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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

U.S. to Sanction Russia Over Nerve Agent Attack; Election Results. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 8, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: About Russia's ongoing interference in U.S. politics.

QUESTION: Senator, did you speak about election interference as well? Did that come up?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We had general discussions of a lot of issues. And, basically, we have decided that, right now, what we're trying to do is have dialogue. And I don't think we solve issues, other than -- see, our biggest issue right now is no dialogue. Is isn't the issues at hand.

SCIUTTO: Paul's apparent lack of urgency stands in sharp contrast to the nation's senior-most national security officials.

Just last week, they delivered the stark warning that Russian interference remains pervasive today.

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It goes beyond the elections. It goes to Russia's intent to undermine our democratic values.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Now, Putin's press secretary says that this letter was delivered through what he called diplomatic channels. They say, the Kremlin, that they have not yet reviewed it.

And we should note that the meeting between Trump -- or, rather, between Putin and Paul has not happened -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

We will talk about with our experts now.

Mary Katharine, there's just this schizophrenic foreign policy when it comes to Russia. I don't really understand. On one hand, you have Coats and Wray and all the national security officials saying the Russians are they -- attack us in 2016, cyber, they're doing it again right now. And then you have President Trump and Rand Paul, who seem to be on a different page.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Yes, you constantly have this huge divergence between what the

president specifically is saying publicly and the policies that they're putting in place, many of which are tough and good. But that's a problem because what the president says matters.

Now, Rand Paul has always been more on the interventionist, leaning toward isolationist side when it comes to foreign policy than many people in the Senate. This isn't like a huge shift for him, but I hate the way this is being framed by many Trump supporters and by more libertarian parts of the party, where it says it's either war or diplomacy, all-out or diplomacy.

We can do diplomacy with a more clear-eyed vision of exactly what Putin is and exactly what Russia is trying to do. Moral clarity and diplomacy can go together.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What is Rand Paul meeting with people going to do about Claire McCaskill, who's still getting hacked by the Russians in Missouri?

I just don't understand this insatiable need of some people in Congress to run over there and meet with President Putin. It just makes no sense to me, when we are currently under threat. We are less than 100 days from the midterm elections. And cyber-security-wise, there are many people that are in fact not safe.

So I just think that folks need to be taking this a lot more seriously. And I hope that Rand Paul gets a reaming when he gets back to Congress from some of his colleagues that are asking what the hell he's doing.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Symone, that's very much -- welcome, welcome to a hawkish foreign policy.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Why is Trump writing a letter for Rand Paul?

I mean, Rand Paul is...

(CROSSTALK)

JASON KANDER (D), FORMER MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE: You open it up, it says made guy.

(LAUGHTER)

KRISTOL: Yes.

I mean, seriously, he has an ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, if he wishes to transmit messages to Vladimir Putin. He can pick up the phone and talk to him, I suppose. He's got a national security visor.

Paul has been against. Didn't the sanctions in the past...

(CROSSTALK) KRISTOL: It was like 98-2. He's one of the two.

He is against the policy of the huge majority of Congress on Putin, which Trump has reluctantly acceded to in some respects. So giving Paul the letter really undercuts the notion that there is a tough Russia policy, I think.

KANDER: Sometimes, it's helpful to step back and look at this from high up.

And what I'm reminded of is, you talk about, like, a schizophrenia foreign policy. Right? We're supposed to be one big family, like it's supposed to stop at the water's edge. And it just reminds me of like, when I was a kid, and my younger brother was smaller than me, we would get in fights. And I would beat him up a little bit.

But if you came from down the street and tried to beat up my little brother, I was going to kick your butt. That's how it's always worked in this country for the most part. Republicans and Democrats, we have arguments inside the house. But if you come and try and attack the house, or come after one of us, we band together and kick your butt.

This is not how it's supposed to go. And, apparently, the way you get in the good graces of President Trump is you say, hey, I would love to go meet with your buddy Putin.

TAPPER: Now, you pointed out that this is not new, this kind of foreign policy for Rand Paul.

He's been a skeptic of the more hawkish foreign policy towards Russia. But what is interesting is he's been very critical when they were running against each other of Donald Trump, specifically on how Donald Trump would handle Vladimir Putin.

In fact, during that second Republican debate that I moderated in Simi Valley at the Reagan Library, take a listen to what Rand Paul had to say about Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Do we want someone with that kind of character, that kind of careless language to be negotiating with Putin?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Apparently so.

HAM: That is a good question, Senator Paul.

And I also take issue with -- Paul said the problem is there is no dialogue. The president just sat down with Putin very recently, as we all remember, and the dialogue may be some of the problem, and his careless speaking within said dialogue is part of the problem.

So I agree with old Senator Paul, I guess. TAPPER: I guess the other question, Bill, is if the Russians are still attacking the United States -- Facebook just last week, I think, took down some ads that were supposedly by the Russians trying to foment discord in the United States.

[16:35:06]

You had Dan Coats, all these intelligence people talking about how the Russians are still attacking us. Why is there's this constant need to go and talk to people who are attacking the citizens of the United States?

KRISTOL: No, it's pathetic. They are also attacking Russian dissidents in England, Great Britain, an ally of ours, and killing actually one woman, British woman, right, inadvertently, I guess, as a result of their -- but they have an attack, chemical weapons, on British soil.

Look, if a bipartisan delegations. This is sort of Jason's -- a bipartisan delegation went over there, senior senators, senator congressmen, said -- to talk tough to Putin and say, we have a bipartisan consensus in this country that you will pay a big price for continuing to do this and also for other things you're doing in Ukraine or elsewhere and in Britain, that would be one thing.

There's a case for Congress weighing in, in support of a tough U.S. foreign policy. There's not much case for one senator going over and trying to undercut American foreign policy.

TAPPER: And, Mary Katharine, Rand Paul spoke last month about the importance of diplomacy with Russia and it kind of gets to the false choice that you say he makes. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Nobody is saying or excusing Russia's meddling in our elections. Absolutely, we should protect the integrity of our elections.

But simply bringing the hatred of the president to the Senate floor in order to say we're done with diplomacy, the hatred for the president is so intense that partisans would rather risk war then give diplomacy a chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is that you? Are you a partisan that would rather risk war because you hate Donald Trump so much?

KANDER: I'm pretty sure that diplomacy has been the reason for a really long time that we didn't go directly to war with Russia or the Soviet Union.

So I really don't get the idea that for the longest time we have been having this debate, should we go to war with Russia or should we have diplomacy? I think that's not true. It's really more he's saying like someone is trying to burglarize his House and he's like, we should just talk to them. I mean, it doesn't make any sense.

TAPPER: Is it appeasement, do you think?

HAM: Well, at Symone points out, there's also urgency here, because we are close to an election, and that's what they're trying to mess with.

So having it present at the top of your mind and dealing with it strictly is important.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

The president may be touting a GOP sweep in the latest primaries. Not so fast. The red alerts show the results about Republicans and Democrats about November. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:50]

TAPPER: And we're back with the politics lead.

Are the lights blinking red for Republicans in November? Last night's special election race in Ohio's 12th Congressional District is still too close to call.

Republican Troy Balderson is claiming victory. He has a narrow lead, but his Democratic opponent, Danny O'Connor, has not conceded, given that the number of votes that have yet to be counted outnumber the slim margin of Balderson's lead.

It's a seat that's been safely in Republican hands since Ronald Reagan was president. Either way, the two candidates are going to square off again come November.

Let's talk about the election results.

Jason Kander, you're a former Democratic secretary of state in Missouri and you just put out a new book titled "Outside the Wire: Then Lessons I've Learned in Everyday Courage."

It partly focuses on your life and politics and the military. Gives advice for Democrats in 2018 and beyond.

What lessons are you taking from the Ohio 12th race last night, where it looks like the Republican probably eked out a victory?

KANDER: Well, first of all, as you mentioned, this district has been Republican since 1982. I mean, I was born in 1981. So that seems like a pretty long time ago, right?

And I guess the lesson to take from all of this that we have seen recently is, Democrats, we sort of have our mojo back and we're out there making an argument. And one of the points that I make in "Outside the Wire" is that you have to go out and actually try to convince people of things because that's how they know that you're passionate enough and that you actually care enough to try and fight for them.

Passion is persuasive. One of the stories I tell in the book is that one of the very first doors I ever knocked on, a fellow came to the door. It was clear immediately that we didn't agree on things. I started to get nervous about it. I started do what I had seen politicians on TV do.

I'm trying to convince this fellow we actually agree. It gets worse and then I just decided I got to move on, so I thank him for his time, say that's what I believe. And as I'm walking away, he goes, well, that's fair. I will vote for you. You can put a sign in my yard.

And the lesson from that is, it's not a test. It's not a multiple choice test, where they're going down with an Excel spreadsheet and saying, well, they're with me on this. They're trying to figure out if you care enough to say what you really believe and then if you believe what you do because you care about them.

That's solid politics right there.

TAPPER: That's an interesting story.

Mary Katharine, the president taking credit for Troy Balderson's victory. He tweeted -- quote -- "When I decided to go to Ohio for Troy Balderson, he was down in early voting 64-36. That was not good. After my speech on Saturday night, there was a big turn for the better. Now Troy wins a great victory during a very tough time of the year for voting. He will win big in November."

He noted in follow-up tweets that he went five for five. That's a reference to the five candidates that he endorsed, one in a special election and four in primaries winning.

Does he deserve some credit here?

HAM: I mean, if anything, it might be a win for the great historic Trump-Kasich alliance.

I'm only half-kidding. But there was lower turnout than expected in the rural areas, which you would expect Trump to sort of pump up, and Kasich areas, the more educated, exurban and suburban areas, had better turnout.

It would be crazy for Republicans not to see this as a warning sign. This is a hugely Republican district, and we're getting very close to the November election. This should be every reason in the world to make sure you have your T's crossing and your I's dotted.

And I think Democrats have shown surprisingly good in special elections of turning enthusiasm into actual geo TV. Alabama, I think, was the first example of this. And it doesn't always pull them across the line. But special elections are very hard. And a regular election is a bit

easier. And many of these districts are going to be tougher than this district for Republicans.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes. There's a race in Kansas for a gubernatorial primary. President Trump supporting, endorsing a Kris Kobach, Secretary of State over the incumbent governor, and right now Kobach is leading by less than 200 votes over the incumbent Governor Kovach is the Secretary of State. He said he's not going to recuse himself from any sort of state-level recounts. I'll get your take on this in a second but what do you think about that? I mean, just in the name of ethics, shouldn't he given that it's his own race?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, you think so. And I think it's pretty straightforward to super -- I mean, to supervise a recount honestly just make sure that everyone's bathing -- doing things according to the book so why not recuse yourself, you would think. He -- Democrats think he'll be easier -- they will have a chance of winning if Kovach does win the nomination. They nominated an attractive candidate. The two of the Kansas seats have just moved a couple of the ratings you know, to do this professionally from lead Republican or likely Republican toss-ups. If you look over at Kansas, Michigan, Washington as well as Ohio, the piece they said primary yesterday, they all look pretty good for the Democrats, better turnout.

If you look at how people voted in each parties, obviously there were Republican versus Democratic matchups but yes, so Republicans should be worried. Honestly, I do -- I joked with after listening for. The a single card Republicans have left to play, I talked to a Republican operative about this morning is Nancy Pelosi in these House seats. There are a lot of people --

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And that's a sad place to be.

KRISTOL: Think of -- I'm sorry. Think about this issue. If you voted Republican all your life since 1982, you're a swing voter, upper middle-class swing voter outside Columbus and you don't like Trump and you think maybe a Democratic House could check Trump and maybe this Democrat who's been nominated is pretty moderate and you can live with it for at least two, four years, and then they show the picture of Nancy Pelosi in the Democratic House and everything you just liked about the Democratic Party fair or unfair but you remember you're a Republican voter by definition right for the last ten years, twenty years, comes back and I think if she stood up -- if she took at a press conference on October 15th and said I will work my heart out to help Democrats in the House and I will not stand for Speaker. I'll let another generation to take over --

SANDERS: No, Nancy Pelosi --

KRISTOL: That would put the Democrats over the top --

SANDERS: To be clear --

KRISTOL: And they'll probably win the Senate too, and they'll win the Senate too.

SANDERS: -- I don't work for nor do I advise Leader Pelosi, but I will say is this. The fact of the matter is if that's the card that Republicans running all across the country have to play, it's a sad place to be and that blue wave will definitely be coming. I think --

HAM: I would normally (INAUDIBLE) but I think it keeps working and honestly --

SANDERS: No, but it's not working. But the fact -- because what I'm telling you is that look, these voters -- I think we're not giving voters enough credit. Folks living in again McDowell County, West Virginia, places in Missouri, I mean out in Michigan, they are just not thinking about Nancy Pelosi, they think about health care. They're thinking about education, they're thinking about the economy. And had not been --

KRISTOL: I just think the Republicans operatives are spending a lot of money on ads with Nancy Pelosi.

SANDERS: And they are losing is what I'm telling you. They are losing. They are losing. I want them to keep spending their money.

JASON KANDER (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, MISSOURI: Will you go back to Kobach for a second though?

TAPPER: Yes, what would you do as Secretary of State? You didn't have a recount when you ran.

KANDER: I was on the ballot.

KRISTOL: Yes, rub it in there, Jake. That was really nice.

KANDER: No, it's OK.

TAPPER: When you -- when you ran for Senate, you were Secretary of State and you didn't have a recount but --

KANDER: We had a plan in place.

TAPPER: You get --

KANDER: We had a plan in place. The plan was I was going to recuse myself. We knew it was going to be very close -- it's obvious right. And now we're talking about there's 200 votes difference and here's what I'm worried about. Like, I'm obviously largely worried about the bigger level the fact that I'm running to be the Mayor Kansas City which borders Kansas and so I have many reasons why I do not want Kris Kobach to be Governor next door and we could do a whole show about that but we probably can't.

(CROSSTALK)

KANDER: I would love to do that show because -- anyway --

KRISTOL: First you'd have to explain why Kansas City isn't in Kansas and why borders can't call it. It's so confusing.

KANDER: Let's do a whole show on Kansas City. I think it's a great idea.

TAPPER: OK, keep going.

KANDER: Kris Kobach, look, this -- the reason I think it's really scary is one, like it's 200 votes and he shouldn't be in charge of counting those 200 votes when he's on the ballot which is why I was going to recuse myself but what I'm worried about right now in this moment, that people need to know is that Kris Kobach has a very dangerous superpower that he will deploy in the next few days, a villainous superpower. And it is he can say racist or extremist or horrible or dangerous things and he can do it in a very reasonable sounding tone that sometimes will deceive his audience and I guarantee you he's about to do that about whether or not a secretary of state was on the ballot for governor should conduct their own recount and I hope people are watching.

TAPPER: I should note that we invite Mr. Kovack to come on and respond to what you just said. But Symone, I would want to ask you one thing because obviously one of the other stories last night was the fact that a lot of the more left-leaning Democrats did not win. In fact Alexandria Ocacio-Cortes she endorsed a whole bunch of candidates and most of them lost. Does this suggest Democrats are actually much more centrist and less enamored with the Bernie Sanders wing from which you come or not?

SANDERS: No, I don't think that's what it suggests at all. Look, I think it suggests that in some places people ran better campaigns. I look at Sharice Davis in Kansas City -- what is it? Kansas District Three who was poised to be the first Native American woman elected to Congress. She won her primary. She's a progressive. So I think that it depends on how you run a race, where you're running.

[16:50:15] TAPPER: But she wasn't endorsed by --

SANDERS: But -- she wasn't endorsed but who's to say that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes or to even just be frank our revolution is the only step you need to be progressive. There are progressive people out there to vote for Bernie Sanders that don't like me. They think I sold out, Jake. They are not the parameter by which I judge my progressiveness today.

KANDER: Can I say one more thing about that as well which is that folks are not -- like in my race for mayor, people showing up and every other race I've seen, people are not doing it because of somebody they saw on T.V. like we should start with that. People are doing it because somebody called them up a year ago and said I'm going to this town hall and we're going to ask questions about health care no matter how red this district is do you want to go. People are being brought into the movement by their neighbors not by the --

TAPPER: Everyone stick around. We got more to talk about in the next panel. Coming up next, flooding her feed, the strong message that celebrities are trying to send Ivanka Trump right now on Instagram. Is she reading any of them or is she unfollowing? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "POP CULTURE LEAD" today. Dear, Ivanka. Liberal celebrities such as comedians, Chelsea Handler or Amy Schumer, they're launching an Instagram campaign urging the First Daughter and Advisor to the President to do more about the migrant kids who remain separated from their parents. The post reads "you said family separation was a low point for you, the low point is for the separated families. You spoke in past tense, this crisis is ongoing." As of Thursday, we should note the administration says 572 separated children remain in government custody. Mary Katherine, can this be effective at all? We know that Ivanka does come from a world where she likes the approval of fellow celebrities and there's a suspicion that she's actually not really much of a Republican?

HAM: Right. I think that ship has sailed for the approval of fellow celebrities at this point and I think as to whether it can be effective, probably not. Although I do think the past tense that is more clever than a lot of celebrity campaigns you see. This is sort of a -- like a perfect distillation of the pop culture war that the Trump campaign and celebrities are happy to play against each other forever and ever amen and we will be subjected to it again and again and again. Look it'll bring attention, it will put it fire possibly under people's feet about this issue. I'm not sure that A she wields any power or that when she does it's not super public.

SANDERS: Mary Katharine makes a good point. I don't think Ivanka wills any power but I will say that I think this campaign will be effective affecting her personally because it's her name in the media and Ivanka still have a lot of -- a lot of liberal friends where Ivanka just like look I'm here, I'm in here doing it because I think this is the right thing to do. But we cannot confuse Ivanka's proximity to meet power. She has -- she has had ample opportunity to demonstrate and flex her muscle if you will. And a lot of the times, all the times that I've seen that she's been on the big stage whether it was when she was over in Germany, whether it's the flood she had about oh the kids in cages, so on and so forth. She has not been able to effect real change and so proximity doesn't necessarily mean power.

TAPPER: So I want you to listen -- I want to come to you but let's just play the sound bite of Ivanka Trump talking about this issue that the celebrities are talking about specifically when she was asked about the lowest point in the Trump Presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANKA TRUMP, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: That was a low point for me as well I. I feel very strongly about that and I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTOL: I'm going to give the celebrities credit for pointing out that this issue isn't over, it's not something that happened, they're ongoing policies, not just incidentally in terms of the border but in terms of DACA and in terms of rounding up people who've been at this country for 20 years and sending them back when they haven't committed crimes, you know, that are worth it attending to. So I give him credit for actually putting a little pressure on it. I'm struck by the contrast with these businessman who had dinner with President Trump was it last night or two nights ago, I lost touch -- track of (INAUDIBLE) some of these same people a year ago which Charlottesville happened, I'm (INAUDIBLE) the advisory council, before I can't I can't deal with this, now they're cheerfully having -- everyone's totally forgotten. I think that you know, that was amazing that's sort of the outrage went very quickly.

So if the celebrities can keep the outrage up a little and put more pressure on the Trump Administration to have a more sensible policy on immigration more broadly, that's fine to me.

TAPPER: I will say she could theoretically. She's a senior adviser to the President and I'm sure she has power that she could say dad, I want to be in charge of making sure that these kids are all reunified. We can send them back to their home countries whatever. But she didn't do that.

KANDER: I mean, if nothing else, this is a reminder that they're hundreds of kids who have not been returned to their parents and that the Trump Administration is going into court saying oh ACLU, you care so much, you go find the parent rather than the government doing it which I mean, if nothing else, like this, should stay in the conversation because there are children who are not with their parents. And well you know, you can question the tactics I think reasonably of this, I suppose if you were to analogize it to, if you were in the room with somebody who has access to the President while there are children who are being kept from their parents or have not been returned to them, I imagine there is a moral muscle in there that flexes for any of us and says hey please do something.

SANDERS: Well, Ivanka has been in a room and she hasn't done nothing.

TAPPER: All right, thanks so much. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our thanks to all our experts here. Our coverage now continues with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.