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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Supporters Heckle Reporters at Rally; Paul Manafort Trial Continues. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 1, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:31:44]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: As the Paul Manafort trial hits days two, Judge T.S. Ellis -- not T.S. Eliot -- T.S. Ellis has proven to be an outspoken player so far, challenging both Mueller's team and the defendants at nearly every turn, though this is hardly shocking as we learn more about Ellis.

One form U.S. attorney told "The Washington Post" that Judge Ellis has -- quote -- "torn my head off in front of my wife multiple times" -- unquote.

CNN's Evan Perez was in the courtroom for day two of the trial.

Evan, Ellis is known for -- did you see any of that today?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jake.

Look, we have heard a lot of T.S. Ellis a few weeks ago when he briefly became President Trump's favorite judge when he took down the special counsel, saying that he knew that this trial against Paul Manafort wasn't really about bank fraud, but it was really about bringing down Donald Trump.

And today -- we saw a lot of this today. He began court today by bringing up the use of the word oligarch. He said that prosecutors should not be using the word because it suggests that Paul Manafort was associating with despicable people.

Now, Ukrainian oligarchs are some of the people that Paul Manafort was getting paid the $60 million that the government says that he was hiding in these offshore bank accounts. The judge also took issue with the government using photos of some of the lavish things that Paul Manafort was spending some of this money on.

So you mentioned the ostrich coat yesterday and the Mercedes that one of the witnesses was testifying about just in the last hour. And, Jake, he also was a scolding the prosecutor, saying that you remember that Paul Manafort's wealth is not really what's on trial here today -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thanks so much.

In addition to defending President Trump's call for Attorney General Sessions to stop the law enforcement investigation into Russian election interference, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders this afternoon tried to explain whether Mr. Trump has any problem with his supporters heckling and berating reporters who are trying to do their jobs.

This came after the latest incident of a CNN reporter shouted down during a live appearance at the president's rally this time last night in Tampa, Florida. Sanders suggested that the White House has no issue with that mob scene last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: While we certainly support freedom of the press, we also support freedom of speech.

And we think that those things go hand in hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump himself has made clear that he thinks that kind of behavior is great. His son Eric approvingly retweeted that clip of the crowd heckling CNN and the president retweeted it to his more than 53 million followers.

The erosion of basic standards of civility and human decency continues. It's not just a Republican phenomenon, but we are being led down the drain by President Trump. To Trump supporters out there, imagine liberals shouting down a reporter from an outlet that they didn't like, and a Democratic president giving that mob an attaboy. Would that be acceptable?

Let's talk about it with our experts.

Symone, what do you think?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think we're going into dangerous territory here.

There is -- there is absolutely a difference between freedom of speech and someone heckling and threatening and putting people's lives in danger. I mean, I think I caught something on Twitter last night about a protest at Old Miss years ago during the civil rights movement, and reporters were reporting on the issue.

[16:35:08]

Folks were standing outside, and the mob were heckling the reporters, and it ended in a brawl where a reporter lost his life. And so these are -- these are dangerous times for lots of people, and, unfortunately, the media included.

And I just wish that the president would take the reins and help dial back this rhetoric.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, this is the type of behavior that happens in authoritarian societies, where leaders and their supporters are pushing down the media, pushing down people who are protesting.

And this is something that people watch the United States and they say, what is this president, what are their spokespeople doing? They are repressing free speech. They are repressing the rights of the media. It's not only dangerous. It's sending a terrible message to the world.

I know, when I was the State Department spokesperson, I had people who were in that briefing room who were from the government of China, the government of Russia who would yell at me and make absurd claims. FOX News impugned my reputation multiple times.

You still took questions from them.

TAPPER: We took a couple of whacks at you on this show too.

(LAUGHTER)

PSAKI: Sure.

You still took questions from them. You still serve the government. You still are serving the American people. And that's part of your job.

TAPPER: They went after you last week, because you are asking the White House, I mean, went after you last week because you were trying to ask some questions at a pool spray. And then there was this whole thing where they banned you from an event.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think they're separate situations. That was -- they didn't like the questions that I asked the president. They didn't think they were appropriate to ask in front of another world leader, which I did in the Oval Office.

That's different when the White House is trying to restrict that speech, trying to restrict you from being able to ask questions of that -- of the president. I do think that those supporters last night at that rally in Tampa do have free speech. They can chant whatever they would want like that.

I also think a lot of people at that rally aren't like that, and don't go and chant things like that.

TAPPER: Most of them are not like that.

COLLINS: Right.

A lot of them are decent people who do not feel that way about the media. They go and watch the news at night and all of those things. I do think that is a minority doing that. But, also, I think the reason this is newsworthy, and the reason, though, the White House is having to answer for it is because the president retweeted a video of it happening that his son had tweeted out.

So I think that raises the question of, is the president endorsing behavior like this? Certainly, at those rallies, he's the one who calls out the media at the back of the room, gets everything to turn around, boo them, hiss at them, whatever they do.

So, I do think that he does play a role in it. I think that's why the White House is being questioned about it. But I do think that there should be free speech, obviously.

PSAKI: Of course. And there's people who are on the left who also get excited, not to the same degree, not about the same -- not about the same exact things, obviously.

TAPPER: We should point out -- I just want to point out a few weeks ago, Shannon Bream from FOX was trying to do a live shot outside the Supreme Court, and she felt -- I wasn't there. I didn't witness it.

It wasn't on camera, as far as I know. But she felt like it wasn't safe for her to stay there. And she took in -- she went indoors, and that was obviously progressives, liberals heckling her.

The problem is that it doesn't end. Like, it just keeps descending and it gets worse and worse and worse. And that's why you need a president or a White House to say we don't support that, reporters should be able to do their jobs.

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think you need leaders in general to do that.

We hear -- and, look, I have made no secret this is -- I'm not a fan of this, right? I have spent my entire career...

TAPPER: Absolutely.

HOLMES: ... working with the press. And I believe that there is a very important function you play.

As many times as I have taken calls from folks and not liked the questions, I still think it's important.

All that being said, I think we talk too much about it, because I think that the common decency piece of this has less to do with the press and more to do with everything.

I have had -- you mentioned my former boss Senator McConnell. I don't think he's had lunch in three weeks without being heckled by a crowd of anti-ICE protesters who are trying to disrupt his lunch and everybody else there and trying to bully people and trying to get people basically intimidated.

TAPPER: Yes.

HOLMES: And that is just -- there's no place in a society that is built on the rule of law, on respect of others.

And does the president have a role in that? Absolutely. But so does everybody else. SANDERS: Can I just say something, because Josh just -- so, one, I would like to point out when I said that there's a difference between freedom of speech and folks threatening the lives of other folks and heckling them, not to say they don't have freedom of speech, but people are free to say whatever they what, but not without consequence.

If folks were yelling the N-word in that crowd or slurs about LGBTQ+ people, I think we would not be defending that in any way, shape, or form. And not that anyone is.

But, secondly, Josh made a point earlier about the fact that the rules have changed under President Trump, that President Trump has not necessarily done things the way they have always been done.

And so if the rules have in fact changed, which I do believe they have, I think we have to also get creative and change with the times. So while I don't -- again, like I have noted on the show, I want to go to Shake Shack and eat my burger without being heckled.

But, damn it, kids are in cages. And kids are in cages at the border and all over and being ripped away from their families all over this country. And there are many people that feel as though Republicans in Congress haven't done enough about it.

And so if Mitch McConnell can't eat in peace, maybe that's the rule -- that's the name of the game at this point in time.

HOLMES: I feel like what you're doing right now is making the situation worse.

[16:40:01]

Nobody is suggesting that you shouldn't be passionate about issues. Nobody is suggesting that there are not venues to express your opinion. What I'm suggesting -- and I think what I hope most people would agree with -- is it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to accost public officials in a public place with their family and try to make things uncomfortable for everybody to a point where they fear for their own safety.

I think we should be able to all agree on that at a bare minimum.

PSAKI: I think it's clear that Senator McConnell was not being accosted in public, by your description.

(CROSSTALK)

PSAKI: I think the point Symone is making...

TAPPER: Well, did you see the video when he and his wife were coming out of the building and people came up to them as they were trying to get into the car? There was some time...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: I mean, there's been like four different events.

PSAKI: I guess I think that people being uncomfortable, that we should be comfortable with that.

There's a difference between that and President Trump inciting violence.

HOLMES: Let me get this straight.

We are deadly concerned about a press bullpen that is protected by Secret Service, about the health and well-being of that press. I am, actually.

But, as a panel, we have decided that that is significant. What is insignificant is a public official having lunch being accosted by people? Maybe it's because he's Republican.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Just for the record, we covered this when this happened three or weeks ago. And so we don't think that there is -- I'm not saying that there is a difference or a distinction. People should be able to live their lives.

HOLMES: You did. I'm not saying there is a bias against...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But I think one of the questions is President Trump's role in this, right?

I mean, people are going to be unruly left, right, center, but especially left and right. But what is the role of a president in that unruliness? Is he responsible to stop it or to tamp things down?

PSAKI: That's the core question.

And when you say we're not -- we're talking about it too much, I just disagree with that. We should be talking about it more.

HOLMES: No, I just think civility in general, we should talk about more, right?

PSAKI: Of course.

But, look, President Obama was accosted often. I mean, there were people who were protesting him at probably nearly every event. When you're a public official, that's what happens. I'm not saying we should condone it, but it is something that happens.

The president of the United States should be the person who is calling for calm, who is greeting the protesters or greeting people who disagree with him in a different way.

(CROSSTALK) HOLMES: I agree with you. Everything you said, I agree with, except, as a panel, we have just concluded that it's OK if people accost public officials.

That's just the price of being a public official. So, which is it?

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I want to be clear that there's a difference heckling.

TAPPER: I don't think the panel...

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I think there's a difference between the president and his supporters inciting violence against reporters for doing their job and reporting the news, and I think there's a difference in that and people who are organizing and protesting and using the tools at their disposal, whether it's organizing outside of a member of Congress' office or organizing outside of a restaurant to raise issues or to raise their voices on issues that matter.

We cannot, in my opinion, equate what a lot of the Trump supporters are doing and the president is doing to folks on the left who are concerned about their well-being.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: And that's ridiculous. That's what I'm saying.

SANDERS: It's not ridiculous.

It is literally life or death for so many people in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Just because of what you feel does not make it different.

SANDERS: It's not about what they feel, Josh.

I think you're operating from a position of privilege, because you do not leave your house every day in fear. There are people that leave their house and go to -- there are heir people that leave their homes every day and wonder if they will be snatched off the streets and deported, rounded up and deported.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: There are people that walk out of their homes every day, get in the car and drive, and fear they will be pulled over and maybe shot and killed by a police officer because the altercation might go wrong.

HOLMES: What does that have to do with the conversation we're having?

SANDERS: It has to do with everything.

So people are organizing and rising up because this is what they feel they need to do in this moment.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: This ain't the same thing with the Trump supporters.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: My whole point is, civility doesn't have a partisan chip to it. It doesn't. It's a Republican problem, a Democrat problem. We all should speak to it.

And I think it does a disservice to all of this when we make it a partisan issue.

TAPPER: Everyone, stay here. We're going to talk about more coming up.

The TSA is supposed to keep the skies safe, so why is the agency considering not screening thousands of passengers? The stunning proposal you're going to hear about first on THE LEAD right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Breaking news in our "NATIONAL LEAD" a CNN exclusive by Rene Marsh. The President ran for office in part on the promise of prioritizing protecting Americans from terrorist. But despite that major campaign platform, his administration ending passenger security screenings in more than 150 airports in the United States to cut costs according to internal agency documents obtained by CNN. Rene Marsh offers this exclusive story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: TSA is considering allowing thousands of passengers to board commercial airplanes across the United States without being screened. That's according to internal documents obtained by CNN. The documents from June and July outlined an elimination of security screening at small and some medium-sized airports that operate commercial planes with 60 seats or fewer. TSA's recent cost analysis estimates the move could save $115 million that could be used to security at large airports.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I think it's stunning that this is even being seriously considered.

MARSH: The proposal does not list which airports could be impacted but says screening would be eliminated at more than 150. TSA currently screens passengers at 440 airports. According to the proposal, passengers and luggage arriving from the smaller airports would be screened when they arrive at major ones. Their operating theory is attacks with small aircraft would not be as attractive a payoff to terrorists because the potential for loss of life would be less than what terrorists could achieve with larger planes. National security experts disagree. CRUICKSHANK: ISIS (INAUDIBLE) message is attack in any way you can

big or small against anybody that you can -- that you can go after. And so the opportunity to go after a 50-person passenger jet or aircraft is going to be very attractive to the group in terms of its messaging.

[16:50:17] MARSH: In an e-mail to CNN, TSA said "this is not a new issue. The regulations which establish TSA does not require screening below a certain level." So every year is "the year that TSA will reconsider screening." CNN asked TSA to point us to that regulation. The agency has not responded. 20 TSA employees recently met to evaluate the cost-saving proposal that could mean less hassle for thousands of travelers. The group determined the plan could increase security vulnerabilities at airports but overall the risk is low.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: I guess the big question, Rene, why now?

MARSH: I mean, that is the big question and to be honest it's really unclear. We do know from looking through all the documents there is clearly a cost-saving component to all of this but as far as what other factors may be coming into play we've asked TSA and have not received a response.

TAPPER: All right, a controversial proposal that TSA is contemplating. They have not enacted it yet. Rene Marsh, thank you so much. Turning that to our "MONEY LEAD," Apple now within striking distance of becoming the first American company worth $1 trillion. Wondering how? Well, take a look in your pocket. The company's most recent surge came after a report that showed people are still shelling out for the most expensive iPhone models like the iPhone 10 even though the next new phone could be just a month away. Coming up, among the MAGA hats and pro-Trump t-shirts at the President's Tampa rally last night, we found one letter that's raising a lot of eyebrows. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: We're back with the "POLITICS LEAD." They wore shirts and signs emblazoned with the letter Q. Their numbers seem to be growing and they were spotted last night at President Trump's Florida rally. They are a new fringe conspiracy group called could QAnon. I want to bring in CNN's Tom Foreman. Tom, who are these people and what do they believe?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Broadly speaking, these are people that deeply distrust the government, the main stream media and treat any faction that Donald Trump is wrong about anything as a proof of a deep plot against him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Photos of missiles and mysterious strangers rants about a shadow government, Free Mason, secret symbols and prediction of a world about to change. All of this is a part of the conspiracy stew cooked up by QAnon, an internet conspiracy persona. Some followers of whom showed up at the President's recent rally and many whom see him as a hero, like them, ready to embrace wild theories to claim secret plots against him and to attack anyone who says otherwise.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake news, fake news. They are fake.

FOREMAN: Internet posting associate with the movement gained traction fast among followers, like one that says the Parkland school shooting victims and witnesses were really actors. NBC News noted earlier this week a spate of YouTube videos falsely accusing top celebrities of pedophilia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The higher you go, the more -- the more sick it gets.

FOREMAN: At the same time the Q is attracting interest from others including Roseanne Barr and Curt Schilling.

CURT SCHILLING: And I've been asked, do you believe the Q? Do you know who the Q is?

FOREMAN: The Washington Post says Q is an anonymous user claiming to be a government agent with top security clearance waging war against the so-called deep state in service to the 45th President. But back on earth, this is known, the promotion of the conspiracy theories has real consequence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Hoover Dam was evacuated.

FOREMAN: In June, police detained an armed man after he blocked Hoover Dam demanding the release of a government report apparently about Hillary Clinton's e-mail, although such a report was already out. In 2016, police say a man fired a rife until a D.C. pizza place as he claimed he was investigating a widespread conspiracy theory about human trafficking. He was convicted and is now serving four years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not covering Pizzagate now.

FOREMAN: And Alex Jones who pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy on his radio show is now in court over another made-up tale. Families of victims in the Sandy Hook school shooting say they have been hounded mercilessly since Jones claims their stories were all part of a hoax to push for gun control. He is countersuing them for legal defense fees.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Jones has also claimed the government was involved in the Oklahoma City bomb and 9/11 attacks and yet back in 2015, Candidate Donald Trump told this leading promoter of conspiracy theories, your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down. So perhaps there's no surprise these QAnon conspiracy folks are showing up at the Trump rallies and making themselves heard. Jake? TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thanks so much for that report. I appreciate it. You can you follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can twee the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage now continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, the star of the new Mission Impossible movie. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, obstruction versus opinion. Shock waves are spreading after President Trump calls for the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop the Mueller investigation right now. The White House says it's just an opinion but could it be obstruction of justice?