getting enough attention. Critics are calling it downloadable death and carnage just a click away, plans for 3D-printable guns, actual downloadable, gun blueprints are about to be legally available online in America due to a State Department decision and the battle to put this printing job on hold is already underway, but how concerned should Americans really be about this move and about this technology? CNN's Tom Foreman filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Gun control advocates are howling over the sudden availability of instructions for producing a plastic single shot handgun on any 3D printer capable of the job, arguing it is a first shot toward criminals and terrorists getting untraceable, largely undetectable guns on demand.

NICK SUPLINA, EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY: This is not simply instructions, this is download, plug and play.

FOREMAN: Even though such specialized printers remain relatively costly and are not yet common, a nationwide prosecutors group says the development undermines critical public safety laws. And on Capitol Hill --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked the State Department to please reconsidering this decision. I think it has long-term national security and domestic security considerations for our country.

FOREMAN: At the center of the controversy is Defense Distributed, a non-profit in Texas that's been fighting the State Department for several years over the firm's desire to release the gun plans, insisting this is a free speech case. These are merely instructions to build something. Cody Wilson who leads the company has described himself as a crypto anarchist on a mission.

CODY WILSON, FOUNDER, DEFENSE DISTRIBUTED: Giving you the ability to make something to military specification, but like affordably.

FOREMAN: Kind of. A ghost gunner machine from Defense Distributed, a 3D printer specifically designed to make gun components at home cost well over $1,000, beyond the range of some casual buyers, but --

SUPLINA: The price point here is not prohibitive for those who right now, have an interest in undetectable, and at times, untraceable firearms.

FOREMAN: And with that consumer-friendly device and downloadable plans, the company insists you can make more advanced guns with metal parts in your garage or basement, no trouble.

WILSON: And it's become kind of culturally edgy in the gun world to have your own ghost gun before at least I want to know that got one or two that nobody knows about.

FOREMAN: And according to federal agents, while the law prohibits firearms that cannot be detected by metal detectors or x-ray machines, making other guns for your own use at home, yes, that's fully legal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Some states are mounting legal challenges are onto these practices, but this is mainly a fight about the future, right now, fully plastic guns remain extremely limited in their capability and reliability. And as for bigger, better guns involving metal, it's still cheaper and more effective for most criminals to buy them on the open or black market, but as the technology advances, the worry about untraceable guns emerging from garages is only going to grow, Jake.

[17:00:01] TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.